The Mini Golf Enthusiast

A Mini Blog About a Mini Sport

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Favorite Featured Golf Hole #1 - Da Bomb

As anyone who has played mini golf knows, there are just some courses and holes that are so much fun, so creative, beautifully executed, or so challenging that they deserve to be highlighted and shared with the world. As a regular feature of MGE I will share some of my favorite mini golf holes and hope others will share theirs as well.

The first to receive this honor is the Bomb-Themed hole at Novelty Golf in Lincolnwood, IL.

While there are many interesting and unusually designed holes in their two 18 hole courses, many of which could unfortunately use a little TLC (make sure you are up to date with your tetanus immuniazations before reaching into their cups), I chose to share this one for several reasons. First, while mini golf is often infused with day glow colored lighthearted amusements, this hole demonstrates an unabashedly post-WWII, 1950s glorificaiton of American military might. Paris has its Eiffel Tower (so often immemorialized on courses), the Netherlands has its windmills, and the U.S. has its bombs, a somewhat unusual but not necessarily unprecedented mini golf feature.

In addition to its 1950s sensibility, which for me is always a huge plus, I very much enjoy the challenge and design of the hole. It looks deceptively simple; all one has to do is hit the ball straight through the bombs "fins." The hole uses gravity, you have to hit downhill, which is a design element I especially appreciate after living in the flat Midwest for so many years. But the slope also makes it difficult to achieve a straight shot. If you veer off center at all (how merciless!) your ball will slope toward the right to be caught in one of the two depositories on the right. What I find unusual about this hole is the very open sloping design which requires an exacting amount of precision and the straight shot tempts you into thinking you might actually make it through on the first putt.

No big gimmicks with this hole, just a retro-looking, well-designed challenge.

Images: Mini Golf Enthusiast

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

MGE's Extemely Local News Edition - Adopt a Statue

Recently, I wrote about defunct courses that remain as compelling modern day ruins in the landscape, a faint reminder of the fun and colorful balls that once graced the artificial turf and green carpet. What is the fate of all of those golf obstables when they are not left to gracefully and slowly decompose or are unceremoniously allowed to be denegrated in the name of entertainment a la Jackass the Movie?

Smiling after the destruction

They become lawn ornaments of course! Pink flamingoes, platic deer (why do I always see them in yards where real deer might actually be found), and other pre-fab animals have long had their place on American lawns. Jamie Taylor of Columbus, GA adopted a giraffe from a course doomed for demolition and has been proudly displaying it on the front lawn ever since.

Geoffrey the adoptee

Will this be the start of an adopt a mini golf statue movement? I certainly hope so. It would be the perfect gift for the person who has everything while preserving just a little piece of Americana.

Image: agility, Columbia Ledger Inquirer


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2006 Harris Cup Miniature Golf World Championship

This past weekend mini golfers from around the world (160 to be exact) descended upon Center Valley, Pennsylvania at the Putt U golf course to compete for the 2006 Harris Cup. Congratulations to Roger Beckerman of Ohio who shot an 86 in two two rounds, an impressive 26 strokes below par. For his efforts he is now $3,000 richer.

Putt U, the site of the 2006 Harris Cup

The New Jersey Express Times (subscription required) interviewed Randy Bloch course designer and owner of Putt U to learn a little more about the course:

'It's real miniature golf,' Bloch says. 'It's golf that's miniature.'

The course has water hazards and waterfalls, sand traps with real sand in them, roughs and some pretty difficult shots along rolling fairways. And it uses the Harris signature technique of lining the sides of the fairways with brick pavers.

'There are 14,000 bricks,' Bloch says, 'and 14,000 chances to get a bad bounce.'

...'This hole" Bloch says of No. 14, may be the most difficult miniature golf hole in Pennsylvania,' adding that the Keystone State has the largest number of mini golf courses in the country.

While I have a predilection for courses with crazy objects and generally have a bit of distate for those that replicate "big" golf, I have to admit that this course looks interesting. You can see each hole if you visit the Putt U website, a very nice feature that I wish more courses would replicate.

Putt U's Course Stats (from the New Jersey Express Times):

Course length and par: Blue Course, 1,213 feet, par 56; Red Course, 1,202 feet, par 56.

Longest holes: 91 feet, par 4 on the red course; 91 feet, par 4 on the blue course.

Shortest holes: 49 feet, par 3 on the red course; 46 feet, par 2 on the blue course.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Regrets and the Art of Golf

One of my greatest miniature golf regrets is arriving at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, finding out there was a stupid antiques fair taking place, being too cheap to pay the exorbitant entry into the museum grounds and losing out on an opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to play mini golf on a course created by artists. That was back around 1994 and I still haven't fully recovered.

