Grand Theft Auto 5 is full of extracurricular activities to explore amongst its main and side mission offerings, and each adds to the overall experience in its own way. One in particular stands out for its amazing execution, depth, and fun-factor, and that mini-game is golf. Yes, there’s a full blown 9-hole golf game in GTA 5, and it offers a more authentic amateur golf outing than all of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour titles.
The Los Santos Golf Club offers nine holes of challenging golf that any fan of the sport will appreciate. What makes it so genuine is the fact that it plays out like a real round of amateur golf, namely due to the inclusion of golf carts. Unlike the Tiger Woods golf games, GTA 5’s homage to the sport allows players to drive a golf cart from shot to shot just like they would in real life. Sometimes in real golf the best part of the round is driving the golf cart like a maniac, especially if your game is in the toilet, so it’s refreshing to see that Rockstar’s version includes a cart, which does indeed offer a more true to life feel than the simulated experience found in the Tiger Woods games.
The art of driving a cart from one shot to the next instantly feels like the same chore in real life. You can skip ahead to each shot with a press of a button, but where’s the fun in that? Playing that way makes the Los Santos Golf Club feel like just another course in an official PGA golf game, so it’s highly recommended to utilize the provided cart to realize just how authentic its inclusion makes the experience. If you shank a shot you have to go driving around to look for it in embarrassment. If you hit a shot with the grace of a PGA tour pro you can leisurely drive down the fairway like the digital golf God you are. If you want to infuse a little GTA into the round you can pull off donuts in the fairways, run into trees, and pull of other golf cart stunts that would have country club members vomiting on their polo shirts.
Never would I have thought that a golf cart could make a video game golf experience that much more enjoyable and lifelike, but that’s exactly the effect Rockstar managed to pull off. Stepping out of the cart, addressing the ball, taking a swing, and then getting back into the cart to drive to my next shot felt just like my own golf game, except for the fact that I can’t play nearly as well as Franklin, Trevor, or Michael. Who knew gangsters had such a natural gift for one of sport’s most challenging games?
Although, the actual art of making a swing does add some challenge to the mini-game. Mechanically you can line up your shot just like the Tiger Woods games, and the art of swinging is also similar. Once a club is chosen and the shot is lined up you must pull back on the right thumbstick to start your backswing, and then follow through to complete it. If you don’t nail the distance there’s a great chance that your shot will find trouble. Unlike the Tiger games, GTA 5’s golf doesn’t allow you to put unnatural spins on the ball, so distance and shot making are key. In fact, if your thumb swinging skills aren’t spot on, there’s a great chance you won’t make par or better.
Astronomically low scores occurred far too often in the Tiger Woods series, especially once you learned the tricks and beefed up your power stats, which in turn would allow you to start driving the ball as if you had a cannon for a club. Carding a 43 on a course that has a par of 72 feels freaking awesome, but it’s far from authentic. This is not the case in GTA 5’s golf game, which requires much more precision to shoot below par. Walking away from a round being 2-under just feels more natural than being almost 30-under, so if you’re into a more lifelike golf sim, then you should definitely add a trip to the Los Santos Golf Club to your GTA 5 agenda.
GTA 5 is a gem of a game (review), and its many mini-games aided in its success. Each one offers an escape from the game’s main narrative, and they all provide a simulated life experience, but golf is hands down the best and most fleshed out side activity. The use of golf carts curiously brings more authenticity to the art of playing video game golf than one would think. The more natural swing and post-swing mechanics also keep GTA 5’s golf game grounded in as much reality as is physically possible in a game where you can terrorize a city without the fear of incarceration. GTA 5 is the premiere open world crime game, and now it’s also one of the better golfing sims.