It would be easy to call PGA Tour 2K21 the best golf game on the market, since there is no real competition to compare it to. So, I’ll do one better and declare that PGA Tour 2K21 is the best golf game in a very long time and is among the most entertaining sports games available. Golf fans will find a lot to love here.
When it was announced that HB Studios – the developers behind The Golf Club series – were going to work with 2K Games on this next iteration in the franchise, I got very excited. I play a lot of sports games, but NBA 2K has easily been my most heavily played sports series (possibly any series) over the last five years. The games find a way to get their hooks into me, so that I continue my career progression while improving my skills. This seemed to me like a perfect match, and I am happy to see that having been proven out.
That is not to say there is no room for improvement, and I’ll certainly get to that – but I found it very hard to put the controller down after firing PGA Tour 2K21 up. If you are familiar with The Golf Club games, you know what you are getting here. The same engine is at play in this title, though there are a handful of tweaks and some extra polish that comes with having an officially licensed game. The Golf Club games were always pretty to look at, with an eye towards solid character models and beautiful golf courses and that remains true here. However, there are some notable improvements in the broadcast style presentation that make the entire experience pop more. Hearing actual announcers like Luke Elvy and Rich Beem is certainly a nice bit of authenticity. That being said, the announcers suffer from repetition rather quickly, and I hope that they expand upon this in the next release.
One example I have to share comes when I took a particularly scenic shot over the water as my wife walked by and casually glanced at the screen asking me who was playing. It was just a brief moment, but she had thought I was watching an actual tournament and not playing a video game, which is the ultimate compliment to a sports simulation’s presentation.
The experience kicks off by having you create your own golfer. This character will be key to the career mode, which is where I spend the vast majority of my time in any sports title. That being said, this is one of the areas where I think some more growth could eventually be had. I’ve really come to enjoy the stories told in the career modes of games like NBA 2K, and the character progression is one of the biggest carrots that series has effectively dangled in front of me to keep me playing. Here you basically start as an unknown looking to make your way into the PGA. The character creator is solid, and as you play there is a heavy emphasis on new gear. This is all cosmetic, and the primary motivation as you pack levels on your character while earning experience for your performances. Those familiar with the 2K sports games are no doubt familiar with the VC currency, but it is not used in any way to actually improve your player, it just allows you to buy new gear. It certainly feels less pervasive in PGA Tour 2K21 than in some of the other 2K titles.
The two areas where the MyCareer mode made an effort is in the sponsorships and the rivalry features. The latter feature pits you against a pro player and as you compete against one another, you gain the opportunity to unlock more gears. The idea is sound, but it never really has the impact that some of the NBA 2K storylines do, where your rival in the story mode is a more direct foil most of the time with more direct interactions. Perhaps one way to make this experience better would be more commentary that touches on these rivalries. It would certainly help with the aforementioned repetitiveness that the commentary suffers from while making the rivalry experience feel more genuine. Sponsorships are another way to get new clothing as your choice impacts what gear you will have access to (similar to the sneaker decisions made in the NBA titles), with challenges along the way that can further unlock unique items. There is a lot of untapped potential here, and I did find myself missing some of the RPG-lite elements found in the NBA 2K series.
Once you have created your character, it is off to learning the basics of the game. Here the core engine from The Golf Club is immediately apparent, but there are some tweaks as well and I strongly encourage even returning players to familiarize themselves with these changes. Backswing timing was immensely impactful in The Golf Club, but here the downswing is what really matters. I for one appreciate this change, as it allows me to find much greater consistency in my stroke. However, do not go thinking that this makes the game easier – it is simply easier to be consistent. Timing is still everything and lack of concentration can cause your shot to go awry just as easily as ever. Another new feature is the putt preview that helps you to learn how to read the greens better than in prior releases in the series. The training mode is quite robust and does an excellent job of walking you through everything from swing basics to more advanced shot types.
There are plenty of options, both in the form of modes and gameplay features. You can simply choose to play by yourself in a quick game or hop online to play against others as well. There are various visual feedback options you can turn on or off to your liking, and different levels of difficulty to be had as well. The mode most likely to soak up hours beyond the career one however, is the return of the course creation tool. You can import your courses from The Golf Club 2019, or just start from scratch here. One of my buddies has done a fantastic job in years past of replicating a couple of our nearby golf courses using this system. It is quite flexible, and you can put numerous visual flairs in place as well. The community has done a fantastic job in providing courses in years past, and I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue to be the same here. These courses add a lot of longevity to the games in this series.
One of the biggest draws to this partnership with 2K however, has to be the official licensing. You not only get branded clubs and realistic sponsorships but having access to fifteen real PGA events lends a lot of authenticity to your FedEx Cup run. The accuracy of East Lake Golf Club or Copperhead Course is impressive. Add to it that you see pro golfers such as Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia in the mix, and it is clear that the license is being put to good use. That being said, it is easy to imagine an even larger roster of courses and golfers in the future, fleshing out this world and making the experience even more realistic.