Take a trip to Jamaica instead.
Waialae Country Club Golf is the first golf game for the N64, which poses a bit of an obstacle for a reviewer. With nothing out on the same system to compare it to, this game will inevitably fall into the 'first-up' trap that plagues gymnastic and ice-skating judges. How can an athlete receive a perfect 10 if he/she is the first one up? Wouldn't that make the judges a bit... soft?
But luckily for me, Waialae Golf fails for so many other reasons that I can hardly feel bad for the inability to present a compare/contrast thing, which I'll do anyway because it's so much fun. In short, this game just doesn't pack nearly enough punch for the buck and winds up floating down to the bottom of the lake into which I shall slice it. Mahalo!
These days, golf games need to offer three basic elements to be competitive. First and foremost is a good physics model. Even the most arcade-oriented titles incorporate decent ball physics (as in Hot Shots Golf). Next comes variety. The more courses, conditions, and options, the merrier (like the pant-changing FPS: Golf). And if a golf game is a fully licensed PGA thing, you'll be sure to expect a certain degree of authenticity.
A game that contains all three elements is a birdie. With this in mind, Waialae Golf is a serious duff.
The first thing you need to know is that the "Waialae Country Club" portion of the title is dead-on accurate: this entire game takes place in one Hawaiian country club. In other words, ONE course. Where other golf games for other systems include at least three courses (a lowball figure) Waialae Golf has only 18 holes. Period. So much for variety.
There are a few different ways to play the course, including 2 Tournaments, Stroke, Match, Skins, and Practice play modes. You can select from a list of golfers, modify your choice of caddie, clubs, etc. But this is pretty much the standard meal - don't expect any extra home fries. And with the measly one course offering, you'll be sure to have a grumbling stomach.
The N64 is a machine known for its amazing graphical prowess. Why and how Nintendo failed to match the game to this power is beyond me. The textures are bland and uninspired. The golfers look okay - for sprites. In fact, most of the objects in the game are sprites, except for close-ups of the ball when putting and the course itself. Polygonal sand traps are cool and all, but flat sprite pancakes that resemble trees, the gallery, and everything else are not kosher. This is the N64 guys, not the SNES.
The control is just fine; you use the basic tri-click method to hit the ball. But determining how hard to hit the ball is, frankly, hard. Unlike other games that at least give you a 25% strength mark, 50% mark, etc., you get no real sense of how hard to swing. This is due to a very bad gauge, just a few dashed lines to indicate different swing strengths. I suppose this ups the difficulty, which is good, but it feels really arbitrary, which is bad.
You can choose to hit under the ball for backspin or to top it and keep it low, as well as changing stances to add fade or draw. Amazingly, the numerous buttons on the control pad only serve a few limited functions. In fact, the analog stick, D-pad, and L and R buttons all do the same thing - aim. Just a little added depth here would have made a world of difference.
I mentioned licensing earlier . . . and there sure isn't any in Waialae Golf. Don't expect any real-life PGA pros (or amateurs for that matter). The golfers you choose from don't even have full names, just 'TE' or 'SD.' Strange and lame wrapped into one.
The sound is (surprise!) bad. A few voice-over comments and cheesy sound effects don't make for good listening. The dorky MIDI soundtrack sounds like something out of a 16-bit RPG.
So are there any bright spots? Well, not really. The gameplay as a whole is decent, though the numerous shortcomings in other areas take away from the whole experience. As the only golf title released for the N64, it can only be compared to titles from other systems, though compare might be too strong a word. There just isn't enough depth here to match any of the PC titles, and not nearly enough variety/innovation to touch Hot Shots Golf for the PSX.
I obviously can't recommend this game, not unless you're absolutely dying to play N64 golf. If you want to play so badly, I'd advise going outside and smacking a few balls at your local Par 3. Besides, you'll have to kill some time before they get 64 bit golf right.