The Golf Club 2
The Golf Club 2 hits harder with more accuracy, but the ball still occasionally ends up in the rough.
Once upon a time, PC was the home of golf games. PGATour, Links, JackNicklaus, you were spoiled for choice. But then the genre faded away, which made the arrival of the original GolfClub back in 2014 so exciting. Golf is back! But while it was a decent simulation with an admirable lack of gimmicks, it was lacking in a few key areas – some of which this sequel has, I’m glad to discover, confidently dealt with.
There’s a career mode now, with a bit of a twist. Instead of playing through a prescribed series of tournaments, you can create your own season, choosing which courses to play on, how many rounds there are and so on. The downside is that a career doesn’t feel as handcrafted as it could have been, with cinematics and visual flourishes to make you feel like you’re playing in something like the Masters or the British Open. This is one area the later PGATour games excelled in. But I can forgive HB Studios for not having the financial clout of EA to buy the rights to these events.
Tournaments feel livelier – crowds react with cheers, groans, or sharp intakes of breath as you play. This is a small touch, but a big improvement on the lifeless first game. And while the tutorials in the original were relegated to external YouTube videos, here there’s a slick, interactive, and easy-to-understand guide to the intricacies of the game, from something as simple as taking a shot,
to techniques like drawing and fading the ball. As a result, the game should be more welcoming to new players.
The lack of a career mode and tutorials were some of the most common complaints about the first game, and it’s clear HB Studios has been listening. Elsewhere, though, the core golfing feels very familiar. I advise playing with a controller, because the swinging feels tailored to an analogue stick. Pull it back to determine how hard you’ll hit the ball, then push it forward to swing. The straighter your push, the straighter the ball will go. It’s an elegant system, but lacks the precise feedback of a power bar setup.
Tempo is new in TheGolfClub2, however. Pull back or push forward too slowly or too quickly and your shot will suffer. Get both just right with a smooth, even swing and your ball will soar with increased accuracy. It’s a nice addition to the swing system, bringing an extra layer of depth. Putting is still a nightmare, though. The learning curve is either steep, or the green is hard to read. I can’t figure it out, and I never have more trouble than when I’m trying to sink the ball at the end of a hole.
I’m glad to see (well, hear) the return of commentator John McCarthy, whose encouraging narration is a highlight. He’s the only real personality of the game, which otherwise feels quite cold and clinical. It’s had a noticeable visual boost, but shadows pixelating and trees popping in during hole flyovers are a few of the visual niggles that stop the thing from feeling polished.
Crowds react with cheers, groans, or sharp intakes of breath
As for multiplayer, you can play locally or in a turn-based mode with a ghost ball, which isn’t quite the same as playing in real time with a pal. And Societies let you create and join guilds of like-minded golfers. Be warned, though: if you’re planning on playing a solo career, you’ll need an active internet connection. An option to download courses to play offline would have been nice, but alas, it’s online or nothing. This seems like the kind of game that would be good to take on a laptop on a train journey, and it’s a shame to limit that.
TheGolfClub2 improves on just enough from its predecessor to justify its existence, and feels like a much more refined package. Even with all the new bells and whistles, I still like how it’s a gimmick-free experience. HB knows, first and foremost, we’re here to play golf, and that seems to have remained its focus when making this sequel. With a bit more polish, proper online multiplayer, and a more bespoke, handcrafted feel, this series could become something special. And it’s not like there’s any competition to worry about.