In the rough.
I suck at golf games. There is no way to sugarcoat that statement. I always overshoot putts, drive my shots into the rough and of course send more balls than I care to admit into water hazards. With the absence of Tiger Woods it is time for someone to step up and take the torch for the new consoles (and PC). So the big question is, does HB Studios fill that void. With a robust and easy-to-use course editor The Golf Club takes a solid swing at replacing the champion, but a few other snags keep it from being a legend.
The biggest bullet point for The Golf Club is its course editor. A large chunk of games nowadays allow gamers to create their own content within the game. This one nearly relies on it. The bulk of courses that will be available are likely to be user created. So it is a good thing that the editor is not only extremely powerful, but also simplistic in some ways.
Platform: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $20
Multiplayer: Online and local
I had the ability to generate courses with little to no effort using the generator tools. This is good because my history with creating content peaked during the Doom days on PC. With just a few adjustments of sliders I was able to craft courses reminiscent of oceans or chock full of trees. The power of the editor is impressive, and the customization was there if I wanted to spend the time to tweak it. Sadly, the downside comes from handling these tools with a controller. I imagine this is much easier with a keyboard and mouse.
Moving objects around works flawlessly, and testing the hole is as easy as a button press to drop your ball onto the course and tryi it out. The customization is superb, and combining my levels with others to create entire tournaments is a snap. The Golf Club lives and dies on its ability to allow users to create custom courses.
As for the golfing itself, it took me a good round of 18 holes to grasp the system. The swing mechanics are familiar to anyone who has played a golf title since analog sticks were invented. Pulling back on the right stick brings the swing back, then pushing forward launches the ball. Accuracy is key on the upswing, and the meter at the bottom right let me know how crooked my shots were. There is no power meter, only an indication after the swing how much force I delivered. It is a good thing the game feels right, otherwise I would have never gotten the mechanic down.
The visuals are a mixed bag of good design, and poor performance. The Xbox One versions stuttered during some transitions, while the textures also proved to be muddy at times. This is less of a problem on PC. The venues also start to feel stale and empty after a while. I do hope they add in more packs down the line, or perhaps some more clutter for the environments.
The biggest drawback to The Golf Club though is its sense of place. The game feels barren at times, and like a tech demo at others. The lack of meaningful structure feels off when playing. Sure there are tons of courses and the swing mechanics are superb, but the lack of progression really takes its toll. I never felt like I was driving towards something.
It is also worrisome that a solid selection of courses will be available based on community interest. The game sits at $35, which is no slouch for a download-only title, and I worry it may scare off more than a few potential course makers.
Still, if players can get past that, there is a solid game of golf to be had here. The swing mechanics are excellent, and the course editor is second to none. I just wish there was more of a sense of progression to the core game. As it stands it is expensive, and can sometimes feel like a tech demo fleshed out with menus.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.