PGA Tour 2K23 Review

PGA Tour 2K23 by developer HB Studios Multimedia and publisher 2K GamesMicrosoft Xbox Series X|S review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Without a doubt, PGA Tour 2K23 is the best golfing simulation on the market. A few tweaks to the controls, a little extra star power all sprinkled into a fairly deep career mode come together to make for an enjoyable golf game that has quite a bit of staying power.

Most people are familiar with “2K” branding, but The Golf Club is probably not as familiar to the casual gamer. This series of realistic golfing games by HB Studios Multimedia has benefited from the 2K Games partnership that brings some flash to the core experience. This is a series that has leaned into realism over arcade gameplay. However, over the last few years, they have gained some licensed courses and golfers that add some authenticity to the proceedings.

After having taken last year off, PGA Tour 2K23 returns with some new courses and a few new bells and whistles as well. First and foremost, you have different ways you can swing the club. That might not sound like much, but given that is how you will be spending most of your time? The flexibility here is welcome. You can still use the analog stick to power up and follow-through on your swing, and it certainly has a natural, authentic feel that compliments the gameplay. That being said, I’ve been playing golf games for a long time, and the new 3-Click Swing they introduced feels more accessible to me.

The idea behind this is that your first press is your power, and the next two impact your accuracy. It’s certainly still more challenging than many of the ‘click-swing’ methods found in more arcade-like golf games. Of course, it’s never as simple as gripping it and ripping it as there are plenty of other things to consider such as wind (both power and direction), and of course the landscape itself. Putting in particular really makes you take a good, hard look at the greens to try and figure out your best approach.

Whether navigating the fairways or the greens, there is enough strategic depth here to force some tough decision-making. Fortune my favor the bold as you try to get to the green in as few strokes as possible, or whack that putt hard enough to put it in the cup no matter how far back you are but… fortune also has a way of penalizing the bold. Oftentimes the smart play is to lay the put or drive up short to avoid some of the hazards or blowing past the cup and winding up with a much more challenging follow-up shot.

Once you learn the timing behind your swings however, and learn how to read the course, it’s amazing how much better my golf game became. There were some growing pains in there (at least when I graduated off of the easier levels of difficulty). It helps that there are also progression rewards as you play. Your golfer earns experience that you can then use to level up their abilities. You can unlock new balls or items for your clubs that can improve your power or backspin to suit your style of play. There are plenty of cosmetics you can dress your player up in as well, but admittedly most of my earnings when into performance enhancement.

The sound design is minimalistic, but that goes hand-in-hand with the sport itself. The announcers do a good job, even if they do have a tendency to get repetitive over eighteen holes and the many times you run the various courses. The visual side of the presentation is mostly good, but still a bit of a mixed bag as well. The courses themselves often look lovely, with a variety of green shades, shimmering waters and beautiful skies as the backdrop. The character models however, lack the excellence found in the 2K NBA titles. Character models are stiffer, body and facial animations are more limited and in the end they look better standing still than they do when they are animated outside of the swings – which admittedly look nice and smooth.

The career mode was where I predictably spent the majority of my time. Like with NBA 2K, PGA Tour 2K23 is more fun when I’m building on my character’s foundation and improving my performance not just through practiced ability, but improved skills and equipment. You can build into different archetypes that might focus on putting, or recovering from hazards, things like that which put emphasis on certain skills over others. This combined with club fittings and golf balls that add little stat boosts in differing areas, I really felt like I had a golfer that played into my strengths and minimized by weaknesses. The one thing I will say I was a bit iffy on were the golf balls, which seemed to offer incredible stats with increased rarity – but they get ‘used up’ and feel like a way to get you to spend virtual currency.

PGA Tour 2K23 benefits from increased star power as well, as there are more big-name golfers from both the male and female ranks, but you can play as them as well as compete against them and form rivalries against them. It’s been a couple of years since the last iteration in the series, but the increased number of courses (even if it is a modest increase) was welcome. This still puts a lot of the focus on user-created courses, which is still a ton of fun. I’ve always enjoyed making courses, but I also get a lot of mileage out of playing some of the more popular ones as well. The creation tools are incredibly robust.

PGA Tour 2K23 is an excellent golfing simulation. The environmental visuals are pretty, even if the character models feel a bit on the stiff side. The career mode was a lot of fun, with entertaining progression that helps you to feel as though your golfer is genuinely improving.

The rivalries are a cool idea, but I’d like to see a bit more narrative baked in here like we’ve seen in the NBA 2K series. I’m a big fan of the new 3-Click Swing, even if I think the prior analog method feels more organic – but no one should be upset over having more options and accessibility.

PGA Tour 2K23 is the best golf game on the market, though there is room for continued growth.

Score: 7.75 / 10



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