A blog about all things mini golf, crazy golf and adventure golf. Brought to you by 'Putterfingers' the minigolf experts!
The British Minigolf Association is the UK’s governing body for minigolf sport, including crazy golf and adventure golf. This is a round up of stories from the BMGA including its top players and events in the UK.
Sky Sports airs gripping adventure golf champs played at the Belfry
Our regular readers might recognise the face in the photo above. Yes, it’s our friend Richard Gottfried, putting supremo and the man behind the long-lived crazy golf blog The Ham and Egger Files. He has putted his way round over 700 minigolf courses in the British Isles and documented every one in his Crazy World of Minigolf Tour. He is no stranger to the media, but what is unusual in image above is that it is minigolf on the TELLY! Sky Sports, to be exact. Our favourite sports has hit prime time subscription TV!
Golf equipment supplier American Golf sponsors a series of golf tournaments in the UK which have grown in popularity. This year they have managed to secure slots on prime time Sky Sports TV for their competitions. Alongside the ‘big’ golf’ events like the Junior Championship and the 9 Hole Pairs, this year saw the inaugural Adventure Golf Pairs Championship aired on Sky Sports. Richard Gottfried, pictured above and below, chose Peter Jones as his teammate for this event. The grand final of the tournament was held on the Ryder Legends Mini Golf Course at The Belfry – not to shabby a venue! Each hole represents a famous hole from big golf, and includes some very long holes with a high difficulty level.
We are thrilled that our favourite sport has had this airing on a leading sports channel, alongside big golf and on an equal footing with it. We’ve always known that minigolf is just as challenging and exciting as big golf, but now the sports-viewing public has had a front row view of top minigolf players in action, and seen how seriously they take it.
So big respect to American Golf for adding minigolf to their tournament series!
Simon Lee, who won the adventure golf final with partner Steve Gerrish, said, “It’s a great way to get people who don’t play golf into the sport. They can come along and have a bit of fun. It was brilliant to see everyone come out today. If there was more stuff like this around I think you’d have more young kids getting into golf.”
Of course minigolf is more than a gateway into big golf – it’s a mature and highly competitive sport in itself. But if it helps send more nippers on their way to giving Rory McIlroy a run for his money, we’re happy about that too!
Nuke-happy leader gifts minigolf course to inexplicably cheerful populace
General Kim Jong-Il of the People’s Republic of North Korea is said to have played the inaugural round at Pyongyang’s golf course in 1987 with a score of 34 strokes, including 5 holes-in-one. The feat was witnessed by 17 bodyguards, a handful of officials and no-one else, so it is of course true. Now his son Kim Jong-Un, no doubt also capable of smashing the best PGA score of all time by 25 strokes before breakfast, has further enhanced the fun-loving image of North Korea by revamping the minigolf course situated next to the golf course. Thanks to the generosity of the little man who runs the country with an iron haircut, grateful North Koreans have flocked to the glorious facility to unwind after a hard day’s applauding wildly. Here they are enjoying the minigolf course:
In a cheeky attempt to upstage this enviable fun palace, soldiers of the free world maintain a golf course with a single hole in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. It is sited in Camp Bonifas, named after a United Nations soldier who was murdered with an axe by angry Norks in a dispute over pruning a poplar tree. Often called the world’s most dangerous golf hole, it is lined with live land mines and it is one place where you don’t go looking for your ball if it goes out of bounds. It’s listed in our blog post The World’s Most Dangerous Golf Courses. If you really wanted to, you could try to recreate the atmosphere there by using our exploding golf balls!
Dylan Harris, the man behind the unusual-location company Lupine Travel, had the awesome opportunity to play the inaugural Pyongyang Minigolf Open Tournament, a precursor to the equally surreal DPRK Amateur Golf Open Competition. Thanks to him for most of the photos in this post. Here he snapped a Western competitor playing a hole under the watchful eye of one of the course staff.
We’ll never use the words ‘adventure golf’ in quite the same way again after hearing about this trip!
