If there were an award for most improved game in a series, my vote for 1998 would go to Microsoft Golf 1998 Edition. It's so much better than any of the previous Microsoft Golf games that the only way you'd know it had anything to do with the previous versions is from the name.
How was Microsoft able to make such a quantum leap from the ho-hum Microsoft Golf 3.0 to this beauty? The answer is simple: a new developer. All the earlier incarnations of MS Golf were created by Access Software, and the stuff it did for Microsoft never came close to reaching the level of excellence Access achieved with its own Links games. Perhaps there was some sort of contractual deal whereby Access demanded that certain features of Links couldn't be incorporated in the MS Golf games; whatever the reason, though, MS Golf's trailing-edge graphics and ho-hum gameplay meant it was always several steps behind the Links games and Accolade's Jack Nicklaus line.
But with MS Golf 1998 Edition, Microsoft and new developer Friendly Software have changed the game substantially. The biggest area of improvement is in the graphics department: The difference between these visuals and the ones in MS Golf 3.0 is downright staggering. Friendly Software obviously took its cue from the Links engine, and the results are impressive indeed - not quite as good as what you'll find in the latest Links and Jack Nicklaus games, but pretty darn close.
One of the strong points is the interface, which has been designed so you can get to almost any area of the game with only one or two mouse clicks. Want to change your swing type from two-click to a mouse swing without exiting to a configuration screen? A nifty little menu bar at the bottom of the screen lets you do that in seconds, as well as adjust game settings (flybys, commentary, graphic detail), change the height of your next shot, get statistics on your current round, and more.