Archives for the ‘Improvement’ Category

How the Tough Courses Define Your True Skill

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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.

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:

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:

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:

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.

Let the experiments begin!

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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!  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.

Why You Don’t Play Well in Tournaments

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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!

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.

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!

Preparing for Golden Tee 2011

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Golden Tee 2011 is only two months away!  While it’s hard not to get excited for the new courses and features, due to ship in the last week of September to bars with eager vendors, you’ve still got a few weeks left to work on your 2010 game.  Since you’ve probably been playing 2010 for 10 months now, you’re familiar with the courses and execute most shots by memory.  This is the time of year I like to get back to basics and work on improving your fundamentals while also taking more chances on the course.  I recommend working on these tips your next few rounds while you’re waiting for 2011 to come out:

1) Chipping — it’s absolutely true that good chippers save multiple strokes per round by being able to punch the ball in the hole after missing the green.  Work on chipping in all types of situations — everything from low-lofted runners to 3/4 lob shots out of the sand.  Pull back on every chip shot and pay attention to distance.  You’ll want to hone these skills to carry forward into 2011.

2) Pulling the trackball back on every shot — Get used to the distance added by pulling back on each shot and the angle created when pulling back to the side, even ever so slightly.  The great players always combat wind and slope by pulling back off-center to create an angle into these obstacles, and now is the time to pay closer attention than ever to how your ball reacts to different approach angles.

3) Play aggressively!  You don’t learn without experience, so it’s time to take some chances on those tough drivable par 4s and go for the gusto.  Sure, you’ll make some mistakes, but the knowledge you’ll gain is worth those extra strokes at this point.  Learn from what doesn’t work, and store away what does work — I guarantee you’ll always have to execute similar shots on new courses!

4) Play the 2009 courses one more time — on most machines, these will be gone when 2011 comes out, so give the old courses one last spin for nostalgia!

So, enough with the lessons — let’s start running down all we know about the newest version of the game!

Here’s an early review from one of the pros that got to test out the courses:

“I only got to play one cycle last night and I must say…I am fairly impressed. There are lots of holes that are mirror images of past holes, but have their own quirks to them that make it challenging.

The good:
1) The layouts of these courses are quite challenging. I think that on any one of them it would be fairly simple to shoot -21 or so. However, if you want to shoot -27, you will have to risk shooting -17. Very much like many of the current courses.
2) While the new tees will be required to shoot GT Par, it is fairly obvious when you need to use them.
3) Potentially driveable par 5.
4) Drop for mistakes are very easy.

The bad:
1) Quartz balls and old Black balls do not act at all like they once did. The indicators showed that they cut more and spun more, but the fact is that they do not. They reacted more like stock.
2) The new tees are going to be a requirement, if you want to shoot GT par.
3) Drops for mistakes are too forgiving.

The ugly:

1) The difficult part about the new tees is that backspin does not apply at all when you change the tee height. So you need to raise the tee to drive certain greens and then can’t hold the green anyway.

IMO, the golden tees were needed more to get the ball higher to clear trees. The right to left is sometimes helpful, but not as necessary as the ability to get the ball high very quickly and to get the extra distance.I would say it is a good 15-20% increase in distance. I had one tee shot carry into the 390 range. I was down 15mph, but it didn’t land until almost 400.”Also, be careful not to hit Start too often when skipping to the next hole, because you may inadvertently use a Golden Tee on the next hole!


We know all 5 of the new courses for 2011 — check out the pages for each under the 2011 courses category!  They are Laurel Park, Falcon Sands, Grizzly Flats, Alpine Run, and Timber Bay.  More on each of these as updates are released!

So, this leads us to a couple of the most exciting new features for Golden Tee 2011.  First, we have learned that most old club sets and all old virtual balls will be available for purchase!  That’s right — now everyone can have access to the “old birds” or other popular old club sets, along with any old type of virtual ball you want, all from a 2011 cabinet.  This might be a good time to check out the categories for Golden Tee golf clubs and Golden Tee golf balls — you’ll have dozens of combinations to try out!

