Narendra Modi tries his hand at golf after opening a mini Golf adventure at at Kankaria lake front

Miniature golf, also known as minigolf or putt putt golf, is an offshoot of the sport of golf focusing solely on the putting aspect of its parent game. It is played on courses consisting of a series of holes (usually a multiple of 9) similar to its parent, but characterized by their short length (usually within 10 yards from tee to cup), the use of artificial putting surfaces such as carpet, astroturf and/or concrete, a geometric layout often requiring non-traditional putting lines such as bank shots, and artificial obstacles such as tunnels/tubes, ramps, concrete/metal/fiberglass forms, and moving obstacles such as windmills. When miniature golf retains many of these characteristics but without the use of any props or obstacles, it is purely a mini version of its parent game.

History

Geometrically-shaped minigolf courses made of artificial materials (carpet) began to emerge during the early 20th century. The earliest documented mention of such a course is in the 8 June 1912 edition of The Illustrated London News, which introduces a minigolf course called Gofstacle.

The first standardized minigolf courses to enter commercial mass-production were the Thistle Dhu ("This'll Do") course 1916 in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and the 1927 Tom Thumb patent of Garnet Carter from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn (inventor), a golf fanatic, revolutionized the game in 1922 with his formulation of a suitable artificial green—a mixture of cottonseed hulls, sand, oil, and dye. With this discovery, miniature golf became accessible everywhere; by the late 1920s there were over 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone, and tens of thousands across the United States. This American minigolf boom of early 20th century came to an end during the economic depression in the late 1930s. Nearly all minigolf courses in the United States were closed and demolished before the end of the 1930s. A rare surviving example from this period is the Parkside Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course located near Rochester, New York, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The first miniature golf course in Canada was at the Maples Inn in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. The "Mapes" was constructed as a summer home in the 1890s but was renovated into a club in 1902, opened to the public in 1914, and had a miniature golf course in 1930. The popular nightspot burned in 1985. (See: West Island Chronicle, June 29, 2008.)

European origins

 Minigolf Ascona, opened in 1954 One of the first documented minigolf courses in mainland Europe was built in 1926 by Fr. Schröder in Hamburg, Germany. Mr. Schröder had been inspired by his visit to the United States, where he had seen minigolf courses spreading across the country.

In 1930 Edwin O. Norrman and Eskil Norman returned to Sweden from the United States, where they had stayed for several years and witnessed the golden days of the American minigolf boom. In 1931 they founded a company "Norman och Norrmans Miniatyrgolf", and began manufacturing standardized minigolf courses for the Swedish market. During the following years they spread this new leisure activity across Sweden, by installing minigolf courses in public parks and other suitable locations.

Swedish minigolf courses typically had a rectangular wooden frame surrounding the playing area made of tennis field sand (while the American manufacturers used newly developed and patented felt as the surface of their minigolf courses). Felt did not become popular as a surface material in Sweden until in the mid-1960s—but since then it has become practically the only surface material used in Scandinavia and Britain, due to its favorable playing qualities in wet weather. (Minigolf courses with a felt surface can be played in rainy weather, because water soaks through the felt into the ground. The other commonly used surface materials, beton and eternite, cannot be used in rainy weather, because the rainwater pools on them, stopping the ball from rolling.)

The Swedish Minigolf Federation (Svenska Bangolfförbundet) was founded in 1937, being the oldest minigolf sport organization in the world. National Swedish championships in minigolf have been played yearly since 1939. In other countries minigolf sport federations were not founded until the late 1950s, due to the post-war economical depression.

In 1954, the minigolf course in Ascona (Switzerland) opened, the oldest course worldwide following the norms of Paul Bongni.

Competitive games

The earliest documented minigolf competitions were played in the United States, however. The first National Tom Thumb Open minigolf tournament was arranged in 1930, with a total cash purse $10,000 (the top prize being $2,000). Qualification play-offs were played in all of the 48 states, and the final competition on Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee attracted over 200 players representing thirty states. After the Depression ten years later, minigolf died out as a competition sport in America, and has begun to recover only during the most recent decades. Luckily enough, the American minigolf sport boom of the 1930s inspired many European countries, and the sport of minigolf lived on in Europe even after the American game fell into Depression.

Post-depression USA

In 1938 Joseph and Robert Taylor from Binghamton, New York started building and operating their own miniature golf courses. These courses differed from the ones in the late 20s and early 30s; they were no longer just rolls, banks, and curves, with an occasional pipe thrown in. Their courses not only had landscaping, but also obstacles, including windmills, castles, and wishing wells.

Impressed by the quality of the courses, many customers asked if the Taylors would build a course for them. By the early 1940s, Joe and Bob formed Taylor Brothers, and were in the business of building miniature golf courses and supplying obstacles to the industry. During both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, many a G.I. played on a Taylor Brothers prefabricated course that the U.S. Military had contracted to be built and shipped overseas.

By the late 50s most—if not all—supply catalogs carried Taylor Brothers' obstacles. In 1961 Bob Taylor, Don Clayton of Putt-Putt, and Frank Abramoff of Arnold Palmer Miniature Golf organized the first miniature golf association known as NAPCOMS (or the "National Association of Putting Course Operators, Manufacturers, and Suppliers"). Their first meeting was held in New York City. Though this organization only lasted a few years it was the first attempt to bring miniature golf operators together to promote miniature golf.

In 1955, Lomma Golf, Inc., founded by Al Lomma and his brother Ralph Lomma, led the revival of wacky, animated trick hazards. These hazards required both accurately aimed shots and split-second timing to avoid spinning windmill blades, revolving statuary, and other careening obstacles.

The book Tilting At Windmills (How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Sport) by Andy Miller tells the story of the formerly sports-hating author attempting to change by competing in miniature golf, including events in Denmark and Latvia.

In the United States, National Miniature Golf Day is held yearly on the second Saturday of May. The event had its inaugural celebration on May 12, 2007, and was officially recognized and published in 2008's edition of Chase's Calendar of Events.

Other countries

Minigolf has so far not reached wide popularity outside Europe and North America. The reason is probably economic, at least to some extent: the less wealthy countries invest their limited sports funds into such sports that enjoy widest public attention and media coverage, leaving the less popular sports with little or no funding at all. (Minigolf is one of the most popular outdoor games in Europe and America, though, but only as an occasional leisure activity, not as a competitive sport.)

By the 1950s the American Putt-Putt company was exporting their minigolf courses to South Africa, Australia, Japan, India, Iran, Italy, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and the Eastern Bloc. Minigolf courses are found in all parts of the world, but their popularity is by far highest in the USA, the UK, New Zealand, Scandinavia, and central Europe.

Governing body

The sport of miniature golf is governed internationally by the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF), headquartered in Göteborg, Sweden. The WMF is a member of SportAccord. It organises World Championships for youth and elite players, and Continental Championships in Europe, Asia and the USA, held in alternate years.