Incredible Technologies’ Golden Tee Golf’s 35th Anniversary – July 2024


Arcade Golf Enters its “Golden” Age

It’s 35 Years and Counting for Incredible Technologies’ Iconic Video Game

“Everyone’s favorite arcade golf game” is primed and ready to celebrate yet another momentous milestone. Golden Tee Golf, reportedly the highest grossing coin-op title of all-time (and recent Amusement Industry Hall of Fame inductee), marks its 35th anniversary this year. Since the inception of the very first video games, few titles have lasted this long.

And its maker, Incredible Technolo­gies, says Golden Tee isn’t even close to being done. The company says it’s celebrating the anniversary “with a refined and exciting entry in the long-running series this fall. Golden Tee 2025 is rooted in what made (and continues to make) the game so uniquely appealing and challenging, with eyes sharply focused on the game’s bright future.”


Elaine and Richard

Incredible Technologies founders, the then husband-and-wife team of Elaine and Richard Ditton, seen in this 1987 photo, put their last $1,000 into the business, called Free Radical Software in its earliest days. Their faith in the company – and the development of a coin-op golf game – most certainly paid off. Elaine Hodgson and Richard Ditton were inducted into AAMA’s Amusement Industry Hall of Fame in 2023.

Not-So-Humble Beginnings

Golden Tee Golf’s history began with a drive toward the future and an attempt to develop a truly incredible technology. In 1988, Jim Zielinski, co-creator and course designer for the game, met Larry Hodgson, a programmer at Incredible Technologies.

Larry and Jim

At the 2024 Amusement Expo, Golden Tee Golf itself was inducted with the game’s creators Larry Hodgson and Jim Zielinksi proudly accepting the honor.

Hodgson was working on a golf simulator at the time and asked if Zielinski would be his course designer, and he happily obliged. In many ways, the idea was ahead of its time, and the two couldn’t get the technology quite right. But Elaine Hodgson and other execs at Incredible Technologies took note of their work and saw a way to transform their vision into something more.

Richard Ditton, co-founder and executive vice president of IT, approached the pair and suggested they use their assets to create a coin-op title, affording them the freedom to decide which type of interface was best suited to the game. Their shared experience working on games like Capcom Bowling led the duo to select the “analog feel” of a trackball as their best option.

With that type of controller, the force a player exerted translated to the exertion of their in-game swing. Hooks and slices became the direct result of a player’s movement, providing players the ability to finesse their shots, creating the trademark “true touch” control that Golden Tee Golf would become known for.

A Cultural Behemoth

Incredible Technologies has built on the success of the original Golden Tee Golf for decades, introducing landmark features over time like cabinets connected by dial-up modems (offering large cash prizes with monthly tournaments), a spin button to give players the ultimate control of their golf ball, crazy outfits that have become commonplace on today’s golf courses, dozens of unique golf clubs and golf ball attributes and much more.

The search for virtual golf perfection made it an obsession for dedicated players, devoting themselves to push the boundaries of what a solid performance looked like, leading to almost absurd scores of 30 under par and beyond.

GT winners

Paul Tayloe, the 2023 Golden Tee world champion, with silver finisher Mark Gomez. Large prize pools and, of course, bragging rights are on the line. For operators, player engagement adds to the bottom line through regular play, tournaments and qualifiers leading up to the finals.

As these players began to find each other throughout the watering holes of the United States, and even in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, in-person tourneys and leagues were formed, evolving into the current landscape of competitive play. Most notably is today’s National Golden Tee Tour, featuring six annual tournament stops across the U.S., producing more than $250,000 in food and beverage spend annually.

Everyone who frequented a Golden Tee Golf location came to know “those guys” – the ones who’d spend their time at the bar glued to the game’s control panel. These characters were so ubiquitous they’d become colloquially known as “bangers,” referencing their affinity for “banging away at the machine,” playing as many times as they could in order to achieve a tournament-winning score.

Golden Tee Golf’s social relevance would go on to materialize in references within popular culture, including cameos in shows like Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, Family Guy and dozens more. A machine was anchored to the floor of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and became a mainstay of some Major League Baseball clubhouses, with a notable degree of popularity among players in the bullpen.

IT would go on to introduce the Golden Tee World Championship in 2002, an annual competition giving the best players in the world an opportunity to prove their skill on the world’s stage. The big show returned to Las Vegas at the Palms Casino Resort at the end of June, with a record prize pool over $160,000 and a top prize of $35,000 in recognition of the game’s historic anniversary.

GT through the years

Has any coin-op title had as long a run as Golden Tee? The next iteration, Golden Tee 2025, is coming in September.

Bright Future!

From the original Golden Tee Golf release in 1989 through Golden Tee LIVE’s revolutionary “always connected” launch in 2005, the game’s evolution culminated in a landmark partnership with the PGA TOUR in 2021, bringing real-world TPC courses to the world of virtual golf, and opening the door to newfound growth and potential. The company says the latest Golden Tee Golf has found sure footing over the last several years, with an exponentially growing install base in the U.S., with plans for international expansion in the works.

Golden Tee PGA TOUR continues IT’s history of innovation, delivering “true touch” golf in 4K resolution for the first time, its industry-first adoption of NFC (near-field communication) for player account log-in, and a strategy of delivering fresh content to players all year long, extending launch excitement of over the 12-month calendar.

Golden Tee 2025 marquee

Golden Tee 2025 will introduce a host of new features and innovative moves from IT. This includes the introduction of a brand new “TOUR Mode,” which gives players a shot at earning larger-scale prize payouts in a season-based competitive arena.

Other notable additions include a course randomizer for both casual and online play, allowing players to create a brand-new 18-hole sequence anytime they please.

A backend graphics overhaul in preparation for future fidelity improvements is also underway, and classic courses that have been “Re-Tee’d” to include three sets of tees, bringing new looks and plenty of life to several fan-favorite locations.

Zielinski, as passionate as he was on day one, will unveil a new batch of Golden Tee destinations, the highlight of every update, pushing his course design chops to new heights.

Golden Tee PGA TOUR 2025 has a digital install date of September 9, with Golden Tee LIVE 2025 update sticks shipping out beginning September 23.

For more info on GT 2025, visit




Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.