I’ve accidentally hit my ball into a bunker. Having sliced it too far to the right, I watch as it curves into the sand. Frustrating maybe, but I can come back from this. I wade into the bunker, which slows me down a bit, and give the ball a good whack. I curse myself as it hits a tree, and bounces back into the sand, leaving me to set myself up for another shot. Finally, I work the ball out of the hazards and back onto the fairway, ready to drive it towards the hole. In a real game of golf, this whole process would have taken several minutes. Even in a golfing video game, it wouldn’t be a particularly quick process. In Turbo Golf Racing? All of this happened in less than five seconds.
That’s the beauty of Turbo Golf Racing. It manages to distil the fundamentals of golf, before supercharging them into a fast-paced party game, in which you can finish three whole holes in just a few minutes. There’s no doubt in my mind that it has Rocket League to thank for establishing this formula – that game (and its predecessor, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars) managed to take a ninety-minute game of football, and turn it into a 5-minute arena battle where teams of three rocket-fuelled cars hit a giant ball into the net, without losing the essence of the sport it was emulating. Rocket League still feels like football (you’ll make great diving saves, finessed lobs, and even headers, despite cars not having heads) without being football. That’s what Turbo Golf Racing does with golf.
It’s not just the car-powered take on sport that Turbo Golf Racing borrows from developer Psyonix’s super hit, either. The courses share a similarly vibrant art style, with eye-searing neon colours and metallic bumpers around each track. The menus, even, have many of the same staples, with a garage that allows you to customise your car and ball, as well as a battle pass to progress through.
When you do jump into a game, however, Turbo Golf Racing makes a much stronger case as its own game. Sure, you’re still a car bashing into a ball at high speed, but developer Hugecalf Studios has fine-tuned everything to better suit the game of golf. Hitting the ball at an angle, especially at high speeds, can add huge amounts of spin, as you attempt to slice it around a tight corner. Meanwhile, hazards like rough grass and sand bunkers will completely slow down both your ball and your car, bringing your momentum to a halt, and giving your opponents a chance to overtake you.
You see, in this game of golf, it’s not a matter of counting the number of strokes it takes to reach the flag. Instead, it’s a real time race to the hole, with the quickest time taking maximum points, and with eight online players competing on each course, things can get a bit chaotic. Luckily, balls and cars don’t bump into each other, with opponents instead phasing through you, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to disrupt other players. This is where Turbo Golf Racing’s Mario Kart influences come into play, with collectible power-ups dotted around each course. It’s a very small selection – rockets track down enemies like a red shell, while shields allow you to rebuff an enemy rocket, and energy tanks fill up your boost bar. Still, it does add an element of chaos to the festivities, and means that if you’re struggling to keep up, you can try and slow others down instead.
The courses themselves are a real highlight in Turbo Golf Racing, and you’ll play across three of them during each online game. Every course takes full advantage of the fantastical and ridiculous nature of flying cars playing giant golf, with floating boost rings that can fire your ball huge distances, boost pads to speed up your vehicle, and perilous floating platforms where your ball can spill over the edge. There’s a wide variety of links available, with some of the shorter ones able to be completed in less than twenty seconds, but it’s the longer courses that stay in the memory. With more ground under your wheels, there’s more room for shock upsets and legendary comebacks. While cars further ahead appear to have the advantage at first, the final ‘putt’ of the ball becomes the leveller, with an unexpected miss forcing the first-place player to slow their momentum to a crawl, before having to chase a fleeing ball, then turn to knock it in the other direction, giving you ample time to sink your ball before them.
With players scored for their placing in each of the three short rounds, there’s always a capacity to drag yourself up from the bottom of the leaderboard, or, alternatively, to plummet down to the bottom after a bad drive. It’s this feeling that anything can happen that keeps you playing. Turbo Golf Racing combines just the right amount of chaos and control, and it results in a hugely enjoyable online experience that’s difficult to put down. As someone with hundreds of hours in Rocket League, I’m keeping a close eye on Turbo Golf Racing during its early access period. After all, it’s never too late to take up golf.