The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour is a golf simulation game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Golf Club 2019 is the sequel to the first-ever golf franchise released for PS4; developed by HB Studios that previously developed games in other sports such as cricket and rugby, alongside porting many sports games including football, golf, NFL and NHL to various previous generation platforms when franchises were progressing onto the next generation, therefore having significant experience in major sports franchises. Meanwhile, 2K Sports have partnered with HB Studios to publish The Golf Club 2019 providing even more major sporting franchise experience from MLB, NBA, NHL and WWE. Can The Golf Club 2019 appropriately surpass the quality of its predecessors and does it introduce the official PGA Tour licenses to a better standard in comparison to golf franchises of yesteryear?
As stated in The Golf Club 2019’s full title; the big step-up for The Golf Club’s third iteration is actually the introduction of PGA Tour’s official licenses including Atlantic Beach Country Club, TPC Boston, TPC Deere Run, TPC Scottsdale, TPC Southwind, TPC Summerlin and TPC Sawgrass, although there are no officially licensed golfers to visually play as or compete against.
The Golf Club 2019 begins by asking the player for their preference of left or right analogue stick for controlling your swing to get a feel for whether the player is left or right-handed. It is immediately followed by a series of narrated tutorials starting with a swing basics tutorial covering the basics of hitting the ball, reading swing accuracy and managing swing tempo before progressing onto learning the basics of how to putt through managing putt strength and reading the break. Further tutorials include a clubs and shot types tutorial including how to change your club, choosing a shot type and how to read the lie of the ball, while a lesson on advanced shots teaches the player how to hit a partial shot, adjusting the loft of your shot and how to apply fade or draw. Every tutorial is available to re-learn from the training area which is also complimented by facilities including driving range, chipping practice and putting practice; which are all helpful features to explore before entering tournaments.
Career mode takes another step in the right direction after it was introduced in the prequel. The Golf Club 2019 layers the career mode in such a fashion that the climax is reaching the PGA Tour and performing on that stage, but in order to achieve that; players will have to progress through the Web.com Tour Q School to qualify for the Web.com Tour in which positive progression will result in making it to the Web.com Tour Championship prior to attaining major status as a PGA Tour competitor. Elsewhere, a single player equivalent of online multiplayer societies is available for a player to compete in a season vs. an entire field of A.I. controlled golfers, while golf course challenges return in each mode.
Play mode allows you to participate in a variety of categories full of golf courses including real courses, HB official, trending, highly rated, most popular, recently added, handicap rated, difficulty courses, course themes, my courses, my favourites, my played, friends courses, friends favourite, friends played and the ability to resume an 18 hole golf course from the hole you reached before quitting out of it, alongside being able to search for a particular course. Every course within play mode provides stroke play, stableford, four ball, match play, alternate shot and skins rules. Play mode also offers customisable course conditions including various wind speed, wind direction, time of day, weather, green speed, green firmness and terrain firmness options that really changes up the gameplay. Further customisation provides handicapped scoring after playing a few rounds on handicap-rated courses to unlock your handicap index; various tees such as red tees, green tees, white tees or blue tees that increases or shortens the length of the round; a preference for a particular set of pins; and round length for the full course, front nine or back nine.
The Golf Club 2019 retains its effective approach to creating complex golf courses with an easy to follow editor, while backwards compatibility throughout every course created in the prequel; therefore over 100,000 user-generated golf courses are available from the outset, alongside players being capable of importing any course into The Golf Club 2019, resume editing and building a course that had previously been started, saved on your platform, but had remained unpublished until now. When building a new course from scratch; you can begin by naming the course, selecting a theme such as desert, boreal, tropical, countryside, harvest, delta, rustic, swiss, steppe, autumn or highlands; adjusting terrain by setting the quantity of water hazards, hills, trees, plants, grass and rocks; course layout including number of holes, par 3s, par 5s, fairway width, fairway bunkers, green size and green bunkers. If you are a player who only cares for how the golf course plays, then there are a variety of customisable settings for the tee box, fairway, rough, green and bunker, while land can be sculpted to flatten or raise the landscape or a smaller area, alongside the ability to create surfaces such as bunkers, green, fairway, rough, heavy rough or even creating a golf cart path. It is also important to note that if you do not agree with the procedurally generated foundation that you build your golf course upon, then there is an option to regenerate everything. Players can change the time of day resulting in an increase or decrease in lighting during a picturesque sunrise, afternoon or sunset, while weather can also make a huge impact by adjusting the clouds in addition to haze, fog ceiling and fog density, then deciding if you want it to be clear, overcast or raining.
