THE DIGITAL BRITISH OPEN
(FORTUNE Magazine) – An exhausted golfer staggered into the house and collapsed in a chair.
"How'd it go, dear?" his wife asked.
"A disaster," he whispered. "When we were on the fourth tee, a bolt of lightnin' struck old George and killed him."
"It sure was," he replied. "All day it was 'Hit the ball, drag George, hit the ball, drag George...' "
If you're laughing at that old joke, you're probably a golfer. In fact, you're probably the kind of golfer who would rather drag George than miss a hole. Well, digital golf simulations mean that you don't have to give up the game just because it's dark outside or you happen to be at the office. One of the finest examples of the genre is British Open Championship Golf, from Looking Glass Technologies (by phone at 800-360-7455 or 617-441-6333, or on the Web at www.lglass.com). With a mere mouse click, you can now play Scotland's historic St. Andrews and Royal Troon courses.
The courses are rendered in magnificent detail. You can practice by yourself, compete with real friends, or challenge digitized touring pros like Vijay Singh and Chip Beck (sorry, no Tiger Woods) in a realistic recreation of the Open, complete with crowd noise and running commentary by ABC sportscaster Jim McKay.
British Open works more or less the same as all golf programs. You control the golfer's motions with your mouse or keyboard. You begin by selecting a club or letting your digital caddie pick one. Then you use the mouse to aim the shot. Move the cursor to the golfer and a circular "swing meter" appears. Click once to start your backswing, a second time to start the downswing, and again to snap your wrists as you hit the ball. A moving band of color on the meter charts your progress.
Sounds easy, right? So does real golf--till you play it. As in real golf, timing is everything. Too much backswing, and your shot goes wild. Too little, and it turns into a blooper. Snap your wrists too soon, and you hook. Snap them too late, and your slice heads directly for the out-of-bounds marker. I do a lot of that.
To play this $49.95 game, you'll need a complete set of electronic clubs--a Pentium PC running Windows 95 on at least 16 megs of RAM. British Open makes full use of all that horsepower. Besides offering lovely drawings of the fairways, bunkers, greens, and backgrounds, the program features three different views of your every shot: a 3-D perspective from behind the golfer, another from a "camera" placed down the course in front of the golfer, and an overhead that shows your exact location on the hole. You can even adjust the weather--if your idea of a challenge is battling Scotland's rain, wind, and fog.
Since the closest most of us get to the British Open is the living room La-Z-Boy, you'll feel right at home if you choose tournament play, where you'll hear the familiar voice of McKay and the cultured tones of British announcer Michael Bradshaw second-guessing every stroke. Looking Glass says the electronic duo have 5,000 different phrases in their repertoire, and it's more than the usual play-by-play. The computer tracks your progress and the announcers actually "remember" what you've done before.
For example, as I addressed my fifth putt on St. Andrews' dreaded 17th hole, McKay said, "He can stop the bleeding with a good shot right here." Naturally, I left the ball a foot from the cup. As I lined up my sixth putt, Bradshaw chipped in, "This should be a tapper, but after the putting we've seen, it might be wiser to withhold judgment."
Like I said, it's golf.