A bit of a change is taking place: our illustrious blogger, who has been at the helm for many years, is slowly passing the computer and keyboard to me. Fear not though! We are not losing him, he is only moving on to bigger, better, brighter enterprises – ones where he can pass on his wisdom and creativity.
But my gentle readers, I do fear that you fear this change might be frightful. After all, what do I know about golf? or mini golf? Well, I must confess, not that much. And yes, I can hear the collective gasp and see the eye rolling! However, I do know a thing or two about fashion, cooking, cocktails, perfumes, gardening, how to look one’s best, how to host a party…yes, the list goes on and on. Now of course you might be puzzled as to how any of this relates to mini golf. Well, I am not going to divulge that secret yet (perhaps next time do not gasp and eye roll so much my gentle readers). I will tell you though, keep on reading our delightful blog and you yourselves might be delighted with some of the weirdly wonderful bloggy entries (and with new words I like to create).
Now, I will say that I do welcome suggestions so do send us a post on FB (and I also welcome bribes to go with those suggestions).
Well, gentle readers, I hope my introduction to you has been INSERT YOUR OWN POSITIVE ADJECTIVE HERE!!! I myself am thrilled to meet this wonderful, wacky world of mini golf.
The second bit of history about the most fun you can have with a ball and a stick
As promised, here is part two of a Putted History of Minigolf.
The American Boom
The builder of the first minigolf course in America was James Wells Barber, a shipping magnate from England who had settled in North Carolina. A keen golfer, he decided to build a miniature golf course at his Pinehurst residence for entertaining his numerous guests. Upon surveying the completed estate and 18-hole miniature golf course, he is said to have declared, “This’ll do.” His utterance was Scottishised either by himself or his entourage to ‘Thistle Dhu’, and it stuck. Thus Scotland, the home of golf, made its impression on the American minigolf industry right at its inception.
An article in the Altoona Mirror from March 6, 1928 gives this description of Thistle Dhu:
“North Carolina boasts of the world’s craziest, most scientific and most aggravating golf course which occupies a space no larger than a farmer’s back yard.
“It measures only 100 yards and approximately the same coming in. You can shoot all of the eighteen holes with a putter and a niblick [A niblick was a lofted iron, similar to a 9-iron, for getting out of bunkers]. The longest hole is 71 feet and the shortest is 13. But par is a thoroughly exasperating 41 and if you break 60 for the 18 holes on your first round you have a right to preen yourself.
“The Lilliputian links, which rejoices in the euphonic name of Thistle Dhu, is a golfing nightmare of natural and artificial hazards, perfectly designed slopes and curves whose dangers are generally well masked until the unsuspecting player is afoul of them. If it isn’t a tree trunk that must be missed by a bare two inches for a perfect approach to the hole, then the hazard is likely to be a pair of cement mounds, crescent-shaped, between which the ball must cut with geometrical precision to drop into the hole.”
The Thistle Dhu course record was 28 set by the course’s designer, Mr E.H. Wiswell, who knew the angles like nobody else.
Thistle Dhu was never open to the public, but became celebrated in the press thanks to the buzz it created amongst North Carolina’s social set. Among many others he showed his course off to, Barber invited two Canadian prime ministers and celebrity golfer Glenna Collet-Vare to play, and word spread about the miniature putting marvel.
Thistle Dhu was much talked about, but remained a novelty until 1927, when John Garnet Carter patented a version of the game he called Tom Thumb Golf. A brilliant salesman and promoter, he built the first course on Lookout Mountain in Georgia at the Fairyland Inn, a hotel he had built that was a sort of proto-Disneyland. In the following few years Garnet’s patented Tom Thumb Golf courses spread like wildfire. By the early 1930s there were thousands of them around the United States. The minigolf boom had begun.
Both Thistle Dhu and Garnet Carter’s courses were laid out in natural lawn areas with concrete sections added. Whilst Garnet Carter was growing his minigolf empire, another entrepreneurial soul called Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn had introduced a new putting surface designed specially for minigolf – a mixture of cottonseed hulls, sand, oil and dye. It was very smooth when trodden down, good for putting and colourful, and had the advantage of being applicable just about anywhere.
Fairbairn’s invention led to the rooftop minigolf craze. By the late 1920s there were over 150 rooftop minigolf courses in New York City alone, and tens of thousands across the United States.
But it all came back down to Earth with the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. By the end of the 1930s nearly all minigolf courses were history: closed and demolished or abandoned.
