Golf Through Miniature Eyes

I was watching a cartoon with my 2-year-old the other day (Handy Manny, for those of you with toddlers) and the episode was about going to a miniature golf course. In the middle of the story, the guy who runs the course comes out and starts giving putting lessons, while another character refers to him as an “expert golf instructor.”

Now I realize this is only a cartoon, but at what point did mini course owners become expert golf instructors? I mean, miniature golf isn’t real golf, right? There’s really no skill involved and you can’t teach luck (can you)? Let’s face it, an expert golf instructor who works at a mini course is laughable, but to the writers of the show, it seemed totally plausible.

Anyway, let’s forget about the cartoon and look at this from an adult perspective: The reality is many people are only exposed to golf through a miniature course. Perhaps their parents took them as a kid or perhaps they went on a first date – whatever. But to them, mini golf is golf.

Sure, these people are vaguely aware of a much larger version of the game played by old folks, but this is as far from reality as science fiction is to them. Don’t believe me? Ask a non-golfer if they’ve ever played golf. You will undoubtably hear the following response: “I’ve played mini golf!”

I think we golfers forget sometimes that many others have no true grasp of real golf. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock miniature golf – it certainly is a fun game. What I’m trying to do is show that many people don’t realize how completely different mini golf and regular golf really are.

For example, do they realize that mini golf is only one aspect (putting) of regular golf? And do they realize that the putting they are doing is completely different than the putting we do? I mean, a good mini golf putting stroke isn’t going to translate out on the greens of your local 18-hole, 7,000-yard course, is it?

Well, at least that cartoon was trying to incorporate the game of golf in some manner and kudos for them doing so. But can you imagine if regular golf was more like its Mini Me version? You show up to pay your greens fees and they hand you a bag of clubs and a dozen balls! And all the water hazards are painted blue instead of having real water! Now that I could get used to. Putting into a clown’s mouth on the 18th? Not so much.

Additional Reading: Variations on the Game of Golf: Mini Golf

Comments

  1. Very interesting blog entry! Very usefull info here.

  2. Hello Greg,

    Good blog post. I don’t agree with everything you say, but I found it very interesting.

    I play Miniature Golf on a ‘serious’ level as a member of the British Minigolf Association. I have played in lots of tournaments in the UK as well as for the Great Britain team in Finland and Sweden. There are many prestigious local, regional, national and international competitions out there.

    I don’t agree that the game/sport of Minigolf is all about ‘luck’. Yes, some courses are luck-based, but there are lots of courses out there that are skill-based. In some of our tournaments we also use multiple specialist Minigolf balls and will put in hours of practice to get the perfect line for a hole-in-one.

    You are correct in that many people don’t realise how completely different Golf and Minigolf are.
    They are separate and distinct sports. My Putting when playing regular Golf/Pitch & Putt (which I do occasionally) has improved since taking up Minigolf, but for the most part the Putting and shot-style is completely different – in Miniature Golf we play lots of rebound shots off the wall/rails etc.

    I think if you were to listen to an ‘expert minigolf instructor’ at a Minigolf course and/or a ‘Pro’ Minigolf you’d be surprised by the history of the game, its development and the variety of courses and competitions out there.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts. All the best.

    Yours in sport,

    Richard

    Richard Gottfried
    British Minigolf Association (BMGA) Tour Player
    Great Britain International Minigolfer
    Member of the Midlands Minigolf Club

  3. @Richard – that’s great! I can’t believe (but should have known better) that there is a Minigolf association! Thanks for all the insight – we might have to write a follow-up at some point that features your minigolf tour!

  4. Would be happy to :-)

    Cheers.

    Richard

  5. Greg,
    I can second Richard’s discussion here. The U.S.A. also has 2 professional miniature golf associations (USPMGA and the PPA) that have serious tournaments and require many hours of practice. Again, while there are courses where luck is a large factor, many of these tournaments are played on courses that involve precise repetition of putting strokes, angles and speed. I’ve played in several of the USPMGA tournaments over the years and the level of skill is quite amazing as well as the intensity of the competition at times (I would argue that minigolf playoff holes are actually more exciting than a golf playoff).

    I definitely look forward to any follow up you do on miniature golf!

    Pat Sheridan

    Member United States Professional Miniature Golf Association (USPMGA)
    Founder – The Putting Penguin (www.theputtingpenguin.com)

  6. @The Putting Penguin – I need to do more research before writing about stuff I don’t know anything about – LOL. I wonder if one of the writers of the Handy Manny cartoon is a competitive minigolfer?

    Anyway, do you guys play on the themed mini golf courses the general public plays on or are there specific courses for the tours?

  7. Even more embarrassing, the link at the bottom of my post (written by my pal Stinky Golfer Chris in 2010) touches on some of the stuff you guys are talking about – especially in the comments!

  8. We play on all manner of courses in tournaments. They have to be a certain standard/quality before they can be used in a tournament. Some courses are OK for local events, while international competitions require courses to be at another level.

    My wife and I have visited 520 courses in the UK and some overseas and we still haven’t played every format of the game – there are many many many variations.

    The World Governing Body for Minigolf – The World Minigolf Sport Federation – recognises four types of Minigolf, one of these is ‘Minigolf Open Standard’ (MOS) which is pretty much a catch-all term for any courses not of a continental European standard (they are known as Concrete/Beton, Miniaturegolf/Eternit and Feltgolf/Swedish Felt). In the UK most of the courses would be deemed ‘MOS’, but the public would call them Minigolf, Adventure Golf, or the very British term ‘Crazy Golf’.

    Then there are Putt Putt courses that are another distinct type and now mainly found in the USA, but also popular in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Much like ‘Crazy Golf’ is a catch-all term for Minigolf in the UK, ‘Putt Putt’ has become a way to desribe any type of Miniature Golf by some members of the public.

    Once you scratch the surface…!

  9. Greg,
    We play on courses that are open to the general public when not being used by a tournament. The USPMGA plays tournaments on all different types of course but they are primarily “adventure style” ones where the obstacles are rocks and various banking of the greens. However, I play in one USPMGA tournament that features obstacles such as the loop, toboggan, a spinning ships wheel, etc. The PPA plays all of their tournaments on “Putt Putt” courses which are very standardized like Richard mentioned and are a bit different than the traditional miniature golf course most people think about.

    Pat

  10. Wow – you’re right @Richard, “once you scratch the surface…”

    Send me any additional info at greg@golfstinks.com and I will put together a follow-up post on this next week!

  11. This is an interesting post. I am new here. I really enjoyed your post and discussions also.

  12. Mini golf is just a game for non golfers, just a fun game- not more than that, but sometimes its funny to play there

  13. I think it’s a real shame when my sport gets knocked by someone who tags it as ‘just a fun game!’
    I fully respect the skill of the club and pro players of the full course sport and I still take my bag of clubs out on occasions.
    My version of the sport requires just as much practice, focus and mental strength especially when playing 126 holes over the space of 2 days.
    Novice players are always welcome at the pro-tour events, not sure the larger version is so open or patient?
    Really enjoyed reading this blog :-)

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