Welcome to The Golf Club, not to be confused with Sony’s hotly anticipated golfing game Drive Club (thank you I’m here all week) is a brand new golfing simulator from the rather unknown team at HB Studios, who believe it or not are actually responsible for porting some of the most recent EA Sports games onto secondary consoles, such as Madden for the Vita and FIFA for the Wii. You’ll have noticed I used the word simulator, rather than game as that is what The Golf Club is, it’s a title intended to produce the most realistic approach to the sport as possible. Despite my only experience in the virtual golfing circuit being in the form of Worms: Crazy Golf, I was actually surprised to find how easy I slipped into the game having never dipped my toes into anything like the Tiger Woods series in the past, however fans of the those games may find a lot lacking in TGC, mainly in regards to its presentation.
In short, TGC is incredibly simplistic. There is no EA-esque fanfare playing on the menu screen, there is no overly complicated control scheme, and when you begin playing the game you’ll quickly discover the lack of a ‘TV like presentation’. Die hard fans of the Tiger Woods games will feel lost upon arrival, with no crowd or adoring fans nearby, no instant replays or no deep commentary from start to finish, TGC may struggle to keep the attention span up from players coming from a more flashy action packed background. Saying that ,however, newcomers and golfing enthusiasts should find everything they need in TGC due to its simplicity. The Golf Club is a realistic golfing simulator, it’s a title which aims to concentrate on the game of golf, rather than the sport of golf, and it does so remarkably. What it lacks in upbeat music and noisy crowds, it more than makes up for its soft piano concertos and the delightful bird song, which fans of the sport will no doubt find refreshing. Instead of a team of golfing pundits supplying us with commentary throughout the course, we have John, who doesn’t so much commentate, more like offer advice and basic observations, it’s as if a friend is sitting next to me chipping in encouraging and sarcastic remarks about my play style opposed to a professional golfer offering me more helpful advice. Despite the repetition and bare minimum of commentary (during one hole all he said was “I’m excited, I’m excited for you”), I rather enjoy the quieter natured and relaxing round of golf without the constant ‘banter’ from a double act of former professionals. One area of presentation which fails for me really is the lack of customisation and personalisation. As you could guess, there are no professional or legendary golfers to play as so you’d expect to be able to create your own golfer perhaps based on yourself, however you would be sadly disappointed. With only the ability to barely change the colour of your clothing and skin colour, TGC lacks any personalisation at all, which players who dream to make a legend out of themselves may be upset to find out they can’t, of course if you happen to look like any of the pre-set models then you’re laughing.
Three game modes to choose from again are very basic but you’ll soon discover they’re all you need. In ‘Tee Off’ you jump straight onto a random generated hole, In the aptly named ‘Play’ you can chose from a 9 or 18 hole round, play an entire tour or play and create your own tournament. Despite its basic appearance, believe it or not you’re presented with an infinite amount of content to play with its player created courses, which I’ll touch on shortly. The Golf Club team have preloaded 22 courses, some 9 and some 18 hole rounds, which span from the most lavish of the woodland country club, to the most derelict of deserts. It won’t take you long to notice a lot of similarities between the courses, after all, only so many mountains and cacti can differentiate one hole from another, but a lot of care and work has been put into each course so ignore the occasional bland backdrop and you’ll find over 100 challenges to tackle. At the time of writing, over 16,000 player created courses have been published to play, some more exceptional than others, but it’s only been possible with THE selling point for The Golf Club, and that’s the ‘Greg Norman Course Creator’ mode.
