Golf games often fall into two very distinct categories: Accessible pick-up-and-play incarnations, or true-to-life, oh-my-god-it’s-almost-real simulations. HB Studios’ The Golf Club 2019 safely falls into the latter camp, but in some ways, part of its strength comes from how surprisingly approachable this title is compared to the other hardcore real-life golf sims on the market.
The third outing in The Golf Club series, it’s safe to infer that the franchise has finally landed on the green of legit officialdom; this is the first PGA Tour sponsored iteration of the series, after all. With this newly acquired licence, does HB Studios’ latest endeavor squander its potential and hit an out of bounds, or does it aim sky-high, strike true and sink that ever elusive hole in one? Well, in a nutshell, this is the best title the series has offered up yet and a terrific golf sim for those on the hunt for a more realistic golf game experience.
The biggest compliment I can pay the Canadian developer’s latest effort is just how great it feels to perform such a simple task as swinging a club and hitting the ball. For example, compared to Clap Hanz’s fantastic Everybody’s Golf, The Golf Club 2019’s controls feel noticeably more intuitive. The fact that the input needed to strike the ball mirrors the movement of swinging a golf club really gels well with the tactile feeling of pitching a shot. By moving the core input of the swing of the club to the analog sticks — compared to the more button-centric focus of games like Everybody’s Golf — The Golf Club 2019 authentically captures the feeling of real-life golf with its surprisingly instinctive and tactile control scheme.
That’s not to say that it’s all simply a walk in the park. On the contrary, the actual gameplay experience has got a fairly steep learning curve. Thankfully though, there’s a plethora of handy tutorials to get you set up which explain the ins and outs of what to do and what not to do to help you land that perfect shot. If you’re anything like me, I had to run through the initial tutorials twice for the mechanics to really click.
Another unique mechanic that you’ll need to be mindful of when taking a shot is the tempo of your swing. Your backswing tempo affects your power and control, while the downswing tempo has an impact on the spin applied to the ball. Frankly, it’s a tricky system to explain in writing, and it’s much easier to learn with a controller in your hand. However, once you’ve got the tempo of your swing down and you’re consistently achieving shots with perfect tempo, the mechanic really does accentuate how intuitive the act of swinging a club really is.
One gripe that occasionally reared its ugly head, however, is how finicky changing clubs can sometimes be. On a few rare occasions, it can prove baffling trying to find the right club for the right shot. Clubs and Shot Types are mapped to two separate buttons, so after some time getting to grips with the control scheme this problem thankfully does begin to dissipate. That being said, it still feels a little bit wonkier than it should, as you can spend a seemingly excessive amount of time cycling through the various clubs and Shot Types to attain the most appropriate club and shot for the hole in question.
From a visual standpoint, The Golf Club 2019’s photorealistic style looks excellent. Character models are intricate and believable, lighting and lens flare is noticeably lifelike, while the numerous golf courses are diverse and detailed. It’s the smaller touches that really help to elevate the graphical presentation, though, like the eye-catchingly gorgeous clouds overhead, to the sun-kissed glisten of the ponds, to even the unassuming clod of earth that flicks up from the soil as you tee off. It’s an impressive looking game which is only held back by some occasional pop in here and there. In regards to audio, some sporadically flat commentary feels a touch wooden, but elsewhere its minimalist approach to its audio design brims with ambient tweeting birdsong, which is both calming and meditative.
Rounding out the package are some stalwart features from the last duo of games. Character customization is pretty deep, and there’s a plethora of cool stuff to unlock for your avatar if that sort of stuff tickles your fancy. There’s also a golf course creation kit for all you creative types out there, and luckily, it’s surprisingly easy to craft a course of your preference. Finally, there’s a solid offline and online competitive suite if you’re in the mood for some multiplayer action. As is par for the course in games of this ilk, the competitive couch multiplayer is undoubtedly where it’s at.
From your first tee to your umpteenth hole, The Golf Club 2019 really nails that heart-in-mouth feeling of swinging your club like a pro. It hits a nice sweet spot between a hardcore sim and an approachable pick-up-and-play experience, while offering a myriad of welcome bonus features to boot. In short, it’s a solid overall package that challenges and entertains in equal measure.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by 2K Games.
From your first tee to your umpteenth hole, The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour really nails that heart-in-mouth feeling of swinging your club like a pro.