Despite what happened at the Ryder Cup over the weekend, this has been a great year to be a golf fan. From the return of Tiger Woods to dramatic finishes at the majors, 2018 has seen a little bit of everything on the links. Not to be overlooked is the return of the PGA Tour to the video game landscape in “The Golf Club 2019.” While the finished product may not be as fleshed out as what players came to expect during EA Sports’ time producing golf games, the inclusion of the PGA Tour license establishes a solid foundation for future versions.
The third entry in HB Studios’ golf series gets a welcome shot in the arm from the addition of the PGA Tour license, with a full PGA Tour career mode and the inclusion of a handful of real TPC courses like Sawgrass, Scottsdale and Boston. Sadly, Old White TPC didn’t make the cut. The career mode is a lengthy journey that sees you take your created golfer through Q-School and the Web.com Tour before finally reaching the PGA Tour and, if you’re good enough, the FedEx Cup playoffs. While I would have liked to have seen more real courses and especially real PGA Tour golfers, I nonetheless found myself addicted to the challenging pursuit of golf greatness.
Though I prefer to spend my time on the links alone — another reason I was hooked on the career mode — “The Golf Club 2019” features a full suite of multiplayer options, from private tournaments and matches to larger community events available by joining or creating a virtual country club known as a society. If you enjoy meeting up with friends online and talking trash over 18 holes, “The Golf Club 2019” has you covered.
Regardless whether you play solo or with friends, “The Golf Club 2019” continues to deliver the best tee-to-green gameplay I’ve experienced since I wasted many an afternoon hacking my way around “PGA Championship Golf 1999” on PC. With each iteration, HB Studios has continued to tweak and fine-tune its gameplay engine in search of that perfect balance between accessibility and simulation. Golf isn’t an easy game and “The Golf Club” franchise has always reflected that, even though sometimes during particularly ugly rounds I’ve found myself longing for the admittedly arcadey in-flight ball control we had in the “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” series.
“The Golf Club 2019” features dramatically improved ball physics — this is immediately evident when you hit into the rough or out of the sand — and putting no longer feels as random as it did in previous editions. In fact, I can’t recall a bad shot result that I couldn’t directly trace back to a mistake on my part, be it a poorly executed swing or the wrong club choice. I still struggle to get the ball to stop on a dime on my approach shots like the pros seem to do all the time — I’m not sure if that’s a factor of my lack of skill or a design flaw — but I’ve learned to plan my path to the green accordingly, often hitting a little less club in anticipation of an exaggerated roll.
If you’d rather spend your time designing courses instead of playing on them, “The Golf Club 2019” features an incredibly deep course creator. The game’s community has already used these tools to craft some truly remarkable courses — some that even rival those created by the developers, themselves. Having a talented community of designers will greatly extend the shelf life of the game and ensure there’s never a shortage of new courses to test your skill.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or back to take another swing, “The Golf Club 2019” delivers an enjoyable golf experience. The PGA Tour license is a welcome addition — though I can’t help but feel bigger and better things await for next year and beyond — and the gameplay remains as solid as ever, which makes “The Golf Club 2019” an easy title to recommend.
“The Golf Club 2019”
Developer: HB Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC ($49.99)
Rating: E for everyone