There comes a point in every minigolfer’s life when whacking the ball around and hoping for the best is no longer enough. As you’re lining up a shot it suddenly enters your head that luck has very little part in this. You realise that everything can be controlled: stance, eyeline, ball speed, angle and bounce. You start to think technically and plan your ball’s path to the cup as carefully as a pilot flying a plane in to land. This moment of revelation is when the sport first hooks you, and before you know it the last thing you think of before falling asleep is holing out with a magnificent, perfectly-weighted bank shot for a round of 23. It’s usually around the time you buy your own putter and start spending a lot of time in Whitby.
You have two choices at this point: seek professional help, or improve your game to make your dreams a reality. Possibly both, but we’re interested in the second bit: improving your game. We’ve gathered together a smorgasbord of tips for the aspiring minigolfer, with a view to knocking your score card into shape and starting to win. So here we go.
Get a putter that fits you.
The top of a correctly-sized putter should reach to your belt, and your hands should be in the middle of the grip. This will help you to get a comfortable and repeatable stance. Putterfingers stock a range of sizes for adults and children.
Walk the course before you start and take notes.
Top players have notebooks in which they record the details of every hole and their strategy for playing it. So make a habit of this when practicing on unfamiliar courses, and before tournaments. Walk each hole and note any obstacles, imperfections in the surface, cracked edges, and any other oddities that could affect the ball. Take note of water features and variations in elevation that will affect the ball’s trajectory. If it’s allowed, play some test strokes to gauge the speed of the surface.
Ball speed is everything.
Train yourself to hit the ball with a precisely measured amount of force. On a straight and level green, practice putting to a marked point four feet away until the ball stops on or very near it every time. Move up to six, eight and ten-foot putts until you can place the ball on a sixpence at a variety of ranges. Master this before experimenting with how balls break on curvy surfaces at different speeds – the faster, the less break. As a rule of thumb, though, it’s better to hit a ball a bit too hard than too tentatively and weakly, because the priority is to get close to the hole with your tee shot and the ball can bounce back towards the hole from the walls. And weak shots will deviate more on ramps and curves, which can take you towards hazards and cost you shots. Be positive and firm, but get the ball speed right.
Watch your opponents’ shots. Then win.
Unless you’re up first, you can glean valuable information on bounce strength, angles and speed from watching your opponents play their shots. This can help you to make adjustments – or copy what they did if it went well! Watching how the ball behaves when close to the hole can help you to plan your shot with precision.
Focus on form and technique, not scores.
If you are tied for the lead and terrified of dropping a shot, or in any other pressure situation in minigolf, it won’t help you to worry and stress about missing. Why? Because it’s a sure-fire way to make you miss!
If you have practised enough, you will know how to strike a ball towards a hole. Any mental distractions from this ‘muscle memory’ skill will make you change something in an attempt to hit an ‘extra-good’ putt. So tune out everything including the score and your opponents, and trust your putting technique, with nothing but the present shot in mind. Some players say ‘practice as if you were competing, and compete as if you were practicing’.
Win with positive self-talk.
Don’t think about missing. Only think about sinking the ball. In fact, don’t think at all. Just focus, visualise the ball falling into the cup, and trust your subconscious mind to execute the shot perfectly (this comes after a lot of practice). See yourself as already having reached your goal, even if it sounds ridiculous to your conscious mind, because your subconscious will eventually believe it. Maybe something like ‘I am British minigolf champion. I score really low every time I play because I have a knack for finding the right ball path. I’m just an awesome shot. I’m fully prepared and mentally calm. It’s normal for me to win. I shoot more aces than anybody else’, etc.
To inspire you, here’s an excellent little video telling the story of a perfect 18 at Putt-Putt scored in 2011 in America. Now that was a win!
Hastings Adventure Golf lies on the seafront in the shadow of the ruins of Hastings Castle. This quintessential British seaside town, town, famous for a certain invasion rather a long time ago, sees a newer invasion every year in the form of hundreds of avid mini golf enthusiasts, who descend on Hastings for the World Crazy Golf Championships. Brandishing putters rather than swords, they are of all abilities from novice to professional (uniquely, it’s an open competition), and compete for the coveted trophy. The tournament has its own unique set of rules, including the condition that all players must use the same type of ball. This contrasts with some other minigolf championships where a selection of balls with different properties can be used, and players select the desired one for each hole.
