The Golf Club
HB Studios turned heads when it announced that it was creating a golf game for the PC and new home consoles called The Golf Club. One of the crown jewel features - extensive course creation options - was something fans of the sport have wanted from the Tiger Woods franchise but never got. But more than that, the game promised no less fidelity of its base golfing gameplay. Recently The Golf Club's closed beta went live, and we dove in and sampled the game from top to bottom.
There are a surprising number of options available to sculpt your own course, but just as important is the fact that the whole process is accessible. First off, you can let the game randomly generate courses ad infinitum with a few button touches. However, if you want to get your hands dirty and dive into the course creator, there are a bevy of options at your fingertips.
You can put down trees or shrubs, raise the land, tweak fairways' distances, plop down water or bunkers, and much more. As overwhelming as it can be to judge and wade into all the options - many of them are thankfully abridged into a minimum/maximum slider. However, if you want to individually place picnic benches or patches of daisies in certain spots, you can do that too. Perhaps most people will make use of more simplified options such as being able to move holes, re-order the existing holes, and choose the number of par 3 or par 5 holes, and then augment it with a few more personal touches.
However you go about making your courses, the game does a good job with its procedural generation to try and ensure that moving an entire hole, for instance, happens seamlessly with the existing environment. In general, while you can definitely jack up the creation sliders too much and create an unholy mess, sane creators should have no problem working with the game and its tools to make the course they envision.
Once you publish your course, others will be able to play them, and when the game is released officially, you'll be able to construct your own tours and tournaments. The Golf Club will also have social features so you can communicate with your friends, as well as a single-player tour.
Hitting The Links
Playing The Golf Club is similar to other analog stick-based golf titles you may have played. Getting accurate results depends on a smooth backswing and a straight follow through. Even applying draw or fade doesn't change the need for a straight follow through, it just makes it harder to accomplish because the sweet spot is smaller.
The Golf Club doesn't use any real-time swing indicators (other than seeing your avatar swing the club, of course), so although it shows the estimated club power to get the ball on the green, you're not trying to hit a marker on the screen. You don't see the results of your swing until after, when its arc is shown on a meter on the right-hand side of the screen.
Before you make contact with the ball, you can see much of the usual info in golf games. Wind, ball lay, the multi-colored terrain matrix for the green, distance to the pin, varying camera options, etc. are all there. Adjusting the ball's loft and applying draw or fade are done by adjusting your stance on a single grid.
Although the game's in beta, the swing feels right (you can get a little extra umph on the ball with good timing, and a straight, hard downswing) and so do the results of the ball in flight. Putting is a little more tricky, but not in a bad way. Getting the right power on your backswing makes a big difference in hitting par versus a double bogey.
The Golf Club by HB Studios is scheduled to come out for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this spring.