Introducing Pocket Golf

I've been reviewing a number of sports games recently, and finally it's time to take a look at a golf game. They say that golf is what you play when you're too out of shape to play softball. I don't know about softball, but you can take it from me that golf is an easy game - it's just hard to play! The good news is that you can enjoy golf even if you're bad at it. And if you do want to get better at golf, bear in mind that your natural ability as a golfer is inversely proportional to the amount of money you spend on new equipment. Even so, a hacker always has a chance of getting that lucky shot - although Murphy's Law dictates that if you do ever get a hole-in-one, it will nearly nearly always be achieved when playing alone and when there are no witnesses! It might be handy if you could produce a birdie or eagle as evidence of memorable moments like that. But fortunately, if you do have an amazing golf story to tell, unlike a fisherman you don't need to produce anything like a fish to prove it.


If you don't believe me, just wait till you hear about Kim Jong-il, late dictator from North Korea. If you thought that Tiger Woods was good, then think again. According to Kim Jong-il's official biography, he first picked up a golf club in 1994. On that incredible day, he visited North Korea's only regulation golf course, and shot a remarkable 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. In case anyone doubts the veracity of his remarkable achievement, note that it was witnessed by 17 security guards and reported by the state news agency. So it must be true, right? Satisfied with his performance, he promptly retired from the sport and never played again. Not bad for your first ever round of golf. Then again, this is the same guy who supposedly wrote 1500 books in 3 years, claimed to have invented the hamburger, could control the weather across North Korea with his moods, had a string of titles that included "Shining Star of Paektu Mountain" and "The Great Sun of Life", and whose birth was prophesied by a swallow and heralded with a double rainbow and a new star. I'm not making any of this up; for more of his incredible feats, see this news report, this one and this one. Golf, it's clear, is a surprising sport for remarkable people.

So how might this whole frustrating experience of chasing around a little white ball while walking several kilometers translate to a board game? Hamish Sterling is the brains behind PocketSports, and has produced several sports themed dice games, including Cricket, Soccer, Basketball, Rugby, and Golf. These are all intended to be light simulations rather than deep strategy games, and the ones I've tried so far have proved to be a surprising amount of fun. Unlike some of its siblings, Pocket Golf even promises to add a bit of decision making to the game. Maybe this is a thinking man's sport after all! So let's show you what you get, and tell you how it works and what I think.



COMPONENTS

Storage bag

Just as with all the games in the series, Pocket Golf is packaged in a small cloth drawstring bag. It's palm sized and portable, and the choice of green for the material is delightfully appropriate for this sport, given the amount of time we spend searching for a little white ball on the green grass whenever we're playing the real thing.



Component list

What you get inside is very simple:
● eight custom dice
● Green Moose Valley course
● instructions



Dice

The eight dice represent your collection of clubs, each die corresponding to a different club. The two red dice represent your woods (1W, 3W), the four white dice represent your irons (3I, 5I, 7I, 9I), the black die represents your wedge (SW), and the green die represents your putter.

Each die has six different values, indicating the possible distances you can hit if you use that club. So for example, the 1 Wood can hit between 180 and 300 yards, while the 5 Iron can hit between 115 and 180 yards.



Green Moose Valley course

The Green Moose Valley course has been especially designed for Pocket Golf. It's an 18 hole course, and each hole has information about length, as well as potential hazards like water, sand, trees, or rough. This comes on a folded sheet the same size as the instructions.



Instructions

A double-sided sheet of instructions is provided:



GAME-PLAY

Set-up

You can play Pocket Golf solitaire, trying to get the best score that you can on the course provided, or competitively against another player. The Green Moose Valley course provided with the game shows you all the details of the course, so you'll need to keep this course handy while you play, and you'll also need pen and paper to keep track of distances hit, how far you are to the hole, and where the hazards are. Let's tee off and hit the fairway!



Hitting the ball

Woods and irons

The game works just like golf, in that you choose a club, and hit the ball, which in this game happens by rolling that particular die to see how far the ball travelled.



