Archives for the ‘Features’ Category

Drivable Par 5s in Golden Tee LIVE

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It’s one of the ultimate features of excitement in the game — the opportunity to drive the green on a par 5 and put up a -3 on a single hole.  Better yet, some of us have had the pleasure of checking a Super Albatross off our list…the ultimate YouTube moment!  The designers at Golden Tee know that players love the opportunity, so we’ve seen the number of drivable par 5s increase in recent years, allowing players to shoot new personal bests and build their love for the game.

Later this year, Golden Tee is planning to have a Freaky Friday daily contest that features all the drivable Par 5s…it’ll be called something like “Break the Scorecard”.  In anticipation of that event, here’s a list of all the potential holes that could be featured on that special course offering!



All Things Golden Tee 2017

By • Category: 2016 -- Golden Tee LIVE 2017, Features • • Leave a Comment (0)

marquee_2017

That exciting time is here when we start hearing about all the new courses and features with the next year’s update!  Check back here often as your source for all the latest that Golden Tee 2017 has to offer.

Here’s the attract mode video featuring the new logo for 2017.  And if you want a quick summary, check out this 2-minute video introducing most of the new features!

Now, the courses!  We’ve got 5 new ones as usual…click the links below to see a course overview and pictures:
Juniper Falls
Pine Coast
Ruby Rock
Sandy Reef
Teal Gardens

In addition to the 5 new courses, Golden Tee is introducing Freaky Fridays, a new segment of the Daily Contest where the holes will be assembled from among all holes in the LIVE era to match a theme.  Expected examples include an all-par-3, all-par-5, all drivable par-4, best of a certain year, Jim Zielinski’s favorites, the hardest holes, and a course you eventually vote on!

The new clothing is always anticipated each year, and 2017 is looking to deliver.  Check out this collection of America gear followed by the vape pen.  Donald and Hillary even have their faces in the game!  Next, check out all the new footwear available!  Perhaps you’d like a terrifying clown head?  There’s also an abundance of jerseys this year.  And you can now wear emojis on your head!  Fashion Fridays will give us new looks each week!  Here’s more to introduce the additions to your virtual wardrobe, and check out this video demo that Golden Tee put together to showcase the 2017 collection.

If you think the clothing and footwear is outrageous, then check out these new custom putters for 2017!  Buy any one of seven crazy putters for $1 and attach to a course like you would with your Build-A-Bag via the GT Caddy app.  Here’s more to get you acquainted.

For the first time in 10 years, your virtual golfer’s body gets an upgrade as well!  You’ll notice more tone and features and better form-fitting clothing to go with it.  All this comes with a teaser for future improvements beyond 2017.

In other big news, Golden Tees will now be available on the older courses!  Up through 2016, you could not use Golden Tees prior to the year they were introduced…but now you can!  Get ready to have a whole new experience on the classics.

Another new feature allows you accessorize your ball with colors and effects off the tee.  You can’t customize the distance and spin features into new options — you’ll still have to base the visuals around an existing ball option, but the Build a Ball feature certainly adds a new level of flare to the game!  A couple other nice features are the ability to associate balls to particular courses by default, like you can do with your club sets today, and an auto-refill option so that you won’t run out of balls as long as there are funds in your app’s player wallet!

For the first time, the CTTP Online feature will allow you to compete against others in a contest but not for prizes…this is a fun way to get others playing this exciting game mode without fear of wasting their money in a cash contest.

In one of the most exciting advancements in the history of the game, the Golden Tee social network is exploding this year with the concept of Invitationals.  Here is an introduction to Player Invitationals followed by an article prepping us more about the GT friends network.  With this feature, you can create your own private contests and events, sending invitations to your friends to join you on a course with the same conditions, even playing for money using your player wallet from the GT Caddy app!  Apply handicaps for differing skill levels, track your stats, and enjoy this new era of connectivity!  Here’s an instructional demo that Golden Tee put together showing you how to set up an Invitational.  Finally, to pull everything together, here’s an instructional guide from how to start to how to play with this feature!



Pumping Up for Golden Tee 2016

By • Category: 2015 -- Golden Tee LIVE 2016, Features • • Leave a Comment (0)

2016 gt live logo

We’re into September, and that means Golden Tee 2016 is less than a month away!  Click here to watch the preview trailer for the new release.  Here’s everything you need to know about it, starting with the courses (possibly more scorable than 2015)!  Click each link below to read an overview of each course and find links to video demos of each hole taken from the beta version in August!

Volcano Palms in Hawaii
Antelope Pass in South Dakota
Elkhorn Ridge in Canada
Hawthorne Manor in England
Winding Pines in South Carolina

One of the first things you’ll notice with the new 2016 cabinets is an updated control panel — see below and click here to read more about its design.  This correlates with a new menu system, including a Back button and a Random button for course selection, making it easier to navigate around and begin any game mode.  Also notice how the course length is shown at the bottom, another cool new feature!
GTL_control_panel_showpiece_2016_3000pix

In addition, Golden Tee is installing a keypad for cardless entry on the back of the panel.  Here’s how to get registered for the change prior to the release.

Next, there are two sets of new balls  Click here to read about the interesting new Barrage and Stout ball sets.  We’ll check back after a few weeks into the new release to see how well this new equipment fits into the 2016 version as compared to what you may already own.  New clubs sets may be released at a later point, but you can find new clubs in the Build-A-Bag feature (see below).

Perhaps the biggest enhancement this year is the installment of Build-A-Bag, which gives players the chance to purchase and assemble a bag including any clubs (and spin options) they wish!  The feature will initially be available only on the GT Caddy app when GT 2016 launches.  Six new clubs are offered this year to include in your custom set!  Bags will cost $5 each, and standard or custom bags can now be defaulted to a particular course…no more forgetting to change clubs on different courses!  Here’s how the creation experience will look.  Even better, here’s a video tutorial of how you can create your own bag!

In addition, there is a big new game feature with this release called Money Shot.  It’s like Closest-to-the-Pin, but there is no cup…only a flag.  Your goal is to finesse your shot as close as possible to the base of the flag.  You get 3 shots with the same tee box and pin placement, but the wind changes each shot to mix things up.  You can play multiple times, but your next game will have a different tee box and pin placement for the same hole.  Click here to read more about it!  Here’s another follow-up article detailing the payout structure.

Another popular request was to add Golden Tees to Closest-to-the-Pin, and now we have it!  CTTP will also be available in Casual or Offline mode so you can play with your buddies without having to play for prize money.

As always, you’ll have the chance to win new headwear, shirts, pants, and FOOTWEAR to add to your virtual wardrobe…this year’s additions really look great!  Here’s more info and pictures of what’s available from the GT Caddy app.

That’s it — we’re always ready for new courses and new features, so the rest of the year should be a great time to be a Golden Tee Fan!  Check back for the course write-ups on each hole to continue to learn how to navigate your way to lower scores!



Trip Around the Golden Tee World

By • Category: Features, Trip Around the GT World • • Leave a Comment (0)

Ah, Memorial Day.  Some call this weekend the unofficial start of summer, while many travel to be with friends and family and remember those who died in military service.  It’s also a popular time to hit the links by day and hit the trackball by night.  As we round the corner to the second half of the Golden Tee 2015 season, I like to reflect on the history of the Golden Tee LIVE era and admire the fact that we’ve been given 50 grand courses to curse and celebrate at the same time.  In the spirit of travel, what if we could visit all 50 courses and take a spin on each?  How would that look?  I’m glad you asked – let’s take a journey around the Golden Tee world via seven exciting Golden Tee Fan regional tours!  And while you are out, see if you can spot all your favorite Golden Tee clubs, balls, and golf terms while celebrating the diversity of each masterpiece and learning a few fun facts — which is your favorite?

THE WORLD
the world

Pacific Coast Tour
pacificcoast

Mountain West Tour
mountainwest

Heart of America Tour
heartofamerica

Latin America Tour
latinamerica

Eastern Coast Tour
easterncoast

Europe and Africa Tour
europeandafrica

Asia Pacific Tour
asiapacific



The 18th Hole in LIVE — Ranking the Difficulty of all 45 Holes

By • Category: Features, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (0)

Course designer Jim Zielinski proves year in and year out that he knows how to close out a round.  When you step up to the 18th tee, you know that almost always an eagle is there for the taking, but almost always it’s really tough to get.  And if the risk/reward doesn’t pay off, a good round can easily be erased.

Golden Tee 2015 will give us 5 more challenging finishing holes to bring the total to 50, but it’s never a bad time to take a look back and evaluate the designs over the last 9 years.  But how do we properly evaluate these holes both individually and against each other?  To me, there are 3 main categories in play that determine a hole’s difficulty.  Let’s look at them in some detail.

1) The Obstructions:
What is blocking your path to the hole?  Sometimes, it’s nothing.  But many more times, your skill will be tested by landscape features obstructing an easy path to the hole.  Obstructions force you to execute at least one of the following 3 shots:  shooting over or under something, curving the ball around something, or shooting directly through something such as a gap in the trees.

2) The Green:
To go even further, there are 3 features of the green that also directly affect its difficulty: size, shape, and slope.  A small green is difficult to stick, and you’ll almost always need to stick it to have a chance at eagle.  The shape of the green can also cause havoc.  A circle is the easiest, but some are very narrow, crescent-shaped, or wavy, creating situations where even if you stick the green, you may not have a putt at the hole.  And of course the slope matters, because as slope rises, so do missed putts (including the dreaded rollovers).

3) The Hazards:
Hazards are your penalty for missing the green, and they are often present on multiple sides of the hole.  While water is the most common (and most penalizing), deep bunkers or rough lies can also make for difficult recovery from an errant approach.

Finally, two more factors play into the difficulty of the closing hole.  The first is elevation changes.  Shooting uphill into a green or floating a shot downhill into a green both increase the difficulty over a flat approach.  The second is what I call reachability.  Given the most difficult setup on a given hole, are you still able to get the ball to the green?  Sometimes the answer is no, and you’ll lose your eagle opportunity by having to bail out, lay up, or go for it anyway (unsuccessfully).

Rating the Holes:
Now that the categories have been identified, it’s time to evaluate each hole.  A persistent practice is a rating scale of 1-5 for each identified category, where 5 is the toughest and 1 is the easiest.  Whatever course racks up the most points will be determined the most difficult.

The Greens:
For the difficulty of the greens, the course gets a rating in each of the 3 subcategories, and those are averaged out for an overall score.  For slope, a couple courses (Cape Haven, Great Wall) earned a 5 for having slopes greater than 10.  A slope of 10 gets a 4, and a flat green gets a 1.  For size, the greens were all compared to each other.  The largest greens got a 1, and the smallest greens got a 5.  For shape, a circle gets a 1.  The closer it was to a circle, the closer the rating to a 1.  The craziest, toughest shapes got a 5.

Results: Bella Toscana and Monument Valley tied for the toughest 18th hole greens.  Laurel Park has the easiest.

