Tiger Woods is set make his return to the video game world, both as a playable character and as an executive producer.
After a two-year development, PGA Tour 2K23 arrives this week, with a pair of expanded digital editions launching on Oct. 11 and the standard console releases set for Oct. 14.
Yes, Tiger's face is on the cover, but his involvement is little more than a flex, a crowning achievement for what used to be an obscure series called “The Golf Club.” Tiger is the eye-catching style, drawing new attention to the longtime substance of the franchise: its custom course designer.
Having spent a weekend with 2K23, I can tell you that the HB Studios development team has overhauled the gameplay in a way that creates a rewarding experience offline but potentially changes life online.
At launch this week, users will encounter a more detailed and purposeful MyCareer mode and 2K’s most fully realized PGA Tour simulation to date. That’s what the HB team has produced so far.
Post-launch, the community that surrounds the game will take over, constantly expanding the course offerings with real-world recreations and original, fictional designs.
Here’s a look at what’s new and what still sets the PGA Tour 2K series apart.
Tour Pros and Celebrities
Harold Varner III
The pros listed above are all playable characters this time around, including the 15-time major winner, who was last seen in his self-titled EA Sports series in 2013. And yes, Harold Varner III and Bubba Watson, who recently departed the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf, remain in the game. On a happier note, Steph Curry is all too excited to be here:
Atlantic Beach Country Club
Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge
Innisbrook (Copperhead Course)
Detroit Golf Club
East Lake Golf Club
Quail Hollow Golf Club
Riviera Country Club
St George’s Golf and Country Club
The Renaissance Club
TPC Deere Run
TPC River Highlands
TPC San Antonio
TPC Twin Cities
Wilmington Country Club (South Course)
Pebble Beach Golf Club*
Torrey Pines (North and South Courses)*
The last four courses on the list will be added post-launch, meaning players will no longer have to search “Bing Crosby” or “119th U.S. Open” on the 2K servers to get a crack at Pebble Beach.
The list above is also complemented by fictional designs from HB Studios. Prominent designers from the game’s online community were also invited to pitch in, with some of the most popular fictional tracks from 2K21 now getting an official seal of approval in 2K23.
Equipment and Apparel
Royal & Awesome
Unlike in 2K21, your clubs do not have any impact on your gameplay (more on this in a minute). A Scotty Cameron putter won’t save more strokes than a Ping, and a TaylorMade driver won’t fly any farther than a Titleist. So your club and apparel choices will come down to your own personal tastes.
The game’s central offline feature is MyCareer mode, which simulates the PGA Tour season. Making use of the courses above, the game features 17 official Tour events, with potentially more on the way. You’ll be surrounded by a stadium of screaming fans at TPC Scottsdale and teeing off inside a hockey rink at the Canadian Open.
MyCareer serves as the primary vehicle to earn new equipment, apparel, and virtual currency. You’ll first create your own MyPlayer, and then earn enough VC, skill points, club fittings and consumable golf balls to meaningfullly change the gameplay.
Where the last two attempts at MyCareer mode in 2K21 and The Golf Club 2019 fell flat, 2K23 presents a deeper experience that gives players a reason to stay with it for a bit longer than they would before.
Archetypes and Skills
The biggest changes in gameplay come in the form of archetypes, skill points, club fittings and consumable golf balls. In short, 2K23 is a series of tradeoffs, creating more dynamic gameplay. You’ll have clear strengths and weaknesses.
A “Greensman” archetype, for example, excels at putting but lacks length off the tee, just as a “Powerhouse” hits the ball mile without accuracy. To accentuate your strengths or to make up for your weaknesses, the game gradually doles out skill points that activate and deactivate over the course of a round. Likewise, club fittings and consumable golf balls provide noticeable differences in ball striking, roll, and spin, changing the conditions of the game.
