With EA Sports hanging up the golf bag for a while their frequent collaborators, Canadian developers HB Studios, have stepped up to the tee with The Golf Club.
Whilst the game will eventually be available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, PC owners can have a go right now via Steam’s Early Access program.
For the most part a mixed-bag of half-baked ideas, Early Access provides gamers with the opportunity to sample the hits (and misses) of tomorrow whilst they are still a work in progress.
Steam’s Early Access games are not for whingers. They are, however a great way to pick up games early and usually cheaper than the retail release.
Games are usually incomplete with missing features and more than their fair share of bugs. But, as the game gets closer to release your Early Access version gets patched until it is finally the same as the version in the shops.
The Golf Club looks to be a diamond in the rough. It’s a golfing simulator that will be immediately familiar to fans of EA’s PGA Tour franchise. In fact, the mechanics of play are pretty much identical.
After booting up the game you are confronted with a menu screen with a load of options, most of which are unavailable with “coming soon” notes superimposed.
Welcome to Early Access.
Pressing "play now" will have you standing ready to tee-off in moments. There’s no player customisation in the game yet, you are just generic golfer-man. There’s no tours and there’s no competitions. The stats system hasn’t been implemented yet either.
At the moment you have access to five official courses or you can create your own. That’s right, The Golf Club comes with a fully featured and easy-to-use editor. Within ten minutes of switching the game on there I was teeing off on the green of my own 18-hole golf course, complete with club house, stone bridges, picnic tables, portaloos and a few deer running about.
And the game’s other users have been busy. At the moment of writing there are 1,487 user created courses available to download. The quality of these courses varies a bit, but still there’s more than enough variety.
The actual game of golf uses the analogue swing mechanic used in the Tiger Woods games with advance adjustments for fade and draw.
I was playing using a controller to swing, the speed and movement of my thumb standing in for the poise and swing of a golfer. The same analogue swing of the club can be done with a mouse as well. As you’d imagine wind is a factor, with a gust and wonky flick of the mouse or thumbstick your ball will get sent straight into the rough. There's always the next hole to get back on par.
The Golf Club, even in this pre-released state, is a very polished affair and well on its way to being a genre-defining golf simulator. It looks great and offers up a decent bit of computer golf. The course editor extends the life of the game in such a way that it could be the last golf game you need to buy.