Since the very first console, the Magnavox Odyssey, we have been getting video games based on the only sport that you win by playing the least amount of it. That’s right. Golf.

And while there are many golf games for consoles, some of the best titles of the sport are arcade golf games.  

Perhaps people can play mini golf instead, or hitting a ball with a stick on a monitor is not as exciting as blasting aliens on a spaceship or throwing fireballs in a martial arts tournament, so the games on this list may not stand out that much at a pizza place with arcade cabinets.

Still, the club-and-ball sport has a few memorable titles that you should drop a coin into if you ever happen to see one at an amusement park. So without further ado, these are the

Top 5 Arcade Golf Games

Top Player’s Golf (SNK, 1990)

A Launch title for the Neo-Geo in America, this was the 2nd Golf game developed by SNK after Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf.

Top Player’s Golf has good graphics and animation for the time of its release, as well as a voice-over for the game’s narrator and a few lines for the players.

Top Player's Golf for the Arcade

It is pretty straightforward and plays like most Golf games of the time. You pick a club, move the arrow to direct your shot, press A to start filling a power bar, and press it again to time the strength of your shot.

There are 2 different courses with 18 holes each. One has a lot of sand traps, and the other has too many lakes for my taste. But hey, it’s an arcade game, so it had to be hard in order to suck up your quarters.

It is a little hard to know exactly where the ball will land, even with the top-view of the field by pressing the C button, but since this is a 2D game and around the time people only knew a handful of NES golf titles, it really left its mark on those that got to experience it.

Now, the game shows its age but is still worth owning if you’re a Neo-Geo collector since it’s one of the most affordable MVS cartridges you will find.

Putting Challenge (ICE – 1990)

This arcade machine has real realistic golf where you take a putter in your hands and hit an actual ball to make it go into a hole in real life. It simulates a green, but with a changing contour, so in each hole, it changes topography and slope to create a new challenge.

Anybody can play it, even if they had never tried golf before, and it instantly hooks you into trying again and again.

Years before I played Mario Golf on Nintendo 64 and actually bothered to learn the rules of the sport, I stumbled upon one of these machines at my local amusement park and instantly became addicted to it.

4 Players can get to the same game by taking turns, and the game keeps track of the total strokes of each golfer.

It had protective glass over the surface so you can’t just pick up the ball with your hand and throw it in, and if you miss, the ball will go and fall around the green and return to you.

It was very popular in the early 90s, and ICE sold it for personal use after their Arcade business folded, since it’s a great way to hone your putting skills without having to go out to your country club.

Golden Tee 3D (Incredible Technologies – 1995)

What sets this game apart from other titles of the time, is the use of a trackball to hit the ball. To perform a shot, first, you swing back by rolling the trackball backward and then roll it forward fast to perform a full swing.

There’s a top-view camera angle at the left of the screen where you can see the whole field, and it even shows the ball going up and landing while in play. It also shows you how many yards you can get with the club you have equipped, and you can select a different wood or iron club by rolling the trackball to the sides.

By rolling the ball diagonally when setting your swing, and when taking the shot, you could perform hooks and slices to avoid obstacles such as trees. And you could also perform a backspin for when the ball landed on the green.

It has very nice graphics for the time of its release, and the voices of the crowd make you feel like playing a professional game since they react like the public normally does at these events.

This Arcade got several updates that basically retain the same gameplay and just change the courses. They were connected to a web with leaderboards so you could compete with players all over the world.

This game has been brought back recently with all its upgrades for personal consumers, and it can cost even more than a modern console, but the popularity and quality of the Golden Tee Golf series are so high that gamers happily get one and proudly show it among their game room collection of arcade cabinets.

Neo Turf Masters (Nazca Corporation – 1996)

An excellent golf game with crisp colorful graphics, nice animation, music, voiceover, and overall a great arcade with simple yet deep gameplay that still holds up to this day, since it’s currently being sold as “Big Tournament Golf ” for modern consoles.

Neo Turf Masters

It plays like Top Player’s Golf but takes it to extra heights. You pick your character, go to a course, and start taking swings at the ball quickly. It’s easy to get into, but very hard to master once you get into the tougher courses.

You have to take into consideration the wind, and even with the 2D graphics, you can tell if the green has slopes and there’s the rough and deep rough you have to avoid.

There are 4 courses with many different field layouts. The scenery is beautiful and really shows what the Neo-Geo was capable of, and the quality of what SNK was publishing in their golden days.

Even if you’re only into Neo-Geo’s more action-oriented games such as Metal Slug or the King of Fighters series, this timeless golf title gets exciting when you’re putting and will have you at the tip of your toes when you watch the ball getting close to the hole.

With one credit, you only get to play 3 holes if you get a par, but if you get a birdie, you’ll get to play an extra hole. Of course, if you get a boogie, you’ll be deducted one play from your remaining ones.

Like any good arcade game from the 90s, this motivates you to become good at playing, so you start to become a Turf Master to play more, by hitting the ball less… Which is ultimately the objective of golf.

PGA Tour Team Challenge (Global VR – 2006)

PGA Tour Team Challenge Is basically like Golden Tee, but with better graphics, audio, and a lot of real courses (and fantasy courses). It features online play and more professional golfers than Peter Jacobsen.

You can play the courses at different times of the day and weather conditions, and you can actually rotate your character to take a straight shot where you want, instead of rolling the ball diagonally and missing the landing by a few yards since it’s harder to predict the direction that way.

When you hit the ball, the camera follows it in the air, and you can hear the crowd and a narrator talking about what’s going on in the game.

Given the popularity of the Golden Tee classic series, many people didn’t get to play this one, which was the final update of PGA Tour by EA Sports, but many players prefer it over other golf arcade games since it has a lot of game modes, including tournament modes, and many secrets to unlock.

Arcade enthusiasts that have it in their collection, will certainly have hundreds of hours of fun with everything this game has to offer.