Golf has always these 2 disadvantages: we’re at the mercy of the weather and we’re stuck with crappy golf courses. So imagine you have discovered the art of teleportation, and you have managed to break your body into sub-atoms, transported through light across the world to another place and have your atomic structure reconstructed. Imagine you also have mastered the art of controlling weather and you can now optimize the weather to be slightly around 20 degrees, with also inverter clean air technology.
Basically, you are Storm and Nightcrawler rolled into one. Time to save the world?
No, like all avid golfers, you would obviously transport yourself to all the top courses on earth and start hacking those courses!
So this is the premise of CityGolf, an indoor golf club, sporting 4 areas (I think) with a giant screen simulating any golf course on the menu, for you to hit an actual ball against the screen and watch it fly. It’s like TigerWoods the computer game, but where you are actually hitting the ball.
The concept is not new…when I was about 25 and when I first picked up the game, I did ask around to see if there was a sound business case for it. I guess there wasn’t at that time, and I could only fork out RM30k for that venture, to which the vendor in UK gave me a virtual finger.
CityGolf is located at the Bangsar Shopping Centre. No, not Bangsar Village. The famed BSC that has been around for eons and that had recently upgraded. It’s impossible to miss. Go to the new wing and go all the way up to the 4th floor. Boom, you’re there, easy peasy! Parking might be costly though, and for all the kiasu golfers who are so accustomed to free car parks, it might not be a kick in the face.
Ok, Pricing. The easiest is to get it off their website over here:
It might seem steep a little, but there you go, nobody expect this to be cheap, what with all the technology involved. And hey, you don’t need to exercise by doing all those annoying walking with your feet…that’s gotta count for something, right?
But digging further, apparently they now have a promotion on weekdays and as well as Sunday nights 6pm onwards. It’s buy one hour and get one hour free. So basically, you pay RM100 for 4 people and you get to play 2 hours. That makes it RM25 per person for 2 hours. Which is pretty ok, I think, and for the novelty why not?
Well, don’t expect it to be like real golf, it’s a simulation after all. There were four of us, but basically 3, since after a couple of swings, my wife decided that the magazines (and there were A LOT of cosmo and girl mags) were a lot more interesting than swinging a club at a screen.
We tried out the “driving range” first, and it was fun. We were hitting pretty accurate, and my 8 iron was dropping around 140 metres, which was typically correct. It might be a little intimidating at first, especially when you thwack the driver and it slams into the screen, but you will get used to it.
The plus thing is that you get a whole lot of statistics, and to a stats junkie like me, it’s a nice touch. Will this help us improve? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s not like I can control my launch angle and all that jazz, but it might be good for someone who can read these (like a teacher), and then tell us what to fix. I think it’s great. I’m so sick and tired of clownish golf teachers (and boy we have a lot), who would just say, “You look up lah.” “You swing too fast lah” “Just relax lah”. I mean, what the heck?
While not your traditional golf club, CityGolf doubles up as a lifestyle club as well, with a bar, and dining area and also a gigantic screen where I saw a bunch of people watching aussie football. Which is how Australians call a variant of rugby. I think. Anyways, service has got to be good, and it was. They got us into our ‘booth’ pretty quickly, tapped a little on the system and we were off. Like all Malaysians, when they came and told us time was up at 7:50 pm, I told them we started at 6:00 pm (which was the truth) and asked for 10 more minutes, and was obliged, so we played another par 3 for fun. Friendly folks.
Now, the review’s gonna be a little different, since we’re not exactly dealing with a golf course in a traditional sense. It’s a sim. So, we’ll be looking into Accuracy as the first criteria, i.e how accurate does it depict our shots. I think it does a fairly good job on the good shots. But there were times when we completely hashed the shot (and there will be plenty I can tell you) and still saw the ball go 200 meters. Once I sliced it so bad, in real life it would have boomeranged back to me, but in the sim, it flew to the right, and landed 215 meters. We thought it must have been because there was no wind, and again we tried, and again I sliced, and it was about the same.
I’ve played golf long enough to know my crap shots have no chance of even getting past 180 meters. So, strange as it may sound, maybe our shots are SO LOUSY that the sim does not know what the heck to do with it, and automatically corrects it, the AI thinking to itself: “No way this shot is like this. Unless it’s an orang-utan swinging the club, which in my algorithm is a 10000000 to 1 chance happening.”
Trust me, Mr Computer, we ARE the Orang Utans in your algorithm.
Realism is not so much on how the game interprets our shots, but how we interpret the game. While the first hour was quite fun, especially when you get to wallop around the hallowed grounds in St Andrews, the thought is basically, “Gee, it’s just not the same thing.” There is obviously no way they can simulate everything, so I guess this is more of a technological limit.
The fairway, rough and sand are just different textures of mat we hit from. The rough doesn’t really do much to the game, in fact, we prefer to whack from the rough since it sits up so nicely. The sand? It’s just the rough in white. Wouldn’t it be cool if they actually put a small bunker in the booth? Of course, the clean up crew is going to curse the day they said yes to the job.
But how great it would be if they had wind pipes around the booth and when we set it to windy or whatever, we’d literally feel the wind around us. Or water, if we set to stormy. As of now, wind, breeze etc only affects what’s on the screen.
