The great thing about VR is that I can not only do things I’d never do in real life such as shoot zombies, vanquish robots, and explore magical dungeons, but I can also do things that I could do in real life, but don’t have the access, skill, or patience to learn. One of those things that falls into the latter category is play golf. VR Golf Online from MAUMGOLF Co. and Kakao Games is the latest entry in the growing line of pseudo-simulation sports games that ask players to don a VR headset and motion controllers instead of appropriate sporting gear.
While I’ve been known to putt a mean round of mini golf in my day, I’ve never been much of a golfer in the 18-hole bag-toting variety. But after years of playing realistic golfing games from EA Sports and the more arcade-like Mario Golf experiences from Nintendo over the years, it’s been a while since the genre really had a big shakeup of any kind. VR represents a huge opportunity to reinvent a classic sport.
If you’re looking for a more realistic golfing experience, then I’d recommend checking out The Golf Club VR instead. It’s still in Early Access, but has more courses (over 13,000 player created ones from the non-VR edition of the game) and delivers a more realistic golfing experience overall. That being said however, it’s still being worked on and is adapted from a non-VR game, unlike VR Golf Online, which aims to be a more approachable excursion.
Despite the naming similarity, this actually has nothing to do with the very poorly made VR Tennis Online — thankfully — but is currently lacking multiplayer support, even though the title makes you think it should have been included from the start. As a result, an update later this week will add cross-platform multiplayer support. Future updates will include new courses.
As it stands, VR Golf Online is a capable golfing game. The 2 courses (36 holes in total) are richly detailed with a variety of landscapes and hazards and the sense of presence — standing there at the tee or on the green, looking down at your ball, and reaching back to swing — feels great. It’s a calming and almost meditative way of enjoying golf, without the need to travel across courses, sit in a golf kart, or strike up small talk with people you don’t even like. Instead, your lifeless caddie just stands there, smiling, and watches you play.
Mechanically, it’s a forgiving game. Since you’re not holding an actual club hitting an actual ball, there is some flexibility given to the accuracy and power of your swing. It’s not quite Wii Sports Golf levels of leeway, but it doesn’t require you to be a professional to have fun either.
On the course, after you hit a ball the camera follows its trajectory through the air at a relatively high-speed, which could cause some motion sickness if you’re sensitive. The camera then replays the shot from the destination, letting you see it land as it arrives.
Some of the menu options feel a little flat and non-intuitive or unattractive for the VR format, leaving a bit of design polish to be desired. Other VR games have gotten creative with how they display certain information and a bit more care would have been appreciated on that front. For example, when you access the map in-game, you just look at a floating display like you would in a non-VR game, instead of a less-immersion breaking option like a paper map or a tablet in your hand. Small touches like that can go a long way.
As it stands, it feels like VR Golf Online launched just a little bit too early. The mechanics are solid enough for an arcade-style golfing game, but only two full courses feels far too brief, especially without a level editor or way to access more content at this time. But even if the multiplayer support were already here, it still feels like it should have been an Early Access game.
While VR Golf Online is fun to play, looks pretty for the most part, and has strong core mechanics, it comes off as feeling a little empty. Multiplayer support and more courses are coming soon, however, and it’s certainly not a bad start. It doesn’t offer ultra-realistic simulation-style mechanics, but if you’re after a casual golfing fix in VR, this is certainly not a bad option.
VR Golf Online is now available on Steam for the HTC Vive (reviewed, motion controls only for $19.99) and Oculus Home for the Oculus Rift (gamepad only for $14.99). Check out these official review guidelines to find out more about our process.