As with many of the things in life that I would most want to be really good at, I suck at golf. Really, I just think you should know that. I started golfing years and years ago, but reached my personal plateau of ability on the 2nd hole that I played. Seriously, I can make a ball go anywhere but straight, up to and including a 90 degree turn in either direction. I’m so bad, I could golf around corners. I kept trying, though, because there’s just something about being out there on a nicely groomed golf course enjoying the weather and a few cold beers, but not necessarily in that order. I tried lessons once, but quit after the fourth lesson when I teed up for a drive, gave it a mighty whack, only to have the ball shoot about 20 feet straight up. Without even leaving my stance, I reached out and caught it. To me eternal shame, the entire even was captured on video tape. I even joined a league thinking that maybe more regular practice would help. I won the trophy for Worst Golfer running away; there wasn’t anyone even close to me.
So why would I be attracted to something like Tiger Woods Golf ’09 for the Wii? Well, I always wondered what it would be like to play golf like it’s meant to be played, taking into account esoteric variables like the wind, the lie of the ball, the slope of the fairway and the green, the risk vs. benefit of trying to make the green in two on a par 5, and all of the other little things that have to be considered before every shot. I always wondered what it would be like to worry about over-shooting the hole, rather than worrying about whether I’d top the ball and not even make it to the ladies tee. It seemed that there had to be something inherently satisfying in the playing of the game well or people wouldn’t spend so much time and money to do it. It always seemed counterintuitive to me that the more it cost to play at any given course, the harder it was. It seemed to me that I’d pay a couple of hundred bucks to play where there weren’t any trees, water, and mega-large sand traps, but every expensive course that I’ve seen has tons of those. With Tiger Woods for the Wii, I hoped that I would get to experience golf the way it is meant to be, the way that it was for me.
Initially, I was actually a little disappointed. Believe it or not, it was too easy! I selected Mr. Woods as my Wii representative and hit the first tee. Birdie. Second hole: Eagle. Third hole: Birdie. Why, this was no challenge at all! I changed to a different golfer. As Vijay Singh, I made a hole-in-one on my 17th hole. At that point, I made two major changes to the way I was doing things: I switched to the Advance swing, and I created my own player. That made all of the difference in the world. From then on, the game became exactly what I was looking for. I could hit a drive pretty straight almost every time, although I could draw or fade when I wanted to, and sometimes even when I didn’t want to. I had to be very selective in my choice of club for any shot, and I had to be aware of the lie of the ball and the ambient winds.
I soon started planning a strategy for each shot. When it looked like I might over drive the fairway, I switched to a shorter club. When between clubs, I either took the longer club and tried to hit it lighter, or took the shorter club and convinced my self that I would be better off short of the hole than long into the water. I looked at the wind conditions and the slope of the green/fairway, trying to play the shot such that it would roll where I wanted it to upon landing. I even start aiming a little right or left to offset the aim when the ball was above or below my feet. I practiced with spinning the ball to try to correct its direction or to either stop it or roll it further if it looked like my distance was going to be wrong. In essence, I began to play golf the way it should be played, and I loved every minute of it. Except…
Well, putting. I was, and remain, horrible at putting. I have four-putted from eight feet from the hole. You will hear a lot about the putting in Woods ’09 – it seems to be universally hated. The thing about it is that there is not just one putter. In effect, your bag contains a 5 ft. putter, a 10 ft. putter, a 20 ft. putter, etc. You can take a full golf swing with the 5 ft. putter, and while you’d expect a swing like that to produce a couple of hundred feet of roll, it will not. On a level green, it will go right around, well, 5 ft. Against an uphill slope, it might go 2 ft. It’s counterintuitive to the extreme and a lot of people hate it, but I suspect it was developed this way to compensate for the relative infidelity of the Wii remotes. Being able to use the full range of the controller in disparate power ranges offers more precise control, but at the cost of realism. You may love it, or you may hate it, but at the end of the day you simply have to get used to it. I’ve more or less gotten used to it, but it is still the case that I can go from a position in the top 5 of a tournament to the very basement in the span to two holes.
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