Golf is a hard sport. Since returning to it during lockdown in 2020, I’ve found myself saying “golf’s a shit sport” more than once as I somehow slice a drive into the only bunker on the first hole at my local course, but also celebrating as a second shot lands perfectly on the dancefloor.
Few golf games embrace that side of the sport as a real sim. Everybody’s golf, while great, was more about aesthetics, and 2K’s PGA Tour games are pretty accessible.
EA’s PGA Tour, which is the publisher’s return to golf after eight years away, is a golf game that stays true to the sport, and it gets most things right.
Tee to green
The swing mechanics are pretty spot on, hitting that sweet spot between tough to perfect and simple enough to gradually improve.
Rather than the three-hit points system you’ll see in the likes of Everybody’s Golf, EA’s PGA Tour asks you to swing back with the right stick to the right point and then swing back down as straight as you can manage.
Get the apex of your backswing perfect and nail the narrow window to be straight on the downswing and your shot will go close to where you aimed. It’s a satisfying, challenging, and easy-to-understand core mechanic. The downswing direction sure does take some time to get to grips with, though.
However, that’s not all you have to worry about. You need to consider the impact of your ball’s lie on your shot, how strong and in what direction the wind is blowing, how far the hole is above or below you, and whether the ball is above or below your feet.
All of those things, on top of the quality of your swing, determine the club you should use and where your shot will end up.
Of course, you’re not left completely to your own devices. You don’t have to be a weatherman or be able to determine distance to the nearest foot over 500 yards, with the game giving you all the information you need. You just need to consider how all those aspects will affect where the ball will go after you hit it.
Getting it right and nailing the green on a second shot on a par 5 or trickling in a chip from the fringe of the green is so, so satisfying.
Then, as you play more and more, visiting different courses from around the world, you become more consistent and more comfortable with taking risks when aiming for a great score.
The occasional issue with ball placement after hitting hazards and some putting line suggestions being a bit off aren’t enough to really frustrate. Golf is a frustrating sport at the best of times, but EA has done a good job of limiting it.
PGA Tour has a really fun learning curve as you make your way through the amateur ranks and up to the Masters. The balance in the difficulty is perfect.
There’s also an upgrade system that affects your ball striking in all situations. As you level up and spend skill points, you can improve your driving distance, approach control, putting accuracy, and many other things, all while unlocking new types of shot for your character.
The actual character creation tool is limited, which is disappointing, but the upgrade system once you start the career is another feature that keeps the actual golf feeling fresh.
There are also challenges to test your skills on while trying to earn rewards. They’re well-designed and varied, but they could use some kind of feedback loop to help you understand how to improve on them.
Content and Courses
PGA Tour is also the most visually impressive and content-rich golf game ever. The Frostbite engine makes every course look stunning. The lighting, which changes as you tee off at different times of the day, makes every fairway and green look photo realistic.
Playing the iconic Augusta National course while watching Jon Rahm win the Masters there last weekend, I couldn’t believe how perfectly the place had been recreated.
Having the ability to play some of the best holes in golf is brilliant, but I didn’t expect it to look so good.
The addition of crowds to the game’s 30 courses also drastically improves the experience, making each round feel like a televised tournament rather than a simple solo round. It’s something that’s been sorely missed from the golf game competition, so I’m glad it’s included here.
Whether it be alone as you work through the career mode, having so many courses to play, many of which are iconic ones from the real tour, is brilliant. Some are a lot more challenging than others, so your skills continue to be tested in different ways.
All in all though, PGA Tour is the best golf game to be released in a long time. I just hope I can continue to get better at it.
EA Sports PGA Tour was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with code provided by the publisher.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Reviews and PGA Tour Golf page.