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By Paul Meekin
“Yep… Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing… Somethin’ we was born with… Somethin’ that’s ours and ours alone… Somethin’ that can’t be taught to ya or learned… Somethin’ that got to be remembered… Over time the world can, rob us of that swing… It get buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas… Some folk even forget what their swing was like…” – Bagger Vance
As the story goes, they call it golf because all the other four letter words are taken.
It’s a real bastard of a sport, where a single mistake will (and does) ruin hours of quality play. But in the difficulty is the appeal; there are few things more satisfying than a quality chip, long putt, or the life-long gratification a hole-in-one can bring.
And just like the hard work and dedication, golf has a reputation for being boring and isn’t particularly ‘in style’. The only reason it’s on TV and has its own Network is because the people watching golf are prone to buying things like Rolexes, Mercedes Benz, and expensive golfing equipment.
To help this traditionally ‘elitist’ and ‘boring’ sport appeal to the masses, in the gaming sphere, there’s been gimmicks. Be it Golden Tee’s rolly-ball, or titles like Hot Shotz Golf that add power ups and cartoon characters to jazz up the game.
The king of ‘simulation’ golf for the last two decades has been EA Sports’ ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour’; it had all the pros, all the famous courses, and not much of a personality in recent years. Additionally it allowed you to control the direction of your ball mid-flight, and relied heavily on upgrading your golfer’s stats.
‘PGA Tour’ was a simulation in name-only, too afraid to trust its players with the challenges, frustrations and joys of golf. Stat boosts and mid-flight ball controls make things exciting, but it also makes it not golf.
See, golf is a game against yourself. Your focus, your drive, your soul. Be it mini-golf, pitch n’ put, or a full 18 holes at Pebble Beach, it’s always you against the course. Anything that makes that relationship harder, should be eliminated from a golf game.
Which is to say at some point in the last 18 years, Tiger Woods PGA Golf lost its authentic swing. In 2014 HB Studios saw the stagnating franchise, and took a chance on their own golfing game, “The Golf Club.” It was a 40 dollar downloadable title that sought to cut all the fat, and provide an ‘authentic’ golfing experience.
And “Oh Arnold Palmer!” did it deliver.
It was smooth. Swing mechanics felt right, the game loaded in no time, and you could complete 18 holes of simulation golf in under an hour. There were no attributes or ‘arcade’ trappings. It wasn’t a game of who played the most or who put the most points into ‘power’ but rather who is the best given an even playing field. Everyone had the same clubs, same drive distance, same tees. It’s about what you did with them that counted.
The game was cheaper, intuitive…r, and what it lacked in graphical pizazz is made up for elegance and ease of use; and a massive course customization suite that gave you, literally, endless gameplay options.
‘The Golf Club’ resulted in me and my sister owning golf clubs after. She is not a gamer and didn’t even like golf until his game out. This is unheard of.
Its sequel releases today (June 27th) and offers refinements at the level of customization and graphics and shot feedback. Graphically, there are fully animated on-lookers for tournaments, animals meandering across courses, and the lighting and texture quality of the grass has improved. Additionally the game will inform if your back and fore-swing are too fast or too slow via helpful indicators.
Regarding the customization, you can now buy and equip your custom golfer with hats, shirts, gloves, glasses, and so on. The big customization addition is the introduction of societies. In about 15 minutes I was able to create ‘The Libertarian Republic’ society, complete with an eagle, this noble publication’s color scheme, and a link to my twitter. I then created my first event; ‘The Ron Paul Open’, set the entry fee, and being a good Libertarian, didn’t take any cut of the fees. Papa Ron would be proud.
But what about that gameplay?
As you (hopefully) know, golf involves you trying to hit a tiny little ball into a hole that’s hundreds of yards away. The fewer hits, or strokes, it takes, the better your score. While hitting the ball you’re required to avoid water, sand, rough, and trees.
To do this, you have various shots and club types that will modify your type of swing. A punch will cause the ball to roll along the green. A flop will send your ball flying high and land without rolling. A chip will give the ball a little loft, but let it roll, ideally, into the nearby hole.
This is all admittedly complicated. “The Golf Club 2” features a very helpful and tutorial to help you out, but the fact remains it’s going to take quite a bit of trial and error to succeed – which is the point. In fact another gaming journalist had a score of +54 on a single course.
I said the game was good, not easy, and this is where the elegance comes in.
18 holes of golf sails by here. There are no load times between holes, thus your mistakes becomes learning opportunities instead of frustrating halts to your fun; and very little gets in the way of you mastering the mechanics. Things are hard in this game, because they are hard in real life.But you never feel like the game is screwing you, and that’s the difference between frustration and fun.
The Golf Club 2 is the best game of golf available. I’ve seen its appeal first hand, from coworkers to relatives to strangers, all championing just how right this game gets it – to the point it makes the ‘PGA Tour’ games look even worse.
Some time ago Sen. Bernie Sanders made a point about deodorant, asking why we need so many different kinds, saying we don’t need 23 different kinds when people are hungry in this country.
And my answer is the brand ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour’ was selling smelled like a dingy basement, and had The Golf Club not showed up on the scene with its glide-on brand of freshness, the ‘simulation’ golf games available on console would stink.
Thus, on the Libertarian Republic Rating System, on a scale of Karl Marx to Ron Paul, “The Golf Club 2” gets a Ron Paul!
The game itself is a wonderful, challenging, and a refreshing breath of fresh air. Like Dr. Paul’s politics, understanding how it all works takes some time, but it’s a rewarding journey.
The story of the game’s development, and now sequel, is one of grapefruit sized (golf) balls.