The Golf Club is an Early Access game now available on Steam. If you are not familiar with the Early Access concept, it essentially means that the game is still in a state of active development, like an Alpha or Beta version. An Early Access game may be anywhere between a near unplayable state to a mostly finished game that needs some polish and bug fixes. The Golf Club is a playable game that is missing some non-vital features that will be added further into development.
A more serious approach to the game, than say the popular Tiger Woods games series, has been taken with the developers. You won’t find any turbo power swings or the ability to change the direction of the ball after the shot. Golf club swinging is performed by either mouse or game controller. You pull back on the device and at the desired time you push forward to swing the club. I found it far easier using the controller but it works well enough with the mouse. There are no visual indicators to show the strength for either driving or putting, so it boils down to judgement. As a result, you may find putting is a little trickier, it can be hard to judge the required strength for the distance. There is a grid like system overlaid on the green to show the contours, you can adjust the aim direction judging from the moving grid lines. Newcomers to golfing games may find the lack of visual indicators a little daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.
Playing against one or more players differs for local and online modes. For local games the game is naturally played turn based, with each player taking a shot in succession until the hole is completed. The online multiplayer mode does away with this design and instead uses a visual indicator, a ball and player name, to show the location of their golf ball. This means you do not have to wait for players to take their turn. I have to admit that this initially seemed like a stupid idea, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The lack of waiting for each player to take their turn means that everyone can play at their own pace. This also means you could in theory play against hundreds or even thousands of players and not have to wait. As you play each hole, the rival players shots are shown as you play yours. The rivals could be several shots ahead or even on a further hole, but it still feels like you are playing against them. I think it is a great way of presenting the online multiplayer and I do not miss the turn based method at all.
A built-in course creator and editor is included with the game. You create a course by defining some variables such as the theme and terrain to create a course to work from. Once the course is created, you can add or change the course layout, such as making the fairway and green larger or smaller or changing the hole location. You can also add scenery from a wide selection including club houses, trees, bunkers and water. When you are happy with your design, you can publish and share it online for other gamers to play on. The course editor seems to be easy to use from the time I spent on it and very popular with over 1000 courses submitted since the games release.
The games presentation is shown in a Windows Metro style tile design which works well, it allows for quick navigation for both mouse/keyboard and game controller. There are a few missing features such as tournament creation and player stats to keep track of. There is some scope for player customisation, you can change your appearance from a selection of clothing. I would like to see some options for customising the golf clubs and also which ones to use. They are not vital to the game but would be a nice addition to give variety. A nice touch is the commentary during the game. The commentary is spoken well and with a more laid back attitude than what you would hear if you was watching on the TV for example. The commentary can be wrong sometimes and it does repeat often, but this can always be improved.
One of the main issues with the game is the graphics. At the time of writing, the graphics engine is not optimised. There are three options for the graphics quality and on a mid-end gaming system you may find the Medium setting to be too much for you PC to cope with. The game runs the graphics card to 100% usage when it probably shouldnt. I looked around on the games forums and have read a few comments from higher-end PC owners and their PC being maxed out, to lower-end owners having a very low FPS. This will of course be resolved in a future build of the game, but I would personally like to see this as a priority over other development. Improving this will allow lower end PC owners to play the game and mid and high-end owners to change the settings to find the best quality vs speed.
The Golf Club looks very promising as a contender for the next must have golfing game. The core game works very well, it just needs features such as tournaments and stats to polish the game. These features are being worked on, with updates to the game once or twice a week, so it is only a matter of time. My only complaint is the graphics situation which really does need to be improved. I would urge owners of lower range gaming PC’s to read on the forums if the game can be run at a satisfactory frame-rate before buying. If you have a mid to high end PC then you should have no major issues and The Golf Club is definitely worth the investment. See you on the 19th Hole!
We do not give scores for Early Access games, but we may re-review the game or update this article with scores when the game is complete. You can find out more information on The Golf Club via the homepage at thegolfclubgame.com and purchase it from Steam here.0