Next, and perhaps more exciting, players will have the ability to YouTube any shot you want! That’s right — YouTube is not just for hole-outs any more.  I know I’ve had lots of great and/or lucky shots that ALMOST went in — well now you can capture those as well!  Any type of shot at any time can be saved, BUT, word is that there will be a small fee if you want to save non-holeout shots (this is so that YouTube doesn’t get quite as flooded with Golden Tee shot replays).  It may cost as much as $.50 for a single upload, with perhaps a “3 for $1 deal,” but I’m hoping they reduce this cost since that seems a bit high to most of us.

Another very interesting new feature is the introduction of “Golden Tees,” which allow you to both change your position in the tee box and tee the ball higher or lower!  Bags of these tees come at a small cost but can be beneficial to sometimes significantly improve your position during a challenging tee shot.  There are mixed emotions on this one, but I think the majority agrees this is a really cool new feature (some just don’t like the added cost associated with them).  You can tee it at one of three heights: low, medium (default), or high.  Important note — if you tee it high, backspin and roll will not work!  That’s right, so keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to tee it high.  In contrast, teeing it low increases the effect of backspin or roll — you might even see some double-skipping over water in 2011!

Want to test out Golden Tee 2011?  There are now 4 test locations in Illinois waiting for you!  Help give the Golden Tee team some early feedback while you give the 2011 courses and features a spin!

Keep checking back here often for updates as they are made available!  Here are a few more pictures of what’s coming in 2011:

Principles of Alignment

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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

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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!

Dominate the Skins Game

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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:


  • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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!

Improving Through the Ages

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You’ll find a lot of tips on this site to help you improve your game, and I’d like to think that everyone from beginners to very good amateur players can find something to take away to the Golden Tee machine the next time they play.  But what happens if you seem to “max out” at a specific skill level?  Are there things you can still learn to help break through and improve your game even more?  Well the friendly folks who frequent the Underdog forum started up a thread on aspects of the game that have helped THEM get to the elite level where they currently stand, and I wanted to pass their comments along to you!  So, I’ve broken down these comments (and added a few of my own) into skill brackets, with 1 being a beginner and 10 being a pro.  Try to find yourself within this range, and then read the comments corresponding to that level to see what you can work on to make your game even better!

Welcome to the wonderful world of Golden Tee!  Here you’re learning the nature of the trackball, how to curve shots (whether intentionally or unintentionally), and how roll and backspin affect your shot.

You’re starting to understand how to play the elements (wind and rain), and you learn how much wind affects the ball on each shot while also learning how rain kills the ball (especially now on 2010).  You also know to club up or down based on elevation changes.

Expanding beyond palming every shot, you learn to thumb and how thumbing distance differs from palming distance.  You’re getting consistent with your short putts, making most anything under 30 feet.  You’ve learned how to play more break on uphill putts and less on downhill putts, and, more importantly, you’re figured out which putting approach works best for you (palm or thumbs).

You’re really starting to consider the loft of your club with each shot, learning when it’s best to choose the 5-wood over the 2-iron, or vice-versa.  You’ve also gotten out of the habit of using backspin on every approach shot into the green.  Instead, you know the best conditions to use backspin and roll based on the slope of the green, the wind, the pin placement, and the loft of your club.  This helps you put more approach shots close to the flag.

You’ve added more shots to your game, such as pullback thumbs, pullback palms, and hammer shots, learning how each of these can increase/decrease distance of any given club.  You’re learning the carry distances of each club to know when you can/can’t carry a rough lie.  You’ve almost eliminated rollover putts by pulling back to C slightly and hitting it smoothly forward.  You’re effectively cutting the ball into the wind when the situation demands it.  You know when to put your ego aside and club-up instead of trying to pound one less club and coming up short.  You’ve learned shortcuts on many holes that give you an advantage over a novice.  You’re also getting more comfortable playing with different clubs and balls, and you’re not afraid to change clubs on a course where you know it will give you an advantage.

You really understand how the trackball is designed and how it works, and, because of this, you understand how spinny and non-spinny shots differ.  You also avoid the trackball issue by a non-spinny C3 shot that happens when you hammer it out towards 3 and make the ball “jump” off track, causing your ball to come off straight ahead instead of out to the right.  You’re able to accurately shoot B1 and B3 shots when needed.  When there aren’t many other factors to consider, you try to line up your approach shot with the wind to give yourself the best chance of putting an approach shot close.  Also, you know where to leave approach shots distance-wise to have specific clubs into the green.  You make almost every putt within 50 feet, and you’re pretty good at bump-and-run chips with a single-club, like a 7-iron.  You respect the wind, especially with your wedge, rotating once or twice when needed.  You know where NOT to go on each shot, avoiding foolish mistakes most of the time by being smart.  Finally, you’ve come across the “old birds” (the 2005 hybrid set) and have learned how they can help you.

