One of the best computer golf games is still Links LS 98 and subsequent versions for Windows, released 11 years ago by Access Software.
Access made some very good games in the 80s and 90s, including the Tex Murphy series, before they lost their identity — and eventually their existence.
Links: The Challenge of Golf was released in 1990 for Amiga and DOS. When you think of computer golf, and how far we’ve come with an amazingly popular genre from Links to Tiger Woods 08, “The Challenge of Golf” is nothing less than a piece of history. Until recently, it was a lost piece of history.
“The Challenge of Golf” was the first realistic golf sim. It had amazing graphics and based itself on real professional courses. It was the kind of game that took a lot of machine to run 18 years ago.
In the DOS days, it was an art-form to increase your amount of free system memory so that you could run games like Links and later Doom and Wolfenstein and many other golden aged titles. Access actually included a letter to its players in the “readme.bat” file:
LINKS-The Challenge of Golf
echo INFORMATION ON HOW TO INCREASE FREE AVAILABLE MEMORY
echo Last update 11-10-90
echo Dear LINKS owner,
echo We believe LINKS is the most realistic and most technically advanced golf
echo simulator ever developed. In creating such a sophisticated program, however,
echo we have had to push your computer to its limits. LINKS requires a large
echo amount of memory to manipulate terrain data and to reproduce accurately
echo all of the intricate details of the game. At least 530K bytes are needed to
echo run the program. Player comments require another 8K bytes and wildlife
echo sounds require an additional 17K bytes. Thus, 555K bytes are needed to see
echo and hear all that LINKS has to offer.
echo To verify the amount of free memory on your computer, run the DOS utility
echo called CHKDSK. The last number displayed is the amount of free memory. If
echo the number is less than 555000, then some of LINKS’ digitized sounds will
echo not be heard. If the number is less than 530000, you will not be able to
echo run LINKS.
echo Your 640K machine actually has 655360 bytes available. When your computer
echo boots, it loads DOS (which takes about 55,000 bytes) and then uses a file
echo called CONFIG.SYS to automatically set aside memory for file buffers and
echo other things. It also uses a file called AUTOEXEC.BAT to AUTOmatically
echo EXECute user defined instructions. Both CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT can (and
echo usually do) contain programs known as TSR’s. TSR stands for Terminate and
echo Stay Resident. These programs install themselves and then stay in memory
echo to be used when needed. A mouse driver, print spooler, keyboard enhancer,
echo disk cacher, memory manager and DOS shell are all examples of such programs.
echo THESE PROGRAMS USE MEMORY. If there are too many of them resident at one
echo time, there won’t be room for LINKS or other large programs. TO INCREASE
echo FREE AVAILABLE MEMORY, YOU MUST REMOVE OR DISABLE SOME OF YOUR TSR’S.
echo If you have more than 640K (1Meg, 2Meg, or more) this can be used as extra
echo memory for preloading sound and graphics, but not for DOS. LINKS still
echo requires at least 530K free of your first 640K.
echo LINKS AND WINDOWS
echo You must exit completely from Windows to run LINKS. Do not exit Windows by
echo way of the DOS PROMPT icon.
Microsoft bought Access games in 1999 and kept it in sort of a protected status for a few years. Access was renamed Salt Lake Games Studio and put out golf games and expansion packs, including Links 2004 for Xbox. They also repackaged their excellent DOS Links 386 game into a Windows version.
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Take-Two Interactive bought the Access/Salt Lake studio in 2004. They built a few console games including the Top Spin tennis series. They also split the Amped Xbox/Xbox 360 snowboarding series between MS Games and Take-Two. Take-Two renamed the studio to Indie Built but closed the shop in 2006.
Links resurfaced in the July 2000 issue of PC Gamer, one of the best magazine CD’s ever released. The “Classic Games Collection Volume One” contained full version of Duke Nukem II, King’s Quest, Descent, Terminal Velocity, Alone in the Dark, Wing Commander, X-COM, Links, Monkey Island, Ultima Underworld, Ultima I, and Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed. It was a stacked collection of classic games.