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:
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:
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!
Planning an event and looking for guest entertainment? Minigolf is the go-to choice of event planners around the UK in 2018. Minigolf covers all the bases because all ages can play it and it’s a simple game that takes seconds to grasp. But it has that ‘one more go’ factor that keeps guests entertained. Minigolf is great for all the following types of events.
Anniversary parties, awards ceremonies, fun days, team building days, breakout activities, recruitment … playing a round of minigolf breaks the ice, shows people’s competitive spirit, reveals a bit about character and just allows people to enjoy themselves. HR departments and corporate event planners around the UK have hired flexible Putterfingers minigolf packages to suit the space they have available and the type of event they are organising.
Product launches, promotions, trade shows, awareness campaigns … any business event where the aim is to engage people, we’ve got an option to suit. From single putting lanes at trade shows to fully-branded 9-hole courses at shopping centres, a branded minigolf course gets people into your product or service while they have fun putting. Google are currently touring the USA with a branded minigolf course to promote their product Google Home, so that tells you something about how top marketing minds see the value of minigolf in creating public engagement. It can work for your company, too.
Charities and causes can use minigolf to raise awareness and funds. We have helped to organise numerous sponsored minigolf-a-thons, putting challenges and tournaments. We can brand a course to help project the right image and can help to organise the event if necessary. Recently we’ve done this for Guide Dogs, Age Concern and several other charities.
We do so many weddings we have lost count! Minigolf is perfect for wedding receptions because all ages can play it. We can work directly with the wedding venue to take pressure off the bride and groom and family. Delivery and collection is all done by us, and if the wedding is not too far away from us we’ll set up and pack away the course for you as well. The courses work indoors or outdoors. Talk to us for details!
School fun days
Minigolf is great for kids because it teaches hand-eye coordination and fair play. It’s a popular addition to school fun days and sports halls. A purchase option is available for schools who wish to use a minigolf course regularly. The modular tiles mean the whole course stores away in a small footprint for the next use.
Pubs & Hotels
Particularly in the Summer months, a minigolf course can be a profitable addition to a pub or hotel because it helps to pull in the punters and give them something enjoyable to do while they quaff your ale. They might even work up more of a thirst as well! Hire a course for a weekend event or buy a course to use on a long term basis. Pub & hotel owners can lay out a course and charge to play or just have it there for customers to use. Minigolf tournaments and leagues are a good way to get the most out of your minigolf course because they appeal to people’s competitive instincts and keep them coming back.
These folks really went for it and had a golf-themed party with the minigolf course as the centrepiece. Whatever party you are throwing – birthday, office, seasonal, housewarming or for no particular reason other than to have fun – minigolf helps to break the ice and get people laughing.
Hire or buy – it’s your choice. Here’s how to start the ball rolling!
Let’s have a little sing-song to the tune of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ …
Why the daft song? Because THIS is coming soon to Putterfingers: [Update 09 May 2018: it’s here!]
Yes, it’s footpool – the blend of soccer and pool that is taking the nation by storm. And it’s available very soon from Putterfingers. Our version has ‘spots and stripes’ balls, just like the pool played in pubs. But the difference is, this pool table is 14 feet long and you play with your feet. There’s no learning curve at all to get playing, but it takes a bit of skill to build a break and pot the black.
The playing surface is ‘grippy’ and non-slip for safety, and the balls are low-bounce futsal balls designed to stay in play on this table. All the physics of pool are there – bounce and spin work like they do on a pool table. But you won’t need any chalk and there’s no offside rule. Everybody reckons they’ve got a bit of footy skill, which makes this game a compulsive winner at events, weddings and parties because pretty much everyone wants to have a go as soon as they see it.
A typical game is fairly short, which means guests don’t spend too long waiting for their turn. The cushions are wide enough to stand on to take a shot when the ball is tight against them, which we think is a good feature.
We deliver a table to you and set it up, so all you need to do is hire it, tell us the date, and let your guests have fun playing footpool!
We reckon it’s nearly as much fun as minigolf, which coming from us is really saying something.
We’ve already got the equipment and we’re going to add it to our website soon – but footpool is available to hire now! Call us for all the details if you are planning an event or wedding party (indoors or outdoors). 08450 570321
Another Summer is nearly here (don’t laugh, it is on its way despite widespread belief to the contrary). For that quintessentially British Summer guest entertainment event, the garden party, what can a host add to the Pimm’s and cucumber sandwiches to make it a memorable day? Some kind of lawn game is a good idea – they are sociable, fun, and just competitive enough to reveal a bit about your guests’ characters, or reinforce what you already knew about them, which is all good for a bit of sun-drenched gossip around the barbecue.