You’re able to hole-out bump and run chips with many clubs, depending on the situation.  You’re consistently hitting the ball smoothly to generate power as opposed to just hitting it hard.  You can feel the correct angles of your pullback and follow-through, so you will reset your pullback until you know it’s right, and you’ll know upon impact whether or not your follow-through is on line.  You’re able to consistently make 70+ foot putts because you understand how they differ from putts under 65 feet.  You know how and when to thumb long, big-breaking putts as opposed to palming them, especially big left-breaking putts for right-handers.  You’re in the good habit of keeping your hands clean and dry before each shot.  You’re effectively scoring Great Shot Points to help you in the standings.  Finally, you’re able to avoid going on tilt after a bad shot, and you know when it’s time to stop playing because other influences are affecting your game.

You’ve got your distances mastered in any situation, including 3/4 shots like a 200-yard 5-wood.  You also know how much to club up when shooting through that tree because you know how much the tree will knock it down.  You’re getting good at cutting chips into the break, which help them roll out more consistently and enable more hole-outs.  You’ve been playing in tournaments to help build experience.  Finally, you have a good understanding of your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and you’re not swayed into straying outside your comfort zone when competing with others.

You instinctively know the exact loft of your clubs from an unseen lie, which allows you to clear an obstacle or avoid a big mistake by going around.  Your chipping is outstanding — you are not afraid to chip out of the sand or onto a lofted green aggressively to a front pin, when the penalty for coming up short would be at least 1 stroke.  You’re also able to nail chips with severe side slope.  You have the confidence that you can make any shot if you have to have it.

Your goal is to hole-out almost every approach shot, and you’re able to do this once per round on average.  You don’t miss putts, and you make almost every chip.  You’re having a lot of success in tournaments because you’ve mastered the mental game as well as the physical game, and your opponents are scared to play against you when money’s on the line!

You’re Andy Haas :).

And finally, at ANY level, it’s ALWAYS beneficial to play with, and learn from, players who are better than you!  Whether that be at your local bar or at a tournament half-way across the country, you can always learn something new from that other guy.  So, try to incorporate friends and Golden Tee pros alike into your routine, and I guarantee you’ll come away with some tips to help your game!

GoldenTeeFan takes on Cedar Rapids

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Well I had another fantastic time at a Golden Tee tournament — this time driving out to Cedar Rapids, IA for the action.  I got to the Double Inn by 4:00 on Friday.  The setup was fantastic — there were 15 pedestals set up all around the perimeter of the seating area.  With only 39 participants, there was always plenty of room to get in a game any time you wanted, all weekend.  And the cost of prize play was lowered to $2.50/game by the vendors, so that saved everyone quite a bit of cash on the games too!  The vendors did an outstanding job staying organized and keeping things running, so if you can make it next year, I’d recommend it above all other tourneys!

It took a bit to get used to the pedestals again.  You have to get used to the putting a bit, and a lot of my approach shots were coming in long.  Still, after you get used to them, there’s nothing else you’d rather play on.  I’m not looking forward to going back to the old school machines after getting used to the big flat screen all weekend!

Friday night brought a lot of excitement.  There was a blind-draw doubles tournament, and I was hooked up with a dude named Chris Dilly from Omaha.  Unfortunately for everyone, the top 2 qualifiers (Kinz and Mouth) got paired together.  And unfortunately for us, we had to play them in the first round!

As it turned out, this was the most exciting match I’ve ever been a part of in my short tourney career.  We picked up a couple strokes early on, and then Kinz and Mouth kept chipping over the green on Black Hills hole #5, getting a 7 on that hole!  So after 5 holes, Chris and I were up by 5 strokes — can you believe it?!  As you may have guessed, they chipped away at that lead, getting 3 strokes back on hole 11 with an eagle while we bogied.  They tied it up later on and we were all square at -18 after 17 holes!  Mouth put it pretty close on the fringe on 18, and I stuck the green!  Kinz made the putt, and then Chris had a tough, long right-sloping putt that didn’t quite go in.  He had been money with the putter all day, but we couldn’t get that one to fall, so we lost -20 to -19.  We also lost the next match, not playing as well, and Kinz/Mouth never lost a match on their way to the doubles title.  Still, I’ll always have the memory of this fun match!

