It’s the final hole and I’m tied at six under par for the tournament. Big Boy Billy shot his last hole and now it’s up to me to finish. The pressure is on. If I can just make this 18 foot putt…
HB Studios and 2K are back after a two year break, transforming The Golf Club into the fully fledged and licensed PGA Tour game with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. Straight away, you are thrown into the character creator to craft your legend with quite a few options on hand – hundreds, in fact. Naturally, I made a version of myself, complete with man bun, before diving into the wide range of licensed clothing. I ended up opting for a shirt/tie/waistcoat combo with a porkpie hat, which made me look absolutely spiffing. If you fancy your Addidas or Polo Ralph Lauren branded apparel, they are of course there with some options being locked until you unlock them through gameplay.
Then, it’s onto look at your Golf Bag and the 14 clubs you take with you during your games. You can unlock and buy new clubs with varying stats for different situations, although I’m yet to find a reason to change out my max power driver which I started with. Also, your clubs can be customised with different shafts and handles if you really want to stand out.
All this character creation was immediately followed by a short and fairly robust training session to teach you the basics of swinging that stick to get the maximum distance on your shots.
Pulling back on the right stick brings your club back and then pushing forward once it’s reached the power you want in the gauge will see your golfer smack the ball. I thought this would be easy, but there is an art to it. You need to be accurate. An image of the ball with a white line down the middle shows you how precise your stroke is using a blue line, and mine was all over the place. I didn’t realise how inaccurate I was!
The problem I had was every time I pushed the stick forward, I always went up and to the right, so naturally, my balls were flying off to the right. It took some real time and patience before I started to nail down the basics. But this a sports sim and that level of learning should be expected.
I jumped straight to a career after that and that’s where the salt began. I thought after one training session I was ready to go. I picked the easiest option which was Q-School and spent my first 18 holes embarrassing myself in front of the other up and comers. I ended up 11 over par and failed my first season. I then failed my second.
Back to training.
Another round of truly reading the mechanics and practicing hard saw me finish in the top 50 during my third run, letting me qualify to play amongst the big wigs. I was actually improving. That’s one of the main selling points of 2K21 for me, actual trackable self improvement. All of a sudden, I was hitting birdies, reading the wind correctly, judging the lay lines on my putting. It’s all mechanically there and it’s all very well desgined.
The true shot mechanic is fantastic. The game does a very good job of catering toward beginners by making sure you are recommended a club and shot style to use for every shot (which can be turned off), but if you want to take a risk and push that ball a little further, then the true shot will help you experiment a little. It’s as simple as striking the ball in a certain spot to either increase or decrease the loft, enabling you to slice through harsh winds, or adjusting that attack angle to gain a few extra yards.
Before long, you’ll be promoted to the PGA tour proper, and that’s when the career mode begins to open up. You unlock sponsor goals, which level up your relationship with them, unlocking rewards like new clubs and apparel. The goals are also quite simple, like hit six birdies on your next tournament or hit so many greens in regulation. You can only have one sponsor active at a time, but there are plenty of goals to complete.
The point of all of this is to aim for the FedExCup. Completing events during the tour awards you FedExCup points based on how well you do. Along the way, you can actually strike up rivalries with some of the biggest names in golf like Bryson DeChambeau and Jim Furyk.
When you unlock the first rival, Cameron Champ, the next time you meet him in a tournament, you’ll need to score five rival points to complete the rivalry and unlock the set reward. I did this through one tournament on my first go, scoring points for beating him in areas like the total score on the front nine holes, how many Birdies I shot and whether or not I went a full round without any Bogies. It’s a fine feature, but I really wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary but play my best game. Once that’s done, you just unlock the next rivalry in the queue. This feature overall feels a bit undercooked. I would have preferred to have a proper rivalry with another golfer throughout the course of a year, telling a story of how we went toe to toe all year. Instead it’s like you have one good game and suddenly you’re declared the winner. I doubt Cameron’s that fussed, to be honest.
The main problem is that the career just feels a little empty and lacking a little soul. There’s no player progression outside your own improving skill, the rivalries feel empty, and so you never feel like you’re building anything. You’re just playing events to get a trophy in the cabinet. Even the commentary doesn’t help, and while Luke Elvy and Rich Beem will sound utterly authentic for US golf fans, the gents consistently made out of place comments, praising me for bad shots and sighing when I scored a Birdie.
Perhaps you can inject some more life by playing with other people. There’s a bunch of different game types and online multiplayer, While we were unable to test this before launch, the game also features Societies, where you can set up a golf club with your friends and get together to compete in a relaxed environment. You can make people admins and have them set weekly events if you like.
What we did get to play with was the detailed course designer, which is easily one of the better features in PGA Tour 2K21 and builds off the ones found in previous The Golf Club games. You start off by picking the number of holes and how many par 3’s or 5’ you want to include before choosing an environment to set it in. I went for the desert because, why not? The freedom you have in this mode is pretty wild. From simple things like weather and time of day, to plonking giant townhouses and crocodiles on the course. With enough time, you could set up some really fun and pretty courses. Then you have the added bonus of being able to upload and share them with the community, which is always great to see.