I must admit that I haven’t played an awful lot of golf games in the past. My main experiences were more party-based games featuring Mario or using the Xbox Kinect. In real life, I’ve had my fare share of “pitch and putt” and “crazy golf”, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to play (and learn) real golf. So when I was asked to try out this new game, I thought I’d give it a shot!
For newbies like me I was a little surprised to find that there was no tutorial for this game. Even Mario Golf had tutorials! So I was in at the deep-end. Embarrassingly it took me a few minutes to realise that you use the right thumbstick to take your shot, but to be fair there was no indication on the screen at all. I had a bad feeling about this…
Most of the golf games I’m used to or have seen played feature cross-hairs, power bars, guide arcs and all sorts of things that help you get the ball in the hole; “Line up your shot and hit A to win!”, but not The Golf Club. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. No. Actually it’s quite refreshing. There’s a bit of an initially steep learning curve for people who haven’t played a golf game before or know the basics, but after about 10 minutes I was actually doing pretty well! I was below par and hitting birdies like a real pro… I think?! The commentator seemed impressed with me. This game felt like it actually required skill and strategy. You couldn’t just blast your ball up near the hole with every shot you took.
I’m not saying by any means that within 10 minutes I was a pro. Far from it. But from spending time on this game I felt I was improving through the challenging game structure. I failed a few times, sure, but I’m a noob, that’s to be expected. It didn’t feel cheap though, so instead a mistake caused me to try and learn from it to improve. It wasn’t because I didn’t hit the “A” button at the point a triangle hit a part of a power bar, no. It was because I forgot that wind can change direction, different clubs suit each situation, the ground isn’t flat, and sometimes because there was a tree in the way!
The Golf Club is what I’d expect a proper golf sim to be, or what I’d want any simulation to be; I felt it gave me an authentic experience of the sport, with no flashy gimmicks, and provided challenge and improvement through trial and error, much like you’d get if you were playing it for real. To get better at the game I feel you really need to learn and understand the mechanics, practice and improve your skills, just as you would need to in real life.
That said, there are some elements to this game that I feel let it down slightly. The first being graphics. This game has some quite good and almost photo-realistic graphics at times, but the backgrounds can look a little pixelated and the frame rates can sometimes appear quite choppy with a lot of pop-in (with the trees especially). I also found that the commentator can be quite annoying. I found that with nearly every shot he was basically just saying the same thing over and over. The lack of variety began to grate quite quickly.
Apart from that and possibly the lack of support/training for newcomers, there was little else I could find wrong. The game also features a great course editor and some multiplayer features I wasn’t able to test at time of review. There’s not really a single player campaign mode either, but I don’t feel that’s too important with this type of game. I expect that as with real golf, you go to a course you love, practice your shots, improve your skills and enjoy the experience time and time again.
Overall, The Golf Club is an enjoyable game that feels authentic and requires genuine skill. The controls feel very responsive, from whacking the ball to gently attempting to putt the ball into the hole. There are a couple of graphical issues, but I’m sure that can be patched out in the near future. I think this game will divide a lot of people (fans and newcomers) as it can be quite challenging, which people either rise to or give up on. Personally, I enjoyed learning from mistakes and I’m still eager to improve further. If like me you’ve been interested to try golf, but have never had the opportunity, I’d say this game is worth a go and is likely to fuel your desire to try it out for real.