Each club can result in a different range of distances, so you'll often need to choose which club to use. For example, if you're 115 yards from the hole, do you hope to chip the ball in with your 5 Iron given the 1 in 6 odds, at the risk of overhitting, or do you opt for the more obvious choice of hitting with a 7 Iron, which will cause the ball to travel a range of distances from 60-150 yards?

So the basic flow of play is very simple: the player furthest from the hole chooses his club, rolls the die, and adds the resulting distance to where he presently is, and that determines where on the hole his next shot will be taken. If you go past the hole, you'll have to hit back the appropriate distance to sink the ball.



Putting

You're considered to be on the green once you bring out your putter. With this game, you can't overshoot with your putter, so any hit that travels at least as far as the hole is considered to conclude the hole. For example, if you need to putt 5 yards and roll a 11-13, you're considered to have sunk the ball. Don't worry, it's still hard, because sometimes you may find yourself just hitting a 1 yard putt a few times in a row!



Hazards

Each hole comes with a number of hazards, which are described on the course sheet, as applicable to a particular distance on a hole, e.g. 275-285 yards; this hazard affects your shot if you hit the ball into that area. When entering water or going out of bounds (OB), you start from the point closest to the green, and add a 1 stroke penalty to your score. Other hazards affect the power of your shot. Hitting out of sand causes the ball to travel 80% of the distance rolled by the die; hitting out of rough is 50% of the distance; and hitting from trees is only 20% of the distance.



Caddy tips

Fortunately it's not all bad, and you do get some help from your friendly caddy. On each round, you can use each of these four caddy tips once exactly, to help you out, and judicious use of these tips can help turn a disastrous shot into a highlight one.
Boost (B): use this to give a 20% boost to a drive
Chip (C): use this to give a 5 yard grace (plus or minus) for a chip shot with your wedge
Putt (P): use this to give a 2 yard grace (plus or minus) for a putt
Spin (S): use this to give 10% backspin for a shot with your iron



And that's all that there is to Pocket Golf! Play just nine holes or an entire round, and see what the best score that you can get is. The rules gives some options for skins or tournament play, which either dispense with caddy tips or require players to do several rounds in succession; most players will find the standard rules to be the best way to play.

Sample hole

To illustrate how the game works, let's look at how a sample hole might play out. Here we see the first three holes of the Green Moose Valley course. Let's try the Par 4 second hole. The scorecard tells us that this is a 395 yard hole, with a sand bunker at 385-390 yards, so we're going to have to watch out for that!



Shot 1. Let's tee off with the 1 Wood, because that will give us the furthest distance. We roll a 250. Not quite the tee shot we were hoping for!
Club: 1W. Roll: 250. Distance so far: 250. Distance to go: 145.

Shot 2. Now if we're a risk-taker, we could opt for a 3 Iron here and hope we get a lucky roll and hit the pin with exactly 145, but the chances of overhitting are great. Instead, we'll take the more conservative option of the 5 Iron, but we do have to watch out for that bunker! We roll a 125. We'll we're getting close, not a bad approach shot.
Club: 5I. Roll: 125. Distance so far: 375. Distance to go: 20.

Shot 3. We're just ten yards in front of the bunker, so this would be a bad time to miss a shot. We'll opt for the Wedge, which could get us anywhere from 15-30 yards, and should put us on the green, as long as we can avoid that bunker 10-15 yards away. We roll a 30, so it turns out that we've overshot by 10 yards! At this point we could use our caddy tip for 5 yards grace on the chip shot, to get within 5 yards of the pin and increase our chances of making the putt, but at this point we're feeling pretty confident, and would rather save the caddy tip for a time when it's more useful.
Club: SW. Roll: 30. Distance so far: 405. Distance to go: 10.

Shot 4. Well, we're on the green now, and with just 10 yards to go, we pull out our Putter. There's a 50% chance we'll make this putt on the first attempt. We roll a 11-13, which meets our required distance of 10 yards, so we've sunk a nice long putt to make par. Let's give ourselves a polite round of applause!
Club: Putter. Roll: 11-13. Distance so far: 395. Distance to go: 0.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Minor blemishes: I'll start by mentioning some areas that this game needs polish. I can live with the fact that the instruction sheet has some awkward phrasing, but it's a worse problem that it omits to explain how putting works (find the official rule here: Putting - just to make it clear). I also find it unfortunate that the club names aren't stamped on the side of the die with the furthest distance (cf. discussion), and having a range of numbers rather than just the highest number of the two on the putter die seems pointless (cf. discussion). None of these are fatal flaws or really affect gameplay, and to be charitable, this is probably just the result of a one-man team doing all the design, packaging, and production on his own. Still it's a pity, since these minor blemishes could easily have been avoided. So with the nitpicks out of the way, let's move on to the positives!

