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What's Next For Golf Video Games, From Tiger's New Deal to EA Sports' Return

The rebirth of EA Sports' PGA Tour franchise and Tiger Woods' deal with 2K Sports are reasons for golf gamers to be excited about what's headed our way, writes Morning Read's Nick Menta.

The calendar has turned, 2022 is officially upon us, and the new year promises a new era in golf gaming.

The PGA Tour last year unveiled a brand-new licensing agreement with EA Sports, reviving the studio’s dormant golf franchise from a hiatus that dates back to 2015.

This new EA title will (eventually) enter a gaming marketplace that already includes a Tour-branded series from 2K Sports. That franchise made headlines of its own last year, entering into a partnership with a certain 15-time major winner and the former face of EA Sports’ PGA Tour: Tiger Woods.

With not one but two Tour-licensed titles poised to compete for gamers' time, attention and currency — virtual and otherwise — let’s take a look at what’s to come and when it might arrive.

EA Sports makes its comeback

EA Sports has been the dominant force in sports gaming for decades, annually producing popular titles like Madden, FIFA and NHL. But EA vacated the golf scene following the release of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour in 2015. McIlroy initially looked like a rebirth for the PGA Tour franchise following the exit of Woods’ as the game’s leading man, but the initial release felt unfinished, fell flat, and was never followed with a sequel.

Six years later, after ceding space in the golf world to longtime competitor 2K, EA Sports re-emerged in March of 2021, announcing its intent to revive the PGA Tour franchise.

"EA Sports and the PGA Tour have created some of the most memorable golf video game experiences together, and we couldn’t be more excited to expand our sports portfolio with a new golf title on next-gen hardware,” EA Sports EVP and GM Cam Weber said in a statement. "Our team of passionate golf fans is meticulously recreating the world’s top courses such as Pebble Beach, and we can’t wait to give fans the opportunity to compete on some of the most iconic PGA Tour courses and win the FedExCup."

EA has since announced agreements to feature all four men’s major championships and their 2022 venues —The Masters at Augusta National, The PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the U.S. Open at The Country Club (Brookline), The Open Championship at St. Andrews — the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the LPGA’s Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club, and all three FedExCup stops at TPC Southwind, Wilmington Country Club and East Lake.

A FAQ section on the game’s website also confirms three more major championship venues — Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, and Kiawah — a career mode, and “multiple amateur events,” including the U.S. Amateur. A September news release further promised the inclusion of PGA Tour and LPGA stars and the incorporation of ShotLink and TrackMan data.

That run of promising and specific details was followed by an ambiguous social media post in early November, stating that EA was “shifting the launch date.” The game’s release, originally slated for Spring 2022, has indeed been “pushed back,” according to GamesRadar, with the developer promising “more information on our launch plans in the coming months.”

When it does arrive, the game will be available on “next generation platforms.”

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ICYMI, Tiger Woods signed a deal with 2K

Tiger Woods is something of an expert at making comebacks of his own; it’s of little surprise that would likewise extend to golf simulations.

On March 13 of last year, 2K announced that it had entered into an “exclusive, long-term partnership” with Woods that includes the “rights for his name and likeness to appear exclusively in the PGA TOUR 2K franchise,” of which Woods is now an Executive Director and consultant.

“I am looking forward to making my return to the video game landscape, and with 2K and HB Studios, I’ve found the right partners to make it happen,” Woods said in a statement. “I’m honored to take part in this opportunity and look forward to sharing my expertise and insights as we build the future of golf video games together.”

This is big news for the legion of golf gamers who made the Tiger-branded EA series a success from 1999-2013, but the announcement understandably flew under the radar, coming less than a month after Woods’ horrific car accident in California. It was then overshadowed by far-less-serious circumstances just two weeks later, when EA announced the return of the series Woods once fronted.

When EA took a step back post-McIlroy, it was Canadian developer HB Studios that stepped forward. Released in 2015 and 2017, The Golf Club and The Golf Club 2 were niche course-design tools more than the full Tour-branded, golf simulation fans had previously come to expect from EA. That dynamic changed a year later with The Golf Club 2019 now “featuring PGA Tour” and now published by 2K Sports, previously known for its NBA and WWE offerings.

What followed in 2020 was PGA Tour 2K21, that long-awaited, full-fledged golf sim with Justin Thomas on its cover. Featuring 15 real-world Tour stops at launch, the likenesses of a handful of Tour pros, and the inclusion of equipment and apparel manufacturers, 2K finally returned to golf gamers what they had previously received from EA Sports years prior.

What separated 2K’s offering from the old EA title — and what figures to do so in the future — is its course design tool, the basis for the entire series dating back to The Golf Club. 2K users have the ability to create, share and play custom designs on the game’s online servers — or to recreate the game’s most iconic tracks. While EA has once again officially licensed Augusta National, as it did for the first time in Tiger Woods ’12, 2K users have been (unofficially) rounding Amen Corner for years. Bucket-list venues like Augusta, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Merion, Oakmont and more are easily accessible in 2K thanks to dedicated users who have painstakingly reproduced these courses down to the individual blades of grass.

What 2K’s series will look like in the future with Woods’ involvement for now remains a mystery. 2K21’s lead producer Shaun West told me back in 2020 that the studio sees the benefits in a two-year production cycle, which would potentially point to a 2022 release. A 2K spokesperson told Gamespot in July of last year: “The next release of the PGA Tour 2K franchise is going to be bigger and better in every way. We're super excited to tell you more, but until then we're continuing to add new multiplayer content in PGA Tour 2K21 so our fans can get in and play together today.”

Could we be in store for a Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour 2K23?

Whatever the new 2K title is called and whenever these games are released, golf fans will have not one but two offerings to track in the months to come.