Since their introduction in 1990 and the huge popularity of Tiger Woods PGA Tour from 1999 to 2013 (followed briefly by the 2015 Rory McIlroy edition), the PGA Tour game series developed cult-like status amongst golfers and gamers alike. However, with no titles in over 5 years, many of us were left wondering if there’d be another PGA Tour release, especially given the focus on growing golf amongst a new generation and a resurgence in golf popularity post-lockdown.
Enter PGA Tour 2K21, launched with much fanfare and an appearance from golf icon, Shooter McGavin. The 2K / HB Studios project replaces the legacy of EA Sports games we know so well; furthermore, followers of other golf games might recognise the similarities with that of The Golf Club 2019, which is no surprise. PGA Tour 2K21 is based on The Golf Club‘s foundation, with some tweaks that make it more familiar to legacy Tiger Woods-era gamers and other 2K titles.
The game tees off with a detailed tutorial taking you through the aspects of each shot type, how to aim, select your club, shape shots, and spin the ball. It took some adjusting (and some really bad shots, especially while putting) to get used to the differences, but it was simple enough to understand. The game gives you a bunch of difficulty settings and UI options to choose from if you’re struggling with your swing, so this should not stop you from enjoying the experience. But be warned, you can be seriously humbled on the most advanced setting.
The MyPlayer feature allows you to customise your golfer’s appearance, clothing and golf clubs. As you progress through game modes, you’ll accumulate coins to spend on better gear and clothing options. We would’ve liked to see more golf equipment and clothing brands to choose from, but hopefully they get on board in future updates. We opted for Puma kicks, shirt, belt and generic cowboy hat. Because, why not?
There are several game modes to choose from, but none of the arcade-style games that appeared on the later versions of the Tiger Woods / Rory McIlroy games. It’s really a golf game for golfers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive or fun (and it can be stressful at times). You can play local games against your friends or jump on an online match, choosing the course, format and rules to your liking. The Societies mode allows you to create or join an online society and play a custom season against other golfers. Unfortunately, this is not cross-platform compatible, so you’re left with a limited playing pool.
As you’d expect, you can also begin your PGA Tour Career and the pursuit of the FedEx Cup. This follows a similar schedule to the real PGA Tour, and you can decide whether to play all 4 rounds or less (it took roughly 20 – 30 minutes for a round). While you can see your name with some of golf’s best, this is one of the most disappointing features of 2K21.
There are only 12 licensed pro golfers and you can’t play with or directly against any of them. Instead, you’re left with some rivalry competitions to beat their scores and unlock special clothing or equipment items. You also get to see some “in round” highlights of the players holing shots, but these were quite glitchy and repetitive. There was also no noticeable improvement to your player’s abilities as you level up in the game (no DeChambeau length drives here, folks) and the Sponsors challenges did not carry much weight. On a side note, getting the LPGA on board and introducing some of the top female golfers will also be a good move to help grow the game.
We can’t forget about the courses. There are 15 licensed courses from the PGA Tour plus some custom courses that fill up your season. Amazingly, these do not include the game’s most iconic venues, like the Old Course or Augusta National. Fortunately, not all is lost here. The Designer mode allows those keen course architects (who clearly have a lot of time on their hands) to design and share their own courses. With backwards compatibility to previous versions of The Golf Club, this means you get access to hundreds of courses, including an incredibly detailed Augusta replica (Firethorn National – you’ll thank us later). In general, the courses look great, aside from the odd glitch with trees, water or spectators.
So, after playing through a PGA Tour Season and cruising to multiple victories and the FedEx cup, we decided to put ourselves to the test. With Dustin Johnson cruising to a 5 shot victory at The Masters in this year’s tournament, there seemed like no better time to test our skills against other players in an Xbox Society-hosted 4 round tournament at “not-Augusta”… on legend difficulty. Although the result destroyed most of our gaming confidence (we lost by 30 strokes to the winner), it showed the possibilities of other game modes to test your skills online and win more coins to further customise your player.
The PGA Tour golf title has made a welcome return to the sports gaming world and hopefully the partnership with 2K will mean great things are to come. As a golfer, the game is relatable and enjoyable. It might not be for everyone. As with any round of golf, things aren’t always smooth and there’s definitely room for improvement. We’re hoping 2K and HB Studios keep their heads down and follow through to grow the game, both on the course and on the couch.
PGA Tour 2K21 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.