As far as game franchises go, the rise of The Golf Club is one of the better ones. A smaller indie title growing enough to be picked up by one of the biggest publishers in the world in order to expand the game’s reach. Now rebranded under the PGA Tour 2K name, developer HB Studios is here with a brand new installment in PGA Tour 2K21.
PGA Tour 2K21 Review
The game includes 15 officially licensed courses and 12 PGA Tour professionals, making it the first golf game to feature pro golfers since Rory McIlroy PGA Tour back in 2015. Each course is highly detailed, and you can tell that a lot of work went into the recreation of courses such as TPC Sawgrass and Quail Hollow Club.
Though the game features pro golfers, they’re really only there in likeness for your career mode. You can’t play as any of the pros like Justin Thomas, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, or others. The only player(s) you can play with are the ones you create using the MyPLAYER creation suite that 2K Sports titles are known for. Now there’s no image importing or facial capture, but the in-game sliders allow you to get a unique look for your player.
Speaking of looks, PGA Tour 2K21 is a mixed bag for visuals. The courses — both licensed and custom — look incredible and are the best looking since HB Studios began developing golf games. On the flip side, the player models look quite stale and uninspiring. They just look too much like early-PS4/Xbox One models when seen up close.
The first thing you notice on the course is that PGA Tour 2K21 feels pretty familiar if you have played any of The Golf Club games. The game has six base difficulties to choose from with a number of different assist options from putting lines to green grids. The swing mechanics are the exact same as the past, but it feels more refined than any game in the past. There’s also more there to make it more accessible for newer players while being challenging for even the most experienced golfers.
With each of the licensed courses available, PGA Tour 2K21 does a nice job of making each one feel different to the another. You are forced to learn how the greens play, how the hills roll, and more. And it does a great job of ensuring that no two rounds will ever play out the same.
To also help make sure no round plays the same, you’ll be able to set your own rules for each round you play. From tee and pin placement to the type of scoring system, nearly everything is up for customization. There’s also a number of different game types to enjoy. From traditional stroke play to skins to even a new four-player scramble, players will have no shortage of options for on-course action.
The swing mechanics remain the same with you using either the right or left thumbstick for your backswing and downswing. Though that may be unwanted news for players, the additions to swinging make it a much better system as a whole. PGA Tour 2K21 introduces partial swings that allows more nuance to each shot you take by allowing you to adjust the on-screen power percentage. Though it sounds simple and obvious, hitting your backswing and downswing at the exact moment needed to avoid a shot coming up short or going off target can be trickier than you think.
So, I stand at my ball, set up my shot, and I decide that going for the green against the wind is the play for me in this situation. I take my shot only to see the ball soar to the left of the green, landing in a deep patch of rough. I was able to save par on the hole, but I learned off that one poor hit that if I wanted to find success in PGA Tour 2K21, I needed to take more precautions with the elements around me. After all, this is still the same series at heart known for being unforgiving to mistakes.
Should you find yourself struggling in any area of your game, there’s a training and tutorial area that goes over, in detail, all you need to know in order to find success and shave off strokes.
Become a Champion
From a modes stand point, PGA Tour 2K21 focuses on the previously mentioned game types to give players more reasons to come back. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other modes that you’ll spend time in.
The PGA Tour Career Mode is where many will spend a bulk of their time when playing the game. Within the mode, there’s not much in the way of off-course happenings. You can improve your clubs, change your look, check on rivals, and sign sponsorship contracts. There’s still no player attribute system to improve your golfer which is somewhat of a disappointment. Instead, each club you change has various pros and cons that help keep things balanced when you take to the course.
You’ll hear the crowd cheer from off in the distance, and immediately hear the broadcast mention something happening…
Each event gets its own presentation as the commentary team of Luke Elvy and Rich Beem handle the play-by-play and main analyst duties while the familiar voice of John McCarthy takes to the course and follows the action. In a rivalry, you and your rival are compared in tournaments you both enter. Performing better than him will earn you more rewards as well as rivalry points. Once you reach a certain threshold in points, the rivalry comes to an end and your player moves on to the next challenge. There’s no real interaction between your player and your rivals, which would’ve been nice. It’s really just a “rivalry” on paper that gives you a bit of a challenge on the course, but not much more than that as you work to become FedExCup Champion.
As mentioned, the game features the likenesses just 12 PGA Tour pros, but you will see other familiar names throughout your career. Names like Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson and more will show up on tournament leaderboards, you just won’t see cutaways or highlights for those names.
In regards to the presentation, PGA Tour 2K21’s career events features broadcast elements similar to what you see on TV. You’ll hear the crowd cheer from off in the distance, and immediately hear the broadcast mention something happening before cutting away to a replay of that moment. The broadcast team will also talk about what makes each course and hole unique, giving you some nice insight into the event you’re playing in.
Back during my time with a preview build of the game, there were some hiccups with the commentary not matching the replays being shown. After more hours with the final release version of the game, I didn’t notice as many instances of mismatched commentary though they were still there. It could still use a bit more polish, but there’s no doubt it’s in a better place than it was.
Aside from the game’s career, Societies returns allowing players to join their own clubs and play in various seasons, tournaments, and events with players from around the world. You can be in up to 10 societies at a single time, but there remains no crossplay for players. The only thing that’s cross-platform are the courses created in the game using the available course designer.
In PGA Tour 2K21, the course designer features much more freedom than ever. No longer are players restricted to the base theme selected for a custom course. Players now have access to all of the elements in the mode to build how they want with the theme being more of a starting point.
Want an 18-hole course where each green is on an island? You can do that. What about a course in the middle of a mountain range? PGA Tour 2K21 allows that too. When I say that the only real limits to the course designer is your imagination, I mean it.
Swinging a club in PGA Tour 2K21 is a perfect metaphor for how this game feels. It’s responsive, swift, and puts you in control of your own story. No matter what type of golf you want to play, the game does a nice job in not only making successful rounds feel rewarding, but it keeps you wanting to play just to get better.
Despite its shortcomings visually and the lackluster off-course career features, PGA Tour 2K21 is still a game with plenty of value. It feels a lot like The Golf Club 2019, sure, but it’s more refined on the course and more accessible and forgiving for newcomers. The course designer will once again be the crown jewel offering for the creative types while the career mode will give you a look into what it takes to become a FedExCup Champion.
The only question you really have to ask yourself now is whether to lay up or go for the green.
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*NOTE: A copy of PGA Tour 2K21 was provided to Sports Gamers Online for the purposes of this review**
No matter what type of golf you want to play, PGA Tour 2K21 does a nice job in not only making successful rounds feel rewarding, but it keeps you wanting to play just to get better.