The Lighthouse Customer: The Golf Club

By Christopher Livingston on May 5th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Grazing: the eco-friendly way to keep your greens well-groomed.

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, diabolical golf course creation in The Golf Club.

It’s been a tough round of golf. I got a ball stuck on the balcony of a clubhouse. I got mired down in a sand trap that was five hundred yards long. I’ve had to play around trees, boulders, and a fairway covered with sailboats. And now I’m attempting to sink a putt through a massive crowd of grazing deer. Who the hell designed this terrible golf course? Oh right, it was me.

Before I get to the golf nightmare I made using The Golf Club’s custom course creator, I guess I should try to describe the game itself. It’s a golf game, and you play golf, and it’s, you know… it’s a golf game. I guess the real breaking story here is that it’s a sports game and it’s actually available on PC, which is something that only seems to happen about as often as I actually play golf (essentially never).

Maaaaaaay have hooked that one. A little.

Since it’s in early access, not all the features are available, but it’s currently got local multiplayer (up to four players) and the ability to play against “ghost balls” — their term, not mine — which are the spectral, historical drives of other golfers. You can also turn this feature off when you realize you have no interest in it watching ghost golfers drive balls further and sink putts faster than you.

Between the trees and over the bunker? Sure. That'll happen.

Whacking a ball is, essentially, a simple up and down motion, easier with a controller but do-able with a mouse. There’s no traditional power-bar or swing-meter, which is refreshing, and if your motion isn’t straight and neat you’ll slice or hook your shot. You can complicate things by adjusting your stance to add fade, draw, or spin, giving you more control but requiring a more precise swing. You can (and should) also turn off various helpful features like automatic club selection, the wind gauge, the free-roam camera, and the gridlines that show you the slope of the greens.

This outfit is as ugly as it gets, which isn't nearly ugly enough.

Character customization currently boils down to “black guy or white guy?” though they show women golfers in some of their promo pictures, so I can only assume they’re on the way. The clothing is similarly unimaginative: some ugly pants, some plain shirts, but nothing awesomely hideous or outstandingly cool. Note to H.B. Studios: you only have one hat. We PC gamers like hats for some reason. Give us bunches of hats and we’ll be happy.

The Dark Souls of fairways.

Okay, enough of that! Let’s get to the true highlight of The Golf Club, the course creator. You can tell it to whip you up a new procedurally generated course with just a few clicks, which is cool, but you can also craft your own custom golf course, down to specific details such as massive herds of deer crowding the green or a fairway full of land-locked sailboats. I guess you can probably also create an actual, non-silly course to publish and share with other players, though if you can look at an “insert rabbit” button and only press it twice instead of, like, fifty times, I don’t know what the hell is the matter with you.

Gonna need a sherpa to sink this putt, I think.

Naturally, I wanted to devise the most difficult and ridiculous nine-hole course I could, and I think I did an okay job my first time out. Hole #1 of my course seems straightforward at first, with its standard fairway and only a small water hazard giving the player no reason to suspect they’ve wandered into a Sisyphean nightmare. That is, until they approach the green and discover the hole is at the top of a sheer 21-foot-tall hill. Not even on the tippy top, sort of on the side of the back of the top. I tried chipping onto it and putting up it and I never even got close. I think the hole is unwinnable. Excellent!

Oh, deer. Buck me. What a bunny hole this is. And so on.

In contrast, Hole #2 has a nice flat green, though it’s covered with several dozen deer and rabbits who, to be fair, don’t actually interfere with the ball apart from blocking the golfer’s view of the hole. Hole #3, meanwhile, does have some scenic obstructions: a number of landlocked yachts, ships, and schooners are spread all over the fairway, half-submerged into the earth. These do actually block the ball: my first shot bounced off the sail of one ship, and another caromed off the back of a yacht.

FOREmast! Ha ha. Heh. Yeah.

Hole #4 is neatly surrounded by various rocks and boulders, forming what looks like a mini-golf challenge, though I’m disappointed to discover the rocks are merely decorative and don’t actually deflect the ball at all. Lame! The trees I’ve planted around the hole on #5 do block the ball, however, and it takes a number of small, careful putts to line up an unobstructed shot. Hole #6 has only a single sand trap, though it should be noted that the trap makes up almost the entire fairway, nearly 600 yards of desert. Even the pin itself is in the sand, making putting difficult except from inches away.

