Much-loved American putting game Putt-Putt turned 64 last week and is still going strong, which shows that the U.S. putting population’s answer to the question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?” is a resounding “Yes!”
Some British readers might not be familiar with Putt-Putt, but rest assured it’s miniature golf, just a specific version of it that was commercialised and popularised in the USA in the 1950s. Here’s a bit of its history and one notable occurrence.
When the first Putt-Putt® course opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1954, the Putt-Putt mission statement was simple and honest: “To provide families with a safe, clean, wholesome entertainment venue where they can have an enjoyable experience for a reasonable cost in their own community.” A game cost 25 cents and the courses were standardised to give as equal a challenge as possible from one course to another. Doing away with windmills, fountains and other paraphernalia, they consisted of simple geometric shapes and standardised carpet and rails to give even roll and predictable bounce. The holes are designed so that a hole in one is always possible. So it’s a game of pure putting skill and judgement.
A franchise business right from the start, Putt-Putt courses spread quickly and became a household name in family entertainment. It is still possible to apply to become a Putt-Putt franchisee! Soon the brand had its own league, the Professional Putters Association (PPA) which still exists today and offers relatively substantial prize money.
Here’s a video we’ve shared before which not only shows what Putt-Putt holes look like, but also one of the very few occasions on which a player has hit 18 consecutive aces – the perfect game (see original post here). It’s a superbly made animated video that documents the most exciting moment in the putting career of an IT manager called Rick Baird.
At the weekend Hastings hosted the 16th World Crazy Golf Championships. Taking place at Hastings Adventure Golf, the annual event saw the biggest turnout of competitors since 2005. The winner was Marc Chapman, a fencing coach from Canterbury on his 9th attempt at the title.
After claiming the trophy a visibly chuffed Chapman said, “It feels amazing to finally become the World Crazy Golf Champion! It’s been a great personal ambition of mine to win this event and I have been close to it a few times before. I’ve only played in a few events in the last five years, which makes this win even more amazing to believe!”
He has every right to celebrate, having beaten a host of top pro minigolfers including 4-time champion Michael Smith, star putter Adam Kelly and many other illustrious names. Chapman chalked up an impressive 26 under par 226 over the seven rounds, with Kelly rolling in second just one shot behind and Smith taking third having dropped just a single shot from Kelly.
The Novice category was won by Russell Smith from Tunbridge Wells on 10 under par over four rounds, with Chris Horn and Mark Berezicki in second and third places respectively.
Seasoned pro and twice runner-up Sean Homer said: “I made my debut in 2006 and got hooked on the game. I’ve played in every competition since. It’s fantastic that the Hastings’ event is still focused on what has always made it so special – a fun, exciting, inclusive and entertaining spectacle for the young, old and everyone in between.”
Here’s some video of the event, with players explaining the challenges of the Arnold Palmer course and plenty of match play footage, seagulls, good weather and tricky shots. From 10:35 you will hear a series of delighted cries of “Yes! Come on!” from Chapman as he edges closer to the title.
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!