The Obstructions:
Difficulty of obstructions depends on type and severity.  If the hole has no obstructions, it got a 1 in the category.  From there, I had to determine the percent of time particular obstructions were present off the tee, and how severe they were.  A severity of 5 means that you need a full cut around the obstacle or that you need to shoot through a tiny gap.  Over/under obstructions were weighted slightly less because they are less difficult to overcome.  So, the overall obstructions rating takes into account all the tee boxes and how often you are placed in them.

Results: Tahiti Cove blocked the most of your path to the green, followed by Glacier Ranch and Misty Springs.  Many holes had no obstructions.

The Hazards:
What’s the penalty for missing the green?  I looked at all 4 sides around the green and averaged the penalty for misses on each side.  I also looked at a “close” miss and a “far” miss, since inaccuracy can vary widely among players and per round, but I gave more weight to the “close” miss.  The hole earned a 5 for water (or lava), 4 for the potential for water or a steep blocking bunker, 3 for a tough recovery, 2 for a difficult lie such as dust or mud, and 1 for a straight fairway or rough lie.

Results: Coral Vista‘s island green is the toughest because you can’t miss anywhere, followed right behind by Heather Pointe and Tundra Peak.  Tahiti Cove and Jackrabbit Junction are the most generous holes for an errant approach.

Elevations: In the scoring, elevation changes were weighted at half, because they don’t pose a problem as tough as the others.  All the holes were evaluated against each other, and Tundra Peak and Monument Valley earned top points for having to shoot way up and way down, respectively.

Reachability: A course gets a 5 in this category if you can find yourself in multiple setups where you just can’t get the ball to the green.  Bear Lodge and Cypress Cove both took 5s here.  The course gets a 4 if it can have an extremely difficult setup for most players and a 3 if there are distance-challenging setups for some players.  The course gets a 1 if distance is never an issue.

So let’s take a break and see where we are.  After plugging in data for greens, obstructions, hazards, elevation changes and reachability, we have the top 10 most difficult holes, as follows:

Misty Springs
Sequoia Grove
Coconut Beach
Cypress Cove
Bear Lodge
Summit Lakes
Monument Valley
Kangaroo Trail
Dusty Bend
Bella Toscana

Now data is good, but it’s not everything.  There’s a reason the BCS Formula incorporates a human element, and I wanted to do the same thing.  The Golden Tee players who have been attacking these holes for years certainly have a pretty good idea of the easiest and hardest closing holes in the game, so I reached out to them to get their votes.  Here are the users’ top 10 most difficult holes:

Misty Springs
Coconut Beach
Moose Landing
Kangaroo Trail
Summit Lakes
Tundra Peak
Bella Toscana
Shady Acres
Sequoia Grove
Glacier Ranch

Given that valuable user input from the community, I combined my data with their votes to come up with my final results.  I now give to you the GoldenTeeFan list of top 10 most difficult closing holes in the Golden Tee LIVE era:

1 – Misty Springs
2 – Coconut Beach
3 – Summit Lakes
4 – Sequoia Grove
5 – Bear Lodge
6 – Kangaroo Trail
7 – Bella Toscana
8 – Tundra Peak
9 – Cypress Cove
10 – Timber Bay

In addition, here are the easiest closing holes in the game:

1 – Turtle Island
2 – Highland Links
3 – Laurel Park
4 – Cape Haven
5 – Indigo Mound

Click here to see the full breakdown per course and how each ranked in the various categories in play.

As a final exercise, I wanted to compare the data rankings to the user rankings to see where there was a wide variation.  The top 6 examples are below, and I’ll attempt to rationalize the difference:

Courses User Rank Data Rank Difference
Cypress Cove 31 4 27
Moose Landing 3 30 27
Monument Valley 32 7 25
Black Hills 16 39 23
Jackrabbit Junction 45 23 22
Eagle Crest 43 24 19

Having played Cypress Cove many, many times for the Classic Course of the week this summer really put this one in perspective for me.  If you are pinned to the left or right and have to curve a shot around into a tough wind, sometimes you can’t even get the ball to the green.  That was a big contributing factor (reachability) to its difficulty rank.  I’m under the impression that the players most often remember the straight shots from the middle two tee boxes, which are indeed very favorable.  But it’s the tough tee boxes you get the other half of the time that can really make this a tough eagle.

For Moose Landing and Black Hills, I have to agree with the voters that it should have been higher.  Perhaps the lack of obstructions on the way to the hole gave these courses an unfairly low score relative to the rest of the field, because they are really tough.

For Monument Valley, I’m sticking with the data.  With a 15 wind in your face here, eagle is almost impossible, as if it wasn’t hard enough already.  Floating a shot downhill while fighting a wind is very difficult, and there may as well be water all around the green because of the rock deflections.  Factor in the shape of the green and this one is an awfully tough eagle.

Jackrabbit Junction has some setups where many players can’t even get to the green in two, and that’s the main reason why the data score this hole more difficult than the users.  It’s not always easy to blast a drive out to the second fairway and bring it in for eagle.

Finally, Eagle Crest has difficult setups in the corners that make me lean with the data rank.  Not only do you need an accurate curve around the trees, but it’s very difficult to nail the distance.  Long is water, and short is almost always the dust.  That dust eats up anything short that may otherwise hop down onto the green.

So is it perfect?  Of course not.  The beauty of this game is that so many factors make up the difficulty of a hole, even others that I chose not to evaluate or that you cannot evaluate (club selection, touch required, intimidation factor, a player’s particular skill on one hole vs. another, and so on).  But it sure was a fun experiment, and I do believe I got it pretty close.  You’re not alone when you’re shaking in your boots on the Misty #18 tee, but we can hope that 2015 and beyond doesn’t bring too many more closers as demanding.



Your Golden Tee Handicap, Decoded

By • Category: Features, Statistics • • Leave a Comment (7)

For years, I hadn’t been entirely sure how Golden Tee calculates a player’s handicap that is shown in the upper right when starting a new game, and also in relation to your handicap score shown after each hole played.  Most theories pointed to some formula calculated by the average of your best 10 of your last 20 games, but I could never get that concept to work exactly right.  As it turns out, the only factors that play into your handicap adjustment after a game are your handicap entering the game, and the score you just recorded.

First of all, there are two places where you can see your handicap to two decimal places, and they are both on the website.  The first is in the “My Stats” tab under the “Totals” filter:

handicap1

 

The next is in the “Stats Play” or LIVE Play” tab, if you expand the contest results by clicking ‘More’ in the “Details” column.  The handicap shown here is your new handicap as calculated after this round was played:

handicap2

If you are brand new, you need to play 36 holes to establish a handicap.  This will be the additive inverse of the average of your two scores.  So if you shoot a -4 and a -6, your handicap will be a +5.  Almost.

There’s a twist, because in that scenario, your handicap would actually be 5.04.  Why?  It’s because IT actually calculates your handicap per hole, not per round, and then represents your 18-hole handicap by multiplying 18 by your per-hole handicap.

So my average is -5 after two games.  To get my per-hole average, I need to first divide by 18.  5/18 = 0.27777.  IT does not retain decimal places past the hundredth, so this rounds to 0.28.  Therefore, my per-hole handicap is now 0.28.  To translate this back to an 18-hole handicap which is what you normally see, take the 0.28 * 18 to get 5.04.

You may have noticed that your handicap seems to move up or down in increments of 0.18, and it’s because of the rounding to the nearest hundredth for your per-hole handicap.  If I had 0.29 per hole, for instance, my handicap would be the next-highest possible value of 5.22.

So that establishes your handicap and also helps explain why your handicap goes up or down by factors of 0.18.  But how do you know if it’s going to change after your round, or how much?

There’s a grid for that — check it out:

Final Score * -1 minus Entering HCP
Stroke difference from Entering HCP
MIN MIDPT MAX HCP Change
6.5 7 7.49 1.26
5.5 6 6.49 1.08
4.5 5 5.49 0.9
3.5 4 4.49 0.72
2.5 3 3.49 0.54
1.5 2 2.49 0.36
0.5 1 1.49 0.18
-4.99 0.49 0
-14.99 -10 -5 -0.18
-24.99 -20 -15 -0.36

In simplest terms, if you shoot 1 stroke better than your handicap, it goes up 0.18.  If you shoot 2 strokes better, it goes up 0.36, and so on.  But it takes a really bad game to move it down.  You have to shoot at least 5 strokes worse than your handicap to go down just 0.18, and 15 strokes worse to move it down another factor.  And, it’s capped there…your handicap can never go down more than 0.36 after any single round.  However, there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how much it can improve after a single round.

For those of you looking for a formula, take the midpoint divided by 5.55555 to get the expected handicap adjustment moving up, and the midpoint divided by 55.55555 to get it moving down.  So now you can see how a really good game can cause your handicap to jump up quite a bit, while a really bad game doesn’t hurt you too much.  It’s weighted to deter sandbagging.

So, the entire range in the row comes into play.  To improve my handicap by at least the minimum 0.18, I need to shoot at least 0.5 strokes better than my handicap entering that game.  And if I end up shooting 1.49 strokes better, it still goes up by 0.18.  I’d need to hit the next plateau of 1.5 strokes better to see it go up 0.36 after the game instead.

What about 9-hole games?  To answer that question, I looked more specifically at what happens if you DNF a game.  Many times your HCP does not change after a DNF, but I also saw it go both down and, unexpectedly, up after a DNF as well.

So how does that happen?  IT basically applies your per-hole handicap to the unplayed holes to fill out a full game of 18.  So if I played 5 holes and quit, it would add my score after 5 holes to my projected score over the next 13 holes, based on my current handicap.  IT uses that as my final score and adjusts the handicap according to the grid.

Here are two examples of how I saw that work.  Entering one game, I had a 24.66, so that’s -1.37 per hole.  I shot an 8 on the first hole (+4), and then quit on hole 2.  So, take the -1.37 * 17, which equals -23.29.  Now add in the +4, and I’m -19.29 to complete the round.  That’s more than 5 full strokes worse than my entering handicap, so it goes down by 0.18, and that’s what happened.

Now I’m at a 24.48, which is -1.36 per hole. So I’m at -23.12 for 17 holes. Now I shoot an eagle on the first hole for -2, and quit on hole 2 again.  Add in my -2 on the first hole, and I’m -25.12. The grid says that’s good enough for my handicap to jump by 0.18 since it’s more than 0.5 strokes better than my entering handicap, and that’s what happened.

So, for a 9-hole contest, it should work the same way.  You don’t divide everything in the grid by 2 — you just fill in the 9 remaining holes with your per-hole handicap and add it to your score.  So if I’m back at a 24.66 handicap, -1.37 per hole, then that’s a score of -12.33 for 9 holes.  In order to see my handicap improve, my 18-game total has to be at least 0.5 strokes better than my entering handicap, so I’d need to shoot a -13 on the 9-hole contest for a total of -25.33.  If I only shot a -12, my handicap would stay the same per the grid.  I’d have to shoot a -7 for a total of -19.33 to see it actually go down by 0.18, since I’d then be at least 5 full strokes worse than my entering HCP.

So now you know what to expect regarding your handicap after each game, and hopefully that puts to rest the questions you may have had about how it adjusts.



