Virtual golf fans were fortunate to that HB Studios came along with their The Golf Club series a few years back, delivering excellent digital golf in a market where there was very little competition. Their last title, The Golf Club 2019, brought with it the official PGA Tour license, further cementing its dominance, and providing an even more compelling and authentic simulation. Now PGA Tour 2K21 has come along, published by 2K but developed by HB Studios, and the pairing has birthed another spectacular golf game.
Once again, there’s no sign of complacency with HB Studios latest golfing sim. Smart choices have been made to increase accessibility, features have been tweaked and added to, and the courses themselves have increased in quantity and quality.
PGA Tour 2K21 features a difficulty system similar to that of the Forza series, where a huge amount can be customised to create a difficulty perfect for you. This includes reducing, or removing entirely, any penalty for poor accuracy or speed when swinging, putt preview lines, ball trajectory arcs, everything can be turned on or off or otherwise tweaked to match your play style and preferred difficulty. It’s wonderful. Moreover, each player in a match can have different difficulty settings, allowing you to balance the play how you see fit.
However, despite these changes, PGA Tour 2K21 still very much authentic simulation of golf; you need to read the fairways, take note of the wind, understand your club choice and appreciate the physics of the ball to really succeed. It’s great stuff, difficult with all the aids turned off, but hugely satisfying when you pull of a exceptional chip that rolls in the hole, or the elusive hole-in-one. The previous title’s commentator returns for multiplayer, proving absolutely brilliant comments on play with his mixtures of excitement, disappointment and sarcastic remarks. Meanwhile, the career mode sees real-life commentators Luke Elvy and Rich Beem analyse your game, adding that extra sense of authenticity to the title.
Once again, sliders and cosmetic options allow you to create your own custom character, with in-game currency earned from playing being used to buy more elaborate clothing and equipment with different stats. The ability to change your clubs to ones that better suit your skills is appreciated, for example, some clubs offer slightly more accuracy with the penalty of less distance. This currency can also be spent on building your society, essentially a club, with member’s fees and club tournaments adding a nice social option to the game. Meanwhile, the pre-made and custom-made tournaments return with a wide selection of fictional courses, and crucially, the option to play through the PGA Tour.
PGA Tour 2K21 also features a huge selection of real courses, this time photo scanned for exact digital recreation, several of which haven’t been available before. And thanks to the community creating their own, with an even more advanced version of the already stellar course editor, there’s a huge amount of content for you to enjoy.
The visuals remain pretty much unchanged with only the odd improvement here or there but nothing to shout about. Lighting remain realistic but a little too dark on occasion. The crucial physics of the ball are still excellent, with the wind adding enough unpredictability to keep matches interesting. You can rarely guarantee a victory, or even a loss. Things can go wrong for you and your opponent at the drop of a hat. And indeed, that’s how it should be, and it certainly makes each hit feel more exciting and critical to your success.
Taking the golf online is still excellent fun, with a good variety of modes. Meanwhile, local play is still available, which is always a greatly appreciated feature that is far less common now days. However, it’s a shame that only a single profile can bring their player in on local play.
Indeed, PGA Tour 2K21 is a brilliant golfing game with a staggeringly huge variety of courses, made practically unlimited thanks to community created content, the licensing, commentators and photo scanned courses increase its authenticity, and the real-life golfers you get to compete against in the career is an excellent additional step to make this feel more real. Certainly though, it’s the customisable difficulty that really stands out; it makes a huge difference to accessibility and brings an already excellent golf games that much closer to perfection.