In years past there have been a wonderful range of golf games. Links, Virtua Golf, Mario Golf, Golf, Golden Tee and of course PGA. Then along came Tiger Woods and a rather large EA contract and the competition soon dried up for simulation golf on games consoles.
The problem with the Tiger Woods games, is that they kind of went beyond simulation and added elements that were needless, such as being able to adjust the spin of the ball mid-flight, clothes that upgrade the character and more.
Step in HB Studios and The Golf Club which approaches the genre from two different angles. Whilst the game’s main selling point is the course editor, it is the actual golf playing that helps it stand out from EA’s recent efforts.
It isn’t even adding anything new, there is no genre changing new mechanic that revolutionises the way we play golf games, it has the same swing mechanic on the right-stick that we have become used to over the years, aiming is done in much the same way and putting again will feel very familiar. It is what is stripped away that has the biggest effect.
You approach your shot as you would an actual golfer and based on your own skill levels. Your first few rounds will see you basically swing the club and get a feel for how it works. You won’t be getting great scores and generally you will be going round well over par, even taking the odd mulligan here and there. But you don’t really mind and we’ll explain why in a moment.
Once you get a feel for the swing mechanic, you can start to play around with shot type and adjust your approach to try and draw, fade and add spin. Unlike other golf games this isn’t done with extra inputs while swinging or whilst the ball is in flight (still annoys how stupid that is in a simulation). Instead you hold a button, set an ideal way you wish to strike the ball and that will have a part deciding factor on how it travels.
You do nothing extra during your shot, but you swing will still have the biggest effect on how well you aim works. Get a perfect swing, with the right power and momentum and you will have much more control over what the ball does. Mess one part up and all your planning will be for nothing and it is very easy to mess up a shot. Just like golf, it is very frustrating when you mess up time and time again, but ever so rewarding when you do get into a groove.
Now we said messing up isn’t that big a deal and this is why. There isn’t any real progression in the game, there is no leveling up your character, unlocking new items that boost attributes, nothing like that at all, which means you can simply go out and enjoy playing however you see fit. Take on a single round, play in a tournament or even a tour.
However, whilst we welcome the lack or XP based character progression, we would like to see some kind of ‘career’ progression as you move through the game. Make the tours relevant to some degree, try and add a little bit of cohesion to make the player feel they are heading towards something, maybe some extra game modes to add a little variety. However, this is something that can be added in time.
What is great though, is that this is a game very easy to lose yourself in, from the moment you hit the first tee, to the moment you need to call it a day. It can be both a nice relaxing game, or one to offer up a challenge depending on how you decide to approach the game on any given day.
What the game sells itself on though is the course designer and it is a bit special and essentially offers you unlimited golf course for the life of the game. It is a very simple process too, enter a few options with regards to trees, water and hills, or even just randomise the effects then hit the ‘Next’ option, choose how many holes you want the the difficulty of the course, give it a name and watch as the game builds a course infront of your very eyes.
Now that alone would be impressive and offer up something that should add some nice longevity to the game, but once the course is initially built you can then go in and fine tune almost any aspect. You can edit the number of hole types, create and change the layout of bunkers, hills, water traps, change the length of a hole, anything you see fit really.
What’s more it is actually a fairly simple tool to use and will only take a little time to familiarise yourself with how all this works. You can then go and test the course, test an entire hole or even put yourself in certain spots and test shots from there. Which is great if you want to make that green side bunker a real pain to get out of.
All created course can be shared and whilst you will get to see a lot of test course out there. Some people have really taken their time to produce some stunning course for the world to play on with some even doing their very best to replicate some of the world’s famous courses. It is such a powerful creation tool, that we’d love to see it used as an engine for other game type, such as track creators for racing games.
Overall The Golf Club isn’t for everyone and does have a few faults, with many finding it difficult to get to grips with, as it does do away with hand holding. But for those will to put the time and effort in, you have a fantastic golf simulator that does away with bells and whistles to offer up a pure golfing experience.