How the Tough Courses Define Your True Skill

By • Category: Features, Improvement • • Leave a Comment (3)

A short while ago, I had an amazing cycle going.  It started with a -24 on Coconut, followed by a -24 on Jackrabbit.  Then I shot GT Par -26 on Bear, followed by a -25 on Cape Haven.  At this point I’m -99 after only 4 games!  My previous high cycle had been -117, so I only need a -19 on Sequoia to beat that.  The way I’m playing, this is a sure thing.

I shot a -15 on Sequoia.  Couldn’t believe it.  So what happened?  Well, Sequoia Grove happened.  A really difficult course happened, and I was once again humbled by my inability to conquer the toughest course, with some of the toughest holes, in the game.  And when I looked back, I couldn’t finish strong on Coconut either.  I was -23 after 16, but with a doable look on 17 I only managed birdie, and then I got wet on 18 and parred out for the -24.

The 2013 courses are a great example of how a player like myself can gain confidence by scoring well on the easier courses but lose almost all of it by failing to convert on the tough ones.  So to me, the measure of a player’s skill should be taken not off his average on Jackrabbit, but off his average on Sequoia or Coconut.  Those are the courses that really challenge you to keep making tough eagles (and some tough birdies as well) to keep your scores respectable.

So, before I beat myself up too much for struggling to eagle some of the tough par 4s in the game, I wanted to see how often the pros are actually eagling them.  I was pleased to see that they can be toss-ups at times for them too!  Here are a few examples:

Sequoia Grove #16: Pros only eagle about 60% of the time.  I am much lower on this one, but this proves it’s tough.
sg_16

Coconut #17: Pros only eagle about 45% of the time!  Again, I am lower, but I know there is a lot of luck AND skill involved in this shot, so the fact that pros get eagle less often than not is encouraging:
cb_17

Coconut #18: Pros only eagle about 35% of the time!  This is one of the toughest tee shots in the game to stick the green, so I’m happy to see it’s hard for everyone:
cb_18

Bear Lodge #7: Pros eagle close to 70% of the time.  That seems about right.  Amateurs like us struggle most with the far left tee box, but other setups are doable with a lot of practice:
bl_7

So, while the toughest holes in the game are tough for everyone, it still comes back to how well you can play these tough holes, because they make all the difference in your scores.  If you put an amateur in a handicapped game with a pro on Jackrabbit, the amateur is going to win.  There are not enough opportunities for the amateur to lose strokes on this course, and it has the highest scoring average for most amateurs.

However, if you get that same player in a handicapped game on Sequoia, the pro is going to win.  The pro knows how to navigate all the tough holes on this course, and the amateur is going to find trees and water, losing many strokes along the way.  In fact, the pros are able to put up the biggest scores on Coconut and Sequoia, while amateurs are not.  This is because Sequoia always sets up for at least a -28 GT Par, and the pros just don’t make many mistakes.  Coconut can set up for a -30 if hole #1 is there, and again, the pros nail all these shots on a good round.  But the shots are just too difficult for amateurs to make all of them in a single round, and that’s why it’s hard for us to take full advantage of the potential of these nasty courses.  So on one hand you can make some mistakes and still have a great score, but on the other hand you’ll have left strokes on the course that the pros are picking up.

In summary, that’s why I’ve shot GT Par or better on Jackrabbit, Bear, and Cape Haven this year, but also why I haven’t been within 2-3 strokes of GT Par on either Coconut or Sequoia.  They are just too tough, and it’d be a once-in-a-lifetime round to nail all those looks for a -28 or better.  So while it’s fun to play a less stressful round on Jackrabbit to shoot a good score, you’re not going to reach your full potential until you start to master the tough holes on the tough courses.  And so ends my lesson on humility.



Get Connected with the Online Home Edition

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It’s here!  After years of playing offline recording scores only tracked on your home machine (and then losing those scores when you want to upgrade), Golden Tee has introduced online play for home units!  During April and May 2013, I’ve explored and enjoyed the luxury of having my games saved against my Golden Tee account, just like they would be by playing a LIVE machine at the bar.  And I’m thrilled with the fun and benefits I’ve seen in just this short period.

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Now I want to share with you everything you need to know about the home edition.  Need to upgrade an older home edition, or just curious how that works?  It’s easy — click here to read about the upgrade process!

Ready to get a card reader, an ethernet connection and an online subscription?  Click here for the additional steps to take care of those things to truly have you online-ready!

Want to learn more about the modes of play available with the home edition and how they compare to what you see at the bar?  Click here to read all about it!

Ready to learn about the benefits of online play and how it helps not only make the game more exciting, but can also improve your scores?  Read on for more!

For a summary and review of all the features, there’s a nice page on the Home Edition on Golden Tee’s page as well.

After reading all about it here, your next step will be to visit the Golden Tee Home Edition website to get in touch with the guys at IT to place your order — have fun!

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Your own Golden Tee club set — what would you choose?

By • Category: Features, Golden Tee golf clubs • • Leave a Comment (5)

**Edited since there is no longer a 220 yard 7-wood as was offered in the Flare set previously.

Imagine if you could take clubs from any of the 20 different bags that Golden Tee has assembled over the LIVE era, compiling your own personal set.  What would you choose?

First, let’s list off some of the factors that need to be considered in such an important decision.

1) The course – as with the current club set offerings today, you’d want to know the lay of the land before building your ultimate set.  Do you need extra loft with that 9-wood on a particular hole, or do you need to run a 2-hybrid under some obstacle instead?  For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say you need a set that best prepares you for anything Jim Z. might throw at you blind.

2) Distance – Are you a long hitter?  If so, that extra distance on your driver could result in a couple extra strokes.  If not, you’d be more comfortable with less gap in your club distance.

3) Loft – Can you control a 7-wood in a cross-wind, or would you rather hit a low-lofted club from the same distance?  Lofted clubs require more skill when playing the wind, but irons or hybrids may leave you in a jam if you don’t plan ahead for elevation changes.

4) Irons vs. hybrids – How precise are you with the trackball, especially out of the rough?  Hybrids have a friendlier touch out of tough lies but come with different distances to consider along with the rest of your set.  Irons also cut more than woods or hybrids, requiring different knowledge of curve shots based on the type of club.

5) The wedges – How is your short game?  Are you comfortable making distance adjustments with big gaps between your wedges?  Do you prefer to have extra loft for tough green-side lies?  Each additional wedge you need leaves you with one less club you could use to fill a gap at a longer distance.

6) Distance Gaps – Ideally, your clubs are spaced out enough such that each club has value but so much that you are left with long, uncomfortable gaps.  Therefore, distance spacing should be an important factor in your club set selection.

With all that in mind, here are the 44 different (based on loft and distance) woods, irons, and hybrids that have been offered in one of the 22 different set offerings in the LIVE era (in addition to a variety of putters):

Low-loft driver (8.5 degrees): 310
Hightail/Ripper driver (9 degrees): 310
Ballista/Equalizer driver (9.5 degrees): 310
Pyro driver (9.5 degrees): 305
Standard driver (9.5 degrees): 300
10 degree driver (10 degrees): 300
High-loft driver (10.5 degrees): 290
2 Wood: 290
0 Hybrid: 280
Equalizer 3 Wood: 280
3 Wood: 275
4 Wood: 260
Equalizer 5 Wood: 255
5 Wood: 250
1 Iron: 250
2 Hybrid: 235
6 Wood: 235
2 Iron: 225
2 Iron (Equalizer set): 220
3 Hybrid: 210
3 Iron: 200
7 Wood: 200
3 Iron (Equalizer set): 195
9 Wood: 190
4 Hybrid: 190
4 Iron: 180
4 Iron (Equalizer set): 175
5 Hybrid: 170
6 Hybrid: 160
5 Iron: 160
5 Iron (Equalizer set): 155
6 Iron (2013 sets): 155
6 Iron: 150
6 Iron (Equalizer set): 145
7 Iron: 140
7 Iron (Equalizer set): 135
8 Iron: 125
8 Iron (Equalizer set): 120
9 Iron: 100
9 Iron (Equalizer set): 95
Pitching Wedge: 80
A Wedge / Gap Wedge: 70
Sand Wedge: 60
Lob Wedge: 40
Flop Wedge: 30

Given that list and a set of criteria to factor in your decision, what 13 clubs above would you put in your bag along with a putter?  Here’s what I chose, and why:

Ballista/Equalizer driver (9.5 degrees): 310

  • The longest driver, with the most loft for its distance.  Carries farthest with a high tee, and distance certainly helps my game.

Equalizer 3 Wood: 280
Equalizer 5 Wood: 255

  • With the extra distance on my driver, I wanted the 5 extra yards on my 3 Wood and 5 Wood as well to help close that gap on longer shots.

6 Wood: 235
3 Hybrid: 210
4 Hybrid: 190
5 Hybrid: 170

  • I love the feel of the hybrids, and I like the distance gaps they offer me coming back down from the 220 7-Wood.  I can muscle up a 4-hybrid or thumb a 7-wood to fairly comfortably fill that 30-yard gap.

6 Iron (2013 sets): 155

  • I opted for this club over the stock 150-yard 6-iron so that I have an even 15-yard gap between my 5-hybrid and my 7-iron.

7 Iron: 140
8 Iron (Equalizer set): 120
9 Iron: 100

  • I chose the 8-iron from the Equalizer set to get an even 20-yard gap from my 7-iron down to my 9-iron.

Gap Wedge: 70
Lob Wedge: 40

  • These were my best options to fill out the bag with wedges.  A lob wedge was a must for me, and the gap wedge filled in the distance up to the 9-iron.

So there’s my set!  Not surprisingly, it’s a combination of the Ballista, Flare, and Hawk sets (which have been my favorites throughout the past several years), while also taking advantage of some of the different distances that clubs from the Equalizer set offer.  For now I’m sticking with the Flares as my blind-course option, but maybe there will be a day when we can assemble our own bag of clubs to attack the course at our personalized liking!

What would you choose?  Feel free to comment on other criteria you would consider in your decision and list out the club set that would best fit your game!



Previewing Golden Tee 2013

By • Category: 2012 - Golden Tee LIVE 2013, Features • • Leave a Comment (0)

It’s every Golden Tee lover’s favorite time of year — the preview and ultimate release of another year of Golden Tee courses and features! As usual, we can expect the upgrade to happen towards the end of September — but select locations already have GT 2013 in pilot mode.  This site is your source for demo videos and tips on all the new courses!

I’ve got pictures of each hole for reference — keep checking back for tips, tricks, and YouTube shots for each of the hole posts as we learn how to navigate our way around the 2013 courses.  Here are some shots of the 5 new courses, and some additional screen shots too.

New courses always take center stage, but what else is new with Golden Tee 2013?  Graphics are always important, and players constantly crave a more realistic and lifelike look to all features of the course.  Improved technology has allowed IT to make significant strides in graphics upgrades this year — read more about it here!

There is also a new camera angle called “CupCam”.  This should provide a more exciting view of your approach shots, especially those that are tracking close to the hole — read more about it here.

The theme music was changed, which is kinda fun — check it out here.

