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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 dev eliminating Course Mastery system, offering paid DLC courses only

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 won't offer last year's poorly received Course Mastery system for earning free access to downloadable courses; instead, those courses will only be available for purchase in the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Store, reports IGN.

"We've taken that [Course Mastery] system out and are using a more traditional DLC approach," said lead designer Mike DeVault.

Prior to 2012's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, publisher Electronic Arts typically released Tiger Woods games with upwards of 16 courses on the disc and put up additional downloadable courses for sale. Last year, the company introduced a system called Course Mastery that made those add-on courses free-to-play in a sense: You would rack up Coins by playing PGA Tour 13, and could spend that in-game currency to "rent" free rounds on a DLC course.

The game offered the promise of eventually unlocking a downloadable course for unlimited use, and EA pitched the system as a user-friendly option. "With Coins you will be able to access content in the game that normally costs you money," said designer Justin Patel, when EA announced the feature last winter.

But reviewers slammed the Course Mastery setup for being an insidious system that forced players to grind for hours just to unlock a single course for free. (This reporter discussed it at length in his review last year.)

The staggering time investment in turn encouraged people to fork over the cash to purchase more Coins, which could be redeemed for extra rounds on a DLC course, or pay to own a course outright. In many cases, it was more cost-effective to buy a course than to attempt to unlock it.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 reviewers slammed the game's Course Mastery system

DeVault acknowledged the backlash from press, but told IGN that PGA Tour 13's hardcore players appreciated the opportunity to master a downloadable course over time and unlock it without paying a cent of real money. That contingent of the game's user base would likely have played online in Country Clubs, a feature that reduced the amount of time required to unlock a course by providing Coin multipliers to people who played together in clans.

Either way, PGA Tour 14 players will only be able to add courses to their collection by purchasing them on PSN or XBLM. EA is at least offering a few more courses than usual on the disc this year — 20, the most in series history.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is set for release March 26 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A special edition with six additional courses, The Masters Historic Edition, will also be available.