There is an even greater extensive range of golfer customisation to provide your male or female golfer with the appearance you want for him or her. There are 20 male and 20 female appearance presets, although fully customising your golfer’s appearance comprises a range of facial features, hair, eye colour, skintones and body weight and height. There are multiple customisable sets of clothing designs including 34 hats, 18 t-shirts, half a dozen pairs of trousers, 5 pairs of shoes, 2 golf gloves, 8 pairs of glasses, 3 watches, a belt, a pair of leggings, an undershirt and 3 pairs of socks to choose from with everything from a range of colours to stripes and even tartan to match anyone’s style preferences that can be purchased via in-game currency. Further customisation includes nationality, switching to right or left-handed, three categories for your golfer’s club set including beginner, pro or master and your preference of clubs including swapping clubs, then utilising in-game currency to customise their head, shaft and grip.
It is disappointing to not see The Golf Club 2019 releasing on Vita as it was pretty much the last opportunity for a golf simulation to be released on Vita. Despite the Vita having cartoon style golf games such as Everybody’s Golf and augmented reality golf games; there are no realistic golf games even though there were plenty on PSP, although at least remote play for The Golf Club 2019 is a consolation. The Golf Club 2019’s remote play performance is pretty good as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. There are no remote play control optimisations resulting in the loft, draw and fade shot modification graph being mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad, while changing the camera angle is mapped to the bottom left of the rear touch pad and attempting a practice swing is mapped to the bottom right of the rear touch pad. It would most probably have been a more comfortable remote play control scheme if shot modification, camera angle adjustment and practice swing mapped to the touch screen. However, The Golf Club 2019 is still very playable during remote play after a bit of adapting to the rear touch pad controls.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 are simplistic to learn as the control scheme consists of pressing triangle to enter the scout camera followed by changing the direction of the left and right analogue sticks to pan the scout camera; pressing O to enter hole overview for an aerial view from the tee to the green; pressing L3 to change camera angle; pressing R3 to perform a practice swing; holding L2 followed by moving the left analogue stick or pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to modify your shot; pressing L1 or R1 to navigate through and select a preferred golf club for your next shot; pressing square to change the style of shot; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to the left or right or pressing left or right on the d-pad to aim your shot; pulling back on the right analogue stick and pushing it forward to take your shot or putt with the power of the shot being dictated by how far and fast you pull the right analogue stick backwards before pushing it forwards; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.
An alternative control scheme swaps the swing from the right to the left analogue stick and the aiming of your shot from the left to the right analogue stick, while retaining the rest of the control scheme to assist players who are left-handed instead of right-handed. The touch pad allows the player to view the group menu to invite players directly into your current round, while it is also used during course editing to open or close the editor menu, although swiping across the touch pad could have been an alternative to the left analogue stick and d-pad when adjusting the shot modifier. The light bar is only utilised minimally as it remains a light shade of blue, although it would have been more immersive for the light bar to produce colours to outline the quality of your scorecard performance in between shots and changing colours to showcase the quality of your shot or putt, while there is no vibration which could have reflected landing in the heavy rough or a bunker.
Graphically, The Golf Club 2019 brings more realistic foliage and lens flare when the camera is in the direct line of the sun in comparison to its predecessor. However, there are still some issues when the golf ball is in transition or as the scout camera passes over the course such as a few trees in the far distance popping-in and shadows of trees on the fairway, green and water hazards being re-textured. Meanwhile, performance issues occur usually in multiplayer and occasionally in single player when the ball is moving through the air as there is usually a momentary pause in frame-rate, alongside the same issue occurring when a putt narrowly misses the hole. PS4 Pro support offers 1600p resolution performing at 30 frames-per-second before being upscaled to 4K resolution, while Xbox One X delivers an immediate 4K native resolution. The Golf Club 2019 rather surprisingly does not support any VR platforms, especially PlayStation VR despite The Golf Club VR having been available since early 2017 on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with many gamers asking if it will ever release on PlayStation VR.
The Golf Club 2019’s presentation is appropriate for a golf game with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, golf course selection menus, training menus, career menus, online multiplayer societies menus, course designer menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on your golfer standing outside the hospitality area of a golf course.
Australian golf veteran Luke Elvy is introduced as a co-commentator in PGA Tour career mode as he provides excellent expert insight into PGA Tour golf courses and what is at stake in the tournaments, alongside returning John McCarthy who provides exceptional commentary for every game mode from narrating helpful tutorials to commentating throughout every event in single player, local and online multiplayer such as introducing events and holes, providing analysis on shots and putting, even some sarcastic pro tips including staying out of the rough to save par which is said in good humour and much more besides. Sound effects include golfers striking the golf ball, the golf ball bouncing and landing on the course or in a water hazard, pole flags rippling in the wind, birds tweeting, nearby water hazards and trees rustling in the wind. PGA Tour career mode features a believable crowd with appropriate reactions such as gasps when a player is so close to a hole in one or making the putt from a long distance and applause for superb shots or putts; accompanied by a mixture of relaxing and adventurous music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced commentary or crowd reactions.