As usual, there is new equipment to choose from this year.  You’ll find three new options for your virtual golf ball — read about the balls here and consider giving them a try.  And there are two new sets of virtual clubs — read about the clubs here and give them a try as well to see if they offer any consistent advantages on this year’s courses!  I will certainly gather feedback from the player community on the new clubs and balls and offer up advice on whether or not these new options can help your game — we’ll see if they are intriguing or exciting enough to replace the very popular Hurtle balls and the Flare and Hawk clubs.

And new clothing is fun too, as I always enjoy winning new apparel when a new season starts!



Let the experiments begin!

By • Category: Features, Improvement, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (8)

Some of you know that I invested in a 2012 Golden Tee Unplugged that I got set up in my basement right before the Super Bowl this year!  It’s been incredible.  Not only do I hope to improve my game, but my mind was also racing with ideas for experiments to run with the luxury of free play and mulligans.

I’ve been playing a lot of games, but I’m also eager to get started on some of these ideas, and I plan to share my findings on the site here to help spread a lot of additional knowledge that’s much more difficult to get from your local bar!

Below are some ideas I’ve come up with so far.  Please let me know if you have others — I’ll be happy to give them a shot!  Check the Home Experiments category to track my progress, and I’ll keep you all updated so we can benefit from the findings!

  • Find the footage at which turbo putts begin, validating against different holes
  • Show how B1/B3 shots vary by club.  Take pictures after 3 shots with each club, marking total distance, lay protractor over to get angle, and see how far apart they end up.
  • Do the same as above with other types of shots, such as a A.5-1.5, A.5-1, A-1.5, to show how accuracy and distance are affected.
  • Show how C2 shots differ from C3 shots, in terms of distance, angle taken, and how far left of center each shot ends up
  • Given a straight headwind and tailwind, show how much distance is affected with a static speed for each club.  Then repeat for side winds for shots into the wind (no angled pull-back applied) to end up straight ahead to see how much distance is lost.
  • Draw a grid with incremental degrees around the trackball, and use this for the mapping exercises below.
  • Start mapping ideal club, speed, pull back angle, and forward angle of all approach shots given any particular wind and a flat elevation.  Disregard slope for this exercise.  Goal is to develop a formula or table to predict the shot that will come closest to the hole for any distance and wind condition.
  • Show how total distance is affected by roll, backspin, bite or nothing given no wind, flat surface and static speed for all clubs.
  • Show how distance is affected by high tee, low tee, medium tee, given no wind and static speed for all clubs.  Perform for B2 shots as well as A1/C3 shots.
  • Show how total distance is affected by appling backspin, roll, bite or nothing to both high-teed and low-teed drives.
  • Demo chush shots, and show how far they go with each club and with roll or backspin applied.
  • Figure out how far I can pull back any particular club with a full forward swing to achieve a particular distance, such as 200 yards, 100 yards, 50 yards, etc.  This can help with distance control on shots between clubs.  It would also be good to measure carry on these shots.  A benefit may be finding a way to hit a half-pullback 7-iron or something on Royal #16 to stick the green while minimizing wind damage.
  • Figure out a way to train players on bump-and-run chip shots.  Need to pick just club long enough to carry the green to minimize wind damage and get the ball rolling on the slope.  Faster is better — chip with confidence (even using roll) where able to keep as straight a line as you can!
  • See how many distances I can achieve without a pullback for a driver shot to a flat fairway.  Intention is to see how precise the computer reads the speed of the trackball.


Golden Tee LIVE Course Trivia and Analysis

By • Category: 2011 - Golden Tee LIVE 2012, Features, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (2)

Let’s start with some trivia.  There have been 35 courses since the inception of Golden Tee LIVE back in 2005.  How well do you know them?

  1. What are the only two courses to feature six par 3s and six par 5s?
  2. What is the only course to feature six never-drivable par 4s?
  3. Name the six courses where every par 4 has been driven.
  4. Which course can see a six-stroke swing in GT Par depending on the setup?
  5. Which two courses feature only three par 5s?
  6. Which three courses could set up for a GT Par of -32?
  7. Which two courses may only set up for a GT Par of -24?
  8. TRUE or FALSE: Every opening hole has been a par 4.
  9. 30 of the 35 courses feature a par 4 as the 2nd hole. Name the only three courses to feature a par 5 for hole #2:
  10. 30 of the 35 courses feature a par 4 as the 2nd hole. Name the only two courses to feature a par 3 for hole #2:
  11. TRUE or FALSE: There has never been a par 5 as hole #3.
  12. Name the only 3 courses to feature a par 4 as the 3rd hole.
  13. Which year of courses features a par 5 as the 4th hole on all 5 courses?
  14. Heading into the turn, only one course features a par 3 as the 9th hole.  Name it.
  15. Heading back out, only two courses feature par 3s as the 10th hole.  Name them.
  16. Similarly, only two courses feature par 5s as the 10th hole.  Name them.
  17. Which course features three consecutive par 5s?
  18. Which year of courses features a par 5 as the 16th hole on all 5 courses?
  19. Which year of courses features a par 3 as the 17th hole on all 5 courses?
  20. Name the only 2 courses to feature a par 5 as the 18th hole.
  21. Name the only course to feature a par 4 finishing hole that is not always drivable.
  22. There is a year of courses where only two par 4s have never been driven.  Name it.
  23. Which course features three par 5s that have been driven?
  24. Which three courses feature only two always-drivable par 4s?
  25. GT Par never varies on only 4 courses.  Name them.
  26. Name the only 4 courses that feature always-drivable par 5s.

How did you do?  Open the sheet here to see the answers and the statistics behind the following analysis.

The “Hole Pars” tab shows not only the par for the hole, but it also breaks down how often you can expect to be able to drive each hole (you can also hover over the comments in the cells to see a bit more how I break down each classification):
n = never been driven
e = drivable in extremely rare conditions
r = drivable in rare conditions
s = sometimes drivable
a = always drivable

Towards the bottom, you can see the average minimum and maximum GT Par for any given course (reminder: GT Par is the score you are expected to shoot without any fairway hole-outs).  GT Par sets up between -28.7 and -26.7 on average for the LIVE courses, but it’s skewed by easier setups in the original LIVE year.

The next tab is “Hole Par Stats”.  It breaks down how many times each scoring classification applies to each of the 18 holes, and then also in percentage form at the bottom.  What’s fascinating here is finding how many par 5s and long par 4s have actually been driven at one time or another!  I’ve got pictures of each hole on the site, so check them out!

Finally, there is “Stats Summary”.  At the top, you can see how often each of the 18 holes sets up as a par 3, 4, or 5, sorted by the percentage.  Below breaks it down by driving category, also sorted.

Now for fun, let’s predict how a Golden Tee LIVE 2013 course might break down, given the data we know from the past 7 years:

HOLE #1: A long, flat, undrivable par 4.
HOLE #2: A dogleg par 4 that’s only drivable in extremely rare conditions.
HOLE #3: An easy par 3.
HOLE #4: An easy par 5.
HOLE #5: A challenging but always drivable par 4.
HOLE #6: A par 4 that’s only rarely drivable with a great setup.
HOLE #7: Another easy par 3.
HOLE #8: A bit more challenging par 5.
HOLE #9: A par 4 that’s sometimes drivable depending on the setup.
HOLE #10: A tough, never drivable par 4.
HOLE #11: A tough, never drivable par 4.
HOLE #12: A moderate par 3.
HOLE #13: A challenging par 5.
HOLE #14: A very challenging but always drivable par 4.
HOLE #15: A very challenging but always drivable par 4.
HOLE #16: A very challenging par 5.
HOLE #17: A very difficult par 3.
HOLE #18: A very challenging but always drivable par 4.

If you play it clean, you’ll end up between a -26 and -28!



2012 Ball Analysis

By • Category: Features, Golden Tee golf balls • • Leave a Comment (6)

As of the 2012 release, you may have as many as 16 different types of virtual golf balls in your bag.  Now is a good time to take a look at all of them to see what’s right for your game.

Golden Tee’s site gives you a nice little graph showing the expected performance of each ball in regards to 4 factors: distance, backspin, curve, and loft.  So, at a high level, you can glance at the charts and see roughly how they compare, but I wanted to find out the numbers behind those charts.

When measured closely, you’ll find that the performance ratings vary quite a bit more than meets the eye.  Click here to open this spreadsheet in a new window.  In terms of pixels, the raw numbers you see in column D represent the length of each bar.  In the top center is a grid displaying the raw ratings.  Now, if you assume that the stock ball has average performance in each category, as seems to be indicated by the graph, then the stock ball should have a rating of 5.0 on a scale of 0 to 10.  Using this as our base, we get a better performance rating grid, as seen in the upper right.

From there, you can break down each of the 4 categories, sorted by highest-performing at the top (or left of the chart).  Now you can see more accurately how each of these balls stack up against each other in each category.

So, what categories are the most important to consider when choosing your ball?  In my opinion, distance is king and must be considered first.  Extra distance on straight shots alone can make the biggest difference in your score.  Curve is probably next — you want your ball to be able to curve sharply on your A1 and C3-type shots to give you even more potential to reach locations not otherwise possible with a lesser-performing ball.  Backspin is also important, but you’re probably looking for something in the middle — too much backspin can be hard to control, and not enough makes it difficult to stick some greens.  Finally, loft doesn’t seem to be much of a factor when choosing a ball.  You will learn loft much more from club selection than you will by changing balls.

Moving back to the grid in the upper-right, you can also see why most players choose Hurtles as their ball of choice.  They are among the longest in distance, and they have decent backspin and curve ratings.  According to the chart, they don’t have much loft at all, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, or a significant factor, when playing them.

Of course, all this analysis is contingent on the data being accurate, and according to many pros, some of the data is off base.  The distance ratings are solid — you can see proof of that with your distance marker off the tee as you change between balls.  Curve ratings should be pretty close.  For backspin, many believe the Hurtles rating should be higher (at least in the middle), while the Straight Jackets spin more than the Streaks.  Finally, the loft ratings seem to be off, lending even more support to the argument that this factor shouldn’t much be considered.  The Air-Os seem to have lower loft, while the Streaks and Hurtles have plenty of loft, it seems.  And there’s the final point why most of you should be playing the Hurtles in 2012 — they are long and don’t seem to have any weaknesses.



Master Bite in 2012!

By • Category: Backspin, roll and bite, Features • • Leave a Comment (0)

No, that’s not a typo — I’m going to give you some advice on using the new spin option of bite with Golden Tee’s 2012 release.  Now that everyone’s hopefully played a few rounds on the 2012 courses, you’ve learned a little how bite works.  This can be incredibly useful on hard-sloping greens and/or with tough winds where backspin or no spin would otherwise not give you a chance to stick it close.  Let me break it down more for you so that you can know what to expect and when to use this great new spin feature.

Bite essentially causes your ball to stop and settle once it hits the ground.  You’ll notice that it stop/skips twice on contact, and then it rolls out from there.  But how much will it behave like backspin, and where will it roll afterwards?