In 2013 an 18-year old Czech, Olivia Propokova, was both the first lady winner and also the youngest. Michael Smith has won it for the last two years, with Sean Homer never far behind. This year it kicks off on the 10th of June and lasts two days. The course presents many challenges, including a waterwheel, a windmill, an obelisk, lighthouse, ramps, bends, twists and bunkers. The top players know each hole inside out and are frequently able to hit a hole in one. The winner is the one who hits the most – and it’s usually tight at the top, with play sometimes going down to the last hole and the victor winning by a single stroke.
Here’s a video taken at the 2014 World Crazy Golf Championships, in which Sean Homer, Chairman of the British Mini Golf Association, talks about the World Minigolf Federation’s efforts to get Minigolf into the Olympic Games. There’s no good reason why it shouldn’t be included in the Olympics. It’s competitive, watchable, tense and requires great skill. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we will be watching Michael Smith and other top players kissing their gold medals on the Olympic podium. We’re keeping our Putterfingers crossed for that!
As Augusta, Georgia fills up with golf Masters Tournament fans from April 6th, Britain’s minigolfers will be drawing equally large crowds at Splash Point Mini Golf in Denton Gardens on the seafront at Worthing, just up from the chippy. In a stunning timetable clash with golf’s Masters Tournament, the BMGA British Masters is taking place on the very same weekend. Augusta National Golf Club were unable to give a reason for the calendar bungle when Putterfingers called them for an explanation.
This mistake was easily avoidable. Surely the U.S. Masters could have been moved to another weekend? The pro golfers would have understood. However what’s done is done, and it means that fans of both sports will have to check live results as they watch the other tournament. It will be a weekend of twin battles: one for the coveted green jacket of the Masters and the other for the just-as-coveted and only slightly ketchup-stained tweed jacket of the BMGA British Open.
Splash Point is a challenging course run by BMGA rivals Anthony Pope and Peter Emmerson. Richard Gottfried’s definitive blog post about the course gives it a whopping nine out of ten for all three criteria: difficulty, creativity and atmosphere. It will sort the men from the boys at the Open with its tricky holes. However players will already have a good feel for the course, because, like its ‘big golf’ equivalent Augusta National Golf Club, Splash Point has hosted the British Open for the last six years.
In what could be shock news, Minigolf superchamp Michael Smith has not yet registered for the tournament, according to the BMGA website at the time of writing. The list of registered players can be seen here. Smith has been dominant in recent years, and his absence, if confirmed, would lay the field open for a mighty struggle for the tweed jacket between the likes of Steve Lovell, Tiger Pragnell and Adam Kelly. However it’s possible he is playing cat-and-mouse with his opponents and will sign up at the last minute. Make them sweat, Michael.
For those unable to secure tickets for the event, score updates will be available via the BMGA’s website.
For all your minigolf needs, including sports bar minigolf hire during both tournaments, call Putterfingers on 08450 570 321.
Minigolf can be a carefree day out, a serious obsession, or anything in between. Where do you lie on this scale? Have you played a few times and started to hanker after a better score? Or are you already impressing your friends and wanting to improve your technique to shave a few more strokes off your rounds?
Here are some general suggestions on minigolf technique. We should start out by saying that there is no one-size-fits-all set of instructions on how to putt successfully. The beauty of the game is that different players will grow into a style that works for them, and each player looks a bit different as they putt. But there are some basics that apply to everyone, and this Mr Bean-style video covers a few of them. Actually rule number one should be ‘don’t dress like him’.
So, bring your own putter if you have one because you’ll be more used to it.
Walk the course before you start and check out any imperfections in the edges or putting surface that might affect your shot. Walking it also gives you a better idea of distance.
Observe the timing of moving obstacles (if any) to help you time your shot just right.
Focus. Tune out all distractions.
Hit the ball just hard enough to get the desired effect, no harder.
Now for actual putting technique.
The backhand grip is the most common grip used by pro minigolfers. If you are right handed, your right hand is above your left hand on the grip of the putter. It gives firm control of the putter and requires less movement of the upper body when playing a shot. Not every minigolfer uses this grip but some pro ‘big’ golfers have stated that they wish they had started out with it rather than the forehand grip.