Most of the original courses from the American minigolf boom are gone now, and the few still in existence have a powerful spookiness about them. Urban explorers go out of their way for the creepy feel of an abandoned miniature golf course. Such places have entered folklore along with the wreck of the Titanic and abandoned amusement parks as ghostly elegies to unrevisitable times. With the superficial fun long gone and the paint on the clowns’ faces peeling away, something sinister lurks in these desolate places. The stuff of Stephen King novels. Brrrr.
An article in Popular Science Monthly from November 1930 gives a vivid a glimpse into the history of the minigolf boom, not long before it all came crashing down. Called ‘Why Midget Golf Swept the Country’, it details how ‘Showmanship and mechanical art will decide the fate of America’s newest big industry – miniature golf … All these people are wondering how long this newest fad will last’. At its peak – close to the time the Popular Science Monthly article was published, minigolf had a million players, 25,000 courses and had seen an investment of $75 million – a huge amount in old money.
Fast forward to the present day, and minigolf is very much still around – in fact it’s going through a second heyday.
Rather than build crazy golf courses, we bring them to you. We deliver porrtable crazy golf for events and weddings. Interested? Then get in touch:
Tantrums and putter threat on pro minigolf course!
This week’s post was to be part 2 of A Putted History of Minigolf – see part 1 here. But we have a story from New Zealand that we think trumps it and might generate some discussion, so we’ll push that post back to next week.
A recent series of events in New Zealand raises questions about minigolf as a professional sport and how seriously or otherwise it should be taken. A feud between two prominent Kiwi minigolfers escalated into one allegedly threatening the other with his putter, saying “I’ll wrap my putter round your head”. This was apparently the final straw for Minigolf Federation of New Zealand secretary Damo Kissick, who said it followed a string of incidents in which Bobby Hart lost his temper, threw putters, swore and generally spat out his dummy. In the light of this behaviour the player has been asked to leave the federation.
Star national and international player Bobby Hart is known for his no-joking approach to the game and for saying things like “I’m here to compete, not make friends”. Which is kind of fair enough – he takes the game seriously and after all it requires great skill and practice. Interviewed after the incident, he said, “I’m not there to have a joke and a laugh, I’m there to take things seriously and grow competitive putting as a sport here in New Zealand. It’s not a joking matter … I think there’s a future for competitive putting and actually doing it as a job.”
The alleged putter threat came following a long-running disagreement with another player, Murray Cramp, whom Hart accuses of not taking the game seriously enough. Cramp said “It’s essentially a sport for children and their parents to have fun that we’ve turned into something that is well beyond [that] … The last thing you want to do is create a level of intensity where it looks like you’re at the Olympics.”
And yet there have been efforts to get minigolf into the Olympics. We blogged about it back in 2014. The World Minigolf Sport Federation regularly lobbies for it to be included.
All this begs the question: how seriously (or otherwise) should we take minigolf? Is professional minigolf a threat to the fun of the game, or should we have more of it? Can you be professional and have fun at the same time?
If you have any comments on this, please post them to our Twitter page. But try to keep your toys in the pram.
A bit of history about the most fun you can have with a ball and a stick
This is the first in a series of two or maybe three posts about how minigolf got started, why it got so crazily popular, and other historical bits and bobs and trivia about the game. If you’re curious about where minigolf/crazy golf/adventure golf/putt-putt/goofy golf came from and how it got started, read on!
Much as we’d love to say that minigolf started in England, the truth is that it’s a transatlantic affair. There were British precursors – more on them in a minute – but the idea of a minigolf course as a theme park goes back to the American miniature golf boom of the 1920s. Surely no self-respecting Englishman would charge the public money to enter a kitsch landscape full of objects that made garden gnomes look like Michelangelos, and putt a ball around it in the name of enjoyment? But here’s the kicker: it was an Englishman who opened the first ever minigolf course in America! But first let everything go wavy for a moment as we take you back to the first inklings of minigolf.
For all we know, prehistoric folks might have played miniature golf with jawbones and rat skulls. But for this article, we’ll have to leave the anthropology aside and stick to the recorded facts.
If we define a precursor of minigolf as ‘a smaller and more compact version of golf’, the Ladies’ Putting Club at St Andrews was the first prominent example of such a game. To give the golf widows something to do as their hubbies hiked around the links all day, a putting-only area called ‘The Himalayas’ was set up specially for ladies. At the time it was considered unseemly for a lady to swing a club above the shoulder, but a bit of demure putting was permissible as long as they were all ladylike about it and didn’t make to much noise besides a light tinkle of musical laughter. So the patronised females were given their own bit of St Andrews, and it proved popular. Other clubs around Britain copied the idea, but they were more pitch-and-putt courses than minigolf as we know it today.
