Virtual golf opens with Kiawah course

Image by World Golf TourImage by 20080730_golf.jpg High-quality virtual golf in your Web browser.

A new golf game is featuring The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island as its first course. But, this isn't your average golf game.

Aside from giving locals a chance to practice the Kiawah course, World Golf Tour seeks to combine elements from popular online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life. But this game is free and seeks to make all of its money from advertising, reports:
It's not the only way they're hoping to bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds—and to make money. The founders see three main revenue streams from the game—product placement within the game, ads on the site, and partnerships with television broadcasters and major golf events.

When it is released to the public late this summer, W.G.T. will allow players to create their own avatars that can wear (sponsored) clothing and use virtual versions of real (sponsored) golf equipment. Last May the company released a scaled-down version of the game, a "skills challenge" with a few holes from the Las Vegas Bali Hai Golf Course; for monthly competitions it has been offering real-world prizes from TaylorMade.

A video introduction to the game.

And unlike many Web games the company is aiming to create a first-rate game, continues:
In October 2007, the company unleashed a dozen technicians, programmers, and photographers onto Kiawah's Ocean Course, to meticulously record the layouts with digital photography on the ground and in the air (using remote drones and full-size helicopters), G.P.S. technology, and terrain mapping. The company had a pair of ex-Electronic Arts programmers build an online physics engine to replicate the way balls roll across different surfaces; hundreds of high-definition digital photographs (an average of 700 per hole) layered atop a 3-D map allows balls to "bounce" and "roll"—paving the way for golfers to experiment with shots virtually before trying them for real.

The company hopes the free, access-everywhere nature of the product will create a platform ripe for advertising.

For now, a 9-hole demo game is available.