NBCSports.com has partnered with World Golf Tour
to present the NBCSports.com Tahoe Golf Challenge
. It's a virtual golf game that awards 10 real prizes.
First, and best of all, it's free. All you do is register an email and password. Once you've submitted one score, you're entered in the drawing (although mail-in entries are accepted). Your odds of winning are unaffected by your score. The usual rules and regulations
apply. Just make sure you beat the deadline of 11:59 p.m. PT on July 31. The grand prize winner will receive airfare, accommodations, tickets and more for two to the 2010 American Century Celebrity Golf Championship
. (Rick Rhoden will be defending his seventh title this year beginning Friday, July 17. Tony Romo is making his second appearance in a star-studded field
.) In addition, two $400-value gift packs will be awarded and seven gift packs worth $50 distributed. Did I mention that it's FREE to enter? If you're like me, except that you are eligible for prizes, you'll play your obligatory one time to enter the contest, then return at least a dozen more times to better your scores.
At first glance, you'll notice the rich detail of the panorama, which, like all video games, considerably enhances the enjoyment. For that reason alone, I highly recommend that you engage the tutorial rather than navigate by trial-and-error. Once you've learned how to select clubs, swing and aim, you'll be on the 1st hole in less than two minutes. Pay attention to the wind and your lie and you should do well.
One of the best features of the game is that you "pre-select" your power during your swing. (You'll only understand this by giving it a try.) That removes much of the frustration with most golf video games that require a significant learning curve. And take advantage of the overhead view by toggling the space bar before your shot. Any little bit helps.
The name of the game is "Closest to the Pin" and is played over the first nine holes at the stunning Edgewood Tahoe GC, host of the celebrity event in Stateline, Nevada broadcast on NBC-TV. Scoring is simple. Hit a green and you're given one point for each foot for the distance of where your ball when it comes to rest to the hole. Miss a green and penalty points are added to your distance. Just like the object of the game of golf, the fewer points you have, the better your score. In your first couple of rounds, I advise aiming for the center of the greens. While it will keep your scoring competitive, it will also help you get a feel for how much your aim and the wind affects the ball.
If you're not at work with a minimum-T1 line piping through, exert some patience as the game loads and moves from hole to hole. It's not unlike the similarly graphics-heavy Tiger Woods
2010 game by EA Sports (for gaming systems) that makes you wait 10 seconds to advance after holing out on every green. This is a small price to pay for the even smaller cost to play.
Have a great time and good luck!