I’m not what you would call a die-hard golf fan. I don’t play the sport and I don’t watch it. In fact, outside of pinching my brother’s grandfather’s golf clubs when I was a kid and smacking a few balls at my local park, I cant say I’ve had much experience at all. Though, HB Studios’ The Golf Club 2019 landed on my lap and something pulled at me to give it a spin. Having never played their previous Golf Club games, grouped with my bear minimal knowledge of the sport itself, you can imagine how skeptical I felt when booting up the game for the first time.
To my surprise, despite getting my ass handed to me on a regular basis within, I’ve had an absolute blast and fully intend on sticking with it for a while to come. Now, don’t let the game’s abrupt and somewhat confusing launch put you off, because this is a well rounded package that fans of the sport wont want to miss out on. The Golf Club 2019’s underlining selling point is that it features the official PGA Tour license, something HB Studios quite rightly boasted a short while back. There’s also been a heap of improvements to the game’s core systems, functions and mechanics.
Obviously, I’m not qualified to comment on how improved these additions are, but I can comment on how well The Golf Club 2019 plays, and well indeed does it play. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a golf fanatic or a newcomer such as myself, The Golf Club 2019 elegantly feeds you into the basics and intricacies of play. Though, even though The Golf Club 2019 is accessible, it’s one hell of a challenging game. Even on easier difficulties, I struggled not only to maintain par, but beat it, time and time again. I’m getting better, mind, much better.
When you first boot up the game there’s a tutorial sequence that will swiftly take you through all of the available tools; clubs, gameplay, rules and so forth. For anything that the tutorial doesn’t immediately cover, there’s an in-depth list of helpful tips over in the menu. Everything else in the menu is what you would expect to see from a game of this sort. There’s several modes and options to select from, the ability to customize your avatar from a range of different purchasable or earned cosmetics and so forth. It’s a very robust game as far as its content diversity goes.
The all new PGA tour serves as the game’s career mode and includes Q-School, Web.com Tour, PGA TOUR, and the FedExCup Playoffs. Players will compete in a mixture of real and fictional tournaments to get in on the PGA and earn a spot racing towards that fabled FedExCup. Mercifully, the game’s initial difficulty curve is nice to rest upon and although I found myself not quite making the Web.com Tour several times over, thanks to how fluid the game controls, grouped with how gorgeous the game looks, it never felt anymore taxing than it needed to be.
I’ve yet to make it through the entire career simply due to how freakin’ competent and challenging the AI is with their scoring, but I have indeed enjoyed everything that the game has to offer over the course of several hours worth of play. What struck me the most is how precise The Golf Club 2019 is, as well as simple it is to get a feel for the much loved sport and sink into how it should be played. I thoroughly recommend that if, like me, you’re either out of touch with the sport or are completely new to it, you head on over to the tutorial pages to brush up. Trust me, it helps.
Much of your time in the game will be spent judging and aligning the power or tools needed for each shot you’re faced with. The UI is really clean and gives you swift access via RB/LB to alter the clubs in use, which is necessary depending on the ground that you find your ball in as well as the distance to the cup. The game will automatically decide which club is the best to use, though you are totally able to swap them out at any time. Tapping X will adjust which shot type you will output, chipping, punch and so forth, whereas tempo and alignment is measured by the analog sticks.
The back-swing tempo is in place to affect both power and control, with the down-swing tempo serving as a means to distribute what spin will be applied to the strike. There’s a helpful meter that will chart your last strike, giving you some outline foundation for your next shot. Swing accuracy can be monitored here too via the swing plane, which will track how straight your shots are in accordance. Rounding this off is both fade and draw. Holding back LT will pull up the shot shaper; a small grid that allows you to maneuver and apply a curve to each of your shots.
When you find yourselves on the green, you’ll see that putting is the most distinct sort of shot, mostly through the means of a helpful grid that will relay useful information. This grid information will highlight the ground’s build, letting you know which way the ball will likely roll due to downhill and uphill foundations. It sounds a lot more complicated on paper than it is in practice, which for me, is one of The Golf Club 2019’s most alluring features. Golf shouldn’t be stressful. It’s a game that should be tranquil and fun, win or lose, and The Golf Club 2019 achieves that remarkably.
It helps, of course, that all of these systems are accurate and responsive at all times. Each shot, successful or failed, is nothing short of player controlled. This is a game in which you earn what you output, there’s no blaming faulty controllers here, that’s for sure. When you’re not hitting up the career mode and working to please your sponsors, there’s plenty of other things to jump into. This includes the likes of online play and offline local play, with the addition of Alt-shots and Skins modes added for good measure. Players can also take part in head to head matches, team play and more.
Furthermore, The Golf Club 2019 allows players to import their courses through use of the course editor. Yes, course editor has returned and it’s very simple to get to grips with, even (again) for first timers. Safe to say that there’s clearly no shortage of content on offer here. So far, so good? Well, as much as I have commended the game, I do have a few pet hates with it. Now, whilst the game looks absolutely stunning during play, the game’s avatars look slightly doll-like. So much so that when you’re staring at your competition in the info panel, it can oftentimes look ridiculous.
Another gripe sits with the commentary, which is looped far too much and only highlights how repetitive the dialogue can become. Even just after an hour of play I was hearing the same script over and over, which is a bit of an immersion breaker to say the least. Outside of that, there’s little to complain about. There’s nothing quite like The Golf Club 2019. Each and every course looks stunning, and despite the occasional rendering issue, it’s a faithful reproduction of the real world sport, complete with authentic audio cues that truly puts you in the moment.
The Golf Club 2019 is as close to real world golf as you can get. HB Studios goes above and beyond to strike a fine balance between accessible and challenging. With its repetitive commentary and its plastic avatars to the side, there’s very little to scoff at. The game’s functions are remarkably fluid, precise and deep, allowing players to immerse themselves in an authentic and faithful representation of the sport.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.