Review: The Golf Club (PS4)

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Title: The Golf Club
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.9 GB)
Release Date: August 26, 2014 (US) / September 3, 2014 (EU)
Publisher: HB Studios
Developer: HB Studios
Original MSRP: $34.99
ESRB Rating: E
The Golf Club is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

As someone who’s been Golfing for over 30 years, I always get excited when I get the chance to also play the game digitally, especially since here in Wisconsin we’re not able to get out on the links a few months of every year. Many people over the last few years are used to games such as the Tiger Woods series from EA Sports or the Hot Shots series from Sony, and they’re great games in their own right. Both offer a great representation of the real game (deceptively so in the Hot Shots series), and both also offer a robust system based around the Golfer that the user creates to his or her preferences.

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In The Golf Club though, it’s all about the game itself. There are no Golfers to choose from, but you’ll be able to choose from a variety of 5 customization items, including a hat, glove, shirt, pants, and shoes. You’ll also be able to choose right or left handedness, and that’s about it. There are no options to change the appearance or physical attributes, there are no licensed items to choose from, there are no choices of clubs, balls or anything else for that matter. There’s no integrated XP system, and there’s no career to build either. It’s Golf at its most base form, and that’s something that we haven’t had for quite a while.

Gameplay:
Everything about The Golf Club has been kept simple. There’s only one way to play the game, and that’s by using the analog stick to swing the club. No power meters, no Move support, just the ability to use the Left Stick instead of the Right. The most ingenious thing about the controls though, is that you’ll never be consistently perfect, which is completely representative of the actual game of Golf. Be it a bit skewed on your backswing, or pushing the ball with your putter, it’s exactly what you should expect with a Golf game that leans toward the simulation side, and The Golf Club represents this very well.

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Three game types are available: Stroke, Match, and 4-Ball (also known as Best Ball). All three are pretty standard, and the addition of Best Ball is actually pretty sweet. A lot of recreational Golfers play in this format quite a bit, so it definitely adds some familiarity, and can possibly convince beginners to play along. We’ll get back to the multiplayer later in the review though.

The interface is pretty good, but at times it’s almost too simple. Something that could definitely be better overall is to have some form of tutorial system to explain some of the options within the interface, but also to teach you how to play the game. It’s needed especially in how to adjust your shot, change your club, and what that all means to a non-Golfer. While you’re on the course you can hit the Triangle button to use the preview camera, which zooms forward to the general area where the ball should land. This can be used to make sure that you’re aiming at the Fairway, and so you can make adjustments to compensate for wind or if your lie is on an angle. Unfortunately, you can’t change a club or even adjust your aim while zoomed-in, so you’ll need to pull back, adjust your aim, then zoom back in to see if you’ve gotten it where you want.

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Putting feels very natural, but if you’re used to some other Golf games out there, you’ll definitely need to develop a feel for it here. Greens can actually be read pretty well, and you can choose to overlay an active grid across the green (I recommend this). As mentioned before, there’s no power meter of any kind, so you’ll need to teach yourself how far back to pull the putter and use the correct amount of power. Also, you still need to make sure that your swing is straight so you don’t push the putt or hit the ball with the heel of the putter. Again, my biggest complaint is that even with two other cameras, neither gives the player a good perspective on longer putts. So just like in real Golf, some portion of the process is left to a gut feeling and experience. The feel though, is excellent once you get used to it.

As more of a Golf simulation, your knowledge of the real game can definitely help you with your various shots. You’ll need to compensate for wind speed and direction, how deep your ball is in the rough or in a bunker, and even if you’re standing above or below the ball. The good thing is, you won’t be distracted by choosing an attribute to upgrade or deciding which balls or set of clubs to use. Instead, it’s all about Golf, and this is what I believe is driving me to play as much as I am. The Golf Club is taking me back to a simpler time, when another realistic (for the time) Golf game made people upgrade their PC’s just to play it, a series called Links.

