I’ll have to preface this review, the first I’ve done of any software package, by pointing out that I’ve been playing golf on PCs and game consoles for years. Not all the time, perhaps, and I’ll go months without swinging a virtual club, but I keep coming back to the digitized-golf genre again and again.

It’s kind of sad, really.

About five years ago, give or take, I won a website design contest put on by Microsoft. To be more accurate, I was one of a number of winners. The prize was, oddly enough, $100 worth of Microsoft products. I picked up Windows 95, a Sidewinder Pro joystick, Fury^3 and Golf 3.0 out of that deal. The Sidewinder Pro won’t work with machines that have 100MHz-and-up bus speeds, Fury^3 is a lame rehash of Terminal Velocity, and I’ve long since given up Win95 for Win98SE and Win2K.

Golf 3.0, however, still gets a spin on our machines. It’s sadly dated, of course, as the graphics quality is so-so in its best moments. Putting is pretty easy, and you only get two courses so after a while the only challenge is in not screwing up the swing. (When you get right down to it, that’s probably the main challenge in any golf game, digital or otherwise.)

So we’re at the outlet mall yesterday, stopping in at the Kay-Bee Toys outlet for a laugh, when I notice a copy of Links LS 1999 in the software dumpster. “Hmm,” I say to myself, “What have we here?” A few minutes later we leave the store with a brand-new $7.99 copy of the game.

What did I get for my money? Vastly improved graphics. Four courses. The ability to conjure a variety of view windows in which I can aim my shot. Instant-replay that actually looks good and is useful. Much, much more realistic physics. A wide variety of gameplay “modes,” mainly consisting of fun rules/winnings changes.

If you’re a golf-gaming nut, you’ll obviously have better software than this on your PC. If you’re a much more casual digi-golfer like me, then go out and find a copy of Links LS 1999 for a few measly bucks and be happy. I certainly am.

(Final note: Access Software was purchased by Microsoft, and the next version of this game is Links LS 2000, a virtual re-release that only adds some courses and the ability to connect to Microsoft’s gaming zone. Yay. For my money, stick with the cheaper and identical product and duck the Microsoft empire once again.)