Qualifying was great with 39 guys on 15 machines — there were either 2 or 3 on each machine, and we got to play a full 5-course qualifier.  It started at 12:30 and ran until 5:30.  For some reason, I still get really nervous playing qualifying matches, and I had a horrible front nine (-9) on Grand Savannah to start.  I recovered really well on the back, putting up a respectable -20.  But, it never got better than that.  I went -18 on Woodland, -15 on Black Hills, -15 on Sunny, and -20 on Bonnie…not very good.  I was missing putts and just not executing well, and even with those not-so-great scores, I was right on the cut line.  The top 24 made the cut to play in the gold bracket, and I ended up #25!  My goal was to make the cut, and I failed there, but some exciting stuff was about to happen.

The “purple” bracket (which was double elimination) for the 14 guys who missed the cut started at 7:00.  I had a bye and then played a dude named Dave on Bonnie.  I fell behind by 2 early but recovered well after that, cruising to a 2-stroke win.  Then I played an amazing guy from Omaha named Evan.  Evan was involved in an awful motorcycle accident that left his right arm paralyzed, which he had in a sling.  Still, Even was a great Golden Tee player, able to execute every shot and drain every putt using just his left hand.  Even made a mistake early and gave me 2 strokes on hole #2, and I kept that slim lead most of the way, finishing with another 2 or 3 stroke win.

Next up was “Buffalo” Bill Spruce, and we had an epic battle on Bonnie.  We matched each other shot for shot until I took a 1-stroke lead late in the match.  Neither of us made more than 2 or 3 mistakes that round, and it took all I had to put up a -26 that edged out his -25!  And that was it for Friday night.  Since it was true double elim, Evan and Bill would play the next match Sunday morning, with the loser getting third place ($62) and the winner getting another shot at me.

Bill played a very clean round on Woodland and closed the door on 17 and 18 with outstanding tee shots.  So Bill got a rematch with me, and Bonnie was drawn, much to my dismay — I couldn’t put up another -26 like yesterday!  So we battled it out again, with me getting a nice hole-out on 2 to hold a 1-stroke lead for a while.  We were tied going into #14, where I drove the green and he ended up on the fringe with the water between him and the hole.  He caught a tough break when his chip went in the water, and I eagled, taking a 3-stroke lead.  I was able to hold on from there to shoot a -24 to his -21, and that was it!  Bill got $125 for 2nd place, and I got $185 for first in the purple bracket!

Needless to say, I was never so happy to miss the cut!  It’s always great playing matches against players who share your skill level, where anything can happen and you always have a chance to win!  I also found I wasn’t as nervous playing the heads-up matches, although I don’t know why — maybe I was less intimidated and had more confidence knowing I had a good chance against these guys.  In any case, if I can make a run like that in the purple bracket, then anyone can — it just goes to show you how well the amateur players like me can benefit from playing in a big tournament!

Why’d It Do That?

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lead-angrygolferEver hit a shot and wonder what the heck just happened?  Sure you have — we all go through that as we’re learning the mechanics of the trackball and the game itself, and I still ask the same question every now and then when a shot goes awry.  The worst thing that can happen, though, is you shrugging it off and not stopping to figure out why that bad shot just happened!  As you gain more experience, you’ll start to recognize the source of these problems, and then you can help your friends and yourself learn from these mistakes to become a better player.

What happened: Your shot ended up way right or left of target

Why it happened:
The first concept beginners have to master is how the trackball works.  Some people pull straight back and shoot forward left, expecting the ball to go left, when we know that creates a “schwerve” that ends up coming in left-to-right instead.  Realize that the pull-back is more important to accuracy than where the ball starts its path, so focus on pulling back correctly.

Another cause is not playing enough wind with a lofted approach shot.  Wind can be devastating on wedge shots, so often times you’ll even have to rotate once or twice to compensate enough.

What happened: Your approach shot comes up well short of the green (consider the opposite of what’s listed below if your shot just flew over the green).