One of the earliest attempts to package miniature golf and sell it as a product was Golfstacle, a game patented by a British Army Colonel in 1907 as ‘a golf game for putters’ or alternatively ‘golf-croquet’. In your wooden box you got some painted metal obstacles including croquet-style hoops, balls, putters and a peg taken straight from croquet, which was presumably what you had to try to hit with your ball. Putting cups were still a thing of the future, but the introduction of obstacles and the compact size of the course layout was a significant step towards minigolf as we know it today. The game is documented in the 8th June 1912 edition of the Illustrated London News:
In last week’s post we reported on the celebrity-studded ICAP Charity Day and how we helped to make it happen with our minigolf equipment. Stars had a go on our Global-branded challenge putt hole to raise funds. Well now we’ve had some feedback from Megan Hornsby at Global:
I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all here at Global’s Make Some Noise! We are so pleased to announce that from ICAP Charity Day on Wednesday 5th December we were granted an amazing £120,000! Thanks to your help, the money raised will go on to help fund and support small children’s and young people’s projects across the UK.
Thank you and I look forward to building our relationship with PutterFingers. Good luck with your new job!
And it’s goodbye to Shelley!
Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed the last sentence there in the feedback from Global. Yes, it’s true: after 9 years at the helm of Putterfingers and having built it into the leader in minigolf hire it is today, Putterfingers manager Shelley is moving on to pastures new. In typical Shelley style she is diligently making sure everything is in order before she hands the reins over to the very capable team of Jim, Richard, John and Alfie.
We are all sad to see her go – and a bit worried as well to be honest because her head contains pretty much everything there is to know about Putterfingers. But she’s doing a great job of making sure we’re not all left in the lurch after this Friday. We are referring to her departure as ‘Shexit’ because to us it’s as important an event as Brexit. (We did ask for a second referendum!) So thanks for everything Shelley, and the whole team wishes you the very best for the future!
Putterfingers have supplied a Challenge Putt hole to the celebrity-strewn ICAP Charity Day in the City of London. For a whole day, ICAP, a City broker, donates 100% of its revenue and brokers’ commissions to charity.
Brokers on the trading floor dressed up in silly outfits including dinosaurs, hippies and a school choir. Celebrities dropped in throughout the day to make trades on the phone and bank the commission for charity.
We supplied a minigolf hole for Make Some Noise, whom we also helped out in October at their own fundraising day. As the celebs poured in, they had a go on our Challenge Putt hole. Here are a few snaps from the #makesomenoise hole on a memorable day!
And here’s the Duchess of Cornwall pulling off what was reportedly a £200 million trade to raise £2750, which would have been the broker’s commission on any ordinary day.
Here’s Love Island winner Dani Dyer getting on the dog and bone to help out:
So we’re all celebbed out, and it was wonderful to see our equipment helping to raise funds for good causes!
The stars seem to have aligned this week for a combination of two of our favourite things: minigolf and Lego. Three unrelated events involving minigolf and Lego have made us wonder why the world has waited so long to realise that it’s a perfect combination!
1. We posted a photo of a minigolf hole we’ve made out of Megabricks. These are not Lego but fit together in a similar way to build structures. Megabricks are giant plastic blocks – like breeze blocks – that are colourful, fun, strong and can build almost anything. Because we’re Putterfingers, we naturally built a few minigolf holes. Here’s one of them.
Looks great, doesn’t it? When we posted it online, the reaction was ‘Wow, that’s new!’ We haven’t put Megabricks minigolf on our site yet, but get in touch with us if you are interested in hiring or buying a blocky and colourful minigolf set that’s really different!
2. On Channel 4’s Lego Masters last night, one of the challenges was to build a crazy golf course out of Lego. With our Megabricks it doesn’t take long because each brick is big. But with little Lego bricks it must have taken them ages. They had to make moving obstacles with motorised parts, and the hole had to be playable. Quite a challenge.
If you don’t know what Lego Masters is, it’s a show with a similar format to MasteChef and others where contestants compete to produce the best creation for a panel of judges in a limited time. The fact that they chose minigolf as a challenge for the builders goes to show how popular minigolf is at the moment!
