Five new courses ship at end of September
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL -- Jim Zielinski belongs in the record books. The award-winning senior videogame designer of Incredible Technologies has created more golf courses than anyone else. The fact that his courses are of the virtual kind rather than the tangible makes little difference. Once a year he conceptualizes every tee box, sand trap, water hazard and pin placement for 18 holes over five courses. Then he explains to his team how the natural topography and foliage must interact with the manmade objects that golfers will need to navigate.
"We're mandated to keep Golden Tee fresh and vibrant," Zielinski said. "Players expect something new every year. We think the latest courses are truly exceptional. The players will love them."
Zielinski's new baby, Golden Tee Live 2012, debuts in late September in bars and pubs across the country. IT says they're the best-ever courses for the novel game, which debuted in 1989. New for 2012 is:
Royal Cove, set in Half Moon Bay, Antigua, which takes virtual golfers through tropical mountains, islets and sandy beaches. Ancient relics from a buccaneer past greet players when they take on one of the Caribbean's most picturesque courses.
Grand Canyon in Tusayan, AZ, takes a golfing journey from the first tee at the top of the north rim right down to the finishing hole at the bottom of the great chasm. Along the way, players encounter elevation drops, cliffs and waterfalls, among other challenging shots and shortcuts.
Tundra Peak on Nepal's Mt. Everest, is Golden Tee's highest track ever and is described by IT as "a true survivalist's course." Mostly devoid of vegetation, it consists of rocky cliffs, snow banks, and glaciers to create a golfing expedition. Sherpas help players golf to the summit.
Auburn Glen in Granville, VT, is situated deep in the Green Mountains. The course's placid setting is designed to lull unwary golfers and surprise them with ubiquitous sand and water. Winding streams, covered bridges, sparkling lakes, and Auburn Glen's hills and valleys create a challenging and picturesque golf experience.
Dusty Bend, in Sayre, OK, is built along Route 66, and seems like a step back in time. Players will encounter roadside attractions as they golf along the mother road. Trees are scarce, but the farm buildings and tourist traps replace them with a landscape of pure Americana. When players venture too far off the fairway, dusty Oklahoma dirt becomes visible.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
IT reports that its 2012 update has plenty of fresh features to give Golden Tee players, both veterans and rookies, more value their dollars. To begin with, all 30 previously released GT Live courses, in addition to the five new ones, can be selected for play at any time.
"Players who have been introduced to Golden Tee in the years after Live was released in 2005 have never seen some of these courses," Zielinski said. "It's a simple equation: more courses and more choices equals more play, and 35 courses also provide operators with more tournament and contest options as FACTS Live is enabled on all of them."
Also new are three club sets (one includes new flop-style wedge) and three ball styles, all of which can be purchased by players to give them advantages when golfing on the many different topographies. Custom clubs and balls behave differently. There's more zany clothing, too. A jockey uniform, gorilla shirt and dirt bike outfit are among the garments that can be awarded to players.
In past versions, players have been able to control the spin of golf balls -- forward or backward -- by pressing the Spin button before the shot. A new option, called Bite, allows the ball to check up instead of spin. "Bite will make it a bit easier for players to keep their ball on the green," Zielinski said.
The 2012 update has a lot for casual players, making the game more accessible to new players, which is what operators want. Zielinksi said he and his team have studied new players and found that many of them make unintended hooks and slices resulting in bad shots, which can be frustrating, just like in real golf. One reason is because the trackball shot-shaping function, which provides the real depth of Golden Tee, can sometimes become a challenge to new or poorly skilled players. A new "straight-shots-only" option lowers the Golden Tee entry level. As a result, new players can get their feet wet with an even easier mode of play. It works just like putting with no curves -- just aim and shoot.
Golden Tee 2012 has another new feature for casual customers. On the 18th tee, the game asks a player if he or she would like to be included in a weekly drawing. If "yes," then they enter their name into the game. At the end of the week, the game will automatically conduct a local drawing and announce the winner. This feature needs to be turned on by the operator, who could work with the location to provide a small prize or just display the player's name as "Player of the Week."
"Up until now, casual players have not had the opportunity to experience the fun and excitement of winning a prize," Zielinski said. "The operator and location can work together to supply a prize that will be given away each week. The prize can be anything -- maybe a GT gift card or a menu item from the location. Operators can even get creative and advertise big prizes by collecting weekly winners for a final drawing at the end of the year."
For every player of any skill who likes a little celebrity, Golden Tee 2012 has several new ways to hype them. The game's new World Rankings and YouTube Shots of the Week endeavor to make players feel like superstars.
This is the first time Golden Tee has offered a world ranking system. Each player's ranking will appear on the game screen after they identify themselves, and the world ranking leaderboard will appear on the homepage of Goldentee.com. Players must take part in at least five games during the month to be ranked, so IT's hoping for a boost in play from those on the cusp as they add one or two games to make the leaderboard.
"Everyone wants to know where they stand in the Golden Tee universe and now we're giving them the opportunity to shine," the IT designer said.
YouTube Great Shots, which was introduced with the first Golden Tee Live game, has been one of the game's most successful features. More than 200,000 videos have been uploaded to the video site and they've garnered nearly two million views. YouTube Shots of the Week will put the top five shots in the 2012 attract mode for a seven-day run. "Players will be wishing, hoping and praying that their shot is one that's selected," Zielinski predicted.
For more than 20 years, Golden Tee has been a street operator's staple. Today, it's regarded by many as a vital game for the street market for which fewer products are produced. So IT said it continues to focus on developing features to attract more new players, keep the veterans happy and offer something that could help operators strengthen relationships with their location.
Separately, Incredible Technologies said it will not introduce a new Golden Tee platform for at least three years.