And adding some speakers around the booth, where we’d have ambient sound would also create another experience. And the ultimate, dynamic flooring, depending on where we are on the course, the floor auto adjusts itself to simulate the lie. Wow! What are we smoking??!
The worse experience is on the green, and again there is no way to properly simulate the putting experience. Here, they try to tell you to putt to the green and follow the line, but there’s no way we can do that without making a hash out of it, either too slow, too fast etc. So we all end up 4-5 putting. There was once, one of us, a beginner, putted like 7 times or something and ended up with an 11. It wasn’t very fun at all, waiting for her to finish up. It came to a point where we decided: look, forget about the green, everytime we hit the green, we just pick up the ball and play the next hole. Of course, we were all given massive scores at the end, but who cares? This ain’t real!
The UI was pretty clear cut. Just tap around the screen to navigate and select different properties of the game. It will come pretty intuitively for guys with ipad, until you start trying to flip with your fingers or pinching to zoom in and realize you look like a complete nincompoop.
It wasn’t as easy to readjust and realign though and after spending a few seconds trying to figure it out and too lazy to holler for help, we said, just aim to the other side of the screen to compensate.
But overall, it was a fairly easy to use system. You can even email your scorecard back to yourself, but due to our maximum scores on each hole (having picked up the ball), we said, nah, no need lah.
Graphic wise, it bears a striking resemblance to TigerWoods EA sports golf. It’s not too bad, but on close ups, it does look like some details have been minimized to optimize the performance, I suppose. I don’t think anything much can be done about it. The whole area itself though is nice. It’s in good condition and they provide us with really great clubs, the S9-1 driver and cobra irons, vokey wedges and scotty Cameron putters. They even have ladies set out for you. It’s good to play with decent clubs, but for some inexplicable reason, our game continues to suck. WHY?!?
Golf courses wise, it’s a beautiful menu. No Augusta unfortunately, but Pebble Beach is there. Kapalua, St Andrews old course, Bayhill, Belfry, Torrey Pines, Oakmount…these are golf royalty here, and hey, we’re probably never gonna play there, so might as well just enjoy the sim. No Bethesda though, so no simulation of US Open 2011!
Fun Factor (3/5)
It’s definitely a novelty at first. To be playing golf in perfect weather, with perfect lie, with cosmopolitan magazine to read, with sandwiches to order, and taking a leak in an actual toilet, as opposed to behind a big tree in the wilderness. It’s a great place to take beginners, especially for golf lessons. I had a chat with the resident pro there and it seems it’s very popular to learn from there. It’s definitely better than your typical driving range pro’s standards, especially with the immediate feedback system on screen. It’s a nice place to take kids as well, or your wife who wants to learn (just keep away all the girl mags!!), because you don’t have the obnoxious chinaman uncle in the flight behind yours, puffing a cigarette and cursing “Why SO SLOW WAN??!? %%$#^&!” It certainly adds a little pressure with a chinaman cursing you.
It might also be a nice place to take out your girlfriend on a date, strange it may sound. But it’s very popular overseas to play mini-golf at night, which didn’t really catch on here, probably due to the weather. Maybe sim-golf will change that. Or not.
But the realism does take the fun out a notch or two. I don’t know, it just feels weird to hit a shot and instead of walking or driving or just generally looking for a tree to take a piss; you go back to the sofa and sit down and play with your iphone or read a mag. It takes you out of the game. Instead of wondering how to hit your next shot, you just wait till it’s your turn and you then decide. It’s a lot like bowling. Especially when you have like 8 people in one lane. You bowl twice, you celebrate (or curse) depending on your score, and you sit down and go into screensaver mode while waiting again.
Especially when someone in your flight plays not so well, on the greens, putting here and there, it just comes to a point where, “Jeez, forget it, let’s just play the long shots and forget about putting.”
Whew, that’s a lot to talk about for just a simulation of golf. Points are added because it’s still fairly a novelty here in Malaysia….and it will definitely help in bringing more people to this crazy game of golf. It’s definitely a good alternative to hang out and chill on a Sunday evening, along with having a few laughs at our considerably retarded swings.
An added touch is that Citygolf holds regular tournaments for the public which can be tracked at their website, so I think that’s a pretty cool feature, especially if you plan to play there regularly.
The good: The price is reasonable, especially promotion wise; travelling is easy, while the wives go shopping, at least the blokes can now do something else other than sitting down on a bench looking like a twit; easy-going, no intimidation for beginners; chance to play St Andrews and Pebble Beach for the upcoming hackers; good venue for corporate functions and tournaments might be interesting.
The bad: The green simulation will test your patience until you decide to tomahawk your Scotty Cameron putter on the ground, especially if you’re just starting or you have a beginner on board…until you realise it ain’t your scotty cameron! Instead, maximise your time and skip the greens; realism is still a little short especially when I can escape out of the deep woods in one shot; accuracy is suspect when my famous banana slice goes 215 meters and I can hit the green in regulation.
The skinny: 24 of 40 divots (60%). It gets an above average because of the novelty of indoor golfing, a reasonable simulation of the great courses (no Augusta!), excellent service and providing us an escape from following our wives shopping. It doesn’t replace the real experience though, unless they can simulate the smoking, cursing chinaman uncle in the back flight.
CityGolf @ BSC Information
Bangsar Shopping Centre
285 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, 59000 Bangsar, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Contact: +603 2282 0011