The DeCordova Museum show "Strokes of Genius" certainly isn't the only example of high art becoming grounded in the pedestrian world of mini golf. Just last week Burlington, Vermont hosted Art/Putt, an artist designed 9 hole course. And last month comic book artists designed holes at The Somerville Open in Somerville, MA. Take a look at the first link for some excellent photographs of the Open's holes.

A mural-graffiti inspired hole at the Art/Putt in Burlington

A friendly monster hole in Somerville. Don't you just want to take it home?

What's better than mixing art with golf? Not much is my answer. Although it is a shame that most of these events or installations are temporary, some lasting as little as one day. Here's an idea - a permanent artist designed miniature golf course. Any one out there listening? If someone is, and this happens (or exists) please let me know because I will make a pilgrimage to the location.

Not everyone agrees that art and mini golf make good bedfellows, however. Thinking About Art strongly disagreed with a plan to devote local exhibition space to an artist designed mini golf course:
This gallery only shows approximately 4 exhibits each year and I can't believe they aren't making better use of the gallery space during the summer months. Sure, the summer months are slow, but why not use this time to put up a sophisticated, cutting-edge exhibit?

Miniature golf? Geez...
What is this snob-a-thon thinking? First, I should say that I am, myself, an artist which is why I appreciate the accessibility and application of skills to this fun sport. And I am not the only one who disagrees. Thinking About Art generated an interesting debate with this post which you can read in the comments section. With some of the vitriol being expressed, you would think that art world might fall apart at the seams when artists dabble in golf.

If history tells us anything, art will survive, even if it occasionally gets mixed up with something as accessible and fun as mini golf.

Images: Burlington Free Press and

Addtional links to artist created mini golf courses/events ( I will add more as find them):
Q-Arts in Derby

Different Strokes at the Zeum Museum in San Francisco

Walker in the Rough - Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Holocene Mini Golf Art Invitational, Portland, OR, October 24, 2006

Obstacle Art in Las Vegas

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Serious Golf and Tips From the Pros

Pro-level mini golf reminds me of advertisements for Peek Freans cookies imprinted on my brain as a child:

Peak Freans are a very serious cookie.
They're made for grown-up tastes.
Peak Freans are much too good to waste on children.
Oh they're serious, very serious.
If you're a grown-up or plan to be one, you'll know what we mean.
It may seem like child's play, but pro mini golf is indeed, serious business. If you want to play and win the Mini Golf Ryder Cup, the British Mini Golf Association's Open tournament, you had better leave the whimsical obstacles behind, and put on your "A game." This "kids game" is a very serious affair filled with technique, practice and skill. For aspiring Pros, I found the tips on the strategic heating and cooling of mini golf balls a little frighteningly intense, but nonethless informative.

For the moment, I will stick with my own strategy, picking the ball that most closely matches my outfit.

Image: Emo Squid

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

War Meet Golf, Golf Meet War

Combat Golf. Sounds like a computer game or some crazy extreme hybrid sport you play in the woods, right? It isn't. As reported in The Post and Courier, Combat Golf is just one of the many American style distractions available in Camp Anaconda, an air base located 42 miles north of Bhagdad. When the enlisted feel a little homesick or long for a much deserved moment of distraction, they may see the latest Hollywood movies, workout, or try their luck on the war-themed miniature golf course where soldiers can momentarily forget (?) the real war at hand as they duck and dodge barbed wire traps and concrete barricades. Call me crazy, but it sounds as though the men and women over there could use a few clowns, tiki statues, or volcanoes. But then again, I am just a civilian. Perhaps the idea could be imported back to the U.S., although it looks as though at least one course has a head start.

Bombs Away!

Image: kittenbazooka

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Mini Golf, Social Science, and Stereotypes

Mini golf used for science? Yes. Recently, the ABC program 20/20 revisted some "old" (at least six years), but nontheless interesting research that finds that sterotypes significantly and adversely affect the performance of groups targeted by the stereotypes. The program asked The Kaplan Educational and Test Prep company to repeat an experiment measuring how well women scored on a math test after watching television commercials containing "ditzy" women. They find (in their admittedly unscientific experiment) that women who watched the commercials scored a surprising 38% lower than women who did not view the advertisements.

Where does mini golf fit into all of this? Another experiment of this type conducted several years ago by Jeff Stone, a pyschologist at the University of Arizona, tested blacks' and whites' ability to play mini golf. Some participants were told that the course would test their "natural ability" while others were told that the course would test the "ability to think strategically." Black participants scored 4 strokes higher than their white counterparts when told that the course tested "natural ability," while whites scored 4 strokes better when told the course testes strategic thinking skills. Who says mini golf isn't serious business?

