The Game for Today!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Putt-Putt - from the St. Andrews to the United States

Putt-Putt, also known as miniature golf, mini golf, midget golf, goofy golf, or crazy golf is modeled after the sport of golf. The term Putt-Putt has been generalized (similar to the use of Formica when describing a laminated surface) to mean miniature golf, but is actually the trademark of a miniature golf company.

The first miniature golf course is often confused with the two earliest U.S. courses: the 1916 backyard Thistle Dhu ("This'll Do") course in Pinehurst, North Carolina, or; the 1927 Tom Thumb patent of Garnet Carter from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Neither of these courses - though each unique on their own - was the true "first" miniature golf course. The Ladies' Putting Club of St. Andrews, Scotland was the first miniature golf course, formed in 1867.

Miniature golf rose to popularity in the late 1910s and early 1920s as a way for early golf fanatics to replicate major golf courses on a small scale. The game was commonly called "garden golf," and was played with a putter on grass.

In 1922, Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn, transformed the game with his formulation of a suitable artificial green (a mixture of cottonseed hulls, sand, oil, and dye). With this discovery, miniature golf became accessible everywhere; by the late 1920s there were over 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone. Mini golf became a popular culture craze in the first years of the Depression but its popularity faded dramatically by 1935 or so.

In 1938 Joe and Bob Taylor from Binghamton, New York started building and operating their own miniature golf courses. These courses differed from the earlier courses of the late 20s and early 30s; they included obstacles, such as windmills, castles, and wishing wells.

Impressed by the quality of the courses, many customers asked if the Taylors would build a course for them. By the early 1940s, Joe and Bob formed Taylor Brothers, and were in the business of building miniature golf courses and supplying obstacles to the industry. During both the Korean and Vietnam Wars the Taylor Brothers prefabricated course that the U.S. Military had contracted to be built and shipped overseas.

In 1961, Bob Taylor, Don Clayton of Putt-Putt, and Frank Abramoff of Arnold Palmer Miniature Golf organized the first miniature golf association known as NAPCOMS (or the "National Association of Putting Course Operators, Manufacturers, and Suppliers"). Their first meeting was held in New York City. Though this organization only lasted a few years it was the first attempt to bring miniature golf operators together to promote miniature golf.

In 1955, Lomma Enterprises, Inc., founded by Al Lomma and his brother Ralph Lomma, led the revival of wacky, animated trick hazards. These hazards required both accurately aimed shots and split-second timing to avoid spinning windmill blades, revolving statuary, and other moving obstacles.

Today, miniature golf is played at a highly competitive level. In the U.S. there are two organizations offering tournaments at the professional level. The Professional Putters Association http://www.proputters.com/ (PPA) and the US Pro Mini-Golf Association http://www.prominigolf.com/ (USPMGA). The USPMGA is the only mini golf sport organization which represents U.S. in the World Minigolf Sport Federation http://www.minigolfsport.com/ (WMF).

In Europe, competitive miniature golf has also become very popular. Top national players compete for the European Champion title in individual and team competition. The European Minigolf Sport Federation http://www.europeanminigolfsport.com/ (EMF) also organizes European Junior, Senior championships and Nations cup (a prelude to European Minigolf Championship). Northern European countries also have their own Nordic cups.

Try your hand at a round and maybe you can set a new course record!

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