Whether you’ve always dreamt of creating you’re own 18 holer or it’s a thought that’s never crossed your mind, you have to admire the sheer amount of detail and freedom this mode offers. Nothing of this scale has been seen in any golfing game prior or perhaps any sporting sim before. You begin by choosing from a number of locations, even deciding which direction the sun is shining upon your course, the computer then randomly generates your course also based on the percentage of water, trees, sand bunkers and hills you have set. If you’re not happy with your generated course, you can delete every hole and build your own alongside some handy guidance from the computer; and once you’ve finished digging your holes it’s time to decorate. Opening up the ‘add an object ‘ tab on the menu will shower you with a variety of additional trees & flowers, furniture & signs and even vehicles and wildlife to scatter amongst your tees and fairways. You will also spot some daft items of interest to decorate or course with, like a lighthouse you can place in a pond, or if you’re as witty and hilarious as myself, why not place a sperm whale leaping over your 18th hole, or a 100ft container ship proving a difficult obstacle to chip over on the green. I spent a fair few hours creating my own course (if you have a PS4, look out for ‘Take A Wedge On The Wild Side) and I found it a relatively easy interface to work with and the more time you spend on it you’ll eventually learn how to do everything, however if you do find it difficult to grasp, the team at The Golf Club have dozens of very helpful video tutorials on their website, where John will take you through everything step by step. Now where this mode excels is in the dedication of its golfing enthusiasts who have taken the lack of licensed legendary courses on the chin and have strived to create their own identical versions, which having found a few examples, I could have sworn I was playing an official replica.
Now, lets play a round of golf. HB Studios aimed to cut down on loading times and screens and they have done superbly, as it only takes a second or 2 proceeding from the score card onto the next hole, likewise proceeding from the main menu to first hold on your selected course. Up close the golfers look great as you would hope to see on a next gen title, granted they’re not the best graphics around but it’s not surprising considering it’s small download size. The water and foliage also look great against the stunning woodland environment, however the more open space we get, particularly the desert courses, look bland and rather dull; the same applies to objects (clouds in particular) in the far background that look fuzzy and poorly rendered. During playing I did spot a few shadowing issues which make many of the trees and rocks appear to disappear whilst the camera pans over some particular holes which once noticed is rather annoying and hopefully this will be fixed in a future update.
Much like its presentation, the controls couldn’t be any simpler, however saying that, it doesn’t come without its issues. Unlike the Tiger Woods games which see you pressing X at the correct time for power, The Golf Club simply requires you to pull back and forward on the left joystick. It may sound easy, but trust me when I say it takes a lot of practise to master, and after several hours and a few tours later, I’m only now beginning to get the hang of it. The joystick will determine not only the power of the shot, but also the accuracy… Down to a fine tee (badumdum). Pushing forward at the wrong time or angle will end with the ball in the water, the rough or worse, a bunker; this difficult accuracy comes into full flow when putting, as you’ll quickly find becomes a very frustrating task. Gamers looking for a realistic challenge won’t find any quarrels with these controls, however, more casual fans may prefer to steer away before their control pad goes through the TV.
The Golf Club, takes a page from EA’s book by staying constantly connected online. You can of course play without being online, but you’ll only find yourself playing solo or against up to 3 additional players in one room. Whilst being connected, every round you play is recorded automatically and your ‘ghost’ is available to be played against anyone who chooses to play the courses you have played. This is unfortunately the nearest you will get to online play, playing against previous players’ ghost data. But one really cool option is the ability at any time to remove one ghost player and tag in another, perhaps you’re losing and you want to bring in someone worse, you can face them instead and even watch replays of every shot they’ve done on that particular course and learn from them.
Overall, The Golf Club is a fantastic approach to the rather unopposed golfing game world. The Greg Norman Course Creator is a brilliantly in-depth opportunity to challenge even the best of golfers on a course you have created. The controls, though basic, are difficult to master which some players may find aggravating rather than enjoyable, but it does add to the realism the studio has tried to bring. Where die hard Tiger Woods fans may miss the glitz and glamour in its presentation, newcomers and enthusiasts will revel in its simplicity. I would have loved the game to feel more personal and be more customisable and if a little more effort was made graphically, I believe TGC could have truly been a game changer, carving the path for the future of the virtual golfing syndicate. For its low price and infinite content, it’s definitely worth checking out, even if it is just a pit stop before the indefinite release of PGA 15.
PS4, XB1 & PC – Out Now, £26.99-£28.99
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.