Sid Meier's SimGolf (not to be confused with Maxis's original 1996 SimGolf) is an isometric golf course management simulator developed by Firaxis (in collaboration with Maxis) and published by Electronic Arts for the PC on January 23, 2002.
Designed by Sid Meier for Maxis's Sim series, players must design and manage successful golf courses while tending to the needs of the golfers and maintaining course finances. Players can also play their course with their custom professional golfer (using basic controls in the isometric viewpoint), as well as participate in championships (in which they can level up their golfing skill and earn money for their courses).
The goal of Sid Meier's Simgolf is to create golf course that looks exciting and difficult, but is simple enough such that club members don't get frustrated and can finish the course. Each hole will be rated and given characteristics based on the way it is constructed. To keep club members happy, it is imperative to keep as much variation in how each hole is made as possible so the members do not get bored. The player also has to tend to the needs of each guest/member, with categories such as hunger, thirst and energy being what needs to be focused on.
Depending on the number of holes on contained in the course, it is also possible to have golf tournaments arranged including large televised tournaments. The player can take part in the tournaments with their own pro golfer. In addition to tournaments, money can also be earned by accepting challenges from richer members of the golf club and play with them for money, where the person with the higher score has to pay a set amount.
There are also small RPG elements to the game, as the player's pro golfer earns new skill points by successfully executing different shots and there are also special decorations for courses that give status effects to the player's character.
Initially, SimGolf was actually a game that involved dinosaurs, which went through several phases, including being a turn-based game. After this idea fell through, Firaxis decided to instead make a golf game. Rather than making the golf aspect of it a 3D game like many other golf games of the time, the developers decided to keep the golfing aspect as a 2.5D view that was more about strategy of shots than mechanics. According to Sid Meier, this was also likely the last 2D game made by Firaxis.
The course builder in SimGolf is a rather straight forward tile-based system. To build a course, the player begins by placing a tee box and a putting green, then adding bunkers, sand traps, rough patches, water holes, and many other things that make a course more difficult.
The balance the player has to achieve is a level of challenge that isn't overbearing, while maintaining a pleasant atmosphere. Plotting holes can be quite simple; after placing a tee box and a green a white line will show what the game believes is the shortest route to the hole. The player then has to design the holes well or the line and in turn, the golfers, will mistake what fairway goes with what hole and it could possibly make them less happy.
As the player progresses in SimGolf they will notice that every once in a while a picture will be taken. When this happens they have reached a milestone. There are many milestones that can be reached such as creating a par five hole or winning a first tournament. milestones don't really serve any purpose but they act as a achievement system in-game.
There are a number of different tiles that can be used to build the course.
- Tee - 300 Simoleans - The first of two essential parts of any hole. The tee is the start of a hole. Ideally it should not be placed where the golfers could get hit by a ball from a different hole.
- Green - 1000 Simoleans - The green is the second of two essential parts of any hole. The first piece of green placed for any hole will have the hole. After this piece is placed the length of the hole will be calculated. From this, it is determined if the hole is a Par 3, 4 or 5.
- Fairway - 300 Simoleans - The staple of any hole. The fairway is moderately fast grass that allows the ball to be hit in an optimal fashion. Paths can be placed through fairways, though they aren't visible. This allows the golfers to move across the fairway at risk of being hit but it can be much faster.
- Fast Fairway - 300 Simoleans - Similar to the Fairway but firmer so the ball bounces and rolls further than it does on regular Fairway. Useful on incredibly long Par 5 holes or on tricky holes where it can be used to set up a trap where the ball will bounce into the rough if the golfer drives the ball wrong.
- Sand Trap - 600 Simoleans - The bane of any golfer's existence. If the ball is hit into the Sand Trap it can typically only be hit out with one type of hit, the chip, which reduces range in exchange for height.
- Rough - 100 Simoleans - Most non-desert courses are covered in this stuff. It allows all types of shots to be used but at the expense of reduced range since the ball cannot be optimally hit.
- Deep Rough - 200 Simoleans - Like Rough, but much worse. Shots are severely restricted because of the long length of the grass.
- Pot Bunker - 800 Simoleans - Hell on Earth. Do not be shocked if it takes multiple shots to get out of the Pot Bunker. It is a Sand Trap but much deeper. The only shot available while in the Pot Bunker is the chip, and it has the tendency to hit the edge of the Pot Bunker and roll back in.