But you don’t want your guests to work up too much of a sweat, otherwise they’ll get through all the Pimm’s in no time and someone will have to be dispatched to the shops for more. So what’s the perfect genteel game that guests of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy playing without too much physical effort?
We were stumped for a while by this question, then after a long and arduous brainstorming session it finally hit us. How about some smaller version of golf? It could be played in any size of garden, with a series of challenging holes that could be laid out in a variety of patterns. Guests could compete round the course, which could be 3, 9 or 18 holes, whilst never straying far from the drinks table. Brilliant! We had nailed it. The perfect formula for Summer garden party entertainment.
We’re Putterfingers, we’ve been doing this for ten years, and we’ve helped turn lots of garden parties into super fun events with our minigolf hire service. We’ll deliver and collect, and even set it up for you if you aren’t too far away from our base in Norfolk. The astro grass putting surface has lots of little holes in it under the grassy surface, so it drains when it rains. Summer showers are not a show-stopper and play can resume immediately after a soaking. No putting in puddles!
We provide everything needed for a game of minigolf: Astro grass tiles that dovetail together to form the putting surface, foam bumpers that go round the edges to keep the ball in play, putters (duh!), balls, obstacles, putting cups, hole markers, scorecards and pencils.
Planning a Summer event? Get in touch NOW for availability and hire details!
This supports what we already know: minigolf is a proven formula for making money. The public loves it and it ties in well with food and drink. For years we’ve been hiring our minigolf courses to pubs and hotels to help them pull in custom and sell more of their stock-in-trade. If you run a pub or hotel and would like to give your customers some extra fun, here’s how to hire or buy a minigolf course from us. But we’ve just stumbled across an idea from the USA we think is even more brilliant, that could work well over here. Here it is … drum roll … the minigolf pub crawl!
Over there they call them ‘Barstool Opens’. Here’s an example from an excited local paper that gives playing tips for each of the 17 bars and restaurants hosting a hole. Why there weren’t 18 we don’t know; maybe one of them pulled out at the last minute. Or maybe the town only has 17 bars and restaurants. But if you had a beer at the first 17 minigolf joints, you’d be past caring anyway.
One hole per watering hole
We reckon it’s a great idea. The pubs and bars in a town or neighbourhood can agree to host one hole each – one hole per watering hole, so to speak. With enough publicity, they will all get more business. The cost of hiring or buying a minigolf course can be split between the establishments, making the cost to each venue very low. If single pubs, bars and hotels can afford to hire or buy (and they do, often hiring for short one-off events and buying for the longer term or for regular events), then it is more than affordable to a group of them who are pooling their resources. Putterfingers provide everything needed for a minigolf pub crawl: 18 holes with obstacles, putters, balls, scorecards and pencils.
If a minigolf pub crawl sounds like something you’d like to be involved inn (pun intended), give us a call on 08450 570321 and we’ll give you the lowdown on how to light up the pub trade in your area. Buy your customers a round – of minigolf!
Look on my minigolf course, ye mighty, and despair!
The whole idea of adventure golf is to get ‘lost’ in a far-away world that takes you away from your mundane existence. So when the courses themselves get lost, i.e. abandoned, there is a very special feel to them as the observer becomes doubly lost. Walking among the gaudy, peeling obstacles, the ghostly laughter of players from the course’s sunlit heyday can almost be heard. It speaks directly to the soul about how brief our enjoyment is, and leaves us with a profound sense of … something or other.
Why are abandoned minigolf courses so creepy? It’s hard to put your finger on it really. Philosophers and writers have tried to pin down our fascination with decay for a long time. Nietzsche had a stab at it with his musings on cultural decadence in Twilight of the Gods, and in the books The Aesthetics of Decay and The Memory of Place: the Phenomenology of the Uncanny, Dylan Trigg explores the thrill of decay in chapters with titles like An Uncanny Memory, An Impossible Nostalgia, Dark Night of the Soul and The Post-Industrial Sublime. Going back a bit further, the Romantic poets nurtured a love for the wild and abandoned. The most famous example is probably Shelley’s Ozymandias, a tale of hubris and destruction featuring the crumbling statue of a once-great king lying in a desert.
It’s funny how so many adventure golf courses feature Mayan temples, Inca gods, dinosaurs, pirates and jungle themes. And that’s before they are abandoned! It’s almost as if they are foretelling their abandoned creepiness before it has even happened.
This all ties in with the urban exploration craze. Abandoned factories, tunnels and fairgrounds attract slightly weird yet understandable people who want to go on adventures that make the hairs on their necks stand on end. Post-industrialist urban decay is a fertile place for the imagination, so in a sense, those old derelict crazy golf courses just keep on giving.