Let’s focus on the backspin portion first.  If you haven’t noticed already, bite is more like backspin when you hit the ball hard, and more like a check-up when you hit it smooth.  So, the harder you hit the ball with bite applied, the more like backspin it will behave.  But how much?  Here are some guidelines:

Using a no pull back, regular thumb shot, you will get about 10% of normal backspin. This is not much at all.  So when thumbing a shot into a green with bite, keep this in mind.

With a hard thumbs, no pullback shot, or a smooth push shot, you will get 15-20% of regular backspin.

Using a pull back, smooth palm shot, you will get 20-25% of normal backspin.

Pulling back and hitting it hard will get you about 33% of regular backspin.

So, that should help you know what to expect when the ball first hits the green.  You probably have a feel for what backspin is going to do already, so keep these percentages in mind when thinking of how bite is going to behave differently.

Now, where is the ball going to end up after it’s done biting?  First, let’s talk about the loft of your club.  Keep in mind that bite, just as with backspin, is stronger with higher lofted clubs.  The percentages at the top still hold true, but a lob wedge into a headwind with bite will certainly come backwards, whereas a 2-hybrid would actually continue forward after the bite is done.  It’s due to forward momentum — a lob wedge would be coming straight down, while a 2-hybrid will still have strong forward velocity.  These concepts were the same with backspin, so if you have a handle on backspin in regards to loft, you can carry this knowledge forward with bite.

That being said, wind and slope are the other two main factors, so let’s focus on those and look at some examples of how bite would behave with something like a 5-iron:

1) Tailwind into a flat green — expect the ball to end up slightly forward of where it lands.  The momentum of the wind is more than a couple skips of bite can overcome.

2) Headwind into a flat green — expect the ball to come back slightly backwards of where it lands.  The combination of wind and bite should overcome the forward momentum of the ball.

3) Bite into an upslope — expect the ball to come back slightly backwards of where it lands.  The combination of bite and slope should overcome the forward momentum of the ball.

4) Bite into a downslope — expect the ball to end up slightly forward of where it lands.  The momentum of the ball and slope of the green are more than a couple skips of bite can overcome.

 

5) Tailwind into an upslope — expect the ball to come backward just a bit.  The wind will be carrying the ball forward into the green, giving it forward momentum, but the bite and upslope will cause the ball to stop and settle backwards a bit once it hits the green.

6) Tailwind into a downslope — the ball’s distance will only be slowed a few yards.  This can be a great shot into a green where the pin is in the back.  Where backspin would bring the ball back up the slope, bite just causes it to settle and still roll down a bit towards the pin.

7) Headwind into an upslope — your shot will look like it has backspin on it.  This can sometimes be a good option into a big green where the pin is in the front.  Whereas backspin would pull the ball back off the green, bite gives you a softer roll back down towards the cup.

8 ) Headwind into a downslope — expect the ball to come backward just a bit.  The wind will be slowing the ball’s forward momentum into the green, and the bite will cause temporary backspin, but then the slope of the green will cause the ball to settle forward a bit more.

 

9) Wind blowing left, slope going right — if you don’t cut the ball into the wind, expect the ball to end up just short of where it lands.  The wind gives the ball momentum left, and bite will initially pull the ball left as well, but then those factors expire and the slope pulls the ball right again, settling just short of where you land.

10) Wind blowing left, slope going left — this can be a great use for bite if the pin is also on the left.  Land the ball just slightly above the hole to the right, and the bite and slope will cause a slow movement back towards the cup.

As a final note, just picture what backspin would do — if you don’t quite like it, then consider the slope and wind factors and decide if bite is a better option for you instead!



Why You Don’t Play Well in Tournaments

By • Category: Features, Improvement • • Leave a Comment (7)

Many of you may have recently played in a big Golden Tee tournament featuring some of the best players in the game.  While you never expected to compete with these guys, you expected to at least hold your own, because you know your ability.  But then qualifying is a disaster, and then you find yourself knocked out early in match play the next day.  What happened?

Too many people chalk it up to just having a bad day or a bad weekend.  After all, we all have good games and bad games, but mine just happened all at once.

In reality, there are a lot of reasons you didn’t play as well as you should.  Let’s take a look at some of the things you can’t control, and then we’ll focus on what you can control so that you do better next time!

First, you’re in a foreign venue surrounded by lots of players who are better than you.  This is intimidating.  You might not have pedestals with flat-screen TVs in your local bar, and you certainly don’t have them set up everywhere.  Even if you do, the elevation and size of the monitor will certainly differ.  And you can bet that pedestal has a trackball that rolls smoother than anything you play on.  SO, get there early, bang out a few games on several different machines, and get comfortable with the surroundings — you’ll be here a while!

QUALIFYING:
When the action gets underway, you’ll usually be paired with 2 or 3 other guys to play each course of the qualifier.  You will have several dangerous tendencies here — mainly your desire to show off your skills to others in your group or to try to mask your weaknesses.  You won’t even realize what’s happening until you’re completely embarrassed by shooting a score that you never would have shot back home.

BE YOURSELF.  Play your own game.  Don’t go pin-hunting just to try to show off; give yourself a putt.  Don’t try to do what someone else just did if you aren’t comfortable with it.  You’ll see a lot of new shots here that you haven’t even tried yet — don’t try something for the first time in a tournament!  Save it for next time.  Don’t lay up in a particular spot just because everyone else did.  Don’t hit a bump-and-run chip just because you see everyone else doing it.  If you do make a mistake, even a blow-up hole, shake it off!  There’s a long way to go, and you’ll see soon enough that everyone else makes mistakes too.  Qualifying won’t matter for most of us amateurs, because we’re not going to make the cut with the top guys anyway.  Allow qualifying to settle some nerves and give you confidence that you belong to be here.

MATCH PLAY:
Most of us amateurs will end up in the “Purple” bracket, meaning we didn’t make the top 32.  This is a good thing!  Now you get to play matches against other players who are of a similar skill level.  It’s a lot of fun to win matches, and you can do it if you are mentally tough!  More so than before, your opponent is going to make mistakes.  Your goal is now not to have a blowup hole or any dumb mistakes.  Play safe and smart.  Give yourself putts and don’t press until you absolutely need to.  Your opponent will be nervous too!  Have fun, be respectful, and play your game — you’ll do fine.

I’ve been to many tournaments and have my own experiences as well as those of other tourney amateurs I’ve seen, and there’s just something about a tournament that causes inexperienced players to be off their game.  Learn from my experiences in this and other tourney articles on this site, and you’ll be ready to go enjoy one yourself!



Players vs. IT — how spin and the trackball affect your shots

By • Category: Approach shots with irons, Features, Putting, Using the track ball • • Leave a Comment (2)

There are three parts to this discussion, but they have been up for debate for years.  Let’s start with spin on putts.
PLAYER CLAIM: Applying roll or backspin to putts affects the putt.
IT CLAIM: Spin has no effect on putts.

Many pros believe that spin absolutely has an affect on the putt.  Some players are completely sure that applying roll on a putt helps it out of the fringe.  Others believe applying roll to a putt reduces the chance of a rollover on a steep downhill putt.  Some believe that backspin helps slow a putt and gives you a better chance of reducing rollovers.  And many pros just laugh because they think that spin simply has no effect on the putt.  The stance from IT has been that spin SHOULD NOT have any affect on the putt, because spin has not been programmed into the game to affect the putt differently.  Yet the pros are the ones playing on a daily basis, so their opinions and results are certainly basis for this debate!

Finally, many pros believe that distance balls putt faster and farther than normal balls.  The evidence behind this is pretty easy to see by doing a couple tests.  I haven’t heard IT refute this one.

THE TAKEAWAY: Do what “you believe” helps you.  If you think that you make more putts by applying spin, then by all means, continue doing so.  But know that there is no true evidence to support this behavior, at least from the programming point of view!  Also know that the farther your ball goes off the tee, the farther it will go on the green during a putt, albeit not a very significant amount.
PLAYER CLAIM: Pulling back to A or C on downhill putts helps prevent rollovers.
IT CLAIM: This behavior has some affect, but it’s not programmatical.

It’s widely believed that you need to pull the trackball back to A or C on downhill putts to help prevent the chance of a rollover.  I follow this advice and I believe in it.  However, IT also claims that nothing is programmed into the game to support this theory.  IT did bend on this claim for another reason, though.

Due to the trackball design, it’s possible that a pullback to A, but especially C, slows down the putt due to the design of the trackball.  Angled pullbacks create different reads on the sensors of the trackball, so the evidence supporting this theory may just be physical, due to the design of the trackball and NOT the programming of the game.

In addition, most players hit downhill putts with less force anyway.  When you slow the putt down, it’s got the best chance to go in.

THE TAKEAWAY: Continue pulling back to C on your downhill putts of 5 or more, and try to hit them softer than normal putts.  The combination of the physics of the trackball with the slower velocity should certainly help you minimize your rollovers.
PLAYER CLAIM: Backspin adds elevation to your shot, while roll reduces it.
IT CLAIM: Spin has no effect on the height of your shot.

This one isn’t much of a debate.  While IT says that backspin and roll have not been programmed to alter the height of your shot, there’s overwhelming evidence supporting the contrary.  Specific player tests have proven that backspin gives you a little more elevation on your shot, while roll makes your shot fly a bit lower than with no spin applied.

THE TAKEAWAY: If you are ever in need of a bit of extra elevation, put backspin on your shot.  To reduce the height of your shot, apply roll.  This is, of course, considering distance and the function of the spin itself in addition to elevation.

 



Excitement for Golden Tee 2012!

By • Category: 2011 - Golden Tee LIVE 2012, Features • • Leave a Comment (3)

Golden Tee 2012 is here!  Check out the 2012 Courses category for more on each course, but this article will focus on what’s new in the upcoming release!

First, we know that we now have a third option for ball spin.  We know how to use backspin and roll, but now we’ve been given a third tool to help us master approach shots into the green, and that’s BITE.  Bite essentially causes your ball to stop and settle once it hits the ground.  This can be incredibly useful on tough, hard-sloping greens where backspin and roll would otherwise not give you a chance to stick it close.  Click here to read more about bite.

Next, we know there will be new club sets.  We’ve already seen the “Thor” and “Peregrine” sets featured in the previews, and there are surely more to come.  It will be a while before we know what clubs are featured in these sets and what clubs are best to use for each of the new courses!

The next piece of info dropped is that the penalties for going water or OB off the tee when trying to reach the green, especially on par 4s, will be just like real golf — you’ll be put back on the tee!  It will make you think twice before being aggressive, or it will at least cause you to bail out to a safe spot.

GTF has paired up with a generous member of the GT community to bring you a demo video of all 90 holes in Golden Tee 2012!  Check out the hole-by-hole posts for each course to see a demo of each hole.  Huge spoiler!

And as if 5 new courses weren’t enough, Golden Tee has announced that all 35 Live courses, going back to the 2006 edition, will be available for you to play every time you start up a new game!  In prior years, the vendor chose which classic courses were available for play, and you only got 5 of them.  Now you get them all!  To many, you’ll get to experience some of the older courses for the first time, which is very exciting!



