As we embrace the third golf game released by HB Studios, who would have guessed the direction of the title from year one to year three would see a securing of the PGA license, a full PGA TOUR mode, and a partnership with development and publishing powerhouse, 2K Sports? It’s nothing short of a drastic deviation from the original intent of this title, but definitely a positive step forward for the community and the development studio itself. So what does all of this mean for everyone involved? I am not sure we can answer that question quite yet, but it has created quite the buzz and has opened the door to amazing possibilities in the future. That said, my focus is on the newest release, The Golf Club 2019, and whether it is a worthy follow-up to TGC 2.
What I Like
Listing gameplay as something I like will always be a positive for any game, obviously, but what exactly does that mean for TGC 2019? For starters, the new ball physics are seriously a game changer and elevate the title more towards a golf simulation than ever before. As an avid real-life golfer, I have witnessed very few in-game shots reacting oddly coming off the face or blade of the club, and the interaction with the environment is just as smooth. Shots feel authentic and realistic, and there is a real perceived “weight” behind a swing that allows for a more precise approach to each and every on-course opportunity. However, some of the mid-to-short game shots have a ball “roll out” that feels to be a bit too aggressive, and at times feels unnatural. Occasionally, I found myself asking why a shot didn’t stick on the green from a certain shot, club and loft combination, but that issue aside, the overall club feel and results are outstanding.
With all that being said, once you hit the greens, things get even better. The feel of the putter and ball, and the overall mechanics of one’s swing are as solid as any game has ever produced. While the putting in TGC 2019 doesn’t deviate from its predecessors too much, the overall package has been tweaked in a way that gives the user an incredible amount of control and confidence.
The game offers three levels of club difficulty. You can choose between regular, pro, and master clubs, with master being the hardest. While regular and pro will provide a bit more stability during one’s swing, they also carry a power reduction that can minimize your options on certain shots. If you are a newcomer to the series, I highly suggest spending a large amount of time at the in-game practice range provided by HBS to work on your rhythm and tempo — and see what set of clubs work best for your ability.
In order for the community to find longevity in career mode, it has to offer depth, customization, consistent challenge, and above all else, fun. Thankfully, in my time with career mode, I found all four of these elements present to a certain degree, and more in some cases. If you have ever played the old Tiger Woods series from EA, then you will feel right at home as the game starts you out in Q-School, and asks you to work your way up through the Web.com TOUR, and finally, the PGA TOUR — assuming you meet the predetermined criteria. Depending on the level of difficulty setting and one’s ability, finding yourself as a card-carrying member of the PGA can be a lengthy journey, or a meteoric path to glory. Either way, it’s a fun one as the journey will provide emotion, excitement and disappointment. It allowed me many chances to feel the pressure of having to drop a huge putt or hit the perfect approach shot to stay in contention.
There are some drawbacks to career mode, as the courses one plays are predetermined, and only six of them will carry actual PGA licenses. Also, the players you play against are generic in name — but can be edited to a degree — and the presentation and commentary are solid. Overall, career mode is a fun and exciting trip, and while it isn’t the complete and immersive package fans were hoping for, it’s a solid start for those who love to seek glory on the greens.
For many, myself included, multiplayer is where is a lot of time will be spent with TGC 19. Luckily for the developers, the game of golf really lends itself well to the whole social experience, and this title is no different. It’s no secret that I have had some issues with TGC and its MP system in the past, but thankfully, the developers have done a solid job of creating a strong stable of options and seamless online play with TGC 19. Whether it’s joining a society (think country club Wednesday night league) online matchmaking, or private matches, fans of online can find multiple game modes and matches, and do so effortlessly. My only issue with creating or joining a society at this juncture is the society owner still has to wait a day to advance after a tournament is finished. Now that is typically not a problem for most, but for the user(s) who play with just a few friends, many want to advance sometimes two to three times a day, and at least currently it’s just not possible. With all that said, I have personally played multiple online sessions, and it feels as good as couch co-op at this point, and that is a drastic improvement from past iterations of TGC.
What I Don’t Like
Course Creator Accessibility
I love the course creator, and that is the truth. It adds a community involvement like no other, and although there are still some issues with the program, I have spent hours upon hours in it. Sadly, during my talk with many others, they have stated they have no desire to utilize it, even though they have tried multiple times. The truth is, while the course creator is easy to use, it can be extremely hard to master for many. Plenty of people still do not understand how to shape properly, add water properly, create hills and add proper undulation — and the community-created courses suffer because of it. HB Studios (and others) provide some wonderful tutorials, both in video and text form, but for many it’s still not enough. My hope is that they simplify the processes to add items, flatten and raise grounds, blend areas, and implement water. For some, doing a lot of this work may come easy, but if HBS can create a bit more user-friendly interface with the course creator, the course-creation community will grow and prosper.
We all understand this is year one for HBS and the PGA license implementation, but for many who are new to the series, the assumption is the game is a fully licensed title with multiple real-life courses and players — and that’s an issue. I love the six TPC PGA courses included as they are truly authentic in almost every way, but that is because I understand the plan and know the history of the series. I also realize that the studio’s plans are to add more real courses over time to TGC 19, but even with that, the game is mostly generic in terms of clothing, clubs, balls and courses. I fully expect the next iteration of The Golf Club to be saturated in PGA authenticity, but for now, users need to have a full understanding that the PGA license is not all-encompassing at this juncture.
If you are a veteran of the series, The Golf Club 2019 is going to feel familiar in many ways as most of the improvements are subtle and under the hood. When you combine those improvements though, it makes for one heck of a fun title, and one that should have golf fans addicted for quite some time. HB Studios has provided the user plenty of options to customize the game to their liking, and created levels of customizable difficulty to keep one feeling challenged for some time. So whether you love the social aspect of TGC societies, playing private multiplayer matches, navigating your way through a PGA career, or simply building your dream course in the course creator, The Golf Club 2019 is likely to fill a void left by EA Sports. And, better yet, it will even do so in an exciting, fun and authentic way.