Published on August 19th, 2014 | by Don Parsons1
The Golf Club Review
Summary: HB Studios sinks an eagle with a quality course creator and competitive multiplayer.
These days, we’ve all become accustomed to games holding our hands while playing them. Some of us mind, some of us don’t, and some of us don’t notice some of the things games do to help guide us to victory. I don’t typically mind, and sometimes I don’t even realize it’s going on until those very things I have grown used to have been yanked from me. Enter my first hour of The Golf Club, where every round of golf I played saw me 30 over par. Oh, and my household also heard loud outbursts of profanity as I missed shots and putts that I was used to making with the aforementioned hand-holding I’d gotten from similar games.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour was absent this year, which left me beyond sad. HB Studios, the developer behind The Golf Club, thankfully filled the void in my heart. The Golf Club isn’t a PGA Tour knock off, either. While the EA Sports golf title focuses on real golfers and building a career, The Golf Club is designed around user generated content and competing against real people.
At a budget price of about $35, I was a little worried that The Golf Club would lack depth. When I booted up and poked around the menu, I wasn’t really sure where to start. But to get a handle on the controls, I thought it would be best to just jump into a randomly chosen game. The game loaded promptly and I took my first drive onto the green. At the time, I didn’t notice the lack of a power bar because I generally want to give it a solid whack off the tee. The lack of a power bar did stick out though during that first, horribly-played game. I wasn’t really sure what to think at first, especially on the green when I was putting. I found a way around this by adjusting the shot with the left trigger, adding more height to decrease the distance by a certain percentage. Problem one: solved. My score on an 18 round course went from 30+ each game to about 18 or so over par by just figuring that out, too.
On the green, putting is a pain. The usual visual cues are all present, like white lines showing the curvature of the green. I found out that I was far too used to “putt preview”, a devilish feature in that other golf game. I’m still paying for being lazy, and I have cussed at my TV more in the past week than I have in quite a while. That said, making a 27-foot putt is a satisfaction I can’t fully explain except to say this: you just have to experience it first hand.
What happens between holes is one of the most exciting things about The Golf Club if you ask me. You see, after you finish a hole, there is no loading time. I figured it would be a gimmick when I read that bullet point. Sink the ball, get presented with a scorecard that you can skip through a second after it loads, and there you are, ready to take on the next hole. Less loading time means more holes of golf can be played. I noticed my average sitting would contain 3+ rounds of golf, whereas in other golf games I would finish less than half that number. I had a hard time playing more than one round even though I loved it so much. My patience for loading screens is fairly non-existent, and HB Studios has raised the bar by a considerable amount just because of eliminating those boring moments.
One of the standout features of The Golf Club is user generated content. The course creator can be as simple or as in-depth as the player wants it to be. It’s easy to throw a course together in a matter or minutes. Pick a setting, adjust a few bars for things like trees, water, and hills, and you have the basic outlines of a course. From there, it’s easy to go in and edit each hole by roaming over the course and selecting options based on where your cursor is. I made hole 7 on one of my last courses a pain in the ass by narrowing the green and adding bunkers around the hole like little trenches.
As of now (pre-launch), there are already a large handful of user-generated courses out, and none of the ones I played were bad. HB Studios has a handful of official courses too. Playing a tour mixed with user and official courses, I couldn’t tell a difference in the quality at all, which means there is potential for an unlimited amount of quality courses.
The last major pillar of The Golf Club is playing competitively with others. There’s an upside and downside to how this works, but with Xbox Party chat, it’s more up than down. The Golf Club has asynchronous multiplayer. My friend could play a course, and I can hop on that night and play his ghost. With each stroke, I can see his ball progress down the green along with mine. Loading up a course, I can even pick rivals to go against so I don’t feel like I’m playing alone. I simply compete against their best round.
There is not a club house, or some sort of fancy party room where people gather to get a round of golf started; it’s simply hop into a game and go. If I know someone online who is playing the game, I can invite them to the course I am at and if they accept they pop into my game at hole 1. I could be 4 holes deep, but they are golfing at their own pace. With Party Chat, it works out. There’s no waiting either, so when I had to go get a drink, whomever I was golfing with didn’t have to wait: they just kind of caught up. At the bottom of the main menu is also an activity feed, and if a friend pops into a game, you can join them from there.
With the EA Sports powerhouse, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, taking a year off, 2014 is a prime year for a new contender to step up to the ball and try to shoot better than par. The Golf Club took this opportunity and ran with it, delivering a solid, rich, and still budget-priced golf title. While it lacks a career mode or any sort of hand holding some digital golfers may be used to, it’s hard to argue with the value presented in The Golf Club in satisfying play, well-designed multiplayer, and a quality suite for user generated content.
Note: This review was written with review code provided by the publisher with gameplay on the Xbox One console. For more information on our review policies please read here.