Here’s what I know about golf. In the sixth grade, our PE class had a golf segment that lasted about a week. I sucked. I’m pretty good at mini-golf. I think Happy Gilmore is a reasonably accurate depiction of professional golf. Now that I’ve established my credentials, let’s dive into this (short) review of HB Studios’ new golf simulator, The Golf Club.
I can’t speak much to the physics of the game. It looks like golf to me, though it does seem that environmental factors may play a larger role than they should in determining the path of the ball. The game is attractive, for the most part, but there are some design elements in the course creation that seem unpolished (more on that in a bit). Player customization is limited; I saw no plaid pants, polyester shirts, or golf hats. Then again, character customization is definitely not the most important element of a golf simulator, and its limited nature does nothing to change the game.
The biggest complaint I have comes with the basic gameplay mechanic of hitting the ball. In every other golf game that I’ve played (however few they may be), there is at least an option to use a two-stage A button method for determining the power of your shot. With The Golf Club, your only method is by pulling the right joystick back until your club is at the desired stage of preparedness and then pushing the right stick forward to swing through. If you do not bring the joystick back up perfectly straight, you “hook” or “slice” the ball (I have no idea what those words mean, except that they’re not ideal). You also have absolutely no idea what kind of power will be behind the shot as you’re lining it up; the power meter only displays the final power of the shot after it has already been taken. It’s easy to tell when you’re firing with 100% power, of course, but what if you just want a 50% shot? Short of an excessive amount of trial and error to determine power levels based on the position of the club, you can’t know.
One thing that I found very interesting, however, about The Golf Club was the course creator. As we’ve seen in other games, the course creator allows you to design any level of golf course with a great deal of customization, manual or automatic. These customized courses can be shared for other players to play and rate, just as you can play and rate the creations of others. There is a great deal of fun variety available here, especially with the objects that you can place on the course. Specifically, wildlife. In my only created course, I had lakes filled with blue whales and putting greens filled with bears, crocodiles, and wolves. Now, the promised unpolished element. These animals obstruct the ball in absolutely no way at all, and they each have a single animation, run on a delayed timer. They do not feel organic.
I’ve never been one to thoroughly enjoy a true simulator game. When faced with a choice between a more arcade-style version of a game and its simulator-style counterpart, I choose the former. This is not to say that I do not appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of a well developed simulator, but if I’m going to play a video game, I want to feel like I’m doing something I can’t walk outside and do myself. That being said, I can absolutely understand the appeal a true simulator has to a fan of the activity being simulated. While The Golf Club is not perfect, it seems like it is a solidly built simulator for someone who just wants to play golf. The Golf Club is available today on PC and Xbox One for $34.99 (PS4 version coming soon).