The obvious concern is how these customizations will impact competitive play online. An international society like TGCTours— which hosts weekly tournaments and tabulates a world golf ranking—will be adversely impacted if users are no longer on even footing with respect to artificial boosts. I raised this issue with the game's developers and received the following statement from 2K: "All archetype, club and ball customization is designed with balance in mind; boosting one attribute weakens another. Developers will continue to monitor the way these customizations perform in a competitive setting and may make adjustments if necessary."
Online societies are part of what extend PGA Tour 2K's viability long after launch. It's important that the studio listen to its online community and, if necessary, take steps to ensure that artifical imbalances and pay-to-play methods do not discourage the game's most loyal users.
The swing sticks will likely remain the standard method of play for series veterans, but 2K’s new three-click option works surprisingly well, particularly for those new to the series. If anything, it’s easier to hit full shots but harder to putt. While the three-click option may sound like an arcade-style throwback, this is a modern update that doesn’t cheapen the experience. In this case, online societies will be able to restrict swing settings.
Overhauled Short Game
Frankly, 2K23 is just harder—if you're using the default golf ball.
The swing sticks are far more sensitive, and the golf courses fight back. This is particularly noticeable on and around the greens, where the rules have changed. Timing and tempo are significantly more of a factor than they’ve ever been. Even experienced players will find themselves ping ponging back and forth and rolling putts off greens.
More than likely, course designers are going to need to soften their layouts from 2K21 to make up for the advances in gameplay. I’ve been playing golf games dating back to Tiger Woods ’99, and I can tell you there’s a learning curve to 2K23.
Stay below the hole - or make plans to keep a steady supply of the consumable golf balls in the bag.
What Still Sets PGA Tour 2K Apart
Everything discussed above is what HB Studios can lay its name to and market. But it’s the community that surrounds the game that breathes life into it in between installments.
PGA Tour 2K’s course designer was born out of HB’s original offering, “The Golf Club,” where users would create and share their own courses for others to play. Over the years, it has yielded a vast library of user-generated designs. At first glance, you might look at the list of official courses in the game and shrug off a collection of Tour tracks. But 2K’s servers host recreations of some of golf's most iconic venues. In PGA Tour 2K21, you could find everything from Pine Valley and Cypress Point to your local chip-and-putt.
Separate from the designer itself, the online societies mentioned above give users the opportunity to organize their own leagues and host tournaments each week. This could be something you do with a small group of friends or something as elaborate as TGCTours.
There’s become two development cycles in the 2K universe: the official gameplay additions HB adds to each installment and the unofficial work users add between releases. The course designer makes 2K a crowdsourced product and adds depth that the studio can’t.
This is the built-in advantage of PGA Tour 2K and why the developers should pay close attention to user feedback.
PGA Tour 2K23 is available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation5 (PS5), PlayStation4 (PS4) and Steam.
Is PGA 2K23 worth it? ›
The game certainly improves on it's 2K21 predecessor. The changes in MyPlayer and MyCareer are significant and enhance the gaming experience. PGA TOUR 2K23 is undoubtedly the most realistic golf simulation video game ever made and it's truly impressive how authentic being on the course feels while playing the game.Can you play as Tiger Woods in 2K23? ›
The answer is yes, you can play as the Professional Golfers in PGA Tour 2K23. Obviously you can play as the face of the game Tiger Woods but there are plenty more people you can play as, including some surprise additions too. Here below is the complete list of pros available at launch: Tiger Woods.How far does Tiger hits PW? ›
|PLAYER||DRIVER (Average Total distance)||DRIVER (Average Carry Distance)|
|Rickie Fowler||297 yards||289.9 yards|
|Sergio Garcia||309.4 yards||296.5 yards|
|Ann Van Dam (Longest LPGA Tour)||290.8 yards||268 yards|
|Tiger Woods||303.6 yards||291.9 yards|
Cross-play is not yet available
Sadly, it appears that there will be no cross-platform play available for players of "PGA Tour 2K23" when the game launches on Oct. 14. A tweet from the official "PGA Tour 2K" Twitter account makes this very clear.
Callaway is not only in PGA Tour 2K23 but also in WGT by Topgolf, another highly detailed golf video game that includes digital versions of real equipment.