I haven’t played a golf game in years. Not because I dislike them, or because I dislike golf, but rather because they seem a bit like the Madden titles or sports titles in general; they are basically the same game over and over again. With EA’s popular PGA title taking a break after dropping Tiger Woods from the title, the developers behind The Golf Club decided to step up and throw a new golf name into the mix. But will it be the refreshing new title I was hoping for?
As with most sports games, The Golf Club is fairly straightforward. Tackle nine or eighteen holes and try to sink that little white ball with as few strokes as possible. You’ll have to contend with winds, hills, sand traps, water and, in my case, the deep woods, in order to reach the hole. While the gameplay itself may sound run-of-the-mill, the game does differ from other golfing games; the game does not hold your hand. In fact, if The Golf Club was your parent, it just left you in the public bathroom at Disneyworld.
You are given no percentage or precise measurements between you and the hole, neither are you given a power bar or a trajectory line. Instead, you must get a feel for the amount of power you put behind the ball by using the analogue stick. You can check the wind, adjust your club, and in some cases, just hope for the best. While some may find this unpredictable and even irritating, it is a nice change from the classic golf titles. If you’re a hardcore golfer and have been looking for a more realistic take on the sport, then you’ll feel right at home here.
However, this isn’t without faults. I found the power behind the sticks to be a tad finicky and sometimes nonsensical. At times, the ball seems to move at unnatural speeds; stopping on a dime one stroke, and rolling for what feels like a decade the next. Mix that with poor vision of hills and slopes, and you’ll find yourself questioning why the ball has forsaken you many times over. That being said; the game is much more of a proper simulation than any other golf title in recent years. Stripped of the arcade elements and leaving much of the skill to the player to learn and adapt to, if you dedicate time and practice, much like real golf, you will get a handle on the feel of the game.
You are given only three different game types; Stroke Play, Match Play, and Four Ball, all of which lack any rule customizations which leads to a lack of replayability as far as modes go. Luckily it does offer a massive amount of courses to pick from, with a mix of ‘official’ dev created courses, and those that users have created with the rich course creator featured in the game. Allowing players to build courses from scratch, you are given a wide variety of tools in order to mould your dream golf course. The controls themselves for the creator are a bit clunky and hard to get the hang of, but overall it’s a fairly deep creation system that with a little bit of time, players could do some great things with.
You are able to download, upload, and share these creations using the very heavily implemented social aspect of the game. Showing current friends online, integrated leaderboards, etc, the game almost shoves the social aspect in your face. But if you’re like me, with no friends who own the game, you’ll feel as if most of the menu screen is being wasted. Within this system you can easily browse and download other player’s created courses. Sadly without any sort of tagging or ‘trending’ feature, courses are likely to be lost into the abyss unless they are heavily ‘recommended’. With a bit more refinement into the sorting of these courses, creations could be more fairly showcased.
Visually the game looks mediocre at best. Hardly what you would expect from a next-gen sports title. While the game is anything but ugly, the game just looks jaggy, muddy, and under-polished. The environment, which I feel is the most visually important part of the game, looks rushed and lacks any sort of artistry. Trees are massively copy and pasted and suffer from some severe pop-in. The water textures are very low resolution and the splash effects looks as if it’s been summoned from the PlayStation 2 era. The golfer models are fairly decent, albeit as generic as possible. With the ‘customization’ being that of changing a few colours and patterns, the game lacks any sense of personalization, especially when compared to other golfing titles.
The sound design is decent in terms of effects. Hitting the green, smacking rocks, and dropping into sand traps all sound about how they should, assuming you can actually hear them over your own screams of annoyance for falling into said trap. The game lacks any music other than menu music and while some may love hearing the looped sounds of nature while golfing, personally I would have liked to have soft instrumental tunes play while I attempted to play this relaxing sport.
As far as vocal performances, the only voice you’ll hear while playing this title is that of the announcer. Now if you like the professional sounding, informed, and clear-speaking folks you hear on other sport games or televised events, then go ahead and turn the announcer all the way down. The announcer, uniquely named ‘John’ in this case, legitimately sounds as if they snatched the first person they saw walking outside of their office and shoved them into the booth with a massive list of overly-casual lines to utter. Sounding more like a buddy sitting next to you while you play rather than a proper announcer, the voice acting just confuses the game. I literally found myself laughing out loud at the random lines spouted from our good friend John. I know I’ve been on this topic longer than most would think is needed, but I just cannot for the life of me see why anyone thought he was a good fit for the game. I would be willing to say if the announcer was completely removed the game would be significantly better.
In the end, The Golf Club isn’t winning any championship cups, but it certainly is on par, especially if you’ve been looking for a proper golf simulator. The game is a bit rough around the edges, but at a budget price, it may be something worthwhile for the hardcore golfer. If you aren’t in that category, you may want to shy away from this release.