HB Studios has launched the second entry in it’s The Golf Club franchise with the (cleverly named) The Golf Club 2. This sim heavy golf franchise looks to offer a much more subdued and realistic approach to the game than other major players. With a tremendous amount of creative freedom and a plethora of user created courses to enjoy, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Technical issues and an overall lack of polish however work to undermine the level of quality that might have been present otherwise.
It’s clear as soon as anyone fires the game up that customization is the name of the game here. Players will find a course creator that, while daunting and unintuitive at first, can with practice allow them to create some really fun and memorable experiences. I was able, after about 2 hours of practice, to create an 18-hole course with enough crazy features and challenging shots to keep me busy for a while. The creator allows players to alter the height and shape of terrain, add animals, trees, rocks and other features, or even to add lakes and waterfalls. For me, this is the highlight of the game, and it should allow for some really creative additions to the already mammoth selection of courses available.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), XB1, PC
Gameplay modes are pretty limited here. There are the standard single and multiplayer modes as one might expect. There is also a career mode. Now, if that language made your ears perk up expecting some expansive PGA style career in the vein of most modern sports games, you’ll need to temper your expectations a bit. In The Golf Club 2’s career mode players are essentially in charge of the tour, setting up tournaments and spending in game currency to upgrade the “Society” to host majors and improve their virtual clubhouse. Societies function as a sort of “clan” system as well, allowing players to join up with others to compete for bragging rights and currency.
As someone who plays a lot of sports games, and who focuses mainly on the career modes of those games, I found this system to be very lacking and overly convoluted. If there is a Golf Club 3 I would expect it to have more built in features and a more in depth career system in place. I understand wanting to keep with the overall theme of customization here, but this is the one area where that should have taken a back seat to a more curated mode with some customization options.
On the course players will find challenging but fair mechanics for 90% of the course. Drives, approach shots, and the various work around the green all control very well for the most part. The game has a 100% analog swing system with no meters or indicators for what percentage of full swing player’s backswing has generated. It also allows for increasing top-spin, back-spin, or fade/draw to the shots by adjusting where the clubface will strike the ball. The core mechanics here are solid, and do a great job of allowing one to improve their game with practice.
There are two primary areas however where the core gameplay is a real let down. For starters, players will occasionally notice a stutter in the backswing animation. This doesn’t occur every time, but it does occur enough to be frustrating. Eventually I got used to the stutter and learned to stop and reset my swing when it happened, but it is a pain point. The second and substantially more important area is putting. There is no sugar coating it, putting in this game is substantially more frustrating and difficult than any of the drives, approaches, chips or punches leading up to it. Greens are tough to read and, even on courses that say they are medium speed, are very fast.
Compounding this problem is the aforementioned lack of a percentage meter telling players how much power they are putting on a putt. Some people will tell you that this is more realistic and you have to learn to “feel” how much backswing a 12-foot putt needs, but when combined with the fast greens and difficultly with reading break it can be a maddening experience. The putter will go 144 feet. Judging the distance in backswing between a putt that should go 12 feet and one that should go 15 feet is very difficult on that scale.
The presentation is a mixed bag of adequate and low-rent. The commentary is very casual, which is nice, but also repetitive. Shadows can get a bit strange at times but generally the game is pleasant to look at. Occasionally strange items (like the size of some of the animals you can place on the course) can generate a laugh or two. Load times can be very long, particularly the first load when you boot the game.
TGC2 represents my introduction to this series, as I did not play the original entry. Quite honestly I found this advantageous while writing this review, because I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the series going in. While this created some challenges for my initial onboarding into the game, I feel like it allows me perspective to judge the games merits objectively, without chalking weaknesses up to “well it’s better than the last one”. In general I feel like this is a solid budget title with a fantastic course creator and a lot of options, but it’s hard to recommend it to less hardcore fans of the sport.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.