Like an approach shot that hits the green and rolls off into the rough, PGA Tour 2K23 has a solid enough foundation for a golf game with some potential for future additions and refinements, but it lacks the finesse or touch needed to make this particular game stick or stand out. There are a lot of things that PGA Tour 2K23 does well in making its golf experience feel precise and authentic, and while its list of players and courses leaves something to be desired, there’s enough content to keep you finding something new for a long time. Its issues are more around the edges, with its inconsistent feedback and unimpressive professional golf television aesthetic. I think there’s a pathway to a great game with PGA Tour 2K23, but it needed a bit more time to cook, or a mulligan so to speak, to get it on par with its major sports franchise competitors.
One of PGA Tour 2K23’s strengths is understanding that it’s a golf game and that nothing should get in the way of you playing golf the way you want. From the beginning, every mode, from MyCareer to local and competitive play, is fully unlocked with all courses and playable characters, including a special TopGolf game mode. In MyCareer, you can choose to play starting at lower amateur levels and work your way up to the PGA Tour, or you can forgo the grind and start at the PGA Tour right away. Your created character starts as a virtual nobody in whichever tour level they want and can work their way up the ladder to the top of the Tour leaderboard. In doing so, you also gain new materials and equippable items, like a driver head or an iron grip, that make your overall skills better. It can get a bit tedious to see so many different options for such minor changes on a club, but over time they certainly help you get better. While the number of game modes isn’t overwhelming, you get exactly what you expect, and there isn’t much else I would’ve hoped for in this type of game that wouldn’t come in the way of actually playing golf. MyCareer is a great starter point for anyone playing alone, and there are some good single round and tournament options, both online and offline. You can also play a true-to-form game of TopGolf, trying to hit the individual spaces for points against your friends or competitors.
"I think there’s a pathway to a great game with PGA Tour 2K23, but it needed a bit more time to cook, or a mulligan so to speak, to get it on par with its major sports franchise competitors."
On the course, the act of playing golf is pretty similar to other golf games on the market, most notably HB Studios’ other golf games PGA Tour 2K21 and The Golf Club, as there’s a lot of flexibility in the different ways you can play. You’ll most likely be playing Stroke Play most of the time, but you can also play match play or other variations of the traditional structure. There’s also a decent list of famous golfers and athletes you can play as, each equipped with different stats. Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, and Rickie Fowler are a few of the PGA Tour players whose likenesses you can embody, but there are also others like Steph Curry or Michael Jordan, whose stats are set to be on par with the best of the best.
The list of courses you can play is a solid build on PGA Tour 2K21, but it’s still a bit underwhelming when compared to the courses played on the Tour in reality. It’s always fun to play at a place like TPC Sawgrass or Copperhead, and there is some great variety in the types of scenery and playing surfaces throughout the 20 licensed courses. It’s still difficult to not see a course like Augusta or Pebble Beach on the course list, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s also a somewhat dynamic course creator that lets you build your own 18, and while it wasn’t highly populated at time of writing, I’m excited to see what types of courses the public will drum up.
PGA Tour 2K23’s mechanics aren’t particularly different from previous HB Studios games, though there are some builds that refine the formula. Swings can be done in two ways, for instance. The first is an analog system, a variation of one we’ve seen in past games, that combines your power, accuracy, and timing to create the final version of your shot. The second is a three button press system that’s new to the series but familiar to other competing golf games. I chose to stick with the analog system more often than not, primarily because it resembles more of a real-life swing and leaves a good amount of room for error and correction.
"PGA Tour 2K23’s mechanics aren’t particularly different from previous HB Studios games, though there are some builds that refine the formula."
Both swing types lead to generally the same amount of difficulty and results, but they aren’t perfect in doing so. With the analog swing system, for example, the timing aspect of your swing feels less consistent than I’d hope. You’re hoping to have perfect timing, but if you’re in a margin of error on either the fast or slow side, you’ll still hit it relatively well with a slight hook or slice, respectively. I ran into some troubles, though, when I’d unexpectedly hit it too slowly, readjust, and then unknowingly swing too fast, resulting in shots that look less like a professional golfer’s and more like my own. Timing is slightly different for each unique player, too, so it’s a recurring problem when you try someone else out. I also had a repeated issue where the power meter would hitch on my backswing, resulting in low power and poor timing on my swings, and the inability to take a mulligan or rewind a shot means that the game’s glitch would cause me to eat a couple of penalty strokes.
When choosing your shot, I’m a big fan of the variety of shots you can elect between. On your approach shots, you can hit the ball normally, or you can hit a chip, pitch, or flop shot, among others. Your ability to change the ball’s spin to affect its arc or bounce means you have a lot of options to play with and nail down. With that said, there is still some tweaking needed to make it feel like a full simulation. Balls bounce and roll past their landing spot for what feels like far too long, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the degree of effectiveness of putting spin on the ball, especially when trying to approach the green with some backspin. Putting can be its own beast, but I feel the game does it well enough without changing the formula. It strikes a good balance between giving you the distance and necessary shot power without automatically giving you the correct line to sink a 40-footer. While it can be incredibly satisfying to make a long putt, I do find it to be too much of a crutch to have the putt line available for every putt. It’s too powerful not to use, as you effectively get to make each putt twice, but it can take far too long and feel overpowered for its own good.
While PGA Tour 2K23 has a solid game of golf within it, the surrounding pieces leave a lot to be desired. The announcers, for example, are painfully underdeveloped in their ability to react to your shots. It’s not infrequent for them to completely skip calling one of your shots or to talk about something fully irrelevant, and when comparing them to announcers in games like Madden or MLB The Show, it’s much less able to recreate the experience of watching the sport on TV. The fans on the sides of each hole are there almost out of necessity, too, but they don’t react if a ball is coming their way, nor are they at all felt in major moments, like at the end of a tournament.
"While PGA Tour 2K23 has a solid game of golf within it, the surrounding pieces leave a lot to be desired."
For a game about playing golf, PGA Tour 2K23 does most things right. Its mechanics are most of the way there, with only a few tweaks and increased consistency needed to make it feel exactly right. There’s so much variety in the types of shots you can make and the different lies you’ll have to hit from that it really does mirror a real-life golf round in a lot of ways. Around the edges, though, things start to fall apart, with the lackluster television aesthetic and generally small list of players and courses. For anyone looking to simply play golf, PGA Tour 2K23 will do the trick if you can overlook a few nitpicks in the gameplay, though it will need to be much more fleshed out in the future to be considered among the best sports games on the market.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Beautiful graphics; Great course landscape variety; Lots of shot options; Relatively good swing mechanics.
Inconsistencies with swinging; Bad television aesthetic; Lan game mode selection.