Why it happened:
Several things could have gone wrong here, so I’ll list them out:
1) You didn’t compensate enough for a wind in your face or for a shot into an elevated green
2) Your playing partner hit his approach with deceptively smooth force, and your “smooth” shot really was not as strong.
3) Your playing partner is using Golden Tee golf balls that pack more distance than the ones you’re using.
4) You didn’t club up to compensate for a tough lie.  You lose a bit of distance from areas like mud and snow, but you lose about 1/3 of your distance when hitting out of tall grass.
5) You tried to put curve on a shot from the rough.  This KILLS distance.  From the rough, you have to either play it straight or club up several times if you’re attempting a cut shot.
6) You tried to carry an island green with a low-lofted club (many times it’s better to club up to the 5-wood and hit a softer shot).
7) You tried to thumb a shot too softly.  Some machines don’t read this type of shot correctly, and you’ll end up way short.  If this happens repeatedly, try pulling back 3/4 of the way and hitting a full thumbs shot.

What happened:
Your attempted A1 or C3 shot took more of an A2 or C2 path, crashing into whatever was in front of you.

Why it happened:
Sometimes the trackball reads these funny if you don’t hit a “spinny” A1 or C3.  I had problems for so long on Cypress Cove #9, where you can often play a C3 around the mountain cliff onto the green.  I would pull back towards C, let the ball stop spinning, and slam it forward towards 3.  Instead of shooting out right, it would slam right into the mountain straight ahead.  Either the way I was hitting the shot or the machine itself (or both) contributed to the problem, but once I started to keep the ball spinning on my backswing before I shot forward to 3, I saw a nice, consistent ball path.  Note that the “spinny” adds distance to your shot, so you might want to club down to help fix this problem as well.  Finally, I’ve found that using thumbs to shoot forward on a non-spinny shot works consistently most of the time also.

What happened: You miss an uphill putt by not playing enough break, and then you make matters worse by playing too much break on the comeback downhill putt.

Why it happened:
It takes a while for newer players to get used to how uphill putts essentially have more break than downhill putts.  What really causes the break is your ball slowing down as it’s going uphill, but all you need to know if that you’ll have to play as if there’s more break if putting uphill.  Practice is the remedy for this, so you really need to consider the uphill/downhill slope just as much as you consider the side-hill break if you’re going to consistently make putts.

What happened: Your chip shot from just off the green still comes up short of the green.

Why it happened:
The surface off which you’re hitting can play a big part here, as can your backswing.  There is some nasty dirt on Grand Savannah that seems to force you to hit harder than usual to get out of it and onto the green — I see many people “duff” chips off this stuff because it can kill your shot.  Secondly, you can duff a chip by not pulling back far enough.  People think they can compensate for not pulling back past their player’s ankles by hitting it forward with more force, but what you really need is the loft off the club at impact.  Pull it back a bit farther and hit forward more gently — this helps get the ball in the air and onto the green.

How to shoot -30 on Golden Tee

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This question is pretty common among people who are just picking up the game. If you’re a casual player, you might average somewhere around -10 and think you’re pretty decent, but then you see that someone somewhere somehow shot -30 on this very course, leaving you completely baffled! How is this possible? What am I missing?

Well, I’m going to simulate a great round on the 2009 Golden Tee course Bonnie Moor and show you exactly how this is possible! No, you’ll probably never be able to reach this milestone yourself, but it can certainly help you know how to play the course so you give yourself the best chance of posting a much better score than you normally shoot!