Choices: Anyone who has played some of the other titles in the PocketSports series will know that these games are largely simulation type games, with very little choices or decisions; in most case the dice prescribe everything that you need to do, and completely determine what the outcome will be. Pocket Golf is refreshingly different in that regard. Not only can you use the "Caddy Tips" to affect your results four times in a round, but more importantly it's up to you as a player to decide which club (die) to use. So you need to play the odds, weigh up the probability, and select a die with a risk/reward factor that you're comfortable. This element of choice is a welcome addition to the game, and even though the choices are usually quite obvious, and the appeal of the game lies more in the story it creates rather than the strategy it requires, this element does make it stand out from some of the other titles in the series.

Counting: You can't avoid doing some basic addition and subtraction while playing Pocket Golf. The game requires you to keep track of your current distance by adding up the distances you've hit so far, and at the same time you'll need to subtract your current progress from the overall length of each hole, to figure out how far you have to go to the pin, and thereby figure out the best die to roll for your next hit. It's basic math and certainly not demanding, but it does mean a certain amount of mental acuteness is required that is absent from the other PocketSports games, which typically are about frantically rolling dice. Do expect to use a paper and pen to keep track of your score, although I expect that most golf afficiandos are more than used to adding numbers and keeping track of their score anyway.

Custom clubs: The dice in this game look really neat. They are, in effect, your different clubs, and I like the way that the woods are distinguished by colour from the irons and from the putter. It all helps add to the theme and strengthens the golf concept that underlies the gameplay. The course that comes with the game is a nice idea, particularly with the inclusion of various hazards, and altogether it adds up to an attractive product, almost like a miniature set of golf clubs that fits in the palm of your hand. Perhaps in the future we'll even see other courses being made available by the publisher in PDF format, to increase the replayability and challenge of playing.

Gentleman's sport: Golf has a very different feel from action sports like soccer and football, and this difference in feel is certainly reflected in this game. Just like golf in the real world, this is a game that is a little slower paced, and is more of a mind game than the hustle and bustle of action sports like cricket, soccer, or football, where players are frantically rolling dice to see where the ball ends up and what happens next. In contrast, Pocket Dice requires a more calculating approach, one that is more akin to a relaxed walk in the park than an energetic dash on a running track. And just like the sport itself, your best hopes for that big drive, calculated chip shot, or long putt can leave you coming up short at times with a fluffed shot!

A solo round: While the other games in the PocketSports series can certainly be played solitaire in a pinch, they're not as fun when you're doing all the dice rolling yourself. Pocket Golf is different in that regard, and just like real golf, it can be a satisfying challenge to play on your own, and try to beat your best score.

More dice golf: I was surprised to discover that there are at least another ten simple golf dice games (see a partial list here). Not having played any of these other titles, it's hard for me to determine whether Pocket Golf improves on the competition, although Hoyle's Sports Dice: Golf does seem to use some similar ideas with standard dice. Certainly on the level of components and options, Pocket Golf does seem to offer more than most of these other games, plus of course it's readily available.



Recommendation


So is Pocket Golf for you? Given the low cost, this would certainly make an excellent and inexpensive gift for the golf fan in your life, or maybe even for yourself. Like the other titles in the PocketSports series, Pocket Golf is a very casual and light game, that never pretends to reflect all the dimensions of a real golf experience, but rather intends to simulate a quick game, and recreate some of the feel of playing on a golf course. In the process, it does give us a few decisions to make, which helps keep things interesting while never taxing our brain. Despite this, we're never fooled into thinking that this is primarily a mind game, because in most cases it's the outcome of the dice that will tell the story of what happens out there on the course. Yet we're glad that we do get some say in what happens, enough to make us think that we have some control anyway - just like when I play golf really! Maybe this is more like the real sport than I realized?!

