In a time when games developers are receiving so much abuse from gamers that they need to write open letters in response, HB Studios have done something very clever; they’ve created a game that lets the players create it themselves. The Golf Club is a solid standalone that offers a lot of control to the player.
Firstly, I’d like to say that the Golf Club is as minimalist as a game comes. There’s no tutorial, it’s not endorsed by any major golfers, you can only choose from about 6 player avatars and a dozen or so of each item clothing, there’s no physical modifiers available to avatars, you can’t create a character called Happy Gilmore, there is only one commentator and he sounds like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, and yet it all feels right. This is the style HB Studios was going for and it shows.
So now that you know what the game doesn’t have, let’s talk about what it does have. First and most importantly the gameplay is enjoyable and intuitive. The HUD provides all the information you need for each hole and you can even enter an interactive camera mode to move to and view certain sections of the course or get an over the top view of the entire hole. You can adjust the loft, draw and fade for your swing and choose from all the necessary clubs. The power of your swing can be dictated by two things, how far you draw back or how quickly you push forward the analog stick. Once you let the ball fly there’s no changing the shot. There’s no spin adjustment or other abilities while the ball is in the air like those found in Tiger Wood’s games. This is just pure golf. The same natural principle applies to effects and animations. If you strike the ball well the camera will follow the shot, but it won’t be all dramatic or slow motion because none of these bells and whistles are needed. Learning the ropes takes a couple of holes / courses if you’re by yourself. Alternatively you could go to the Golf Club website to view the tutorials.
The Golf Club is targeted at gamers that want an authentic experience and that are also a little creative. The best feature of the Golf Club is the course creator. This beautiful feature is endorsed by Greg Norman Golf Course Design. Players can make nearly any sort of golf course they can imagine. The level of customization is amazing. You start by picking your theme i.e. Rural, Alpine, Desert, etc. then some terrain option, such as how many trees, waterways and hills the course has, then you get down and dirty with the course layout. You can let the computer randomly generate the holes and then modify each one individually if you’re so inclined. The customization option for each hole is massive but to list a few:
- Add and remove hazards such as bunkers.
- Increase or decrease the width of the fairway, rough, green, etc.
- Add dips and hills (the highest hill I could create was about 220 foot tall)
- Change the lay of the green and move the hole.
The list goes on and on and it’s the feature that makes the Golf Club stand out. Similar to Mod Nation Racers and Little Big Planet, the user generated content is what the Golf Club is all about and what will keep the game fresh. I played some of the official courses and some user generated ones and the quality of both types is impressive. Each course has a particular difficulty and can be rated by players so you can tell which ones are going to be enjoyable to play.
The Golf Club is of course multiplayer, both local and online. If you’ve no one to play with locally and don’t fancy a competitive game online, the game has a nice compromise for you. When playing locally, you can let the game select random players who have previously played the course you’ve chosen and it will show their “ghost” data. This shows you the players shots on each hole as you play the game, so you can compete with them without having to actually be in the same match. It’s a nice touch but can leave you feeling like a scrub at times when seeing the ghost shots of other players being so much better than yours when you’re just starting to play. It can also give you tips about the hole such as the direction you should be driving the ball which is very helpful at times.
The Golf Club keeps it simple and puts much of the control in the player’s hands. The lack of bells and whistles works well in parts but causes the game to suffer in others and can leave the game feeling a bit lonely when playing offline. While not quite a hole-in-one, the Golf Club is a respectable birdie and should satisfy most Golf enthusiasts.