Experiment with how far apart you place your hands on the putter grip. It will affect how much force you can easily get into a shot. If playing on beton or eternite, less force is needed so you might have your hands closer together. If playing on felt or astrograss, especially on long holes, you are likely to need more leverage to get the required power, so move your lower hand further down the grip.
Stance is very important too. It is a balance between stability and upper body movement. The feet should be no less than 30cm apart. Any closer together and you are sacrificing stability. Many good minigolfers will adopt a much wider stance than this, which is great for stability but allows less ‘pendulum’ effect of the upper body, so the arm muscles are more involved in the shot. It is generally easier to play gentle shots accurately with a wider stance since you are not swinging your whole body at the ball. Bend your knees a little, but not so much that your legs get tired. Keep your heels on the ground throughout the shot so as to preserve the solid base of your chosen stance.
The head of your putter should be at 90 degrees to the intended direction of travel of the ball and the head should rest horizontally on the putting surface when you are sighting. Find a putter that fits your stance to achieve this. There are also putters with adjustable-angle heads to help you address the ball perfectly.
So there are a few pointers on technique. Apart from that, it’s practice, practice, practice!
East Lancashire has acquired brand new minigolf and short game practice courses at Prairie Sports Village in Burnley. The golf training centre and driving range has added the £75,000 new facilities with funding from Sport England. It features a 9-hole minigolf course with holes inspired by famous golf holes around the world. It comes in addition to the £2.5 million Prairie Sport’s Village’s existing driving range, bar and bistro, 3G artificial turf floodlit football pitch and modern changing rooms. Putterfingers supplied a selection of putters for the courses via European Golf, the artificial turf specialists, who laid the putting surfaces.
At the official launch, Burnley Mayor Counc. Jeff Sumner said “This is the final piece of the jigsaw and it looks fantastic. There’s a big difference from how it looked a few years ago and it is a privilege to have these facilities on our doorstep.”
Paul Foster, Burnley Leisure’s Head of Development, said “It provides another activity that we can now offer to families with young children, women and young people who want to have a go at playing the sport. We want to encourage as many people as possible to come along and play mini golf.”
Putting superchamp Michael Smith has spoken to minigolfnews.com in a full-length interview. What we all want to know, of course, is does he give away any of the secret sauce that has built his minigolfing success to its current level of dominance? Let’s pick a few points from the interview to build a profile of Michael Smith: the man behind the putter.
He played golf for a decade and got down to a handicap of 11.
He is a fiction writer and is hoping to complete a fantasy series and a political romance trilogy.
He is studying criminology at the University of Leicester.
In his own words
On his dominance: ‘I have a number of rivals who are technically excellent and extremely motivated who, to quote Alex Ferguson, want to knock me off my perch. People try and find different ways to beat me and it will be inevitable that at some point, I will have a dip in form. There are four or five people that are capable right now of being number one and I genuinely expect to lose it at some point.’
On match preparation: ‘I have a course note book for every course and that will include putt maps, not as detailed as some others, but it will include the putts I will get most often. I rarely look at them because of the 45 second rule to take the shot, by the time I get the book out of my pocket, turn the pages, look at it, I find it difficult to keep to that time limit. If I have enough practice time, I can commit things to memory.’
On his putter: ‘I get a lot of banter about my putter from fellow pros, saying it looks cheap, horrible, tatty. I’ve been very lucky that not only do I like the putter but it feels comfortable. There is no way on earth that I am going to change it. I have this fear that like Stephen Hendry, when he lost his snooker cue, he was never the same player again. I’m never planning on changing it.’
On his potential retirement: ‘Winning the WCGC meant I protected the ranking and gave me a new lease of life. It took some of the pressure away and was the key factor for me to keep going. I take things tournament by tournament now, which I think gives me a little more freedom.’
On what keeps him going: ‘I foolishly set myself the goal of overtaking Tim Davies as Britain’s greatest ever minigolfer. If I knew at the time all the effort and energy that would take, I wouldn’t have set it. Through good or bad, I am committed to seeing that through. There is one record I am after. Tim finished seven different years ranked number one, I currently only have five. I would love to at least get to 6 and then try and level it.’
