Augusta National returns to video games in new EA Sports PGA Tour series
One of the game’s most fabled courses is back in the virtual world for the first time in a decade.
And it looks better than ever.
EA Sports, the makers of the popular Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy video game series which was last released in 2015, announced Thursday it is relaunching the iconic video game as EA Sports PGA Tour — and with it comes the return of Augusta National to video games as part of EA Sports PGA Tour’s roster of 30 courses.
The game also includes a “Road to the Masters” career mode. EA Sports PGA Tour will be the only golf video game to feature the four men’s major championships, as well as the LPGA’s Amundi Evian Championship. Augusta National and EA Sports announced the renewed partnership before the 2021 Masters.
GOLF.com attended a media preview of the game last week, where developers said the time was right for the company to bring back the series because of the large boom of interest in golf thanks to the pandemic. Advancements to the game’s Frostbite graphics engine also allowed creators to, in their words, make “the most spectacular-looking golf game ever.” (EA Sports also has plans to revive its extremely popular college football game in the summer of 2024.)
The team focused on four pillars when creating the game:
1. The exclusive home of the majors
EA developers said this was by far the most requested feature for a golf video game. Augusta National debuted in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 (2011) and was a staple for the remaining two editions of the game. It was not featured in the 2015 reboot, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour.
There will be unique presentation packages for each major, including an intro for the Open Championship narrated by Nick Faldo.
EA Sports’ agreements with golf’s governing bodies go further than just the majors. For the first time, the U.S. Amateur, Augusta National Women’s Amateur and other top amateur events will be featured in the game.
2. Deep and varied course roster
The game will launch with 30 courses worldwide, ranging from classic video game favorites like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to more exotic spots like Oregon’s Bandon Dunes or New Zealand’s Tara Iti.
Producer Ban Ramsour said the team went as far as to work with former geologists to map each course using LiDAR, photogrammetry (the science of extracting 3D information from photos) and GPS mapping technology. On ground mapping and photography were conducted at every course, including the use of helicopters, airplanes and drones.
Augusta National even gave EA access to its “tree health software” so developers could accurately place every tree and flower on the course.
Ramsour said the data used for the courses was 30 times more dense than anything publically available for other games and simulators.
During the preview, the developers played a live demo of the game on Augusta National’s 13th hole to showcase the new gameplay mechanics (more on that below) and course details.
Notably, the pair teed off from last year’s back tee. Recent aerial photographs of Augusta National have shown a new tee on the famous par-5. While Augusta National likely won’t make any announcement about the tee until closer to the tournament, when asked about the new tee EA Sports lead producer David Baker said that there could be updates down the line.
“The game team is working with Augusta National and is continually looking to get the most up-to-date course playable in-game for the most authentic experience possible,” Baker told GOLF.com in an email. “That includes bunkers, fairways and tee boxes from all courses in the game, for example. The strong partnerships we have forged with each course has allowed us to replicate each course as accurately as possible.”
Here’s the full roster of courses included for the game’s launch:
-St. Andrews (Old Course)
-The Country Club
-Wilmington Country Club
-Teeth of the Dog
-The Ocean Course at Kiawah
-Riviera Country Club
-Top of the Rock
3. Pure Strike gameplay powered by ShotLink
For the first time in a video game, ShotLink and Trackman data is being used to accurately recreate ball behavior across a wide variety of different courses. Instead of choosing between simple full shots, punches, chips, etc., the game introduces 20 different shot types.
“What this means for you is that when you grab the controller and step behind the ball, your options are virtually unlimited,” said Gameplay designer Craig Penner. “Allowing you to attack each course and each hole just like the pros you see on TV.”
To better replicate ball bounces and roll, the EA team actually reviewed video of PGA Tour events. They then took the ShotLink data to create accurate launch conditions, carry distances and spin rates.
4. Career mode
The Create a Player mode is back, but now you’ll have three options for where to start your career: Playing in amateur events, the Korn Ferry Tour or on the PGA Tour.
In addition to the majors, the game has licensed several PGA Tour events and the three FedEx Cup Playoff events.
To tell the story of your career, the game features hundreds of hours of commentary from Rich Lerner, Frank Nobilo, Notah Begay III, Iona Stephen and Nick Faldo.
There will also be challenges in between tournaments based on real-world events.
In addition to playing as your created player, numerous top pros are included in the game. Some of the announced players are Scottie Scheffler, Nelly Korda, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Danielle Kang, Patrick Cantlay and Lexi Thompson. EA said more will be announced later, and some will be released post-launch.
Pre-orders for the game, which is available only on Playstation 5, Xbox Series X | S and PC, start Thursday while the launch date is set for March 24. The standard edition will go for $69.99, while the Digital Deluxe Edition is $84.99.