3. LegoLand Florida are building a minigolf course! The blocky U.S. attraction has filed plans for a 10,000 square foot minigolf area as part of its expansion to include areas dedicated to the Lego Movie franchise.
It seems the world has gone Lego minigolf mad, just after Putterfingers had the idea of tinkering with plastic bricks to make minigolf holes and published photos on social media. Maybe – just maybe – somebody at C4 and LegoLand Florida was watching!
‘Big Top Ted’ McIver shows his passion for minigolf on BBC2
Some excellent minigolf footage has appeared on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip on BBC2! In Episode 1 of Season 8, Denise Van Outen and Tim Medhurst find themselves hunting for antiques in Margate, then they swing by Strokes Adventure Golf. There they meet none other than 3-time British Open champ John ‘Big Top Ted’ McIver! It’s great to see him chatting away genially with the celebs. McIver is a bit of a celeb himself in the minigolf world, and a very nice bloke to boot.
Van Outen and Medhurst trundle up in their convertible Morris Minor and hit the course to find Ted, whom they quiz about the history of minigolf. He is more than happy to oblige and launches into a potted history of the sport – a putted history really – that touches on several of the landmark eras and places in the development of our beloved game.
Big Top Ted mentions the Himalayas course at St Andrews, site of the Ladies’ Putting Club, which was a precursor to minigolf. The narrator then describes Golfstacle, the first mini golf set you could buy, before going across the pond to address the minigolf explosion over there. Ted then talks about some of the crazier things to be found on mini golf courses during its early heyday, including trained bears and monkeys.
This is high quality footage of minigolf on the Beeb, and we’re delighted to see it. Big Top Ted’s enthusiasm is obvious and he comes across really well. Here’s the clip.
It’s a bit of a shame we didn’t get to see three-time British champion McIver demonstrate his putting technique, but it was probably hard to concentrate with TV cameras there and celebs yacking in his face. Still, it’s another great bit of minigolf footage that we just had to share with our blog readers!
Chancellor’s Budget: outdoor weddings to be allowed!
We’ve all seen al fresco wedding ceremonies in the movies. Typically the vows are exchanged, or prevented from being exchanged depending on the film, on a beach, with nothing more than an arch of flowers and a celebrant forming the ‘venue’. Until now this has not been possible in England, forcing those whose hearts are set on an outdoor wedding to go to Hawaii or Florida or somewhere even more exotic. But that’s about to change.
One of the unexpected announcements in this week’s budget was a change to the laws that dictate the type of wedding venues we can get married in. It paves the way for outdoor weddings, pub weddings, restaurant weddings, even weddings at home, and it is designed to reduce the cost burden of getting hitched, a significant part of which is venue hire. Previously (since the 1830s), we have only been allowed to marry in a structure with a solid roof (not a marquee), and food and drink may not be served there. That’s why the norm is usually a service or registry office wedding followed by everybody decamping to a reception venue for speeches, food, drink and dancing. Currently, civil ceremonies must take place in register offices or approved premises that have been licensed for the purpose by local authorities.
The new law aims to make it cheaper and simpler to get married. Full disclosure: at Putterfingers we’re happy about this, because we hire out minigolf for wedding parties and if this means more people can afford to get married, then it means more business for us! Readers of this blog will know that our minigolf courses work just as well outdoors as indoors and don’t require a power supply, which makes them ideal for outdoor weddings. The courses are modular and weatherproof, easy to set up and can be shaped to fit the space available.
We’re delighted that wedding couples and their guests are going to be able to enjoy Putterfingers minigolf at a wider variety of venues!
Never one to miss an invitation to London, the Putterfingers team headed to London in preparation of 5th October to bring golf to a corporate client and twinned this with the opportunity to supply a couple of golf holes for the infamous MakeSomeNoise Charity Day, held at Global Media & Entertainment Group’s HQ in Leicester Square. Global’s media brands include Heart FM, Capital FM, Smooth Radio, LBC, RadioX, CapitalXTRA and My Gold Music, and all these stations put the fundraising campaign front and centre of their scheduling for the day, with their listeners making it happen by donating.
Organiser Wendy Nicol said, “The golf holes were a real hit with not only the staff but the canine companion we had in for the day as you can see! We will be sure to spread the word about using Putterfingers for future events.”
This year’s @MakeNoise campaign raised a whopping £4,198,678 to help disadvantaged children, young people and their families across the UK! We’re proud that our minigolf was a part of this successful fundraising drive. Here are some photos from the big day.
We’re please the fundraising event went so well and Global say they will be back for more!