After taking 2022 off, PGA Tour 2K23 brings a much-anticipated return of 2K and HB Studio’s premiere golf game franchise. PGA Tour 2K23 also marks the return of Tiger Woods to the world of video game golf, where he is available as a playable character and also serves as an executive producer for the game.
Like many sports video game franchises, PGA Tour 2K23 tends to avoid doing anything to reinvent the wheel. The 2K PGA series has always provided some of the most authentic golf for players to enjoy, and PGA Tour 2K23 is no different. The analog stick swing mechanics that HB Studio perfected with The Golf Club franchise feels as close to a real golf swing as a video game can. There is an introduction of a new swing mode that uses button bushes instead of using the analog stick, but I found it incredibly frustrating to use and almost immediately went back to the analog swing controls.
The new swing mechanic change highlights a major issue with PGA Tour 2K23, which is that there isn’t really anything to make the game feel fresh. Franchises like NBA 2K stay fresh by updating rosters and, lately, including some semblance of a story mode, but PGA 2K is limited by the fact that the roster of golfers in real life rarely updates in any meaningful way other than retirements or the introduction of new, young golfers. Stat changes can also make a massive difference in games like NBA 2K, but PGA Tour 2K23 relies almost entirely on the player’s skill instead of the ratings of golfers or players.
The main attraction of the game is the myCareer mode, which lets players create their own golfer and take them on tour in competition for the FedEx Cup. While that might sound good, the real famous courses in golf like the Pebble Beach and Augusta National for the Masters are still absent in PGA Tour 2K23 due to licensing issues. TPC San Antonio doesn’t garner nearly the same excitement that playing at Augusta National does. Even the courses that are in the game don’t look nearly as good as they should have on current gen software. In the highest quality mode, I still noticed poorly rendered backgrounds and gallery members that were really jarring amongst some of the better-looking scenes.
The myCareer mode does try to mix it up a bit with player rivalries, pitting the player against an opponent golfer during a certain event in order to see who is better. It’s an interesting addition but doesn’t feel very fleshed out. I didn’t lose a single one of these matchups, but I also didn’t really feel any excitement about winning them. The concept is neat, but it would be nice if they took a page from NBA 2K’s book and added some dramatic scripted events and interactions to help build up some energy around the rivalries. It doesn’t help that the commentary is just downright bad. Not only is it disinteresting, half the time the things the announcers were talking about just weren’t accurate representations of what was actually happening on the course.
One of the biggest changes in PGA Tour 2K23 is that clubs really matter this year. Not only do the club choices matter, but every club has multiple components that all give upgrades to things like swing power and accuracy. While the rest of PGA Tour 2K23 feels like an extremely authentic golf simulation, these new club customization changes add more of a gamey feel to the actual golf. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the addition if I’m being honest. With over 40 events played and plenty of new upgrades earned, I do like the idea of having options to further improve my game, but it also takes away from the realism that has made PGA 2K so popular.
Another new addition to PGA Tour 2K23 is the Topgolf mode. Modeled after the incredibly popular Topgolf experience in real life, this mode lets players enjoy Topgolf without having to leave their couch. It’s great for those short on time who want to get some hits in either with themselves or with friends. Players can also play as Tiger Woods and even a famous golfer, and basketball player on the side, Steph Curry. Little additions like those help keep the game from feeling entirely stale, but a lot more is going to be needed in future iterations if PGA Tour 2K23 wants to appeal to non-golf fans.
Despite some of my frustrations with how boring PGA Tour 2K23 can feel, that also just feels like golf in a nutshell. Golf is an old game with very little innovation, so watching the most popular golf game franchise follow that same path makes sense. As a golf simulator, PGA Tour 2K23 is as good as it gets, but for players who aren’t into the extremely accurate golf representation, it’s going to always feel a bit boring.
PGA Tour 2K23 is out now on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series S|X, and PC.
PGA Tour 2K23
Despite some of my frustrations with how boring PGA Tour 2K23 can feel, that also just feels like golf in a nutshell. Golf is an old game with very little innovation, so watching the most popular golf game franchise follow that same path makes sense. As a golf simulator, PGA Tour 2K23 is as good as it gets, but for players who aren’t into the extremely accurate golf representation it’s going to always feel a bit boring.