After striking a deal with 2K and The PGA, HB Studios is back with it’s third instalment of golf simulators, The Golf Club 2019. Over the years HB have been refining their slower paced, more realistic style of golf game and with their new release, they may have just produced their best one yet.
Now, having played the EA series’ for many years, including the Tiger Woods and then Rory McIlroy games, I’ve come to expect certain things and, for the most part, The Golf Club 2019 delivers. It’s different in quite a number of ways from those games, some good and some bad, but it’s the style of gameplay that makes this game shine.
The Golf Club 2019 is definitely more of a golfing simulator compared to its EA counterpart. It involves a lot of thinking, planning and really making the most of every shot. The pace is a lot slower, which isn’t a bad thing as it makes you take everything in, and you really do need to work out every single factor of your surroundings, including wind, obstacles and where your ball lies, as well as meticulously planning your shot type to get your scorecard as low as possible.
The biggest change to HB’s series is the new addition of the PGA Tour official licensing. This has stepped The Golf Club 2019 into a more elite golf game with the official golf tour and allows HB to include elements they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to include. One of the big inclusions is that of the famous courses played on the PGA Tour, and there are 6 TPC courses including Scottsdale, Deere Run, Southwind and the infamous Sawgrass. Just having the option to play real world courses this time gives the series so much more immersion – even if it just makes it that much more exciting when you’ve seen these courses being played hundreds of times and now you get to play through them, all whilst recognising every individual hole!
As well as the expected local matches, which include the standard stroke play, match play, four ball and more, you can also take on the world via the online settings to challenge opponents with your golfing skills; this in itself is a great addition to allow you to hone in your techniques and beat people all over the world. When choosing through matches, you also get the chance to fully change your round experience, customizing both the course conditions and the rules, making every round extremely different from the last and enhancing the replay-ability of the game.
In addition to the standard games, both on and offline, you now get to play the world famous PGA Tour and work your way through the web.com Tour, PGA Tour and the coveted FedEx Cup. This is one of the stand-out features and lets you play all the licensed courses you’d expect to. The more you play, the more money you make too which allows you to unlock and buy new items. You are always encouraged to hit specific goals too, as when you do, you unlock sponsors and start to get loads of great merch. These items, however, are very limited, but I’ll get onto that later.
The biggest difference from The Golf Club 2019 and it’s EA rivals – if you can even call it that – is found in the levels of realism. Those Tiger Woods games always felt quite arcadey, letting you power up your shot and leaving you to watch a cinematic sequence blast your golf ball, which was now on fire, over 400 yards down a fairway. You could then add loads of spin to the ball and completely change its landing spot.
As fun as that was, it just wasn’t realistic, and that’s where HB’s series comes in. When you take any shot you are presented your ball and need to assess the whole situation. Need to add loft or draw, or change your shot to a pitch or flop shot? Then all that has to be done before you hit your ball. This is what makes The Golf Club 2019, for me, so much better than its EA counterpart because, being a golfer myself, I can’t just randomly add more power to a shot or change its landing after I’ve hit it; it’s just not realistic. Having that level of reality in a golf game is very refreshing and will make you want to play round after round until you have perfected your game!
The Golf Club 2019’s aesthetics are absolutely stunning! The crisp fairways and lush greens are absolutely beautiful. The water at courses like TCP Sawgrass shimmer in the sunlight and you have beautiful lighting whether you’re playing a course during the day or when the sun is giving off a low, orange glow during the late afternoon. Even the crowd looks great and there is enough variation to the onlookers and animations to make it seem like a genuine crowd. There is one element, though, where the graphics could definitely use a bit of a touch up, and that is of the golfer you control. He just looks a little bland and dull, and there are very few options present for his customisation. Now, after years of playing the EA games, excitement would hit home whenever we got the chance to change our players clothes and unlock all the clubs in order to fill our bags with all sorts of goodies. Sadly, this isn’t the case here! You don’t get to pick any Taylormade, any Nike or any Ping clubs, you just get to customise what your clubs looks like aesthetically, which is such a shame.
Another disappointment is in the clothes and there are only a very small handful of clothing sponsors available, such as Royal and Awesome and Under Armour, which is at least something. But there’s no Footjoy, no Callaway, no Lyle and Scott. I know HB are making a step in the right direction, but I really wish there was more variety to the clothing and customisation options. To add to this lack of licensing, there are no real players in The Golf Club 2019, and whilst I guess this makes it more of a personal journey as you are trying to get your own player to rise the ranks, to lift the cups and to take home the competition wins, it would definitely have been a great addition to include some of the real-world players along with the PGA Tour!
If, and possibly when, you get a bit bored of playing all the standard courses included – something which will really take a while – you can easily get on the in-depth editor mode and start making your own courses. This is surprisingly easy and will see you making your own simple or outrageous holes in no time. This sort of thing does have longevity, but if you don’t have the patience and like to play the real, licensed courses, it’s good to see that they have been meticulously thought out and edited to perfection.
Overall and The Golf Club 2019 is an absolutely stunning golf simulator. It’s realism is second to none and makes you really work for every shot played. The variety of courses are there, both real and HB Studios’ own, and this means you’ll rarely find yourself stuck with a lack of variety. I really do wish that The Golf Club could nail down a large smattering of licensed brands though, especially when it comes to the club types and real-world players, but that isn’t the end of the world.
I have sunk a lot of hours into this game and I know I’m nowhere close to turning it off yet. I would hazard I guess and say that any golf fanatic out there would be found doing the same with The Golf Club 2019.