- Burn - 1000 Simoleans - Essentially a miniature stream of water, the Burn has a tendency to mess up shots quite badly.
- Gorse - 400 Simoleans - Take Rough, make it way longer and add bushes to it and you get Gorse. Many of the highland locations have Gorse as part of the default terrain. It has a similar effect to Deep Rough.
- Water - 5000 Simoleans - If the Pot Bunker is Hell on Earth, then Water is actual Hell where the Devil is slowly impaling the player on a pike. Avoiding water at all costs is imperative as landing a shot in water will net a penalty and make the Player's golfer (or guests) mad. Locating Building Lots near water typically increases their value significantly.
- Rocks - 400 Simoleans - Rocks are a general nuisance to the game. If a ball lands in them it will bounce in whatever direction it likes. Sometimes it will help the player, sometimes it will make the player suicidal.
- Maple/Pine/Scots Pine Tree - 1000 Simoleans - Trees have two jobs. The first is to act as scenery. The second is to make golfers miserable. A mis-aimed shot can either land under a tree, which makes it difficult to make a recovery shot, or the ball can bounce off the tree. This can work for or against the golfer, depending where the ball hits the tree.
- Building Lot - 1000 Simoleans - Not actually used for holes, the Building lots are used to make property available to celebrities. Based on location, the player actually gets paid money based on how nice the property is, so essentially the 1000 Simolean cost is almost always offset by the profits due to location.
There are a number of special golfers who will golf on the player's course from time to time. These people are different from regular golfers in that they will grant rewards that will aide the course.
- I.M Picky - He, as his name implies, is an incredibly picky person. If he completes the course and is happy when he finishes he will offer to sell the player new land so they can expand their course. The price of the land he sells is based on the terrain. Ex: If the land is covered in water it will be much cheaper than if it is just regular, short grass. He will show up at your course every time your fun rating increases by 200 points.
- Ivanna Richman - This wealthy heiress is, while less important than I.M Picky, still someone the player should pay attention to. If she finishes the course happy she will donate a landmark to place on course. Landmarks have special abilities that help keep the course under control. Ex: Keeping golfers happy or stopping weeds from growing.
- J.P. Bigdome - This tycoon will visit the course every time the player constructs 2 holes. He plays through the whole course and if he is satisfied he will invest money into the course.
There are a number of ways to make money in SimGolf. Some of them include:
- Green Fees - This is the most obvious way. At the end of each hole the person playing it pays green fees. Green Fees can be raised by expanding the course by adding holes and building structures.
- Food/Drinks - Another way to make money is to sell drinks to golfers using staff who sell refreshments or by feeding golfers at restaurants while they are playing through the course.
- Memberships - Guests who regularly play the course will sign up for memberships. Members pay increased green fees. There are three basic tiers of members. Basic members are the first type of member you will encounter. The second tier is silver members. For each silver member you gain access to a piece of Real Estate that you can add to your course as an additional source of income. Lastly there is the Gold Membership. These members drive around in gold-painted carts to show their status.
- Challenges - From time to time the player's golfer get challenges from pro golfers. Unlike playing a regular round of golf, the stakes are raised substantially. The player gets a certain amount of money for each hole they win and a total amount for getting the best score. If the player loses they must pay the other golfer.
- Tournaments - One of the most profitable sources of income. The player places their golfer in a huge tournament against a number of pros and large sums of money can be earned by winning. Prize money is only awarded to the top five. The course may be modified for tournaments to make it suitable for play (often the greens are levelled out more) and during the tournament a few tournament-specific buildings are placed including a large tower that the commentators watching the tournament sit in. This tower acts like a tree. If a player hits it with a ball it will bounce off the tower.
- Real Estate - Real estate can also be sold on the course. The player gets paid more or less based on the location of the building site. Ex: They will get a lot more money if they put a site in a secluded area near water versus an opened area beside a hole. This becomes a major source of income for the course as the game goes on. Early on, Real Estate only adds a modest amount of money to the income of the course but by the time the course becomes Championship level, the player can make hundreds of thousands on Real Estate.
Running the Course
There is a fair amount of upkeep involved with keeping the course running smoothly. To keep the guest/members happy a lot of work must be done and people must be hired.