Sign Up for League Play on the GTF Tour!

By • Category: Contests and prizes, Features, Upcoming Tournaments • • Leave a Comment (46)

It’s happened to all of us — we pay that extra dollar to give Prize Play a shot, shoot a great score of about 5 strokes better than average, but still end up out of luck in 21st place.  Wouldn’t you like a chance to have your handicapped scores pitted against others with a REAL chance to win some prize money?  GoldenTeeFan has the league for you!

We’re now recruiting players to join the GTF Tour with a chance to compete, compile statistics, and win prize money in handicapped league play each week!

Signup Instructions:

Simply visit http://goldenteefan.com/league/. From here, you can view a link to all the league rules, make a deposit to fund your account, and email us with your account details.  We’ll take it from there!

Each week of play begins on Thursday!  Sign-ups will be accepted until Wednesday the night before, and you can join any time for each successive week of play!

The first quarter of play will run through October 5, with the next quarter starting on October 6.

Please feel free to email us questions or post suggestions on how to make this league a more enjoyable experience for you and everyone – thanks!!



Principles of Alignment

By • Category: Features, Improvement, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (4)

Ready for a hardcore dissection of angles and alignment?  My buddy Jeremy Olson has you covered!  The PDF document below speaks for itself and will almost certainly get you thinking about things you’ve never before considered while playing Golden Tee.

Yes, it’s data heavy, but it will certainly be beneficial to those of us still learning the game.  It’s true that you develop a feel for shots as your experience improves, but while you are still struggling for consistency, check out this analysis to see which aspects might apply to your game!

Thanks Jeremy for the awesome write-up and analysis!

Golden Tee Principles of Alignment



Golden Tee Fan’s Top Tips for Beginners and Amateurs

By • Category: Features, Improvement • • Leave a Comment (1)

Consider this a “best of” collection of everything that I feel can be immensely beneficial to those still learning the game, all within a few pages!  There are hundreds of articles on this site, and while categories and the new search button on the home page can help you track things down, it’s still easy to miss something.

Click here for the GTF Tip sheet — a printable 5-page guide to the absolute best tips that I’ve collected over the years to help all of us get better!  Armed with this knowledge and the write-ups of how to play each hole in Golden Tee 2011, you’ll be on your way to beating your friends in no time!



Creative Shot-Making on Short Par 3s

By • Category: Approach shots with irons, Features • • Leave a Comment (1)

Some of the toughest shots in this game come when you are right in-between distances with two high-lofted clubs.  Many of us use the Hawks, and most of us dread shots from 80 yards out — this is because the 9-iron sets up for 100 yards and the Sand Wedge sets up for 60 yards.  So, you either try to muscle up the SW or thumb the 9-iron, but that doesn’t always work out so well.

With the introduction of Golden Tees, we now have more flexibility to fill those gaps!  You don’t often think of changing the tee height with high-lofted clubs, but it can be extremely beneficial in some cases and save you a stroke or two.

Let’s talk through a couple examples where I applied this strategy recently.  First, I had a setup on Timber #8 where the flag was on the front left, narrow portion of that green about 90 yards out, with a wind of 10 in my face.  I had to use a 9-iron, but I couldn’t use backspin with that wind, otherwise the wind + spin would suck the ball right into the water.  I was also uncomfortable not using backspin, because that shot would require perfect distance control for me to have a short putt.

My solution was a high-teed 9-iron with backspin.  I knew that as long as I landed anywhere on the green with this combo, the ball would back up just slightly.  I knew the ball would go a bit farther, and I knew there’d be just a few feet of backspin once the ball landed.  Sure enough, I landed towards the back of the green and saw the ball back up to the center, leaving an easy birdie putt.

Here’s an even better example from Timber #16.  I had the pin at the front of the front circle of this awful green, 80 yards away, with a tail wind of 10.  SW sets up at 60 yards to land short in the water, and 9I sets up at 100 yards to land long on the hill.  I knew that I’d be able to hammer the SW and reach that first circle, but I had no idea if the ball would stop on the green since that portion is so small.  I’d have to just barely land the front of the green with no backspin and hope it stopped — a very difficult task.  9I was also a bad option because it would be hard to thumb it softly enough to land short of the hill on the green.

The solution here was a low-teed 9I with backspin.  I knew the low tee would take off distance to keep from carrying all the way to the hill, and backspin was a must to draw the ball back towards that tough pin spot.  Sure enough, that shot landed just short of the hill and spun back in the middle of the green, giving me an open birdie putt.

Keep in mind that Golden Tees also allow you to move backwards, and sometimes forwards, to further assist with distance control.

Finally, it’s worth reminding that you can also take off a bit of distance by playing a B1 or B3-type shot.  When you aim for a target straight ahead but start the ball our towards 1 or 3, you can expect to drop a few yards in distance.  Of course, it’s harder to control your accuracy and these shots require practice.  Keep in mind that a typical B1 shot with a high lofted club will NOT return all the way to center, so you’ll have to pull back a bit left of center to stay on target (revisit the “schwerve” article here).  This shot should be another one you keep in your back pocket when you need it.

SO, the next time you’re faced with a tough, short par 3, keep in mind all the ways that you can alter your distance and shot type to give yourself the safest shot possible in that situation!



Golden Tee 2011 — A Statistical View

By • Category: 2010 - Golden Tee LIVE 2011, Features, Statistics • • Leave a Comment (2)

Now that you’ve hopefully got many games of 2011 under your belts, you have a pretty good idea of the holes on which you score well, but more so, you probably know which holes are giving you fits.  Ever wonder if other players like you are struggling on the same holes?

Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure if laying up for birdie on a tough par 4 will net you a better overall score than if you alternate between the tough eagle and the disastrous par or worse?  If an average player knew that a good player only eagles certain holes a small % of the time, he could decide to play the odds and take the safe birdie.

Well, a short while back I was approached by Jeremy Olson, a statistical analyst from Chicago who plays under the name NIGHTRAIN !.  He had developed a model to handicap each hole on the course based on certain variables and the scores he was shooting on them, but he needed a larger data set.  With the help of the GTF community, we’ve gotten many volunteers to give us access to their hole-by-hole scores on the 2011 courses, and with this data, Jeremy has been able to develop some awesome-looking spreadsheets and dashboards with great statistics for each hole!

SO, let’s take a look at some data!  These statistics are from 7-8 players whose handicap ranges from 15 to 21, which turned out the be the ideal audience for this type of analysis.  Also, the first few rounds played on these courses and any obvious outliers (blow-up rounds at 2AM, for example) were excluded.

First, pop open this spreadsheet and browse over the first tab.  Each course has all its holes classified into one of 5 categories, as defined below (remember that GT Par is the best score you can normally shoot without holing out — we used a slight modification of GT Par and called it “Potential”):

Easy:  75% handicap or better.  Only unforced errors can lead to dropped strokes.
Moderate:  50-75%.  Player is NOT faced with a decision whether or not to lay up.  Probability of GT par is reduced because of course variables, but chance of a penalty stroke is minimal.
Risk/Reward:  40-55%.  Player IS faced with a decision whether or not to go for GT par. Average score should be within +/- 0.10 of birdie (meaning the risk of getting Eagle is in balance with the penalty of par).
Professional:  40% or less. GT par is very difficult.  Risk of bogey outweighs benefit of Eagle.
Difficult:  50% or less.  No option to lay up with significant danger.  Probability of GT par is negative.  Chance of bogey high.

The % column shows how often players score the potential value (normally GT Par) on these holes, and the Avg. Score column shows that value for these holes.  You may find that “Potential”  is flexed a little bit towards what average/good players can realistically be expected to shoot on particular holes.

Now, click the Scorecards tab.  Here you see the hole-by-hole breakdowns for each course.  You’ll see an additional column for Handicap — the holes have been handicapped based off players’ percentage of realized Potential on those holes (again, you can also think about this as the ranking of a player’s average score on this hole relative to GT Par).  We didn’t always want to use GT Par as the standard for handicap because there are certain holes like Alpine #7 that may have a low GT Par %, but they are not necessarily difficult to birdie.  Now you truly know which holes are causing players in the 15 to 21 handicap range the most trouble!  You can use this knowledge to help with course management, and you can also use these ratings when playing with your buddies to know where to give strokes if you want to even things up based on your handicaps!

That’s the overview, but it gets bigger and better — each hole is analyzed in further detail in the write-up for each course!  Alpine and Grizzly are done and will be published soon, so be ready to head on over to those sections to see even more detail.  I’ll also soon be rolling these stats into a new format for each hole’s write-up!

Finally, we’ll be updating these statistics at various times throughout the year to keep them up to date, so hopefully this data can help your scores improve!  We’ll normally be pulling the 100 most recent games to get a good representation of how all our volunteers are currently performing.  Thanks big time to Jeremy for putting in the effort to gather up this valuable data for us!



Best Virtual Balls for Amateurs in 2011

By • Category: Features, Golden Tee golf balls • • Leave a Comment (1)

By now you’ve probably seen the grid that the guys at IT put together to compare Distance, Backspin, Curve and Loft for all available virtual balls in Golden Tee 2011. It’s certainly a nice resource, but it might scare you away from trying different types of balls if you establish an opinion based solely on those numbers. My buddy Juan Schwartz took to the course to give six of the longer distance balls a test drive, and the results should help you even more when matching a ball with your club set!

Here are his notes — notice how many of these differ from the published ratings:

Spinnys hook 50% more than Hurtle, Streak, and Maniax (conclusion — amateurs shouldn’t use these since they are hard to control)
Straight Jackets hook 50% less (making this ball virtually unusable as well, since A1s and C3s act more like B1s and B3s) and also appear to go lower than Hurtle and Streak.

**At this point, we can eliminate these two from being good options. Now let’s take a look at the Trackers, Maniax, Hurtles and Streaks.

They all appear to go the same distance when teed high.
Tracker has a slightly lower trajectory than the other three.
Hurtles go a tad further on thumb shots and have noticeably more backspin than Maniax.
Maniax actually appear to travel the same distance as Trackers.
Streaks and Hurtles appear close to the same in most aspects (except for the Streaks having a lot less backspin and roll, actually making them the balls to use when using the Ripper clubs), while Maniax and Trackers also seem to be about the same.

Applying these notes to the base ratings from Golden Tee, we now find that the balls compare more closely to the ratings below:

Distance Backspin Curve Loft
Hurtle 10 5 5 5
Maniax 8.5 4 6 6
Tracker 8 5 5 4
Streak 10 3 5 5

CONCLUSION — Everyone with a handicap of +22 or worse should stick with the Hawk clubs and the Hurtle balls for all 5 courses in 2011 since they offer the best ratings for distance, control and consistency.



Air-O Balls — Can You Benefit From Them?

By • Category: 2010 - Golden Tee LIVE 2011, Features, Golden Tee golf balls • • Leave a Comment (1)

You may have seen some pretty awesome YouTube shots this month where you saw someone (probably Putz) drive a par 4 that you never thought possible, just by hitting it straight.  I’ll point out four pretty sweet examples:

Timber Bay #15
Grizzly Flats #7
Falcon Sands #6
Falcon Sands #7

I don’t even have examples of shots from Timber Bay #2 and #14 and Laurel Park #2 and #6, which can also be driven straight in some cases.  And don’t forget about some of the par 5s where the extra distance off the tee can help you reach the green in two!

