It seems like a long time ago now, especially when you look at the amount of hours I’ve spent playing The Golf Club, but really it was only a little over a year. We had our team ramped up and ready to go for a year of working on the Tiger Woods franchise. We were all pretty excited, taking on the development of the Gen 3 console work while the EA team would develop the Gen 4 version.

Unfortunately, or fortunately looking at it now, EA decided to not release a golf game this year. So we had a team of guys that didn’t have anything to do, who were golf enthusiasts, and had lots of great ideas for a golf game.

There really was only one thing to do: make our own!

An early version of The Golf Club's course editor.

An early version of The Golf Club’s course editor.

We realised almost immediately that we were never going to be able to afford the licences needed to create the famous courses, and to be honest, it didn’t really fit with the game we wanted to create. We wanted to create a realistic feeling, playing and looking game, something that gives you the highs and lows of playing golf in real life. Something that gave you the feeling of being out on the course and away from all the troubles at work and home. The feeling of being out in the country away from it all.

We also knew that to make a compelling golf game with any longevity, we needed at least 20 golf courses. But we didn’t have the art resources available to us to get anywhere near that in the time we had. Luckily we’d been prototyping a few ideas using the Unity Terrain Editor and thought maybe this would be an ideal way of creating courses.

An early example of a generated course.

An early example of a generated course.

We started looking at procedural generation and the rules needed to make playable and realistic golf courses. We also started looking at some very high level inputs that the users could adjust to style the course around their skill level. Things like amount of trees, amount of holes, amount of bunkers, etc..

Within a couple of months the game was creating very playable, realistically laid out courses. Some artistic creativity was needed to make them beautiful, but the foundations were there. We could play a game of golf on a procedurally generated course, and it was fun. We knew then we were onto something.

From that point on we just kept adding functionality to the course generator, and before long it went from a generator to a full on editor that can basically create any course imaginable. and we’ve got even more features coming in the future, especially now that we’re working with Greg Norman and his course design team, to give you even more control and options within the editor.

We didn’t want the actual golfing experience to be something that was just aim, hit a marker on a percentage bar, and repeat. The thing that makes real life golf so fun is the subtlety of the feel of each shot, and that was something we felt we needed to create. It took a long time to get that feel correct, but we just kept playing and tuning and playing again. Design documents will never replace playing the game, and tuning it to get the game feedback loop working quickly so we could work on that feel was a real benefit.

The end result of user-created courses can be jaw-dropping.

The end result of user-created courses can be jaw-dropping.

Throughout development we were still unsure how far into simulation rather than “just a game” we wanted to go. We wanted a “hardcore” experience, but we weren’t sure if the community was out there for it. This was the reasons we chose to go into Early Access on Steam. Letting the community try the game and tell us what they wanted.

It was unanimous they wanted the game to be a simulation. Knowing that we were heading in the right direction really helped us focus and gave us a lot of confidence going into the finalizing of the game.

It wouldn't be an authentic golf course editor if you couldn't place wolves. It just wouldn't.

It wouldn’t be an authentic golf course editor if you couldn’t place wolves. It just wouldn’t.

We’re now approaching the end of the Early Access, and the PS4 and Xbox One builds are in certification with Sony and Microsoft. So at this point we’re just improving the PC Control system and optimization work on some lower spec PC’s. With something as limitless as the Course Designer, though, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Discussions have already started about what we’re going to be working on over the next year.

The past year has been a really fun development cycle and the next 12 months seem to be heading in the same direction.

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Anthony Kyne is a Producer on The Golf Club. The game can currently be purchased on Steam Early Access.