There are several types of staff that must be hired in order for the course to run at its best and to keep the customers happy. There are two tiers of staff, a lower/cheaper tier for when the course is first started, and a higher tier for once the course has become more successful (The actual criteria is to achieve a 6 hole course to unlock the skilled staff). There are four basic types of staff:
- Groundskeeper/Technician - This category of staff is used to keep the course from being overrun with weeds, dandelions and the like. Having weeds on the course adversely affects how the golfers view the course. To use a groundskeeper, simply select the groundskeeper and move him to a desired area where weeds are located and he will deal with all weeds within a certain radius. The technician does the same job as the groundskeeper but much faster and more efficiently.
- Soda Vendor/Refresher - This category of staff has the primary goal of keeping guests from getting thirsty. A thirsty guest is a grumpy guest so finding the location where guests start to get thirsty is key to keeping them happy. If the player sees a pattern where guests are getting thirsty adding a Soda Vendor can quell many complaints. The Refresher is simply a faster Soda Vendor who has a wheeled cart instead of carrying around drinks.
- Celebrity/Golf Pro - The role of this staff member is fairly simple: talk to the guests. There isn't a whole lot of trickery to using this staff member, just place them at the tee of any hole and they will talk to guests as they play through the course.
- Marshall/Ranger - The sole role of this staff member is to hurry guests and members. At some of the more complex holes, it is not uncommon for guests to start slowing down because the hole takes longer to play. Placing a marshall at the tee of these holes helps hurry along guests so people do not have to wait around, and thus get grumpy.
Paths and Rest Areas
A key component to keeping the course running smooth is to make sure everything is connected with a path (which cost 100 Simoleons per section). Once Golf Carts become available this will become doubly as important because it will streamline guest movement, and maximize profits. Paths can even be put through holes and across fairways, though it will not be possible to see the paths for the latter, they still work the same way. Along these paths, it is also important to put benches (which cost 200 Simoleons per section of benches) so the guests can rest. It will be easy to see where people are getting tired and adding a bench there. Ideally, once the course starts expanding, there should be a bench at every hole, just in case. Decorative bridges, which cost 1000 Simoleons, can also be added across sections of water. These bridges have no effect other than to look nice to the golfers. Scenic trees and flower beds can also be placed near paths, at a cost of 2500 and 500 Simoleons respectively.
There are a number of key facilities that can be built. Many of the facilities available to build in the game are simply to add green fees or help guests practice but there are others that are important to running the course. Most facilities have an upgraded version that improves their stat-boosting effect. Certain locations also have different buildings. For example, instead of the Tennis Court, some locations have stables.
- Putting Green - 10000 Simoleans - The Putting Green helps imaginative golfers improve their play. Imaginitive players usually use a little more creativity with how they play a hole than regular golfers.
- Cart Garage - 40000 Simoleans - One of the most essential buildings in the game, the Cart Garage allows guests access to Golf Carts, which they use to zip around the course significantly faster than they would otherwise. Gold members drive around in gold-painted Carts to show off their status.
- Snack Bar - 15000 Simoleans - Another essential to any golf course, the Snack Bar has one simple job: to feed hungry golfers. Optimal placement of a Snack Bar will increase profits significantly. Taking note roughly what hole people get hungry at and placing a Snack Bar there will help keep golfers from straying too far from the course.
- Marina - 100000 Simoleans - The Marina must be placed on water. The Marina increases the property values of all the properties located on the course.
- Pro Shop - 20000 Simoleans - The Pro Shop helps improve the play of accurate golfers. Accurate golfers rely on making tricky shots that most wouldn't be able to make.
- Resort Hotel - 250000 Simoleans - The Resort Hotel is one of the larger facilities in the game. It helps golfers stay happier.
- Tennis Court - 30000 Simoleans - The Tennis Court increases the likelihood of a golfer becoming a club member. This is important because members become repeat customers, which brings in more money.
- Airstrip - 500000 Simoleans - The Airstrip is one of the largest facilities in the game. It increases green fees so while it is a large initial investment, over time it will easily pay itself off.
- Driving Range - 25000 Simoleans - The Driving Range assists golfers who rely on driving the ball far in getting better. Long hitters drive the ball as far as possible to make up for their lack of accuracy.
Sandbox Mode - Sandbox Mode takes away all of the monetary aspects of the game and just lets the player create a course to their liking and play it, free of all monetary constraints.
Tournament Mode - Tournament mode is strictly about playing golf. The player only focuses on playing golf, not tending to the course or patrons. Player-created courses or pre-made courses can be played in these tournaments, with downloadable courses being accessible on the internet as well.