I've always fancied golf. Not literally - not to the point where I'd approach it in a nightclub dressed in me best gear and esquire as to the chances of a slow dance in a dark corner - but I fancy it, all the same.
It's the sheer lacka
But other times golf scares me. Drive past a golf course on any given day in winter and you'll understand wy. The wind sounds like a tea kettle and the trees are bent over almost double. The rain - horizontal - lashes with such force that old ladies are separated from their teeths, and church spires are split in two by forked lightning.
Look at the course though, and what do you see? Puddles? Certainly - lakes even. Broken flagpoles? Yes... flying around everywhere. Desolation? No! No! The place is absolutely bloody packed!
Men, women, children! All dressed in waterproofs! All dragging their clubs! Through puddles. Over fallen trees. Each one determined to complete a round of golf regardless of the possible cost to personal health or safety. So addicted are they to their sport that nothing else matters as they chase that elusive handicap lowering score.
It is sad sights such as these which convince me that golf is a game played by obsessive maniacs, and my own prowess on the course would be best restricted to clicking a few buttons in the comfort of my own home - a view shared by many it would seem, as the popularity of the many golf sims over the last couple of years has proven.
In fact, with two truly excellent golfers in the shape of Microprose Golf and PGA Tour already firm armchair favourites, it seemed a strange decision by Grandslam - not, in all fairness, noted for their big name titles - to launch an attack down the back nine (that's golfing jargon, that is).
But launch one they did, and with a name the size of Nick Faldo backing them up, there's no doubting the seriousness of their challenge.
Let's stop and chat about the graphics for a while. They're smart. Not much of a chat that, was it? I'll elaborate then. For the first time on a non-PC golfing sim what we have is actually a very reasonable facsimile of a course, complete with blades of grass, beautifully detailed trees, sandy bunkers, a clubhouse that looks like a clubhouse - the lot.
In short, more - far, far more - than the usual "different shades of green and brown" approach adopted previously. But where Nick Faldo's Championship Golf really scores maximum points for presentation is in the sprite.
Yes, the sprite - old Nick himself, sporting an impressive array of tank tops, and basking in all his digitised glory. Such is the smoothness and realism that when a shot is taken it's as though you are watching a piece of video footage. Very impressive indeed, and on seeing this shortly after booting up I really began to look forward to playing what seemed like a real contender for top spot on the Fairway Hit Parade.
Gameplay is where it's at though - never more important in an affair such as this - so does NFCG hit a straight drive, or is it a bag of balls?
Nobody's perfect, not even the master himself, so the best thing to do straight from the off is to have a bit of a practice. The coaching section is very comprehensive indeed. It needs to be - after all, you're posing as Nick Faldo, and it just wouldn't do to go flubbing and whiffing your way around the course would it? Not good for the image, you see.
In a practice session you have the option of tuning up your putting, bunker play, and several other potentially problematic areas. As with the other sections, each situation is presented by Nick, and additional information and advice can be gained at the click of a button.
When you're happy with your prowess it's time to shoot a round for real. Up to four players can take part in either stroke play (the person with the lowest overall score after one full round is the winner) or match play (completing hole by hole).
If you have a bad case of BO and are consequently friendless, don't slit your wrists just yet, because there is the choice of competing against computer opponents, or indeed playing on your own. The eight compo opponents range from the dodgy Davey Divot to Nick Faldo - not a bad guy to have on your side in the matchplay mode!
One disappointment is that there's only a choice of two course, as opposed to the four and six in PG and Microprose respectively. We are given a choice of three seasons in which to play, though - summer, spring and winter - which with their varying wind and ground conditions, compensate somewhat. OK then, I can see you're impatient - let's have a round.
Presentation during a round is, again, spot on. Two "pop-up" type menus appear from either side, showing everything from the course map and wind conditions to the lie of your ball and club selection. These are something of an innovation - far more effective than previous methods.
ONe thing I haven't mentioned yet - and it is quite a drawback - is the control method of the swing
Once you've selected your club and aimed (perspective can be changed by clicking left or right on the relevant arrows - another innovation), the power bar appears, sporting two shaded sections.
The first - tiny - section is for wrist snap, adding a few extra yards to a successful shot, and is advisable for experienced players only.
The second, all-important shaded bit is the accuracy point, and in order to carry out a true shot, the erstwhile golfer needs to click twice within the confines of this miniscule portion. An error to either side results in excess hook or fade, and near certain trek into the rough.
Sizes of his accuracy point vary, dependent upon club chosen, percentage power, and whether or not the player is in professional or amateur mode.
This method was apparently decided upon to add realism, and I guess it succeeds, since anyone who's tried first first time to drive straight down the fairway will know it isn't very likely. The realism factor is carried throughout the game; for instance, when in heavy rough, nothing but a very low iron or pitching wedge will see the ball safely back onto the fairway - unlike in other games perhaps, where a 100-yarder could be achieved even from the sand.
Also, the more success you enjoy with a particular club, the longer the accuracy point gets, allowing you to "improve" as you would with practice in the real thing.
Putting is easier to come to germs with - simplistic green contours appear when aiming for the hole, and a much simpler power bar comes into operation.
Nick Faldo's Championship Golf was always going to have to do a hell of a lot to become the best in its genre. It nearly does enough. The graphics are amazing, and new features as mentioned (plus the option t choose your own caddy, and drop him/her at will) make for a very enjoyable experience indeed.
The realism is undisputed - as a realistic golfing experience it can't be bettered - but there are a couple of quirks. Although the accuracy point does grow with success, it actually diminishes with the reverse, resulting in early frustrations.
When these are overcome, you'll be delighted, but the fact that they are there at all means that in my opinion it's a sudden death play-off for joint second place between NGCG and PGA Tour. Microprose is still tops - just - but check this out anyway, it's more than worth the money.