Like most new entries in existing sports game series, the changes in this edition of 2K's golf simulator are evolutionary refinements rather than revolutionary shakeups. PGA Tour 2K23 wants to please fans of golf, providing deep and authentic customizable controls that almost make it feel like you're out on the course. While true golf nuts will love that the swing mechanics account for everything from path to timing -- which can send scores soaring with one errant movement, just like real golf -- beginners can adjust settings to make it easy to go deep by hitting straight, controlled shots time after time. There's plenty of ways to play, from an RPG(role-playing game)-like career mode with meaningful (but not overpowering) character growth to fun and casual ways to play with friends, including a quick, casual multiplayer mode based on real-world Topgolf driving range games. The licensed courses, meanwhile, are absolutely stunning, with grainy greens, rippling water, and a real sense of verticality – though, strangely, the golfers are a little bland looking, with minimal facial customization options and uninspired apparel.
The main highlight for some diehard golf fans will be the course designer mode. You can create a brand new golf course in minutes with the course generation tool, then go in and tinker with placement of tees, bunkers, greens, buildings, bridges, and even wildlife. Or you can start from scratch, sculpting a big patch of wilderness to your liking before creating holes within it, thinking like a true golf course architect as you imagine natural fairways running through valleys and greens that jut into ponds on tiny pond peninsulas. The design tools are straightforward, precise, and work surprisingly well with a controller, allowing players to control swells in elevation down to the inch. PGA Tour 2K23 won't knock the socks off anyone who's played a golf game before, but it's a refined, robust edition for a genre that doesn't get as many games as other sports.