A bad day golfing is still better than a good day at work, and it’s clear in PGA Tour 2K21 that there will be many excellent days spent on the links, knocking out 300+yard drives, bending fairway shots around 90-degree corners and sinking putts from the next fairway.
PGA Tour 2K21 has clear links back to The Golf Club 2019, with an absolute bucketload of polish and refinement added on top. The menu systems are slicker, the commentary is knocked up a notch to include believable situational banter (especially having a crack when you have a bad shot) and the background effects feel more filled out. The overall product is excellent and hits all of the right notes, giving you a lived-in experience that lets you feel like part of the coverage.
Shot selection is crucial. You set, target zone, swing power, swing angle, club angle, draw/fade, all while calibrating the landing area, ball spin and impact of wind speed. It’s a hugely complicated equation which is 93% perspiration, 6% mathematics, 4% thumb coordination, and 2% butterscotch ripple. There is the ever-present temptation to select ‘power drive’ on every shot and really attack the green, but taking the time and patience to plan out your approach will always yield much better results. 75% of your shots will be within the chip/putting range. Incredibly long drives, sometimes hitting the dancefloor from your par 4 tee shots, will mean that most of your work is left for the short clubs. You’ll chip, punch, splash or flop your way to the green. There’s an amazing array of awesome tools at your disposal – it’s down to you to decide which best suits the situation.
In PGA Tour 2K21 as in real life, the old adage of driving for show, putting for dough rings crazily true. The fantastically friendly putting system will have you sighing/fist pumping as you miss/nail your 30-foot putt around the literal goat tracks they call greens. You’re given every opportunity to view the potential outcomes for your approach, including a once-per-putt preview where you can see the roll of the ball given a perfect club swing. If you’ve played a golf game in the last ten years, you’ll be familiar with the process. It’s nothing new or ground-breaking, but it’s still as satisfying now as it was when it first arrived.
Swing calibration options are excellent. Like doing a club fitting at a pro shop, you can settle into your swing timing rather than being forced to perform like a dancing monkey to the beat of the 2K drum. Once you’re dialled in, you’ll be driving like a dream. Some of the trickier moments in the game come when you’re not swinging the club at full power. Anything at 75-80% power can mess with the timing on your downswing. More often than not, this results with a realistic hack golfer shot ending up in the rough, behind a bunch of trees, or swimming with the fishes.
PGA Tour 2K21 play a little loose and fast with some of the physics when it comes to shots onto the green. The ball will almost always hit and go straight on, no matter what angle the green is at, with any of the left to right movement coming in the last few feet of distance. It’s a little less Tiger Woods than you’d like it to be, but the realism factor sits nicely in the context of the rest of the game.
There are a few game modes to choose from, including a PGA Tour career mode, although there’s not really any player development as such. You start as an awesomely talented professional golfer and just stay that way. The career mode sets you up with different sponsorship goals per round, which unlocks new clothing items and in-game currency which can be used for new clubs and club cosmetics. You’re limited on launch to the 15 core PGA Tour courses, and while that does include Copperhead and TPC Sawgrass, you may have to wait a while before hitting off around Augusta National. Luckily there’s a fully featured course creator attached to the game, so give it about a week before the community shared courses start coming through.
“In PGA Tour 2K21 as in real life, the old adage of driving for show, putting for dough rings crazily true.”
Likewise, there are only a handful of pro players featured within the game. Although with the character creation mode you’re better off creating your own legend here. While the character customisation options are detailed and excellent, the clothes you can choose from look like a clown car collided with John Daly’s wardrobe. You won’t have to look much further past the cover art to realise that the Justin Thomas look, complete with puffer jacket and mis-matched blue camo pants, is about as good as it’s going to get. Fashion is one of the few things that golf as a sport needs to take a good hard look at, and it’s presented here in all its weekend warrior glory. There’ll be more than a few dads out there taking notes for Father’s Day suggestions.
The overall impression of PGA Tour 2K21 is a good one. You have a rock-solid golfing sim, which is both accessible and extremely well polished. 2K often considers the endgame and tries to present things as close to a television experience as you can achieve. Here you have the best seats in the house for a realistic golfing experience which pits you against some of the most skilled sportsmen on the planet. It’s also a leisurely, almost therapeutic, experience. There aren’t any high-octane thrills and spills here, only a chance to stroll around some faithfully recreated golf courses that you’d spend a lifetime dreaming of playing on. You’ll finally be able to live your dreams as the ultimate professional golfer you always knew you could be.
PGA Tour 2K21 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version will follow next month.