Links 386 Pro was a game-changer when it arrived back in 1992. Long before Tiger Woods was winning championships and wooing pretty birdies, Access Software had been making golf games. Their first, Leader Board Golf for the Commodore 64, came out in 1984, so they had quite a bit of experience already under their belt. But this golf game was different; not only was Links 386 Pro a technological marvel, it was also an amazing game to play.
The graphics were absolutely stunning with amazing detail. The trees and bushes along the fairway, scenic backgrounds, even the clouds in the sky – this was an unbelievable game to play. It felt like you were actually golfing these courses. Compared to the cartoonish and blocky graphics that gamers were subjected to over the years, Links 386 Pro was the pinnacle of the computer golfing experience.
But this game had more than just great graphics. The sound quality was outstanding: the whoosh of the club, the smack of the ball, the glorious sound of the ball entering the cup, all this and more enhanced the experience of and the illusion of actually “being there” on the links. Players could mulligan their shots (but it would show up on their scorecard). You could preview the course and analyze the grade of the shot. You could even split the screen to watch the ball coming and going from different angles! So many features added to the enjoyment of the game.
All those features had a cost; at the time of its release, Links 386 Pro pushed the technological envelope. This game can be run on a 80386SX-25 MHz with 2 MB of RAM, but the slow screen redraws made an upgrade to a minimum of a 80486DX-50 MHz with 4 MB of RAM required. To access the graphics a Super VGA card capable of 640×400 resolution was needed, which helped spur on SVGA card sales. Many computer salespeople loved Links 386 Pro for the easy sales it produced (all they needed to do was make a comparison demo and the newer, more expensive computer found its way into the buyer’s shopping cart!).
Links 386 Pro also satisfied gamers’ needs to trumpet how good they were. A recording mode allowed the player to share that perfect game with all your closest gamer friends – and post it on the bulletin boards to brag to everyone else. Whole competitions erupted between golf simulation aficionados seeking to become the world’s best golfer (simulated golfer, that is!).
There were many add-on courses for Links 386 Pro, which gave the game a longer shelf life. You could golf in Hawaii, challenge the pros at Pebble Beach, enjoy the majestic view of Banff, take on the pride of the British Isles at the Belfry, even experience the terror of the Bermuda Triangle. There was a course for everyone!
All in all, this game is an important piece of retro gaming history. Anyone who experienced its sheer epic gameplay back in the day will remember the joy of shooting a low score, and, ever so rarely, the Links 386 Pro version of Caddyshack’s, “It’s in the hole!”: YES!!! YES!!!