The trophy list includes 30 trophies with 17 bronze trophies, 5 silver trophies, 7 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Making It Personal bronze trophy for finishing a round using custom conditions and the Thousandaire bronze trophy for earning a net worth of 1,000. Harder trophies include the Completionist gold trophy for completing 30 sponsor goals in PGA Tour Career mode and the Ace gold trophy for scoring a hole-in-one on an official course. Online multiplayer trophies include the Official Participant bronze trophy for finishing an official society event and the Playing With Others silver trophy for finishing a round in matchmaking. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are five difficulty levels including very easy, easy, medium, hard and very hard in which easier difficulty levels will most probably result in A.I. controlled opponents having a scorecard that is one or two under par at the end of an 18 hole round, while harder difficulty levels significantly increase the potential of A.I. controlled participants scoring birdies on each hole. Regardless of the difficulty level; players require skill to overcome not landing in bunkers, water hazards and the rough as well as not miss-hitting, under-hitting or over-hitting shots or putts, alongside accurately factoring in wind direction and speed when aiming your shots and judging the slope of the green when putting, therefore gameplay will at least be difficult at times even on the easiest difficulty level.
Local multiplayer for up to four players provides the opportunity to play the front or back 9 holes or entire 18 hole golf courses via stroke play, stableford, four ball, match play, alternate shot or skins rules. Players can use separate DualShock 4 controllers or alternate between the same controller for a user friendly and cost effective solution to potentially not having as many as four DualShock 4 controllers by simply assigning multiple players to one controller. All half a dozen sets of rules are competitive albeit with different stipulations such as match play being specifically for two players, while alternate shot and four ball rules are designed for two teams of two players to face each other, therefore alternate shot and four ball rules are the most varied local multiplayer modes as they are simultaneously competitive and co-operative multiplayer.
The Golf Club 2019 introduces online multiplayer matchmaking featuring rule set and customisable options as found in play mode, while there are also longer tees, handicapped scoring, designating the turn order and inviting players into your online lobby or alternatively privately hosting an online lobby in which players can be invited into or joining someone else’s online lobby, alongside players being able to place a wager in order to enter into a prize pot as a reward for the winner of a skins match.
Online multiplayer is presented in the form of societies that are essentially club houses with a choice of joining or creating a society, searching for a society or viewing all official societies. New features introduced for the online society multiplayer in The Golf Club 2019 includes the ability for a society creator to assign admins to help in maintaining their team and entry requirements for a player only allowed to be drafted into a society if their results in the previous event or standings in the leaderboards attain a certain level of quality in their play. Upon joining a society, players can view the season schedule and statistics of the respective society you have chosen. Representing your society in every tournament you participate in, while climbing the ranks and earning in-game currency in the process. However, creating a society allows you to name the club house, create a society emblem, representing colours, membership requirements for other players to join the society, society style, message of the day and an introduction for visitors and potential members.
The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour’s replayability stems from PGA Tour official licenses that heavily shapes career mode, XP and levelling up to earn some new items for your customisable golfer, free post-launch support including a golf course and more character customisation items, golf course challenges, local and online multiplayer for 2 to 4 players, expanded character customisation, a trademark golf course designer and over 100,000 user-generated golf courses which are further complimented by returning features including tutorials and training facilities, extensive stats and replays to assist in the development of your golfing ability. There is enough gameplay and length in the career mode to keep players returning for dozens of hours, while the golf course designer and the ability to play every user-generated course technically provides unlimited replay value.
- Title: The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour
- Developer: HB Studios
- Publisher: 2K Sports
- System: PS4
- Format: Retail/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Local and Online Multiplayer/User-Generated Content Social Sharing)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 10.27GB (Version 1.02)
- Career Mode - 90%90%
- Gameplay - 90%90%
- Graphics & Sound - 89%89%
- Controls - 84%84%
- Difficulty - 87%87%
- Replayability - 100%100%
Overall, The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour is quite easily the best and most fully featured simulation focused golf game to date for the PS4 and Xbox One generation, especially due to the enhanced career mode involving PGA Tour golf courses, the golf course designer, over 100,000 user-generated golf courses and expanded golfer customisation. However, better performance during multiplayer, VR compatibility, more PGA Tour golf courses and officially licensed golfers would go a long way to substantially improving The Golf Club franchise in some areas. The Golf Club 2019 is highly recommended to golfing enthusiasts and casual fans looking for a golf game with a genuine quantity of depth.