The first appearance of golf was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as well as golfing tools and attire. 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.
The first depictions of golf in the GTA series appear 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 (GTA San Andreas)
- 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)
- Funland Miniature Golf in GTA IV.
- 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
GTA Vice City Stories
In GTA Vice City Stories the player can use the Leaf Links driving range.
The game mechanics of the minigame require the player 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.
The Ballad of Gay Tony
In The Ballad of Gay Tony, the player is given the opportunity to tee off at the Swingers Golf Club driving range.
The game mechanics are similar to those used in Vice City Stories but 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 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.
Grand Theft Auto V
In Grand Theft Auto V, golfing returns as a proper minigame, with much improved mechanics and gameplay. Playing Golf can be unlocked by completing Franklin’s mission, Complications. 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 strokes possible. Between strokes, the player is allowed to drive the Caddy to the next shot (this step can be skipped).
Gameplay now closely approximates a real game of golf with a full set of clubs at the players disposal. Players are able to change club and stroke type and adjust their aim and preset their desired power before attempting a swing. Putting greens include a slope indicator grid. Weather conditions directly impact the difficulty including wind strength and direction and rain slowing the greens and fairways. Hazards like water and out of bounds incur proper penalties and the rough and sand traps influence the release path and speed of the ball. Players can impart spin on the ball immediately after contact to attempt to achieve advanced strokes such as fades and draws.
Statistics such as longest drive per hole, fairways and greens in regulation, and closest to the pin are all kept and a message will appear on screen whenever the player improves upon their personal best in a particular statistic.
All three protagonists can play golf with each other as a friend activity, though the character who instigates the game has to pay for both rounds. If the instigating protagonist owns the golf club, they will all play for free.
If the player begins a game of golf alone, they will be able to compete against up to three NPC players. Todd is available immediately, while the next three the NPCs will become progressively available as opponents after completing a round with the easier level opponent.
- *Castro will only be available after the player completes his random event and only provided Trevor does not deliver him to the Altruist Cult.
All five opponents will be available to all three protagonists once any character unlocks them.
The NPC difficulty level not only relates to their individual skill but increases the chances of a more difficult round, with adverse weather more likely with the hard level characters.
The world clock is paused while the player participates in a round of golf.
An even par or below par complete round of 9 holes is required for 100% Completion in GTA V.
Grand Theft Auto Online
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 as in GTA V, however now the player is able to wager money when they play against "real" opponents and their win statistics and number of holes in one are recorded on the Rockstar Games Social Club.
Playing golf will increase the character's strength stat, and higher strength will result in longer drives in golf.
Gameplay in GTA VCS and TBoGT
Gameplay in GTA V
- 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 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).
- 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.
- Unused golf animations appear in GTA IV, hinting that golf was meant to appear prior to the release of TBOGT.
- When Trevor Philips plays golf, he will mention that he was the Canadian under-18 champion and that he nearly went pro, suggesting that he is skilled in golf. However, if the player plays golf with AI-controlled Trevor, he will not play any better than AI-controlled Michael or Franklin.