You can infer a lot from The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour’s title. HB Studios acquired the license to the sport’s flagship tour somewhere during development, and this game feels a teensy bit muddled as a result. In many ways, it’s an evolution of the two golf titles that the Canadian developer has released on the PlayStation 4 already, with the acclaimed course editor and clubhouse features finding the fairway once again. But this time there’s a new campaign, and the addition of six real-life courses, like TPC Deere Run and TPC Sawgrass.
The problem is that while these licensed courses have been accurately recreated, they’re mostly constructed using assets pulled from the course editor, and the game just doesn’t quite have the sense of occasion that you’d expect from the real PGA Tour. It's something that will almost certainly be resolved with a sequel, when the developer can factor in the licensing from the offset, but despite its best efforts here, it does feel like a bit of an afterthought. Regardless, the official stamp is welcomed, and the campaign is stronger than previous instalments all the same.
Also improved is the character creator, which is considerably more powerful and packed with customisation options. We’ve outfitted our player with an epilepsy-inducing baby blue tee and shocking pink shorts combo, but you can go the more classical route if you prefer. The character models are ever so slightly stylised to avoid the uncanny valley that can be present in these kind of titles, but they can look a bit rubbery if you look too closely. The game has its moments visually, though, even if pop-in and stuttering can detract slightly from its good looks at times.
It’s all about the golf, though, and the series continues to be above par in this department. Using the right stick to control your swing, the system feels fluid and satisfying on the pad, and it gives you a good degree of control that’s challenging yet fair. It can occasionally be difficult to judge power, but when you’re reading the greens and trying to sink a 20-foot eagle, you’ll “feel” whether you’re going to be on target or not. That may be the highest compliment we can pay the game.
The commentary can be cheesy, with John McCarthy’s overly hushed delivery sounding more like an ASMR audition than anything else, but loading is non-existent between holes and the user interface is well designed. Even more impressive is the abundance of options and modes, allowing you to play team-based matches both locally and online, while you can pass the controller with pals or pad out your game with the “ghosts” of rivals from around the Internet.
Once again you can use in-game currency to join Golf Clubs, and you can then participate in events to win cash from the society's kitty, while a message board type system allows you to communicate with fellow members and share hints and tips. There’s a driving range to practice on, while you can obviously download and play other courses created by the community – the most popular of which have dynamic challenges which you can complete to earn more virtual money.
The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour’s foundations are built upon a rock-solid simulation, with tight swinging and tough greens making for a stern challenge that’s difficult but fair. The addition of licensed courses means that this year’s game has a much better campaign, but it doesn’t feel like HB Studios has had quite enough time to capture the sense of occasion that real TPC events can have. As such, with 2K Sports now also on board as publisher, we reckon it’s the next instalment that’s really going to impress. The building blocks are all in place, though, and if you’re in need of a serious golf game on your PS4 right now, then this edition definitely doesn't drift far from the green.