The PlayStation 4’s Everybody’s Golf, from the late summer of 2017, consumed dozens of hours of my time. Whether winding down from a core game or sports sim, or just the workday itself, and I was looking for something to play, Everybody’s Golf always won long stretches of my attention without ever asking for a big time commitment. Putting this on an iPad might bring that device from the back of the field, in my gaming stable, to the pack leaders.
That’s what developer Clap Hanz (creators of the Everybody’s Golf/Hot Shots Golf series) is going for with Clap Hanz Golf, one of more than 30 games Apple Arcade subscribers got last week. And it’s a breath of fresh air to know that, as the premium service’s newest golf game, this isn’t a hacked-up perversion of a console game I enjoy, with timed lockouts, microtransactions to get around them, or daily check-ins to “drive engagement,” whatever that means.
Clap Hanz Golf is a game distinct from Everybody’s Golf, and yet still evocative of it, in all the departments where such a connection helps. For sure there is an audiovisual familiarity — goofy, caricatured players with signature talents, a chipper soundtrack — as well gameplay that, despite changing over to touch controls and a smaller screen, mostly retains the way you target, shape, and execute shots.
The difference: This is team golf. (A text crawl at the beginning says rule changes “in the year 20XX,” of course, have brought a new era of golf to us.) Players form up a squad of all-stars, each with a favorite club and a course specialty, and take on bite-size tournaments with each performer playing one hole each. You’re not creating an avatar, leveling up and improving them. You’re acquiring new teammates by defeating them in special one-off tournaments that become available periodically.
The touchscreen controls (or the mouse, if playing the version from the Mac App Store) are the preferred method, even though gamepads are fully supported. Using the right thumbstick for shot power isn’t as precise as using the touch controls. But the touch-control meter — draw back to a desired point, then flick forward — isn’t a mindless, unchallenging act. You really have to focus on drawing your finger all the way to the top of the shot if you’re going to achieve maximum power. And adding draw or fade (which is also the only way to turbocharge distance) complicates shot-making, but not in a burdensome way. You just have to be sure that the angle you’re drawing to the top of the meter, from the left or the right of its x-axis, crosses the y-axis as close as possible to the top — again, to reach maximum power.
It’s easier done than explained, actually, but the nine holes over the game’s three tutorial tournaments are plenty to get the gist of it. I’m not very far into the game’s “Tour” mode (the main career) but so far, the AI opponents do not seem as preternaturally capable (or stupefyingly inconsistent) as some of the boss-level golfers were in Everybody’s Golf. Also, thanks to the touch control meter, it’s a lot harder to chip in from the fringe or the rough around a green than it is in Everybody’s Golf, where holing out for birdie or eagle came so frequently as to rob the moment of its thrill.
The introductory collection of characters I’ve assembled, from the cutesy-poo toddler (with a great short game) to the downcast, hair-in-her-eyes teen doodling circles in the grass after a bogey, are all animated with personality. There isn’t much of a need to grind, either for new looks or better skills, but that progression is there to give the Tour mode some depth.
The format Clap Hanz has chosen for its iOS adaptation is fine, but nothing about it makes me lament the fact I can’t play this brand of team-up golf on my PlayStation 5. As for the mobile title, I doubt that I’d be hustling a gamepad with me up to my folks’ place to kill time after work and before dinner, which is the setting I most envision for Clap Hanz Golf: as the chaser at the end of my day, something that holds my attention without monopolizing it.
Correction (April 14): Due to a misunderstanding of the tutorial video, a previous version of this article incorrectly said gamepads were not fully supported in Clap Hanz Golf. They are. This post has been revised to remove those erroneous remarks. While touchscreen controls are still more precise for shot-making than a gamepad’s right analog stick, those who wish to play on a MacOS or Apple TV device will find all features of Clap Hanz Golf available to them through a gamepad.