After seeing these examples, it’s pretty tempting to want to change to the Air-O balls and show off with these long drives in front of your friends!  But not so fast – let’s take a look at how these balls can both help and potentially hurt your game.

First, you have to understand how the Air-O balls work.  Introduced last year (as the red box balls), these balls have all the same properties as stock balls except for one important difference – if you hit a straight 180 shot off the tee, you get a big distance boost, resulting in somewhere around a 10-15% increase based off the club you select.  The driver, for example, can average around 50 more yards than if you hit the normal stock balls.  So, all of a sudden your 350-yard drives are now going 400 yards!

It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, though – you have to be very accurate with your pull back and follow through to trigger the distance increase.  If you don’t create a straight line from your pull back angle through your follow-through angle within a degree or two, you won’t get the distance boost.  I’d say pros trigger the boost 90-95% of the time, but players like you and me might only be in the 75-80% range, especially when you are trying to angle the shot off to the side (actually, sometimes straight back and straight forward can be challenging too)!

When you consider the fact that the penalty (water and par) can exceed the reward (an eagle putt) in some cases, you might second-think that shot – how confident are you?  It certainly adds a fun but potentially stressful aspect to the game!

And here’s another issue you’ll come to discover – the balls can be a hindrance on par 3s and normally drivable par 4s.  How so?  Well, you may be put in a spot where you really want to hit a B2 shot with a particular club – but, now you have to adjust your strategy because that B2 could trigger a distance boost where you’ll overshoot the green!  You either have to hit the same club with a little bit of cut, club up and thumb the shot, or club down and hit the B2 planning to use the boost.  While having to learn and use different kinds of shots can help amateurs get better down the road, it’s certainly frustrating to have to veer from your comfort zone.

Finally, since the Air-Os act like stock balls in every other situation, you may be losing back to the field in several other situations – especially cut shots and some approach shots.  This deduction is not significant enough to figure in for amateurs, but you could theoretically drop another fraction of a stroke from the benefit shown for pros.

All of a sudden, the Air-Os might not seem like the best option for amateur players, but how can we know for sure?  Let’s break down each course to see if the potential benefits outweigh the downfalls that these balls can cause.

Click here to view a breakdown of each course and how amateur players might see their scores change as opposed to pro players using the Air-Os.  The sheet makes the following assumptions:

  • You won’t always get a setup where you can take advantage of the extra distance.  Column D is my best guess for how often the hole sets up to potentially give you a stroke advantage.  As you can see, some holes very rarely set up for it, so you’ll only get the chance to benefit every once in a while.
  • On some holes, the Air-Os may offer a significantly easier approach shot (a chush, for example) without risk of getting in trouble.  Where this is the case, I’m assuming that’s worth a quarter stroke.
  • If the balls give you a shot at an easier approach but come with risk of losing a stroke, I’m assuming you’ll be smart and lay up, so there’s no advantage there.
  • Judging from the surroundings, a missed boost could cost you either 0, 1 or 2 strokes.  If it could be one or the other, I’ll average those instances.
  • Column I assesses the impact on amateurs who effectively trigger the boost 75% of the time.  I’ll also assume that even if you trigger the boost, you’ll only accurately nail the landing area you need 75% of the time.  Pros get 90% for both.  I also have a column of the accuracy required to break even, and what you could expect if you were perfect 100% of the time.
  • For normal par 3s and normally straight drivable par 4s, amateurs will be penalized a quarter stroke if you could lose 1 stroke, and you’ll be penalized a half stroke if you could lose two strokes.  This is assuming you’ll have to adjust from your normal B2 shot half the time, and half of that time you’ll lose a stroke or two because of it.  Pros lose a tenth of a stroke for 1 and two tenths for 2.

So, let’s take a look at row 5 for Alpine hole #4.  This hole offers one of the most significant advantages on any course if you have the Air-Os.  I’m guessing that 80% of the time you’ll have a shot to stick this green where people using other balls won’t.  However, there’s chance of a snow plug or even water if you mishit the shot, so it could cost you a stroke (water and par) or nothing (snow plug or long with a chip and a birdie).

Let’s say you play this hole 100 times and use birdie as the base.  It sets up 80% of the time for the boost shot, so you’re at +80.  Of those 80 attempts, you’ll miss the boost 25% of the time (20 times), with it costing you par half of those and birdie (no harm) the other half.  So that’s -10 more, putting you at +70.  Now, even when you do hit the boost correctly the other 60 times, you’ll be inaccurate 25% of the time (15 times), putting you at +55.  So, in summary, you can expect to eagle 55% of the time when others are getting birdies.

Pros are 90% accurate, so when you plug in 10% and 90% instead, they gain a stroke 69% of the time they play the hole with the Air-Os.

In summary, this grid shows how amateurs and pros may expect their scores to differ on each course by using the Air-Os.  You’ll also see how accurate you have to be with your shot-making just to break even using these balls, and how you could potentially benefit if you had perfect control of this shot!

Course Amateur Strokes Pro Strokes Break even % Perfect Strokes
Alpine Run -0.58 0.74 82% 2.38
Timber Bay -1.38 0.28 87% 1.65
Laurel Park -0.66 0.10 90% 1.60
Grizzly Flats -1.67 0.04 90% 1.45
Falcon Sands -1.76 -0.30 93% 0.93
TOTAL -6.05 0.85 88% 8.01

So, while it may be fun to play a few rounds with the Air-Os, you’ll likely see your game suffer over the long haul.  Stick with the Hawks or Flares and the Maniax and continue to focus on shot-making!



GTF 2011 — Behind the Scenes

By • Category: 2010 - Golden Tee LIVE 2011, Features, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (2)

You won’t find any tips in this article, but I thought it’d be fun to share the process that GTF goes through when preparing for a year of new courses and new features!

First, I soak up all the teasers and previews that start coming out 2-3 months before the release date.  I like to consolidate everything into a preview article with links to the specifics on GT.com.  Here, viewers can have one place to get at all the new features and pictures of the upcoming release.

Then, the course previews start coming out.  This is when I start making categories for each of the new courses, adding all the detail that’s out there into an intro article for each course.  I’ll also start drafting up a post for each hole.

Beta testing is a fun time where we start seeing YouTubes of several of the holes.  IT will do some testing and upload YouTubes, so it’s fun to catch those replays if you can, but they are usually cleaned up within a day or two.  Still, you’ll have players in the Chicago area showing the first solid replays of holes on the new courses!

The most hectic time is the first couple weeks after the official vendor ship dates.  Now everyone is starting to get the update locally, and a flood of YouTubes starts coming in!  Just like everyone else, I can’t wait for the update to come to my local bars, and I’m out playing as soon as I can after the games are updated.

I’ll bring my camera to capture a picture of each hole – this is important for reference, and I’ll upload the pics to each hole post.  During my first few rounds on each course, I’m also taking notes on strategies for each hole, which I eventually bring back and update on the site.

The most work, yet the most beneficial aspect of the site, are the YouTube replays.  I like to capture an example hole-out of each possible shot on each hole, and usually within the first 2 weeks, I have most of what I need.  It takes a long time scouring for YouTubes, but it’s worth the benefit of having examples sorted out for each hole!  It’s easiest if I focus on one course at a time and sort by Upload Date – then I can tell what I’ve already viewed and what’s new.  Eventually I can recognize from the thumbnail what hole the replay is for, so I can skim along a little more quickly looking for what you need ?.

I’m also checking the forums to see if there are discussions about specific holes that contain useful information.  If I have questions about how to play certain holes, this is probably the time I’ll post them hoping to get feedback from the better players.  This is also a good time to see what club/ball combos people prefer to use on each of the courses.

From this point forward, I work on refining my advice for each hole, especially after I learn new things from each round I play.  This helps build a nice little article on each hole with the strategies you should use along with an example of how to hit each shot!  At this point, I won’t scour for YouTubes anymore – this is where I rely on AK and the rest of the GT community to share their great shots with the rest of us, whether on Facebook or in any of the GT forums!

With all that said, here are some of my favorite (but mostly lucky!) YouTubes from the first couple weeks of GT 2011 that you may not have seen!













http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bTZ-imlN7o



















Golden Tee 2010 is HERE!

By • Category: 2009 - Golden Tee LIVE 2010, Features • • Leave a Comment (2)

The always highly anticipated new year of Golden Tee has arrived!  September 29 marks the release of Golden Tee Live 2010 in many locations, with the rest of the world catching up whenever your vendor gets the software installed!  So what’s new in Golden Tee 2010?  I’m glad you asked!

First, view the trailer for the new release, and see how many things you can catch!

With this update, the faces of some of Golden Tee’s current living legends have now been incorporated into the game!  Jim Nantz and Peter Jacobsen have added a ton of new commentary to the game as well.  We as players have wanted this for a long time, and Golden Tee 2010 delivers!

UPDATE — B MAN gives us some screen shots of the holes on Bella Toscana — pause after each one to study it in a bit more detail!  He apologizes for the delay in the middle from like 0.23 to 0.48, but it’s great to get a look at some of those holes — click here to check them out!

Now, what are some of the pros saying who have been lucky enough to pilot the 2010 courses early on?  Click here to get some early reviews!

As more 2010 features are revealed, I’ll be updating this post with the latest news!  So, check back here periodically as we eagerly await the release of Golden Tee 2010!



Cutting chip shots

By • Category: Chipping, Features • • Leave a Comment (0)

Here’s a bit more advanced concept that, as usual, requires some practice — but, once you start to get the feel for it, you’ll be able to save yourself a stroke or two per round!

Some pros use this concept on a regular basis for their chipping into sloped greens, but for us amateurs, there are really only a handful of situations where I recommend attempting this type of shot.  You’ve got to find yourself in the unfortunate situation where there’s an extreme slope to the right with the pin on the very left edge of the green, or vice versa.  If this is the case, a normal chip stands no chance of ending up close to the hole, and you’ll likely be left with a long, difficult putt afterwards.

Fortunately, there’s a way that you can get these chips much closer to the hole!  Picture Great Wall #18 with the pin all the way at the top of the green.  Your drive was a bit too long, and now you’re in the rough or sand to the left, just about pin high.  You’re looking at a short chip into a right 10 slope with no green on the left with which to work.

Instead of bailing out, give this a shot — rotate once to the right and play about a 3/4 C2-type chip with backspin.  Because of your lie, you have to hit it a bit harder than if you were hitting off fairway, since hook kills distance from bad lies (even chips).  With this shot, you’ll actually have the ball working back up the hill with the backspin, and it should settle nicely around the hole!

Practice will be required to nail the distance, so this might be something to play with on chip shots where hook might not be required, if you don’t think you can make the chip shot anyway.