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Unlike that series though, there are no licensed courses available. Instead, a combination of courses designed by the Studio and many more created by the community are offered-up to be played at your leisure. You’ll be able to do so by choosing to either simply play a Round, a Tour created by the community and developers, or even a Tournament. One of the biggest features of The Golf Club is the incredibly robust but easy-to-use Course Creator. Emblazoned with Greg Norman’s name, the Course Creator allows you to choose from five different themes including Autumn, Rural, Alpine, Desert, and even Scottish Links! You can choose to either have the creator randomly generate a Course based on a few attributes like the amount of trees, hills, and hazards, or you can create an entire Course from scratch. The first one I created took roughly fifteen to twenty minutes and even though I had it generated for me, I was able to make some manual changes quite easily. Again though, there’s no explanation of the tools or how to use the creator itself, which I believe will keep some people from ever trying unfortunately.

Visuals:
The Unity Engine does a lot of extraordinary things in The Golf Club, but it also shows some of its limitations. The courses and players look fantastic throughout, especially in a screenshot. But when things start moving, trees and shadows pop-in quite a bit. To me, it doesn’t take away from the game really, but it’s still something that can take you out of the experience a bit, and it makes me hope that an update can possibly fix this in the future.

As you can see in the screenshots, the amount of detail in the textures and even the course architecture is very impressive. Lighting also is very well done, and as you’ll learn if you use the Course Creator, it’s all generated in realtime. Even more incredible is that there’s no load time between holes and no loss of detail or definition at any time.

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In the Visual Options, make sure that you enable “VSync”, which helps even the framerate out and eliminates any screen tearing, which will happen if you disable this option.

Audio:
The reaction to the in-game announcer has been mixed so far, but personally I like the more conversational attitude that he has. He’s at his best when you’re playing with your friends online though, as he’ll keep you updated on how the others are doing. Other environmental sounds are excellent all around with a wonderful mix of wind rustling through the trees and insects buzzing around. The actual Golf sounds are excellent as well. Hearing the putter tap the ball in complete serenity on the 14th Green is an experience captured very well in this game.

Online/Multiplayer:
Online is an interesting beast in The Golf Club. First, the game automatically saves a Ghost whenever you play a round and makes that Ghost available to your friends when they play that same course. When you start up, it allows you to play against up to three Ghosts during a round. The announcer won’t acknowledge how they’re doing really, but their presence is visible and can help motivate you be more competitive. Also, the Ghost’s progress is represented on the score card right along with your own score.

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The funny part about this is that unless you get into a Party via the PS4’s Party System, playing online live with someone will feel very similar. In groups of up to four players, you can play online with your friends in any event or mode, and since the game doesn’t have its own voice support, it looks and feels almost exactly like if you’re playing against these saved Ghosts. There’s no time limit, and the game doesn’t even require you to wait for your opponents, so everyone can play at their own pace.

There’s no option (that I can find at least) to play in a Public Match with randoms though which can be a hindrance if your Friends List is small or if none of your friends are playing it. Also, setting-up an online game is odd since you either need to check the Message Center to see if your friend is playing online currently, or set up a specific time for everyone to get online. If someone is online, all you have to do is join their session. Or if you’ve planned this session, one person needs to get into a round or event, then hit the Options button on the DualShock 4, choose Active Players, then invite each person individually (as shown in the video included in this review.)

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Online play itself is quite good, which you should probably expect for Golf. Playing with friends via the PS4 Party System is great too, especially since a good part of playing Golf with friends is the trash talk.

Conclusion:
Even with its faults, I can’s stop playing this game. I’d like to see an update to fix some of the visual issues (like the pop-in), and even though I’ve been playing it a lot, I’d still like to see some tutorials or even a hints system added. The fact that so much of the content is actually crowd-sourced assures that there will be new content for a long time coming, especially since the creation tools are so easy to use. I’m already finding some good replicas of real courses such as Augusta National and Pinehurst #2, and that’s making em want to search the corners of their cloud to find out what else everyone is creating.

If you love playing Golf, The Golf Club is a worthy substitute for those times that you can’t get out into nature. This is going to be a lifeline during the cold Winters here in Wisconsin.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • After watching your gameplay a few time over the last week and reading the review I’m going to have to pick this one up for sure this week.

    • HustlinOwl

      Definitely buy this game, best golf game I have played in years and so many courses makes the game different course to course

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  • John Montegudo

    Just saw this is the deal of the day at Best but for $19.99 and I remember you talked about it on the podcast so I’m picking it up