Hope you like long walks on the beach.

Hole #7 is uh… a little hilly, I guess? Despite dozens of mounds, it’s not too difficult to reach the green within a few shots, but the hole is built into one of these knobbly little hills, specifically, the side of one. I did come pretty darn close to hitting that hole a couple times, but I’m not sure it can actually be done. I certainly hope it can’t.

Is this getting ridiculous yet?

The 8th hole is a simple par 3 because I apparently forgot to add anything horrible to it, but consider it a nice breather before the final hole, which is covered with buildings. Clubhouses, bathrooms, and caddyshacks are spread over the course from end to end. These are actually a lot of fun to play around and over, especially chipping a shot over the clubhouse onto the green. I even landed a ball on the balcony once and had to play through.

You can charge course fees and rent at the same time.

If you’re in the beta for The Golf Club, I’ve published my terrible course which can be searched for under the name “The Golf Curse.” My personal playthrough fittingly scored a 66, which is only 31 over par! Sadly, no one else has played it yet. I can’t imagine why.

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26 Comments »

  1. Granath says:

    I’m surprised that Chris didn’t comment on how poorly The Golf Club runs. It’s currently a dog and neigh unplayable with some (supposedly compatible) video cards.

  2. Metalfish says:

    One day, RPS is going to post a series of contextless screenshots of this very much sort of madness, and my brain will melt slightly*.

    *I’m assuming, of course, that kieron probably did this once, whilst I wasn’t looking.

  3. rexx.sabotage says:

    that first hole had me dying, you make ‘normal’ golf courses look like they’re not even trying.

  4. noom says:

    Never has the term “Sisyphean nightmare” been more appropriately applied

  5. Jimbo says:

    Oh deer.

  6. phuzz says:

    I’ve just noticed that Chris has added an alt-text to every single screenshot. Complete with many bad puns.
    How has it taken this long for you to start writing for RPS?

  7. Strangeblades says:

    Wow. Is there a survival element for Hole 6? Mirage effects? “The wasteland stretched before me. It would have been nightmarish if it weren’t for the beer my caddy, now dead, was carrying.”

    • thedosbox says:

      I must admit to laughing very hard when I saw #6.

      • particlese says:

        I laughed very hard about every other sentence. As a result, this looks like the first golf game I’m going to get (or play, even) since Mario Golf (GBC version). Before that was MS Golf from 1995, where I used to spend hours chipping in the wrong direction to explore parking lots and clubhouses.

  8. Keyrock says:

    I have this game. It’s quite good for a game that’s still very much incomplete. Lots of potential. I’ve also made a couple of courses… boring, normal courses, because I’m terrible like that.

  9. Romeric says:

    Brilliantly funny. Talks to the 5 year old gamer which lives in us all.

  10. Jackablade says:

    Ah, sand greens. That takes me back to the golf course in rural Australia which had just such a thing. Each green was raked with long, undulating grooves like a Japanese rock garden. Or gouged with a furrow directly to the hole if I was playing.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      Reminds me of Abu Dhabi’s course circa 1994. Dubai’s course was already being used for pro tournaments, Abu Dhabi’s was an infinite bunker where you were given a strip of astroturf to put your ball on before taking your next hit.

    • Hypocee says:

      I once read a book called, I believe, ‘Golf is a Fouir-Letter Word’ which devoted some of its anecdotes to greens in Texas made of sand glued together with oil into a sort of plasticine.

  11. racccoon says:

    Where’s the hoof prints? :)

  12. zeekthegeek says:

    This was out way before Frog Fractions 2 was a thing on Desura, so no.

  13. particlese says:

    I really hope they have or add an option to watch many ghost balls at once, Super Meat Boy/Trackmania style. Combined with a speed golf mode where you have to sprint after your ball, this could make for some very good times. But then I would want to parkour my way over fairway yachts and clubhouses…and wire fu my fellow golfers off the same into the water hazard.

  14. lucilapbroadhurst says:

    Start working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do……. JOBS333.C­O­M

  15. The Random One says:

    “Ghost Balls” sounds like it should be something John Walker would shout if he was a character in a Gail Carriger novel.

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