Even from the start of The Golf Club's early access campaign, the player had access to one of the best golf engines on PC since the Tiger Woods franchise stopped being developed for computers. The swing system demands a controller, and if you read the forums, you will see that people trying to use a mouse and keyboard are quite sore over the current implementation.
However, with a controller (in my case, the XBox 360 controller for PC,) the swing system is incredibly intuitive and challenging! You never feel cheated off a bad swing, as the stick-based swing reads your pull back and push forward incredibly accurately, and if you fade or draw your shot, you know it was because you did not shoot a good shot! With an analogue stick controller, the swing system is the best, most challenging, but most rewarding golf simulation on PC right now.
Note, as a design choice, the developers have already said that they will never develop a 3-click system or a similiar power meter. They feel that their swing system is incredibly important to keeping the simulation feel of the game, and they think that a power-meter system will cheapen the game. Please make note of this, and do not buy this game, if you are expecting a Hot Shots Golf or Mario Golf type system!
Aethestically, the game is a bit lacking. The game does not have any real progression for your character - you can play rounds, tours, or other competitions of varying length and difficulty the moment you boot up the game. The challenge comes from the rounds that other players have finished, and you are competing against ghosts of their low scores. This can make the game feel a bit lonely, but they have slowly been adding more functionality in, such as the ability to play your friends live if you both play the same course, and you can even switch on a turn-based system to make it feel like the two (or three, or four) of you are alternating shots. The multiplayer feels a bit patched together and enough features are missing that it still feels a bit unprofessional, but ever since launch they have been fixing bugs and adding new content. Once full-stat tracking goes live, the game will become much more interesting as you challenge your friends in a variety of skills.
The game includes a full course editor, and this is incredibly important, as the game ships with only a few courses developed by the dev team. However, playin custom made courses is an absolute breeze. You can view player-made courses just as easily as the developer made ones, and a 0.0-10.0 rating system allows you to mark your favorite courses, and see which tee's the Golf Club community think are top notch. Already there is a wonderfully recreated version of Augusta National, and I'm sure more PGA-tour courses are going to be developed by the community.
This is very important as well, as this indie, small-studio game does not have the PGA tour license. There are no professional golfers at all in the game - it instead makes you feel like you are a club or amateur player getting their turns on a huge variety of courses set in a huge variety of difficulty levels. As you get better you can choose to play near impossible courses where the fairways are narrow strips of land between two lakes, or you can choose to hone your short-approach and pitching skills on a variety of par 3 courses.
As more high quality replications of real life golf courses are added to the game, you will begin to see a product that more closely resembles the Tiger Woods games of the past. I read that this indie studio was originally contracted out to make the analog-swing stick system for previous Tiger Woods games, and their pedigree at making an incredibly well rounded golf engine shows. However, you can also see that they have very little experience creating the rest of the product. The UI is very minimal, the announcer volume is best turned to 0 after a round or two, and there is almost no flash or style in the presentation itself.
Despite this, there are many other benefits than just the solid swing system. There is no loading time between holes once you load the entire course. Like real life, you can see the other holes around you when you're on the course, and as soon as the ball rolls into the pin, you are onto your next drive. They recently made shot adjustments more challenging - in early versions of the game, it would tell you exactly how many feet you were adding onto or off your shot by changing the angle of your shot higher or lower. Now, it only shows a percentage of your full shot power, making the system more challenging and realistic.
In the future, I would love to see some official branding, such as official golf clubs, clothing, and other gear. However, I know it is an indie studio, and at the end of the day, they have made an incredibly well rounded golf SIMULATION that is absolutely terrific at doing what it advertises - letting you experience rounds of golf on a near-endless supply of courses. The developers have been constantly tweaking, refining, patching, and adding new content into the game since its early access launch, and despite a few early stumbles, the game seems to be well on its way to being the best golf simulation on PC.
If you liked the Tiger Woods games, or if you think you would enjoy a golf game that challenges you to be perfect nearly every shot, like the game does in real life, this is a must-buy for you! Golf fans, please do not sleep on this purchase simply because it doesn't have the pomp that EA golf games have. As the community adds more high quality content and the developers further refine the game, this has the potential to be a long lasting success!
As of July 19th, I rate this game an 8.1/10.0
Go buy it; I need more friends to compete with!!!