The Golf Club Review
Somewhat ironically, The Golf Club does not have golf clubs, at least in the traditional digital simulation sense. It's not about the clubs in the bag. It's not about the money won from events, either.
Golf Club is about golf.
Golf is serenaded by serene waters and bird chirping. The sport is romanticized with soft spoken commentary and kindly piano keys tapping between holes. Illustrated devices such as meters and accuracy points are eliminated pre-swing - Golf Club is all visualization.
No anime characters, no Tigers, no thumping soundtrack filled with noted recording artists. Just an echoed snap of a club smacking a ball, or the gentle tap of a putter. Golf Club is barren and droll but in total tranquility with virtual nature.
In preceding years, the hefty influence of EA Sports (soon to be utilizing battleships as course hazards), bar-side occupant Golden Tee's, and the cartoon zip of Sony's Hot Shots Golf rendered enthusiast simulations moot. The lofty and cherished PGA Tour franchise dissolved into playful, accessible wonkiness where wealth was a determination of skill.
No +2 Club Shaft of Power here
Thus, Golf Club, where aficionado’s have their leisurely and pristine (if often ferociously intimidating) ball-in-cup interactive facsimile back - no battleships. Skill is the true determiner of wealth. Of course, this feels unusually plain and empty - the lack of pro shop visits, the deletion of rewarding leveling, flat sense of progression; it's an unconventional approach to contemporary video game golf-dom.
Results are refreshing. Landing within a yard of a devious green's goal is authentic cause for celebration.
Instead, progression is your own. Learning to manage a teensy safe zone on tense strokes. Successfully battling wind. Mastering a left leaning downhill putt with consistency. This is not a nice game. Golf Club never seems to care if it indirectly throws out bottom rung tournament dwellers in frustration. Clean, almost HUD-less right stick swings break from routine tutorials; and gauging power is your problem, not the fault of a provided tool. You cannot spend money – fabricated or real world – to become better. Golf Club is real world; keep playing, get better.
Results are refreshing. Landing within a yard of a devious green's goal is authentic cause for celebration. Readily slipping under par means mastery.
Do nothing, play everything
Despite the absence of the expected flow of play (menus, boost equipment, career match, repeat), Golf Club can only end with the death of its server support. An on-the-fly course creator is an astonishing bit of design, using random generators and rapid fire tools to spit out courses by the thousands in minutes. While this content solution appears to have soured visible resolution (it looks archaic), the seamless creation system is bountiful in challenge and deep in potential.
A natural community has become bound to The Golf Club, spitting up events with active developer HB Studios maintaining a revolving selection of official courses. Suddenly, the licensing poverty of Golf Club is erased. If you need Pebble Beach, merely find it. Someone has a likeness.
The mechanics are so simple and efficient that it feels genuinely profound.
If this first representation of “next generation” sim golf isn't the visual wonderment expected of the advancing console guts, that is okay. Golf Club is doing something else unparalleled. Where EA's passionate boxing simulation Fight Night sold revolutionary indicator-less punches by utilizing puffy facial deformation and animated fatigue, Golf Club is doing much the same for its own sport.
Intelligence in design has brought cyber golf forward to an era which doesn't need flash or hovering screen elements to dictate success. The right stick is isolated and a gratifying down-up motion does the rest. The mechanics are so simple and efficient that it feels genuinely profound.