Having followed the sport closely for little over ten years as a spectator and half of that time as players ourselves, we know a thing or two about golf. Two years ago, HB Studios gave us a different kind of golfing experience by launching The Golf Club. Your skills mattered, instead of how fancy your clubs or shoes were, as is the case in many other golf games. The sequel that many of us have been waiting for has finally arrived, and they give us exactly what we were hoping for.
Same as before, The Golf Club 2 doesn't consist of authentic clubs, gloves or players. The clubs and equipment are standard fare, and the players are fictional. The possibility to change the name and country for each opponent in the new and improved career mode is a welcome addition, though.
The career mode has been given a pretty decent facelift. Months after its release, seasons were added in The Golf Club. Until then the game was mostly based on online play on courses created by the users. With the introduction of seasons, the game became more playable with some sort of campaign mode. This year HB Studios gives us an even better career mode. Creating your own golf club, or society, you are given the option to upgrade your clubhouse to look fancier thus granting you access to more events. All this without the need for microtransactions. You play the game to earn the upgrades.
If you by any chance get tired of playing the pre-made seasons, you can always create your own based on user-created courses. And there are plenty of those around. The course designer itself has had its own makeover, making it easier to use.
Last time, HB Studios paired up with Greg Norman for their course editor. That partnership is now over, and we're back to the good old, straightforward name "Course designer". They've made it easy to import and edit the courses you built in the previous game, and also easier to start from scratch. The course designer looks pretty much the same as the old one, but with some key additions. Placing spectators around the course gives it a better atmosphere, and you are also able to place objects wherever you want on your course. Want to place a tree in front of the green, or maybe out-of-bounds markers close to the green? Do it! Our guess is that you won't receive great reviews for your course, but sometimes it's more about having fun and being creative than getting good reviews.
In addition to creating your own golf club, you are able to create a club with your friends online. Playing seasons online whenever you see fit, instead of having a set time to play, makes it more playable for friends on different schedules. You are able to customise the club to your liking by adding a club crest, setting club colours, and also setting restrictions to the handicap level needed to join the club. If you want an elite club only, you may easily set it to only allow players with a positive handicap. Money is a key in golf, and what would a golf club be without having a members fee? Choose how much it will cost someone to join the club, and the money will go straight to the club to be used for upgrading the facilities, much like in career mode.
To make money to upgrade your golf club, there are added challenges for each course. By doing these challenges as you play the course, you earn a bonus. Challenges vary from managing a 280 yard drive, to just hitting the fairway on a specific hole. You can also use the points you earn to upgrade your player's wardrobe. That might come in handy as it's possible to have a preset for each of the four rounds of a tournament. Even if there are a quite a few accessories available without unlocks, it is always better to have more to choose from. Looks do count for something, after all.
The gameplay of The Golf Club 2 looks pretty much the same as the previous version at first glance, but several improvements have been made. The ball acts more like a golf ball than ever, and that is particularly obvious when the ball hits the rough. Where the ball would die almost instantly in the previous version, it's now allowed to bounce a couple of times before settling down in the deep grass like it does in real life. Chipping around the green has also been improved by allowing more loft on the chip shots. This makes it easier to get over hazards or thick rough. Instead of having a carry distance of thirty centimetres, you are now able to adjust the approach shot much more easily.
Overall, though, calling it easy would be an insult. The Golf Club 2 really lets you feel how hard it is to play golf in real life. Where you were able to save yourself with a simple flop shot in the previous version, you now have to adjust more carefully to find the right power and loft when you're in close. Previously we could see how many degrees the loft of the club has, but now you have to individually adjust this for each shot to get the correct distance. This concerns the short game and even the tee shots on par 3s. The only thing they've left as is from the previous version is the putting mechanics, and rightfully so. No point in changing something that works great as is.
We've had a lot of hours of fun with The Golf Club 2, and if you're a golf enthusiast, you will love this game. That doesn't mean that you won't enjoy it if you're more of a virtual golfer, but some basic knowledge of the real world sport will give you a better experience. Much as its predecessor, you have to play a lot to improve your skills. You can't buy your way to success with XP and new clubs, but where is the fun in that?