If you've played the likes of Royal Troon and Birkdale on hit game PGA Tour 2K21, you'll know Yeltzman's work. Steve Carroll met Dave Woods, the virtual architect behind the alter ego
He blends pixels like a painter – sweeping over terrains, adding bunkers, and smoothing contours. “You’re never going to get it perfect,” says Yeltzman, the online alter ego of West Midlands-based Dave Woods. But that doesn’t stop him trying.
For the diehards who can’t get enough of PGA Tour 2K21, Woods is something of a hero. He is what’s known as a golf course reconstructionist, spending hours and weeks painstakingly recreating the premier links of Great Britain for people to play in the hit golf game franchise.
Woods dipped into cyber golf after damaged discs in his lower back forced him to put the clubs away. Now, thanks to the detailed course design platform in PGA Tour 2K21 and its earlier iterations The Golf Club and The Golf Club 19, he’s redirected his passions into duplicating Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale and Royal Portrush – to name just three of his successful ‘designs’.
“I like the old fashioned classic British links golf,” he explains. “It’s just for myself, to be honest, but other people seem to enjoy them a lot.”
It starts with a map or, more precisely, terrain. Woods’ downloads the sketch and then starts adding – tees, greens, trees, bunkers. Each goes in one at a time.
He vacuums up course guides and scours the web, hunting down vlogs that can give him another look, a different view, to add in missing features.
“I saw one of your videos on Southport & Ainsdale,” he tells me. “You watch a bit of video and you watch more course vlogs and you slowly, slowly, slowly add all the stuff from the designer onto the course.
“I’ve got all the Open course guides, but for the local courses you just use Google Earth and a measuring tool. You just measure, measure, measure.
“It’s a boring process, and a long process, but in the end it’s rewarding.”
The result is remarkable. I play a course I’ve seen in the flesh, Royal Troon, and move to the most famous hole: the short Postage Stamp 8th.
From the shape of the green, to the position of the bunkers, to the sharp drop off at the back – a position I found myself in for real – the attention to detail is impressive. Even down to the unusual shaped hump that protects the left side of the green.
I didn’t par it this time, either. And I can’t see the faults, the tiny imperfections that Woods knows are there.
“You can never get it 100% accurate – how the bunkers are, and the blending. Have you ever played the game? I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed but the blending of the bunkers is not quite 100%. There are no pot bunkers, for example. It’s just roughly how it is.”
Woods reckons each course takes between 150 and 200 hours – “I always say if you’re going to do a course you might as well do it right, or as close as right” – and he takes great pride when he sees gamers taking on his creations. Royal North Devon is among those on his to-do list.
“I was looking on Christmas Day and there were about 25 people playing Royal Troon. Christmas Day. It was just a lovely thought that people were playing my course on Christmas Day and I only really design them for myself.
“It’s just nice that other people really enjoy them.”