EA Sports PGA Tour: Road to the Masters is a golf game unlike any other

The cover and screenshots from EA Sports PGA Tour.

EA Sports PGA Tour: Road to the Masters is out now.

EA Sports

Didn’t score Masters tickets this year? Still trying to cope with the fact you might never peg it at Augusta National? Those things might not change, but you can still visit Augusta … virtually.

For the first time since 2013, Augusta National is back in video game form with the latest release of EA Sports PGA Tour.

EA Sports, known for its popular Madden NFL and FIFA titles, is relaunching its popular golf series in 2023 for the first time since 2015 — and it’s bringing back the home of the Masters as part of it all.

Augusta National hasn’t been in the game since 2014, the last time the series was released under the “Tiger Woods” name. Augusta is one of 30 different courses now available on the new game, with more courses — like major hosts Oak Hill and Los Angeles Country Club — coming online as those majors get underway.

EA’s return to the golf world means that golf gamers have the option between two PGA Tour-licensed golf games for the first time. 2K Sports released its third PGA Tour-licensed game, PGA Tour 2K23 with Tiger Woods, last fall.

The EA game was officially launched on Masters Friday, and we at GOLF have been putting it through the wringer to see if it’s a worthy golf simulation game. Here’s what we learned.

What we liked

Slide 1
EA Sports
Slide 2
EA Sports

Graphics and Aesthetics: In the run-up to the release of the game, the EA Development Team credited significant advancements in video game visual technology with bringing the series back from its nearly decade-long hiatus.

They weren’t kidding. Not only do the courses look stunning — EA producer Ben Ramsour told GOLF a screenshot of Augusta’s 13th green was mistaken for a photograph — but also the swing animations have finally started to appear lifelike.

You can really see EA’s attention to detail with the equipment highlighted in the game. From Callaway and TaylorMade drivers to Scotty Cameron putters, most of the game’s most modern offerings are available to users. And it all looks like the real thing. EA even brought insane detail into recreations of the trophies from golf’s majors, which brings us to the next item…

The four majors: Unlike the 2K games, EA Sports PGA Tour features exclusive rights to all four of the men’s major championships, meaning that the majors are now playable in career mode. That also goes for the U.S. Amateur, as well as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. You can also play in the LPGA’s Evian Championship.

Each major has a unique broadcast package, with specific lines of dialogue from the broadcast team — a solid grouping that reunites Rich Lerner with Frank Nobilo, Notah Begay III and Iona Stephen. Nick Faldo even handles a spine-tingling intro for the Masters.

Slide 1
EA Sports
Slide 2
EA Sports
Slide 3
EA Sports

Career mode: You have three options of where to start your career: as an amateur in either the U.S. Am or the ANWA, a pro playing on the Korn Ferry Tour or by skipping those steps and heading straight to the PGA Tour.

I chose to start as an amateur, winning the U.S. Amateur to qualify for both the Masters and U.S. Open. My player made the cut on the number at Augusta (I have yet to break 71 there, more on that in a bit) and then earned a solid top 10 at the U.S. Open. Eventually, I’ll have to tackle Korn Ferry Tour Q-School before advancing up the ranks into the world of the PGA Tour.

As you play rounds or challenges, which can range from easy to very difficult, you earn XP to level up your golfer and earn skill points to improve your ratings and add shot selections to your repertoire.

Gameplay and shot types: Finally, a golf game has done justice to the stinger and the knockdown, two of my favorite shots. You have to level up your golfer enough to unlock these speciality shots — at which point you need to learn how to use them — but it’s fun to see a game actually delve into shot-making.

I’ve been playing on a custom difficulty in between the two most-difficult settings, “Tour” and “Simulation.” This means my shots are penalized or rewarded for timing, my clubs are recommended to me by carry distance, not total yardage, and I don’t get putt previews or shot trails. In the past, I’ve found golf video games were too easy in the mid-difficulty levels and far too difficult at the harder settings. With the latest EA offering, I’ve found a balance that allows me to shoot some “normal” scores that a pro would shoot on a real course.

The actual swing mechanic works nicely into the user interface. Some people have noticed some lagging in the timing, but it rarely impacts me significantly.

That said, Augusta National is hard. I mean, seriously hard, especially around the greens. I have yet to break 71 there and it’s mostly due to the crazy slope in the greens. That makes not only putting difficult but also chipping and approach shots.

Thanks to new ball flight and ball behavior settings, shots seem to react like they would at ANGC. Miss the tiny plateau in the upper right corner of 6 green? You’re going all the way back to the front left corner. Come up short on 9? You’ll be rewarded with a fun 50-yard pitch. Go long of the Sunday pin on 18? Good luck with that putt.

As expected, you also won’t get the same kind of spin at say, Bandon Dunes or St. Andrews, where the ball bounces and bounds like a true links course. These tendencies are independent of what the course setting is too. “Tournament” conditions at St. Andrews will naturally be firmer than at Augusta, but green speeds in Georgia will be quicker.

What could be better

I’m no video game expert (I only ever buy golf and basketball games at this point) but here’s what I, as a golfer, would like to see.

Short game: Short shots have always been the toughest to replicate in video games for some reason. Thanks to the new ball behavior, putting from off the green is finally reasonably accurate. The game also added a spinner shot, basically a lower pitch that checks, which I found myself using most of the time once I unlocked it. However, I still find myself using the flop shot at times I wouldn’t in relief simply because it spins way more than it should, even out of the rough. Also, where the spinner checks a little, the regular pitch and chip shots don’t. It would be very hard to recreate Tiger’s chip-in from the 2005 Masters.

Real-world weather: I believe the previous EA games had access to real-world weather that would allow you to play courses in real-time conditions. I would love to see that again as the tournaments I’ve played had random wind directions and speeds each day. Plus, the PGA is in May now — no way there’s perfect weather all the time!

Parting thoughts

The graphics and actual shot types make this game a must-have for any golf-loving video gamer or a video game-loving golfer. But then again, a golf game with Augusta National might be enough to earn “must-have” status alone.

After Tiger Woods’ 2K23 game came out around the same time this one was teased, I thought more people would gravitate toward 2K thanks to Tiger’s name (which was part of the success of EA’s previous games).

But EA deserves a big chunk of the market share with this game. They knocked it out of the park with a vastly superior experience both from a visuals and gameplay standpoint. Would I love to play with Tiger in this game? Yes — but I’d argue having access to some of the best venues in golf is more important. I’d also love to figure out how to use EA’s graphics on a golf simulator, because the game has some of the best golf visuals I’ve ever seen.

EA Sports PGA Tour is out now for PlayStation 5, Xbox S|X and PC; the standard edition costs $69.99 and the deluxe edition costs $84.99.

EA Sports PGA Tour

The tee is yours at 30 courses at launch, including some of the world’s most exclusive, designed in stunning quality with Frostbite™.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.