Football celebrities have given minigolf’s image a boost by being snapped playing it in between matches. Paul Pogba and Gareth Bale have both wielded putters for the cameras in the last few days. Bale is a self-confessed golf nut who has a fantasy 3-hole golf course in his garden, and wants to be a golfer when he retires from football. World’s most expensive footballer Pogba was spotted at Manchester’s Paradise Island course in the Trafford Centre, probably trying to forget about Man United’s performances this year.
Newcastle city centre bowling alley Lane 7 is to open a crazy golf course. They offered a pop-up course for 12 weeks in 2014 which proved popular, and manager Charlie Snow is glad to see its return, which was overdue: ‘There was a lot of disappointed punters when we ended the golf the last time round. Its return is long overdue and we’re pretty certain it’ll be in big demand for the upcoming Christmas party season.’
Some videos have emerged of the course we reported on last week, created as part of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture. It is set up near the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship.
What’s going on in the minigolf world this week? Here’s a digest of news from puttingland. If we’ve missed anything important, please let us know and we’ll try to include it next week.
First, let’s have some minigolf trick shots from People Are Awesome. Check out the video of awesome putting trick shots
More outstanding ball skills – this time in serious competition – came from superchamp Michael Smith on the 16th of July when he beat 36 other players to take the Cambridgeshire and Essex Minigolf Club Open at the Dunton Hills Family Golf Centre. Well done Michael. Long may your reign continue.
New course openings
Pirate Cove Adventure Golf has just opened on the seafront at Aberavon, Port Talbot. It features piratey stuff: galleons, treasure chests, sharks and the like. The development has been made possible by a successful bid by Neath Port Talbot Council to the Coastal Communities Fund, which is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It’s open daily from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm.
Bolton’s Market Place Shopping Centre now boasts an adventure golf and jungle play area in a former loading bay beneath the shopping centre. While kids will love the rope climbs, Jungle Express train, slides and other fun stuff, people of all ages can enjoy the 18-hole Lost Valley adventure golf course, which local paper The Bolton News describes as being done with ‘painstaking detail’. It comes complete with The Jungle Cafe and a party area that can be hired for special occasions. Kids are reported to be ‘astounded’ by the quality of the place and are loving it to bits.
In Stroud, artist-designed crazy golf is back this Summer after a very successful first year. Crazy Golf at the Goods Shed is a collaboration between Stroud Valleys Artspace and Chalford-based architect firm Millar + Howard Workshop. Each hole is designed by an artist and The Goods Shed will be open 10am – 4pm daily until Sunday, September 4.
An exciting weekend of minigolf is in store this weekend at Wroxham Barns in Norfolk. They are hosting the 2016 BMGA British Open Championships, and it’s tight enough amongst the Men’s top seeds to promise a white-knuckle contest for the title. Reigning champion Michael Smith will be up against 2014 winner Adam Kelly as well as strong contenders Steve Lovell, Chris Wood and Andy Wilde. In the Ladies’ Championship, defending champion Ruth Burke will face 2014 winner Brenda Smith as well as Marion Homer, runner-up in the last two competitions.
The Champs are over Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May. Ahead of the main tournament, on the evening of Friday 6th May Wroxham Barns will see a charity Pro-Am event run by the BGMA to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.
The mini adventure golf course at Wroxham Barns, designed by UrbanCrazy, was opened in 2008 by the GB minigolf team. With 18 varied holes, it has an all-weather, true-rolling putting surface and rewards accurate putting and cleverly played rebound shots. It has water hazards and other obstacles including a bridge, all set in a landscaped site with rockeries, a watercourse with waterfall and a central fountain. The course is designed to British Minigolf Association standards and is DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant.
You can’t play the course during the Championships, but it will be a great weekend for a minigolf fan to see the UK’s top players putt it out for the 2016 title. Just watching them will improve your game, and you can get close enough to observe their technique!
Don’t forget it’s also National Golf Month! National Golf Month is an initiative driven by the British Golf Industry Association (BGIA) that gives golf clubs the opportunity to promote offers through the National Golf Month website that will target both lapsed and new golfers. Its stated aim is ‘to make 100,000 lapsed or new golfers aware of an opportunity to try golf again for free or at special offer prices’. So keep an eye out on the site for special offers near you!