Due to the mysterious absence of a flagship golf title for the PS4, HB Studios could well accomplish what many smaller studios cannot; breaking into the heavily defended sports game market. Teeing off against the big hitters directly could potentially spell disaster, yet with the fortunate break in the market, can ‘The Golf Club’ fill the void?
As far as simulations go, the competition has never really fulfilled its promise. Being able to alter the ball’s trajectory mid-flight has always seemed like an unnecessary aid; the changing of clothes giving stat increases has bewildered too. That sort of thing is nowhere to be seen here, and with it, comes both benefits and drawbacks.
The gameplay itself is one of the crowning factors; despite it using the tried and tested formula of swinging the right thumbstick, it can be punishing yet rewarding. With a general lack of tutorial, you’ll find the first few games potentially frustrating; however sticking with it will yield better results eventually. Much like the real life version, practice makes perfect and you’ll (mostly) stop fluffing each and every shot. Accuracy with the right thumbstick is paramount and even a slight skew will alter your stroke. If you think that’s a little rough however, you’re in for a world of pain when it comes to putting.
Even though the generic elevation overlay is present to give you an idea of which way to angle your putt, there are no other indications of how your shot will pan out. You must manually gauge the power and finesse; yet without any feedback (other than the onscreen results) you’ll often not know exactly what you did wrong. Whilst this may put some people off, I believe it works in its favour; striving for the pursuit of perfection in golf is surely the initial draw anyway.
Aside from the gameplay, there are also several other greatly notable features present too, namely the highly touted course creation tools. Due to the lack of any official pre-made courses, when you’ve had your fill of the excellent selection on offer, you can try your hand at creating your own. The versatility of the creator can be quite staggering, it can let you procedurally create an all new course in just a few steps. Choosing the general backdrops, tree densities and adding exotic background paraphernalia is simple and works well for what many people will desire. But it also caters for those seeking true customisation too. Individual tiles can be altered, even if it is a little fiddly, yet it does mean that you can create whatever you fancy and share it online for others to play.
Much akin to the Autolog system in the Need for Speed games, Golf Club also incorporates similar social aspects. Updating you with small objectives and tasks helps give you something to strive for if you’re so inclined. And that’s a good job too considering the general lack of content and progression on offer.
Whereas other games in the genre might have some light RPG elements to give a sense of development, The Golf Club sacrifices these in the hope that the feeling of genuinely getting better at the game will be reward enough. Similarly, as other games often incorporate a career mode of sorts, once again, Golf Club feels sorely lacking. With only three game modes on offer, you’ll generally have to make do with creating your own objectives to keep the sense of longevity alive.
In terms of presentation, The Golf Club won’t be the most jaw dropping game on your PS4, but it’s by no means a bad looking game; the Alpine backdrop in particular looks predominantly eye catching. The tiled menu system feels modern and crisp and the load times are often impressive too, a slight downer being the commentator’s occasionally uninterested demeanour.
For a digital only title, Golf Club can often be impressive, the simple yet rewardingly difficult gameplay demands mastery. The course creator and its combined social features recompense creativity, even if, great user created courses can easily be lost in the ether due to the lack of a trending system. The lack of a career mode stings almost as much as the occlusion of tutorials for the many sections that demand them too. However, for those craving a next gen golfing experience, you could worse than take a tour of The Golf Club.