The Golden Tee mobile app is just as addictive as the arcade game

November 6, 2019
Golden Tee, famously in bars and arcades, is coming to a phone near you.

Golden Tee can be dangerous. The arcade game that specials in helping everyone make birdies is highly addictive. It can be maddeningly easy and concurrently just as difficult, the perfect recipe for spending hours at a bar staring into a screen and avoiding others.

Not everyone is as lucky as the GOLF.com office, which has a Golden Tee machine ready for a game at all times. However, everyone is now able to carry Golden Tee in their pocket thanks to the newly released Golden Tee mobile app, which is free with the option of additional in-app purchases. This version is different in many ways — some good, some bad — but I’ve learned one thing this week: it is just as addicting.

You can take a look for yourself here, but Incredible Technologies has successfully brought the most popular aspects of its trackball game into your 6-inch phone screen. The app includes the same courses, golfer outfits, aerial views and quick-moving club-changes. The display even looks very similar, which is welcoming to us arcade veterans.

The mobile display is about as similar as it can be to the arcade version.

All of that being said, some aspects of the mobile app are very different. Here are my main takeaways…

This game is much more variable, which is good!

In the GOLF.com office, three staff members have elevated their game to elite levels. Our matches usually end with one champion scoring in the high 40s, aka 24 under or so. There’s a lot of Bomb and Gauge involved, where distance is key and shots are played through the air to a precise position. In the mobile app, the ground is key, and it can be both your ally and enemy.

With an enhanced set of golf balls (see: image above), the standard Backspin, Roll, Bite and Release spin options no longer exist. You select uniquely performing balls on each shot — some that roll like crazy, others that basically embed in the turf where they land — and hopefully you’ve chosen the proper one for your intended ballflight. This is both a gain and a loss, as the simplicity of one ball and four spin options is really nice, while a more variable amount of results makes for wide-ranging scores. Add in double-digit wind speeds and wicked green slopes, and 20 under on the mobile app is absolutely phenomenal.

Your finicky fingers make this game difficult — also good!

That trackball in the arcade game is a powerful tool. It rolls well in any direction, and much more fluidly than your fingers slide across a phone screen. It is far more difficult to deliver your thumb on a straight-back, straight-forward path than it is to whip the trackball back and through. This leads to more sidespin, creating a variable length in your carry distances, which is shockingly relatable to real life golf. And just like real life golf,  on Golden Tee mobile, aiming for the center of the green is not a bad idea.

As mentioned above, the difficulty of the mobile game makes for more compelling tournaments as well. The 10-player, 9-hole events — in which you compete for in-game money like gold and silver — can yield low winning scores like the tournament I triumphed in below. Three under would have done the trick! That is much more fun than a 20-person boat race to make birdie or eagle on every hole.

Winning feels good.

There is no skimping on the campaign, which some people won’t like.

In order to play the game as well as you might in your local pub, you have to put the time (or money) in. In-game equipment changes significantly change the length and loft of your shots, and you can only access those through playing the various contests, challenges and acing your way through one nine-hole set at a time. The quick and easy route is to pay real money for these enhancements, but that’s not nearly as fun.

As I learned Tuesday, some holes are nearly impossible to advance past without finer equipment. It took a full 30 minutes to earn a passing grade from the par-4 15th on Volcano Palm’s back nine. Surely, not everyone will have the same patience as me. Some folks will undoubtedly just want to play the game they know well from bar around the corner. In that case, go to your bar around the corner!

No Head-to-head Mode … yet.

The game is currently void of a 1-on-1 feature, where you could presumably play a match against your buddy two time zones away, but according to game manufacturers, that feature is on its way. This will be a gravely important update for some folks, perhaps even myself. The inner-office matches extend past dinnertime most nights. With head-to-head functionality, we’ll be able to take those matches with us on the subway ride home. I’ll just need a reminder to look up when we’re approaching my stop.

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