What would a golf game be like if the people making it didn’t like golf? It’s probably not a question you ask yourself much, but it gets answered by Smoots Golf.
We’ll take you through a typical Smoots Golf hole, so you can see what we mean. You arrive at the first hole, and you choose your club. You can choose from putter, ‘lob’ and driver. There’s nothing in between: you’re clearly that mate who turns up for eighteen holes with a few clubs in a Tesco plastic bag.
You’re preparing for where you’re going to hit it, but the only way to survey the hole is to press Y and zoom to the green. That’s great for a par three, but on any other hole you’re left guessing what might be on the way. There could be a parade of badgers on the way and you’d know nothing about it. There’s no indication of how far up or down the hole is, either; just an apologetic arrow pointing up or down. There’s no button to fire your caddy.
Smoots Golf doesn’t have a whole lot of nuance to how you can hit the ball either: there’s no such thing as the ball’s lie (it always lands flat, which is nice, we suppose), you can’t apply anything like spin, and you certainly can’t hook or slice the ball around a leaning palm tree. You could try to get the wind to do that for you, but it’s rarely more than a puff.
Smoots Golf is the old chestnut of one press to start the bar, another press to get the power right, and then a third press to get the accuracy right. Except there’s a skew-whiff latency to it all, so you have to press the button a good few milliseconds before it reaches perfection. Overshoot by the tiniest of increments and you’re spraying way, way off course. This takes you into Smoots Golf’s fascinating terminology, as you land on the ‘Ante Green’ or ‘Out of Green’. ‘Out of Green’ (Out of Bounds) can be right next to the fairway, and Smoots Golf won’t bother showing you a replay, so you won’t know why your shot was mulliganed.
Having taken your shot, you are forced to watch the CPUs take their shots. You can press A to skip them, sure, but the fact that Smoots Golf thinks you care, showing a gurning Santa take a shot about thirty times better than you did, shows how wildly off target they are. If you’re like us, you will spam the A button to skip, and accidentally take your shot, limply guffing towards the green.
Get to the green and the putting guidelines are nothing short of awful. They’re not rendering properly, as they’re thin as spiderwebs in bright sunlight. You can barely see them, let alone anticipate anything like a slope. Luckily, most of the greens are flat and don’t need them. Unluckily, the putting is more sensitive than the driving or ‘lobbing’, as the slightest of errors means you’re shooting past the hole. To make matters worse, an invisible wall can sometimes appear in front of the hole, just as you think you’re getting somewhere, sending you off at right angles. It’s how we imagine playing golf with Donald Trump would be like, as he hobbles over to your ball and kicks it off the green with a smile.
Crawl to the end of the course, three-to-nine holes in length, and it will be a minor miracle if you win. The computer players are able to navigate all of the game’s issues with ease. On Minigolf, we played a round where half of the computer bots got holes-in-one on all holes. You’re left playing with superheroes. The best you can achieve is a draw.
There’s always the next hole and course, though, right? Um-hm, yes, technically you are correct. But while there may be five different worlds with three courses in each, spanning Hawaiian islands, sleepy mountains and desert valleys, the courses are all the same, just with some simple Photoshop tools. This one is rotated a bit. That one is cropped down. They’re all straight lines, occasional banana shapes, perhaps some bunkers and maybe the odd tilting up and down to give it some height. But that’s it. This is probably the least imaginative golf game we’ve played.
We were hurtling towards a terrible score, but there is something that – ever so slightly – redeems Smoots Golf. On the main screen, you can access Minigolf. And, sweet Sandy Lyle, it’s quite good. The same problems persist, like an over-sensitive putting system, a lack of guide lines and an inability to view the course, but these holes are more creative than you’d expect. This is no garden-centre crazy golf: there are rapids, loop-the-loops, giant windmills and more. We began to feel again. We smiled, we had a good time. It makes you wonder why Smoots Golf didn’t lead with the Minigolf and leave everything else at the clubhouse.
What makes Smoots Golf even more surprising is that the dreary golfing is so fully featured. You can play four-player locally, and there are fifteen courses in total across two difficulties (confusingly named Eagle and Hawk). Thirty golfers, all looking like half-assed Mii avatars, can be chosen from, and you can choose to play in Tournaments or Exhibition. It’s not a slight package.
But you can be sure we’re never going back to play it again. We thought making golf games was easy: the basic expectations of a golf game have been there since Leaderboard on the Commodore 64. But Smoots Golf wiggles their hips, takes aim, and promptly trips over their golfing shoes and into the water. It feels like Smoots Golf was made by people who don’t like or understand golf, as it lacks the basic features that a golfer needs to play eighteen holes.
We were hoping for something like Everybody’s Golf on the Xbox. Instead, we hope that Smoots Golf is played by precisely nobody.
You can buy Smoots Golf from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
- Minigolf is halfway decent. It’s worth a few rounds
- It’s a pretty substantial package
- Sweet Seve Ballesteros, the golfing is awful
- Completely lacking in the information you need to make a shot
- Courses are barely different from each other
- Oh god no, don’t make us play it again
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 19 Nov 2021
- Launch price from - £8.39
Thanks for explaining this game tactics. Also I like your explanation related to pictures you have used in this article. Keep it up.
Thank you so much for this entertaining and very useful review. I’m always on the lookout for new golf games and thanks to you I’m certain to leave this poor effort in the OB.