While I do play a variety of simulation sports games, I will admit that I dabble in simulation golf games the least. That isn’t to say I don’t have a soft spot for golf games; I just tend to prefer more arcadey ones like Mario Golf: World Tour and Golf Story. Simulation sports games have also become less common in recent years, and the ones that did exist like HB Studios The Golf Club series lacked some polish or official PGA branding. Things seem to be changing with The Golf Club 2019 though.
The developers were finally able to snag themselves the official PGA Tour branding and 2K has even hopped on as publisher, which seems to cement a bright future for this golf simulation series. As for the game itself, The Golf Club 2019 an excellent simulation with a ton of depth and helpful tools and tutorials, even if the controls can be a bit difficult to get the hang of initially and the presentation is held back by the game’s engine.
As soon as you boot up with The Golf Club 2019, you are thrust right into a tutorial. The developers likely knew that the controls would take some getting used to at first, so they front-loaded the experience with explanations. Interestingly enough, the best comparison to make for The Golf Club 2019’s controls would by the Flickit control scheme of EA’s long-dormant Skate series. Instead of relying on just button presses, it has players interact with the right stick in some unique way.
To hit the ball, players must quickly pull back and then push forward the right stick. Doing so at various speeds and in multiple directions impacts the type of shot and the course each ball takes. Things work reasonably similarly whether you are using a five-iron or just putting, and give very precise control once one gets the hang of things. The game does its best to get you to learn the controls, but the initial difficult hump was still quite tough to surmount.
If you don’t get the timing just right, power will be lacking so parts of your shot will be classified as slow. This causes them to fall quite low and can be frustrating if you don’t immediately get the hang of it. The right stick is also quite sensitive to movement, so only a slight nudge to the right will heavily impact the direction the golf ball goes. Once you get into a rhythm the controls are terrific; you’ll just have to get over a high barrier to entry first.
The Golf Club 2019 is a simulation game for hardcore fans, but those who are more used to arcade golf games may have some trouble adjusting at first. For those who want to go in depth, things like the loft, fade, or draw of a can be adjusted for the perfect swing. The Golf Club 2019 excels as a simulation, even if it isn’t always newcomer friendly despite its best efforts.
All of that is iterative upon previous The Golf Club entries though. The most significant addition this year is the official PGA Tour branding. While players can still just create regular offline seasons, The Golf Club 2019 lets players golf on the actual courses in branded events. Some might just consider this, like the sponsorships, superfluous product placement flair, but it really does make the game feel more authentic, something no golf game has captured recently. While parts of the presentation are great, it is ultimately uneven. Where The Golf Club 2019 does excel is giving players visual feedback.
Any good simulation relies on easy to digest visual feedback, and the developers have seemed to get that formula down very well. Online play, which is quite robust, letting players participate in just a single game or an entire season with others, also ran incredibly smoothly. You can also tell that The Golf Club 2019 is pushing Unity to its limits, but that also means the faults of the engine start to show. While Unity is very accessible, it can struggle with games striving for realism as much as The Golf Club 2019.
The water looks surprisingly good up close, but you can tell cuts were made from afar. Models, especially NPCs, also look a bit off, even if the game has some deep customization options. The frame rate can also struggle in a few areas, and lighting wouldn’t always load in properly. The Golf Club 2019 looks good, but not great, and future entries in the series could see the greatest benefit visually if the developers made the jump to a more powerful engine.
The Golf Club 2019 also features a surprisingly robust course creator. While it hasn’t seen several changes from its debut last year, it still proves itself to be a great feature. Like character customization, the options available are very in depth and give The Golf Club 2019 tons of replayability. Some more unconventional locations for courses would be appreciated, as all the ones available are mostly variations of “grassy field,” but the locations available are still fun to mess around with and even hear some custom commentary for.
The commentary is also a mixed bag. While Luke Elvy is good at it, he only appears at the start, middle, and end of a match to give repetitive sentence-long feedback. The other commentator, John McCarthy, is used much more frequently and has surprisingly versatile dialogue for most situations. That being said, he uses several filler words and stutters a lot, and I’m pretty surprised that they went with the mediocre takes included in The Golf Club 2019.
The Golf Club 2019 is a comprehensive simulation, and will undoubtedly please those who are looking for one. Considering that the game does not have much competition, it is nice to see that the developers aren’t slacking and are delivering a passionate product with authentic branding. As for people like myself who are more accustomed to less realistic golf games, The Golf Club 2019’s steep control learning curve and uneven presentation may turn you off at first, but you may find yourself getting addicted to the game once you get the hang of things.