Mean 18 is possibly the first PC golf game to really be broadly popular and regarded as high quality, and it's surprisingly similar to today's current-gen golf games. You view a course from a behind-the-golfer perspective which can be shifted to the the left and right to aim a shot, and you stop sliding meters for power and angle. The only difference with this 1987 game is that instead of being rendered in 3D, this is all done via a whole lotta bitmaps.
So of course, you don't have the modern niceties like being able to zoom and scale all over the course, or have a nice little arrow tracking your shot. But that's sissy stuff. Real men just need a distance meter to the hole, and a rough idea of how hard to hit it rendered in 2D.
Up to four people take turns with this one in hot-seat play (no modem option that I'm aware of), and the game proper comes with three courses modeled after famous ones in real life - Augusta National, St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. The game also had a number of expansion disks released with other famous courses. Can't speak to how accurately the courses are rendered since I'm not a rich dood who jets around the world playing famous courses. Sorry buds. Maybe give Tiger Woods a call and ask him, he's apparently going to have some time on his hands for awhile. One nice feature is that the game also comes with a pretty decent course editor.
Putting - which shifts to an overhead view when you get on the green - is maybe the one real weakness here. A small change in direction isn't always registered visually by the little line that indicates what direction you are about to hit the ball in, so there's just a bit too much guesswork to it. That, and you have to get used to the arbitrary settings of the power meter, which is an issue with a lot of other golf games too. You could always argue that these things are representative of reality, if you wanted to be a dick.
Other than that, the only thing I can really fault here is the PC internal speaker sound, which isn't bad, but extremely basic and uninspiring. For the time, this was actually a pretty excellent golf game. It certainly can't keep pace with today's games and all their fancy graphics and features, but if you were forced to play this on a desert island while waiting for rescue or something, I bet you'd find it pretty entertaining and satisfying.
* Gameplay Video