It may be quite different from the actions sports in the PocketSports series (e.g. soccer, cricket), but Pocket Golf has proved to be a pleasant surprise. Golf fans looking for a light luck-based simulation, and don't mind some basic arithmetic, should definitely give this a look.

Availability: Pocket Golf is available for around $12.00 (plus shipping) from the publisher and elsewhere online.

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For my reviews on other dice games in the PocketSports series, see the following:

Pocket Cricket: A fun light dice game for cricket fans
Pocket Football: A fun light dice game for soccer fans
Pocket Basketball: A fun light dice game for basketball fans
Pocket Golf: A fun light dice game for golf fans
Pocket Rugby League: A fun light dice game for rugby fans
Pocket Footy: A fun light dice game for Australian rules football fans

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Hamish Sterling
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David, I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised with our games. A lot more to offer than the other title you have.

Rules and course can be found under the game files. Feel free to read up before you "tee up"
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EndersGame wrote:
Availability: Pocket Golf is available for around $15.00 (including shipping anywhere worldwide) from the publisher and elsewhere online.
This doesn't appear to be true - the shipping to New York is almost as much as the game itself. Is there a promo code ("ENDWIG" perhaps?) that triggers free shipping?
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nycavri wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
Availability: Pocket Golf is available for around $15.00 (including shipping anywhere worldwide) from the publisher and elsewhere online.
This doesn't appear to be true - the shipping to New York is almost as much as the game itself. Is there a promo code ("ENDWIG" perhaps?) that triggers free shipping?
You're right, that's changed since I last checked.

When I posted the review, the game itself was priced at Aud$11.99, which hasn't changed, and shipping was Aud$4.10 to all the countries I tested, including the US and Canada. That adds up to around US$15.

However right now the shipping comes up as Aud$7.95, which is double the original amount. I'll edit the review to reflect this. Maybe the publisher Hamish Sterling can explain the increase.


Edit: There is a 20% off coupon that expires on 30/6/14 - see details and promo code here.
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Hamish Sterling
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EndersGame wrote:
nycavri wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
Availability: Pocket Golf is available for around $15.00 (including shipping anywhere worldwide) from the publisher and elsewhere online.
This doesn't appear to be true - the shipping to New York is almost as much as the game itself. Is there a promo code ("ENDWIG" perhaps?) that triggers free shipping?
You're right, that's changed since I last checked.

When I posted the review, the game itself was priced at Aud$11.99, which hasn't changed, and shipping was Aud$3.95 to all the countries I tested, including the US and Canada. That adds up to around US$15.

However right now the shipping comes up as Aud$7.95, which is double the original amount. I'll edit the review to reflect this. Maybe the publisher Hamish Sterling can explain the increase.


Edit: There is a 20% off coupon that expires on 30/6/14 - see details and promo code here.
Shipping has always been the same. The rate to send a large letter jumps quite dramatically after .50 grams

Most of the games come in at just below that .48 grams or thereabouts, except for Pocket Golf. It weighs .52 grams and jumps to the next shipping price.

All in all our games are relatively cheap and good value

Make use of the coupon too!
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Hamigua wrote:
Shipping has always been the same. The rate to send a large letter jumps quite dramatically after .50 grams

Most of the games come in at just below that .48 grams or thereabouts, except for Pocket Golf. It weighs .52 grams and jumps to the next shipping price.
Ah, mystery solved, thanks for pointing that out, Hamish. I must have done the shipping price check for various countries with one of the other games, not Pocket Golf. You're quite right that all the other titles are only $4.10 shipping, and Pocket Golf is apparently the exception at $7.95.

Since several other games also have eight dice, I guess it must be the inclusion of the Green Moose Valley course that makes the few grams difference! Someone's gotta pay for shipping all those greens and bunkers across the world!
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nycavri wrote:
Is there a promo code ("ENDWIG" perhaps?) that triggers free shipping?
See my Pocket Footy review for details about a limited time promo code for 20% off all PocketSports dice games, with the coupon code ENDER14
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