Hit Me On The Sweet Spot
Often described by its detractors as a good walk spoiled, Golf is a bit of an odd sport. Much like darts, the fitness required to partake is questionable, the fashion has raised more than a few eyebrows, and people that don’t get it, well, they just don’t get it.
Just like FIFA’s all conquering take on football, EA’s Tiger Woods franchise has been the only title out there when it comes to a realistic Golf Experience, until now. With the latest instalment of the EA franchise originally planned to release in March this year, HB Studios were all lined up to work on the last gen version alongside EA. With that game being completely canned, and a development team all set up and ready to go, HB took matters into their own hands and The Golf Club was born.
What’s Clubs Got To Do With It
Developed and published independently, The Golf Club goes to show what the kind of creative freedom that ditching a big label backer can produce. Much like its real life counterpart, this game is all about skill and judgement. No power bars, no target reticule, no caddy telling you what shot to play, and definitely no rewind button. HB’s take on controlling the game is as simple as it can be challenging. Before lining up your shot, pressing Y will bring up a scouting camera, this gives you an idea of where you shot may end up but its a loose camera angle, not an exact target being overlayed on the fairways and greens. It’s the same sort of idea with club selection. The only information supplied is the average distance you can thump the ball, straight and true with a full backswing you’ll be looking at around 285 yards with a driver, but just like real life you could play a much softer shot, or hook and slice around the various obstacles you’ll face.
The accuracy of the analogue sticks on the Xbox one controller here, is quite simply spot on. The kind of shots you can pull off, from sublime to truly shocking, are all down to your deftness with the sticks, and whilst it definitely takes time to master its the most rewarding swing mechanic I’ve ever come across in a Golf game. Tie that in to that fact the everyone who plays has the exact same player and club stats and you have a game that provides all who play with a completely level playing field, and playing against your friends is what this game is all about.
Another Putt’s In The Cup
With more social features that you can shake a stick at, the opportunities for getting one over your Xbox Live friends is immense. You are able to see what course they have set a score on, and then play the same course with their ghost data playing right along side you. If someone starts a round whilst you are on the back 9 of a solo play-through, a small discrete pop up with offer you the chance to play live with them, it’s a really great feature that works perfectly. You will always find a course to play and a score to beat, a live news ticker on the main menu constantly keeps you up to date of what’s going on, from whose beat your best score to which course to play next. I can’t praise the developers highly enough for how this social aspect has been integrated. It’s subtle and in no way intrudes if you fancy a quiet 18 holes on your own, but it’s constantly teasing and challenging you to try harder, get better, and beat your friends.
So fantastic tight controls, a compelling and social multiplayer element, what more could you want? Well how about unlimited Golf Courses? The Golf Club features a fully fledged Golf Course creator. From really simple to set up procedurally generated courses, where you can set certain parameters to completely hand designed bespoke courses, the options truly are endless. Whilst I’ve been far too busy playing the course created by the community to completely dive into creating my own, what I have tinkered around with have ended up looking good and more importantly playing rather well indeed. The fact that this course design tool is endorsed by Greg Norman himself speaks volumes. The developer created courses are obviously a highlight, but the ability to rate each course after playing it lends itself to the best courses rising to the top. You can filter through highest rated to most played either daily, weekly, monthly or all time. After less than a week at full release there are already hundreds of course to chose from, and some of them are absolutely stunning.
Save This Round
The Golf Club is a Golfers golfing game. Some people have bemoaned the lack of a single player career that will see you winning the Masters, but for me at least that’s not an issue. The Golf Club is a close as it virtually gets to chucking your clubs in the car and heading to your local course for 18 holes on a Sunday morning. No loading times between holes adds to the immersion and the speed it allows you to play at now means you can pick up and play a round in less than half an hour. Never let it be said that I’m a graphics whore, but the only disappointment for me in the entire game is that it’s natively rendered at 720p on Xbox One. It still looks fantastic, but it looks even better on PC and the PS4 version is also due to hit 1080p.
HB Studios, have done themselves proud with this game and no matter what version you play, if you’re a fan of the sport you are going to love it, more so if you actually play in the real world. When the price was first announced at £27.99 my eyes rolled, as a digital title from a independent studio I thought it was vastly overpriced, however once you dive in and realise just how much love, care and attention has gone into the game, not to mention the ridiculous amount of content on offer. It is without a doubt the best value Golf Game ever released. In even simpler terms it’s the best Golf Game that I’ve ever played, with more courses on the way, and continued content from the HB themselves it’s only going to get better.
The Golf Club is available on PC via Steam, xbox one via the market place and PS4 via the store and costs £27.99