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 1:
The wind is directly in your face so you poke a driver straight ahead.  With a back pin, you approach dead-on with an iron and use roll for a hole-out eagle.  Score: -2.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 2:
You’re set up in the middle of the tee box, 350 yards away, with the pin on the right.  You hit a nice A1 with backspin that clears the gully and cuts back onto the green.  You make your eagle putt.  Score: -4.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 3:
You float a 2-iron down the hill using no roll, and it sticks close to the pin.  You make your birdie putt.  Score: -5.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 4:
You hit a 3-wood with backspin over the tall grass and stick it short of the bunker.  You nail your approach shot and make the eagle putt.  Score: -7.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 5:
You have a decent tee box and rotate right a couple times to play a big C3 with roll into the fairway.  You carry your approach shot to the green and make the eagle putt.  Score: -9.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 6:
You take aim at a safe spot on the green that’s also pretty close to the pin, and you stick a 3-wood close.  You make your eagle putt.  Score: -11.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 7:
You carry your tee shot safely over the tall grass and stick it close to the hole, where you tap in for birdie.  Score: -12.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 8:
You curve a C3 shot nicely through the neck of the fairway, giving you a nice, open approach shot.  You nail the approach and putt in for eagle.  Score: -14.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 9:
You’re on the left tee box and have a fairly straight look into the green, where the pin is on the right.  You play a small A1-type 3-wood with backspin to hold the center of the green, and you putt in for eagle.  Score: -16.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 10:
You poke a driver with backspin straight ahead into the fat part of the fairway, and you carry your approach safely up to the green.  You make your birdie putt.  Score: -17.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 11:
You’re on the right side of the tee box, shooting into the green on the right.  You play a small hook with backspin using a 3-wood to stick the green, and you make your eagle putt.  Score: -19.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 12:
You take the shortcut up on top of the hill with a 3-wood off the tee, and then you float a 5-wood down to the green.  You make your eagle putt.  Score: -21.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 13:
You thumb an iron to the top part of the sloped green and watch the slope carry the ball down towards the hole.  You make your birdie putt.  Score: -22.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 14:
You hit a 3-wood with backspin into the fat part of the green closest to the pin, and you ram in your eagle putt.  Score: -24.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 15:
You hit an iron off the tee to leave yourself around 240 yards to the pin.  You float a 5-wood over the tall grass and stick it close, where you then make your birdie putt.  Score: -25.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 16:
The wind is helping and you have a decent spot on the tee, so you crank a 400-yard C3 with roll down to the second fairway.  You stick your approach in the middle of the green and make your eagle putt.  Score: -27.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 17:
You club up and play a small hook into the slope of the green with backspin, watching it curl up nicely next to the hole.  You tap in for birdie.  Score: -28.

Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade courses bonnie moor
Hole 18:
You take aim at the green with a 3-wood, landing it just over the concrete wall.  Backspin helps you hold the green, and you make your eagle putt.  Score: -30.

So you see, it’s that easy!  Golden Tee Par can set up to be -29 on this course, and if you add one holeout somewhere you’re at -30.

Of course, it’s the combination of getting a GREAT setup like the one above, on a great scoring course like Bonnie Moor, with no mistakes along the way, that makes it possible.  But if you execute every shot and don’t miss any putts, you’re looking at -30 or something close to it!  Most of us cannot execute all these shots and make all our putts, so that’s what separates the pros from the amateurs.  Now you’ll have an idea how a -30 was posted the next time you come across one of these scores on the leaderboard!

GoldenTeeFan’s Top Tips for Golden Tee 2009

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As I’ve bridged the gap from 2008 to 2009, I’ve noticed several things to keep in mind during the course of a round that can save you several strokes if you account for them. Alternatively, you can lose even more strokes if you fail to take these tips into consideration! So before you go out and spin some more rounds on the 2009 courses, make sure you’re doing these things below!

1) Club up on your approach shots.
Maybe it’s me, but after my first few rounds on Golden Tee 2009, I noticed that I was often coming up way short on my approach, sometimes even short of the green.  I think some of this had to do with elevation changes (which will be another point), but mostly, I just had to club up more often and/or hit with more power into the greens.  I see it all the time with amateurs — they fail to club up and try to pound the ball to compensate, and that usually won’t get the job done.  So, especially if you’re using backspin or playing a small curve into the green, make sure you’ve got plenty of club to give your ball a chance to hole out!

2) Know how to play the wind on steep elevation drops into a green.
The best example of this is the first two holes on Black Hills, where you can take a par on either if you’re not careful.  Both holes feature a steep drop in elevation as the ball is sailing into the green, and if you don’t compensate enough for the wind, you’ll be in some early trouble!

Tailwinds are easiest to play…club down and let the wind do the work, carrying the ball up to the pin.  Headwinds can be tricky, as your ball can be coming straight down.  You’ll almost never want backspin on these types of shots, while roll can be quite handy.  If you play no spin, make sure the ball will land above the hole, because it’s not going to bounce forward.  Also, remember how much more the wind affects the higher-lofted clubs!

