The Golf Club 2019 Review. The first two Golf Club games from HB Studios were capable and compelling golf sims, but they lacked the punch of the official PGA Tour license. Thanks to a new deal, HB Studios now has the license, and this–along with solid, smooth swing controls and fine attention to the small details of golf–helps make The Golf Club 2019 a drive forward for the golf simulation series.
The Golf Club 2019 brings six real-world courses to the game, including some of the well-known ones like TPC Sawgrass (home of the Players Championship) and TPC Scottsdale (home of the Phoenix Waste Management Open). The licensed courses are baked into the game’s new PGA Tour career mode, with fictional courses filling in the gaps. The six TPC courses are modeled with a fine attention to detail. The famous and dramatic No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass shines in the Florida sun, and I found myself holding my breath teeing it up to the protected island green. The love-it-or-hate-it party hole, No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale, is captured faithfully with its huge stadium-like atmosphere and massive crowds. The Shriners tournament at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas even includes fezzes as tee boxes just like in real life. If you’ve seen a broadcast or walked any of these courses in person, they will look familiar. The Golf Club 2019 is a good-looking game, particularly when playing at dusk with sunspots peeking through the clouds. And there is a fine attention to the small details. The distinctive cracking sound of a well-struck drive reflects what you hear on the course in real life and on TV. You’ll hear birds chirping and see beautiful vistas of mountainsides, lakes, deserts, and lush forests.
That level of realism, depth, and detail doesn’t extend to the other aspects of the career mode, however. There are no player likenesses, so don’t expect to tee it up as the recently resurging Tiger Woods. Also absent are famous courses like Augusta National and St. Andrews. As a result, The Golf Club 2019’s PGA Tour career mode feels limited, especially when only six of the mode’s 32 events take place on real golf courses. Although the fictional courses are beautiful, challenging, and diverse, I was left wanting a lot more for a career mode carrying the PGA Tour name. That being said, it was a memorable and challenging journey to advance through the different tours, building skills and experience on the way to the top.
It’s too bad that the journey to becoming the best golfer is not generally a fun one to listen to. Just like in last year’s game, tournament commentary in The Golf Club 2019 is distractingly rough at times. You’ll hear the commentary team making out-of-place comments and repeating themselves very often. It almost never feels natural and comes across as forced and contrived, with main commentator John McCarthy speaking in overly hushed, serious tones However, the commentary while playing solo, outside of a tournament atmosphere, is another story. In this more relaxed setup, McCarthy is a delight. He cheers you on and makes polite, playful little jabs when you miss a putt or shank a shot. He even makes groaning, guttural noises when you narrowly miss a putt, and he mimics Borat with a “Very nice” quip when you make a difficult shot.
As you progress through a PGA Tour season, you’ll level up your player and unlock new customization options like clothing and clubs. You also unlock sponsorship tiers and related items after wins, including gear from real-world companies like Under Armour. These rewards, in addition to a rival system that tracks your progress against a fictional player on the tour, give you ample reasons to keep coming back and shoot low scores. It’s also nice to see that progression–for the career mode and head-to-head multiplayer–does not include leveling up the attributes of your player. This helps keep everyone on a level playing field, unable to smash a drive many yards longer just because they’ve played more. Also of note is that the character creator is extremely deep, letting you tweak things like the fine contours on your face and the color of your hair with a wide spectrum of options. Weirdly, the game only offers one shade of darker skin tone, which stands in contrast to the plethora of other personalization options to choose from.
On the course, The Golf Club 2019 is the most mechanically sound, challenging, and rewarding golf sim out there. The swing mechanics heavily emphasize tempo. It’s a real challenge to make sure you’re swinging with the right speed and direction to send the ball where you want it to go off the tee box or with a short iron into a green. One of the most exciting and compelling parts about golf is creating your own shots and scrambling, and The Golf Club 2019 gives you the tools you need to succeed in this regard. The game automatically recommends clubs and shot angles, but these are mostly suggestions on how to play it safe. While there are times when it’s important to make safe, normal shots, that isn’t always the case and the mechanics are fluid and dynamic enough to give you fine control when you need it the most. Very often you will be in between clubs on a critical approach shot, and your success or failure depends on your ability to dial in the right combination of many distinct elements like height, fade, power, and direction, all of which you manipulate simultaneously. There are also times when you will need to go for a gutsy shot over water or trees, or with draw/fade to get around a corner. It’s a thrill when you get this right, and a gut-punch when you don’t.