A superb feature article on British minigolf has appeared in The Big Issue magazine. Written with wit and eloquence, it gives an engaging rundown of the elite minigolf scene around Hastings, British minigolf’s ‘spiritual home’, and some poignant glimpses into the lives of the UK’s top minigolfers.
The article leaves you with a clear idea of how seriously the top players take their sport. Despite minigolf courses forming part of the folk architecture of Britain’s seasides and being quietly seen as national treasures, there are only a few dozen elite players in the UK, versus over 4,000 in Germany. The sport has long been big time in the USA, with the biggest cash prizes, and is so profitable that Al Capone preferred investing in building minigolf courses over rum-running. But it is reckoned that a British minigolfer who won all the major tournaments in one year would walk away with just £3,000 – ‘barely enough to cover a year’s B&B and fish’n’chips.’
The blame for this situation is laid firmly at the door of Sport England, who refuse to recognise minigolf as a sport separate from golf. Sean Homer, Chairman of the British minigolf Association, rues this decision: ‘Until we get recognised as a sport, lottery and local authority funding isn’t open to us.’
Yet it is also clear that British minigolf is a case of ‘Art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake’. Michael Smith, the current Brit Number One, speaks of the adrenalin rush he gets from it that gave him a new lease of life after a failed career as a novelist. John McIver, another top player, says, ‘It is an obsession. One man or woman armed only with a putter taking on 18 holes and the English weather, striving for perfection, for a flawless creation of beauty – a sub-30 round.’
Richard Gottfried, the man who brought us leading minigolf blog The Ham and Egger Files and an elite player, is on a mission to play every minigolf course in Britain with his wife Emily. He describes the ‘melancholic, haunted feel’ of abandoned courses and the goosebumps he gets when he discovers a new one.
There’s lots more in the Big Issue article, and it’s a hoot to read, so head over to their site and bathe in the unsung glory of these passionate individuals’ love of the beautiful sport of minigolf.