I think the most dangerous winds are the cross-winds.  Not only do you have to nail the distance, but you have to know where to aim as well.  The first thing to keep in mind is that even though you’re shooting downhill, a crosswind is going to cut distance more than you think.  As that ball is coming down, the wind will take over and it won’t be going forward very much anymore.  It’s easy to come up short because you think you’re shooting downhill, so keep in mind the impact of this wind on the distance as well!

Finally, your aim becomes crucial here too.  You’ll usually have to pretend the wind is blowing twice as hard as it’s showing, and aim your shot as if this were true.  Even when the ball touches down on the green, the ball will continue on in the direction the wind was blowing it!  So don’t lose sight of these facts, and you can save yourself from some tough situations.

3) Use the Big Bertha clubs on Black Hills.
As you’ll notice on the Black Hills writeup, these clubs will make playing the course much easier, and with a little practice, you’ll gain a 2-3 stroke advantage over anyone not using these clubs.  Now, if you’re truly a beginner and have gotten comfortable with a particular set of clubs, then it’s okay to stick with that set as you hone your skills.  But if you’re playing for prize money, you’ve got to practice with these clubs on this course…after a couple rounds, you’ll see how that 7-wood and 9-wood can greatly simplify some of the shots on Black Hills!

4) Learn how to survive Grand Savannah #17.
This hole has gotten more press than any I’ve seen, and with good reason — it can totally ruin your round.  If you do NOT have a wind in your face, you’re got a chance at birdie.  But if you do, I recommend two things.  First, if you aren’t having a great round, play around with a 5-iron chip shot.  Don’t use any spin, pull the club back about half-way, and shoot it forward at about 2/3 strength.  Take note of where the ball lands and what it does after it lands, and make adjustments to your pullback or shot strength if needed.  With enough practice, you’ll have given yourself a good chance at carrying the front of the green, where it will roll up, and back, and stick there!

However, if you want to protect a good round, play for par using these steps.  First, club way up and aim for the grass/dirt behind the green on the right side.  Landing it here is step one.  Step two is making a small chip with backspin that lands on or just before this fat part of the green, where it will roll down a ways but not all the way to the water.  Step three is making your big-breaking putt!  Even if you two-putt for bogey here, you can bet you’ve done better than most guys playing the hole in this condition, and that should hold your rank in the competition!

5) Make your uphill putts.
I think the biggest concept of putting that takes amateurs longest to figure out is how to play the break on an uphill putt as opposed to a flat putt (or downhill putt).  It’s not technically true that the ball breaks more on uphill putts, but this illusion is created because the ball is slowing down significantly more as it climbs to the hole.  All you need to know is that you should PLAY more break on uphill putts, and play less break on downhill putts.  It kills me when someone plays too much break on a downhill putt, flies past the hole, and then over-compensates by not playing enough break on the comeback uphill putt, missing again.  Putting is definitely a touch phase of the game, and only experience can earn you the correct feel for each putt.  Still, knowledge of situations like these can be half the battle!

6) Learn low-loft chip shots.
Finally, Golden Tee 2009 is a great time to start practicing your bump-and-run chip shots!  Unless you have to carry the pin, you should be thinking of using a 2-iron through a 7-iron on anything under 40 yards.  If you’re on the fringe, use a very-low lofted club, pull it back a fraction of the way, and gently shoot it forward.  Again, this is a touch shot that takes a lot of practice, but now is the time!  Similarly, if you have to carry a bit of rough to the green, club down appropriately to get more loft.  Another good idea is to pick one club you will always use for your bump-and-run chips so that you have a better idea of carry and distance each time you use it.  Not only will you save yourself a couple shots per round by learning how to hole-out short chip shots, but you will also be more confident attacking the pin if you know you still have a good chance of chipping in from just off the green!

Play like the pros!

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I took in a lot of tips at the Chicago Summer Classic last weekend, and now I’m going to pass them on to you!  These tips are best for guys like me who average around -17 or so and are looking to pick up a couple strokes per round:

1) Pull the trackball back on almost every shot.  I still am not comfortable enough to do this as often as I should.  All the pros fight the wind by curving their approach shots into the wind or into the slope of the green to tuck it up by the pin.  You also get more loft on your shot by pulling back, which may help you clear water or other obstacles.  So, work on practicing the pullback angle with each of your clubs to fight the wind on approach shots into greens with tough pin placements!

