The first appearance of golf was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as well as golfing tools and attire. However, only Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, The Ballad of Gay Tony episodic game for Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online feature golfing as an actual minigame.
Golf in general
The first depictions of golf in the GTA series appears in the form of golf courses in the city. They include:
- Leaf Links in Vice City (GTA Vice City and GTA Vice City Stories);
- The Avispa Country Club in San Fierro and Yellow Bell Golf Course in Las Venturas (GTA San Andreas);
- The Golden Pier Swingers Golf Club in Liberty City (GTA IV and episodic packs, and GTA Chinatown Wars); and
- The Los Santos Golf Club in Los Santos (Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online).
With the exception of the Golden Pier Swingers Golf Course (which is merely a driving range), these golf courses tend to be depicted with open lawn areas, sand traps, water hazards, putting greens (complete with flag poles pinpointing golf holes) and the country club building itself; (non-interactive) tennis courts are also present within the Leaf Links and Avispa Country Club. It is also common for the player to spot golfer pedestrians and Caddy golf carts in and around the courses.
Golf as a minigame
Golfing as an in-game activity is not available in GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas. In GTA Vice City Stories and The Ballad of Gay Tony, however, the player is given the opportunity to tee off at driving ranges in Leaf Links or the Swingers Golf Course.
The game mechanics of the minigame in both games are similar in that the player is required to time their swings as accurately as possible by plotting an oscillating cursor on a "power" bar as close as possible to a designated point, thereby resulting in a more accurate shot. In the Ballad of Gay Tony, the shooting mechanics are slightly improved to allow the player to point at the spot where they want the ball to land, while increasing the challenge of gameplay; the further the target which the ball must go, the higher the point which the cursor must be plotted at it is.
Golfing in The Ballad of Gay Tony is available after completing "Practice Swing", after which it can be activated by accessing the front entrance of the Golden Pier's Swingers Golf Course; players can choose to play with an anonymous competitor, or play with any of Luis Lopez's friends.
In Grand Theft Auto V, golfing returns as a minigame, with much improved mechanics and gameplay. To play a round of golf, the player must walk up to the entrance of the Los Santos Golf Club and pay an entrance fee of $100. The golfing minigame consists of hitting the golf ball towards the green and then putting it into the hole in the least number of hits possible. Between hits, the player is allowed to drive the Caddy to the next hit (this step can be skipped). All three players can play golf with each other as an activity, as seen here, though the character who instigates the game has to pay for both rounds. If the player begins a game of golf alone, several NPC members will be available as opponents:
- Todd Rosenweig (Easy)
- Aaron Ingram (Normal)
- Jeff Miller (Normal)
- Glenn Mather (Hard)
- Castro Lagano (Hard) - The player must complete his random event before Castro is available for golfing. If delivered to the Altruist Cult camp as Trevor, he will be rendered unavailable so it is not recommended to deliver him to the Altruists.
In GTA Online, the player is able to play golf with other online players in the same session. The game mechanics for golf remain the same in GTA Online, however now the player is able to wager money when he plays against his opponent.
- In GTA: Vice City Stories, in the final round, if the player doesn't hit the ball hard, so it doesn't fall in the water, leaving the game after final round is done, the ball will still be there, sitting on the grass. It cannot be moved by shooting it or running on it (even if it's solid). If the player tries to get the Caddy nearby, the ball will disappear.
- In GTA V, if the player is playing against an opponent, and the player skips between his shot and the opponent's shot several times very quickly, when the opponent goes up to hit, he may be holding an invisible golf club. The club will return to normal after the player's turn.
- In GTA Online, due to a glitch, a weapon from the online player's inventory (such as a pistol or assault rifle) may suddenly appear in his hands while the golf club is in his hands too, and the player will be unable to put it away. Attempting to swing the club while the weapon is in the player's hands will result in the player's arms appearing humorously deformed and distorted out of shape, however this strange visual glitch does not affect the minigame's mechanics. However, when the player's turn is done, the weapon will disappear.
- In GTA V, if the player rotates himself around and hits the golf ball towards his opponent, the opponent will get hit and fall over. However, after the "Mission Failed" message is displayed, the player may sometimes find himself stuck in the golf ball "hit" pose, with his torso twisted to the left and his arms up and to the side, as if he was still holding the golf club and had just hit the ball. The player will be frozen in this position, and the only way to get out of it is to be killed (either by cheats or from the wanted level that the player gained from performing the glitch).
- After the round of golf in GTA V, the player can kill his opponent(s) just like any other pedestrians. They will not die permanently, however, and will always be available for the next round.
- Killing them and playing again constantly will cause them to glitch out of the world, but this does not affect gameplay.
- Unused golf animations appear in GTA IV, hinting that Golf was meant to reappear in the original IV.