Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Though not a secret, it's strange to admit that I'm the golf title expert on GameRevolution. I try to stay calm and quiet about it, but when I first heard of The Golf Club, a title currently in Early Access on Steam, I couldn't help but have a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach. The key component of The Golf Club, as Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods franchise still holds the licenses for all of the official tournaments and tours, is its course creations tools, allowing players to craft any course they want.
In a private meeting behind closed doors, the lead designer for HB Studios showed off how extensive its course creator truly is. Though the early build for the PlayStation 4 test kit the developer brought stuttered a bit, a course could still be created in a matter of seconds. A quick selection of the type of course like alpine or rural, the number of holes from 1 to 18, the density of trees, hazard, and water, and the overall course difficulty, and it only takes about a twenty seconds for the program to procedurally generate a course of your liking. And of course, every course created in this way will be unique by design.
Of course, whatever the generated result, you'll likely want to tweak everything from the green fringe to the distance of every hole. Some of the standard rules for courses are followed by default, like having the end of one hole lead to the starting tee of the next and requiring the ninth and eighteenth holes end near the clubhouse. But the amount of customization is amazing, with the ability to plop down bunnies, deer, signs, golf carts, taxis, sailboats, planes, and limos on the course.
You can be lenient and create simple courses with numerous Par 5s with shorter length, no sand traps or water hazards, during the day, and easy-rolling greens. You can make realistic courses like Augusta National Golf Club where the annual Masters course takes place. Or you can be a dick and create holes on top of ridiculous mounts, around a ring of water, or why the hell not?, smack-dab in the middle of a sand trap. Or how about populating the putting green with a petting zoo's worth of rabbits? Sure, the users will likely rate the course low, but it'll be worth it. (And anyway, the highest-rated course during the meeting was a 7.6, so there's plenty of jerks out there.)
Whatever course you play on, whether it's an official one or a user-created one, the game is meant to cater to expert golf players who have experience with simulation titles and using the analog stick (or mouse) to control the backswing and the follow-through. Even I had some trouble, only getting 88% power out of each swing, but I'm sure I was doing something wrong. I still think the developer should consider a three-click swing option for casual players (who could be on a separate leaderboard), but the simulation-style gameplay works well enough.
Performing draws, fades, topspin, and backspin makes the required precision narrower, but it's still very much workable. Multiplayer works live as well as asynchronously, where you can post scores in tournaments, create playlists, or play against ghosts of your friends or other top-ranked players. Most of the created player options are limited to mere color differences, but the developers hope to expand on the clothing wardrobe.
Currently available on Steam Early Access for $34.99, The Golf Club will release some time in the Summer.