Let’s look at another fantastic example — Southern Oaks #16, the treacherous par 3 sloped towards the water.  With a left-blowing wind and the X-22s, I often find myself bailing out to the right in the sand with my 9-wood.  With a straight chip from here, it’s very difficult to keep the ball on the green, since the lie kills your backspin and the slope and wind are pushing to the water.  To combat the situation, I rotate once to the left and play an A2-type 3/4 chip with backspin.  Now I do have some action working against the downward slope, and it’s much easier to get the chip to stick on the green!

So, add this type of shot to your arsenal and give it a try when faced with one of these tough situations.  With a bit of practice, you’ll impress your friends and help your score!



Master the “In Between”

By • Category: Approach shots with irons, Features • • Leave a Comment (4)

It happens every round — you’ve put yourself in a situation where clubbing down and hammering a shot won’t quite get there, but clubbing up and hitting a smooth thumb shot goes too far.  I think this is one area where the casual player can make big gains on the scoreboard with a little smarts and a little practice.

First of all, you can reduce the number of these types of approach shots by being smart off the tee.  Know the gaps in your clubs and put your drive in a place that gives you a comfortable approach instead of just blindly pounding a drive out there.  You know to try to line up with the wind if you have options off the tee, but you should also know the distances of the clubs in your set — lay back for a more comfortable approach instead of putting yourself in a position where you’re not sure which club to use!

On the other hand, you don’t have control of where you’re placed on the tee box.  On par 3s and drivable par 4s, you may be left with a tough decision to make.  First, look for danger short of the green and behind the green — this should be the most important information when choosing your club.  If there’s trouble long and you’re afraid an easy thumb shot might carry too far, then club down.  If it’s safe long, then take the longer club.

So what if there’s water short and long?  Here’s where you need to add another shot to your arsenal — the 2/3 touch shot.  I call it 2/3 because you’ll generally be pulling the club back 2/3 of the way in order to take enough distance off the shot to be safe.  Let’s say you’ve got the X-22s and you need to carry 175 yards to an island green with a strong cross-wind.  Your 5-iron is very risky only going 160 yards, and your 9-wood will go too far at 190.  The solution?  Grab your 9-wood, pull it back 2/3 of the way in the direction you’d normally be aiming, and thumb it forward at normal easy-thumb strength.  This will create the 175-yard shot you’re looking for!

Another note — the length of the pullback is NOT proportional to the distance of the shot.  Be careful not to pull the ball back, say, 80% of the way, because you’ll hardly be taking any distance off a full-strength shot.  To get the desired effect of reduced distance, you’ve got to be between 50-75% of a full swing.  I like to try to use 2/3 as a good baseline, because I know that will take the desired 10-20 yards off the distance to give me the shot I want.

As always, this shot takes practice, but I believe it’s easier to utilize than trying to finesse a very-soft thumbs shot that will most likely go too long or way too short.

There are several examples where this shot comes in handy — most often par 3s that have trouble all around the green.  So instead of trying to superman a lesser club or finesse a longer one, use a shorter pullback and take your normal thumbs follow-through to take away some of the guesswork!



How the elements are affecting your distance

By • Category: Features, Golden Tee golf clubs, Hitting out of rough lies • • Leave a Comment (4)

With the introduction of the dynamic distance indicator in Golden Tee Live 2010, players now get to see how differing conditions affect the distance of any particular shot.  The amount of rain in combination with the lie of your ball triggers a formula that calculates the number you see on the distance marker with any specific club/ball combo.  Sure, we all know that rain kills roll when the ball lands and that you can’t hit the ball as far out of a tough lie, but have you ever stopped to pay attention to all the situations that Golden Tee takes into account?

I’ve been working on this project for a while now, and it’s still got a ways to go, but I wanted to report my findings thus far.  This attached file has a ton of information across many tabs, but I want to focus on how each specific lie/weather combo affects your distance.

The tab I’m most interested in completing right now is the “X22s-Gamer2s + Conditions” tab (now Flares and Trackers).  These are the clubs and balls I’m currently using on each 2010 course, and so I’ve started recording the distance that shows on the distance marker with each club in that set.  There are many situations I haven’t come across yet, as you can tell.

Now, if you pull just a specific club and a specific ball, like my 9-wood and the Gamer 2.0, here’s how the grid now looks (distances in blue are confirmed, while distances in black are best guesses):

X22 9-wood + Gamer2s
(now Flares + Trackers) 
Lie / Weather Dry Wet Light Rain Heavy Rain
Teebox 195 192 188 182
Fairway 193 190 187 181
First Cut/Shortcut Grass 194 191 188 182
Second Cut of Rough 180 177 174 168
Heavy Rough 167 164 161 156
Mud 97 95 93 90
Sand/Dust 146 143 140 135
Dirt 137 134 131 127

Now if we order the possible conditions by distance, we end up with this grid:

X22 9-wood + Gamer2s
(now Flares + Trackers) 
Distance % Decrease
Teebox + Dry 195 0.00%
First Cut/Shortcut Grass + Dry 194 0.51%
Fairway + Dry 193 1.03%
Teebox + Wet 192 1.54%
First Cut/Shortcut Grass + Wet 191 2.05%
Fairway + Wet 190 2.56%
Teebox + Light Rain 188 3.59%
First Cut/Shortcut Grass + Light Rain 188 3.59%
Fairway + Light Rain 187 4.10%
Teebox + Heavy Rain 182 6.67%
First Cut/Shortcut Grass + Heavy Rain 182 6.67%
Fairway + Heavy Rain 181 7.18%
Second Cut of Rough + Dry 180 7.69%
Second Cut of Rough + Wet 177 9.23%
Second Cut of Rough + Light Rain 174 10.77%
Second Cut of Rough + Heavy Rain 168 13.85%
Heavy Rough + Dry 167 14.36%
Heavy Rough + Wet 164 15.90%
Heavy Rough + Light Rain 161 17.44%
Heavy Rough + Heavy Rain 156 20.00%
Sand/Dust + Dry 146 25.13%
Sand/Dust + Wet 143 26.67%
Sand/Dust + Light Rain 140 28.21%
Dirt + Dry 137 29.74%
Sand/Dust + Heavy Rain 135 30.77%
Dirt + Wet 134 31.28%
Dirt + Light Rain 131 32.82%
Dirt + Heavy Rain 127 34.87%
Mud + Dry 97 50.26%
Mud + Wet 95 51.28%
Mud + Light Rain 93 52.31%
Mud + Heavy Rain 90 53.85%

There are many things to note when looking at this data.  The first thing that confused me is that you see a longer distance from the first cut (or “shortcut” grass that exists on several courses) than from the fairway!  I asked around and found out that the ball is somewhat ‘teed up’ on the taller grass compared to the fairway, which gets the club under the ball better (also referred to as a ‘flier lie’) — so, that’s pretty cool that IT incorporated this aspect of golf into the game! You can see how mud cripples your distance, cutting it in half, while dirt, dust and sand cut off between a quarter and a third of your distance.

I never knew so many unique conditions on the course were measured so acutely!  You don’t just have rain — you have wet, light rain, or heavy rain.  And I’m sure I haven’t captured all the possible lies yet either (snow and ice aren’t included, for example, and neither is tall grass).

And if you think you can find just one number constant and use that as a factor in which to calculate the reduction in distance — think again.  I tried, and the reduction factor differs per club!  And if you think about it, it should, because of how each club is shaped and functions.  So whatever formula the guys at IT are using to calculate distance given these conditions cannot be easily cracked!

Hopefully this article opens your eyes to the wonderful complexity of this game we all love.  Let me know if you can help me fill in some of the gaps in my distance grids, and I’ll keep the attachment updated as I gather more data!



Dominate the Skins Game

By • Category: Features, Improvement, Miscellaneous • • Leave a Comment (3)

Alright – we’re quite a ways into 2010, and maybe you’re looking to expand your Golden Tee experience beyond stroke play.  Maybe you and your friends are ready to quit worrying about the blowup holes that ruin your round.  Maybe you are ready to put your focus on each hole individually instead of your score as a whole to make the entire 18-hole experience more exciting.  If so, you’re ready for Skins Play!

Skins can be played with anywhere from 2-4 people, but in my experience, 3 people in a group works the best.  With 2 people you don’t really have the group competition going on; with 4 people, you’ll probably see too many carry-overs and it’s much harder to win a hole.  But with 3 people, you have just the right blend of individual glory and tough carry-overs to make for an exciting round!

A fun way to get started with the skins game is to have everyone throw down $18 on the table (easily adjustable, of course, based on your financial situation J).  A dollar from each person goes into the pot before each hole starts.  If you win the hole, then you win the pot.  If it carries over, you each throw in another dollar for the next hole until someone wins a hole, and then that person takes the pot.

If you’re playing for fun, you should take advantage of the built-in Skins game offered with Golden Tee 2010 – it will do the work for you!  If you’re playing for money, though, you can go either way – you might want to just play stroke play and track skins on your own.

Okay, so you’ve got your 3 people and your money ready to show – so what’s your plan of attack?  Let’s break it down into general strategies, situations where you should be aggressive, and situations where you should be conservative:

GENERAL STRATEGY:

  • Be long off the tee.  This is very important, especially on holes with a difficult approach shot.  If you’re closest to the pin off the tee, then you get to watch everyone else go first, which will feed into your decision on how aggressive/conservative to be on your approach shot!
  • Play your game.  Just because you’re not playing stroke play doesn’t mean you need to abandon the things that work for you, especially if you’re going outside your comfort zone just to try to match a great shot.  You’ll do best by sticking to your game, and your rewards will come with your opponents’ mistakes.  Don’t give up easy strokes!
  • Never give up!  So you got wet on the par 3 and your opponent hit the green?  You never know what’s going to happen – he could 3-putt or even put his putt off the green.  Remember, the pressure is now on him to finish the hole, and he might open the door back up for you!  Plus, you always have a chance to chip in for the tie.
  • Have fun!  The beauty of skins play is the friendly competition amongst your group and how every hole is a new opportunity.  Don’t get caught up in the results of one or two holes, because the next hole is another chance to win!

BE AGGRESSIVE!

  • The hole is pretty easy and a birdie is sure to carry over.  In these cases, let your opponents make their birdies – take aim at the pin or the green and go for eagle!
  • Your opponents already have birdies locked up.  In this case, you can do no wrong, because they are going to cancel each other out anyway.  Take a good run at the cup!
  • The pot is small.  In this case, it’s okay to take a risk towards getting eagle, because you don’t have much on the line, but your reward is more than you invested!

BE CONSERVATIVE!

  • The hole is difficult and birdies are unlikely.  In this case, you want to make sure you get your par so that, at worst, you force a carry over.
  • Your opponents are in trouble.  If you’re last off the tee or last on the approach, and you see your opponents make mistakes, take the route that gives you the best chance to 1-up them.  Remember, you don’t care about your score alone – you only care that it’s 1 better than the other guys on this hole!
  • The pot is large.  Now, if your opponent has already put the pressure on you, then you must try to answer.  But, you cannot be the guy who goes first and puts his ball in the hazard off the tee.  Force your opponent to make a great shot to beat you, but don’t hand it to him by playing foolishly!