2) Club up.  A lot of amateurs, including me at times, try to pound the trackball with a shorter club, trying to maximize distance with that club instead of clubbing up and hitting it softer.  I often saw these guys club up twice for their approach shots.  The difference is that these guys have the touch on distance with their follow-through.  While amateurs are pounding the ball forward, these guys simply club-up and flick it forward without much effort, but their results are so much better.  If you are ever in doubt about distance, play an extra club and hit it a little softer!

3) Skip off the water when you can!  I learned this way too late.  There are several holes where you may not be sure whether or not you can clear the water.  Well, if you have room to play an A1 or C3 shot with roll, I guarantee your ball will skip across the water if it hits short of land.  There are several holes in 2008 Golden Tee Live where you have the opportunity to play a big curving shot and skip across water, so keep your eye out for them and take advantage of this trick!

4) Practice your chipping.  The pros are not at all scared to attack the pin because they are so good at chipping if they roll off the green.  Even from the sand, these guys hole out consistently.  I still favor the low-lofted club for chips if I’m just off the green, but these guys even know how to hit a quarter-strength 7-iron out of the sand and hole out.  This only comes with practice, but if you can learn how to chip in even once or twice more per round, you’ve saved yourself those strokes at least!

5) Practice your A1 and C3 drives on tough holes.  The pros hit these big, curving drives off the tee whenever possible to maximize distance, and they can do so on dangerous holes because they know exactly where the ball will be going.  I can still only shoot this shot if it’s pretty wide open.  But, these guys aren’t scared to thread the ball between trees and water to gain an extra 20-30 yards because of the control they have.  Pay attention to the wind and whether or not to use backspin or roll to help guide the ball where it needs to be!

Use these tips to take your game to the next level — good luck!

Improvement in Golden Tee

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There’s no substitute for practice in Golden Tee, so keep at it! In addition to practicing, there are several other ways to help you improve your game. This section contains tips on how to keep getting better!

Know what your clubs can do!

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This Golden Tee article was submitted by Baxter — thanks for your comments!

Learn the distances with spin, without spin, with varying winds, etc. Don’t blame the hammer if you can’t build a house. As I noted before, I can back up a 3-iron to 177 yards about 90% of the time assuming a neutral wind, no major elevation changes, and not much slope on the green. Learn how your clubs react in the fairway, first cut, rough, fringe, etc. Learn how high a particular club will get off the ground (good for uphill shots).

Use mulligans!

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This wouldn’t be encouraged in a normal round of Golden Tee with your buddies, but if you’re practicing a round by yourself, a great tip is to use up some mulligans in specific situations to get the feel on a particular shot. Mulligans aren’t allowed during a LIVE round since you’re competing against others, so play a non-live round to get this option. If you have a bad chip, use a mulligan or two until you get the feel of where to hit the ball. If you’re hitting a big hook off the tee, use a mulligan or two until you get the backswing and follow-through on the right angle. You’ll use up some extra quarters on Golden Tee, but it can sure be worth it when you beat up on your friends!

Hit second!

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It’s a big advantage hitting second or lower off the tee when you’re playing Golden Tee with a group. The first guy gets to be the scapegoat, and it’s very important to pay attention to the shot he just executed. An important tip is to observe the results and then copy them or tweak your drive to do better than he just did.

Not only do you want to hit second off the tee, but you want to outdrive your partner too! If you end up closer to the hole, your buddy has to hit first again, so you can keep observing his shots to help your own!

Be careful that you are correctly observing what your playing partner just did, though, or you might overcompensate and hit a bad shot you might not have otherwise hit!  I’ve had several times where my buddy came up short, so I cranked it hard, only to completely fly the green.  Take away what info you can, but don’t put all your trust in what you just saw — trust your gut too!

Up the Golden Tee competition!

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Golden Tee tips tricks hints shortcuts golf game 2007 2008 2009 live arcade improve improvement get better competitionYou can learn a LOT by playing with someone in Golden Tee who’s better than you are! Pay attention to each of their shots, and notice all the factors they take into account. Get tips by watching the shot type they play in each of these situations and see how the results play out. Playing with someone better than you at Golden Tee is a fantastic way to learn new strategies and improve your game!