Image: altuwa

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Visting Ruins

Some folks visit the Parthenon. Others seek out the remaining vestiges of Aztec or Mayan civilizations. Yet, there may just be a little slice of Americana slowly decaying right on your very own doorstep, a wistful tribute to the colored balls and obstacles that once shone brightly in the midday sun - the defunct miniataure golf course. Some of us have the unfortunate circumstance of picking an unexplored
course, arriving only to find the course unceremoniously boarded up, overgrown with weeds just waiting for nature to reclaim the land.

Like a car wreck, such places fill me with awe and a gut wrenching sadness - so much potential wasted away. I can't keep my eyes away as I look over the devastation. Luckily for me, this doesn't happen too often, but there is a certain draw. If you find these types of places irresistable (and you know who you are), I have a potential destination you might want to consider, Golgotha in Cave City, Kentucky (near the Mammoth Caves).

Golgotha in its more inspirational days.

According to Roadside America, the course had a Biblical theme inspried by the New and Old Testament and was once touted as "America's #1 Shaded Biblical Mini Golf." (Which, of course, begs the question, what is the #1 non-shaded course?) The whole thing emanates a bit of blasphemy to me, but considering its R.I.P. status, who am I to judge? Roadside America also reports that while the course is fenced off, it is still accessible to those who wish to get a closer peek.

I will add more ruins as I find them; feel free to share your favorite defunct courses so that others may enjoy the decay.

Images:, Corson Hirschfeld

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mini Mini Golf A-Go-Go

I will be the first to admit that I am behind the technological times. I don't own a cell phone, DVD player, or an iPod, but now I have a better reason to consider purchasing an iPod. Yesterday, Apple announced the release of an initial slate of games for its fifth generation iPods, including such classic favorites as Tetris and, as you may have guessed, mini golf.

Where there are games there are reviews of games. While the review makes me feel a bit like a geezer, because I actually remember playing most of them on their original platforms and the author chastizes Apple for its decidedly retro gaming sensibility, you will nevertheless find more information than you could imagine about gameplay in the article.

It takes mini golf to a whole new level, so to speak.

Image: *nathan

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Virtual Golf Games of the Month

Here at the Mini Golf Enthusiast, all forms of the mini sport have their place. Whether its raining, you feel like wasting a little of your time on this earth, or the mini golf courses are closed because they are buried underneath inches of frozen participation, what is better than a game of virtual mini golf? Earlier this summer, Orbitz fulfilled one of my dreams and created (through the Orbitz Games site) a build you own mini golf hole game. Course designers had several weeks to create holes which were then rated by players. They claim that the top rated holes will be used to create an 18 hole golf course for the Orbitz Games site. Right now you can practice on some of the top rated holes until the final 18 hole course is complete. I don't understand why some of the holes are so highly rated, but there are some fun and challenging designs. Just a word of caution, they do tend to repeat the holes quite frequently. I took them up on their offer and created dozens of holes which I am anxiously awaiting to learn if any made it to the final 18.

Because I have a ravenous appetite for all forms of mini golf, I scoured the web and found a fun and interesting (and most importantly) free golf game called Tiger Golf.

Miniclip Games - Tiger Golf
Tiger Golf

Take on the tricks and traps of this fiendish golf course.

Play now!!

The animation is engaging and what I find most interesting about it, is that it does not replicate "real life" mini golf. It feels more like a cross between Mario Brothers and more standard mini golf video games. I find it quite addictive and nice way to waste time that I do not have.


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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mini Golf Destination - Myrtle Beach

Hooked on mini golf? Do you find that one, two, three, or ten courses of golf leave you wanting more? Then you need to head to the mini golf capital of the US, if not the world, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Yes, that is right. Myrtle Beach does not only serve as a "big" golf players' paradise, there are plenty of distractions for mini golf players as well. What better way to distract the "big" golf orphans than dozens and dozens and dozens of mini golf courses, at last count approximately fifty.

I have not visited yet, but for a small taste of some of the more notable links, a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle provides an overview. For a more detailed description and, dare I say, analysis of the Myrtle golf scene take a look at "A Field Guide to Mini-Golf." I particularly appreciate the author's categorization of the types of courses. While many of the courses seem quite interesting, it does sound as though some of them might be "over produced." But I look forward to trying them out.

Image: miscpix

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Everything's Coming Up Windmills - Photoblog

There are many obstacles associated with mini golf, oversized/undersized animals, the practically requisite lighthouse, creepy houses that threaten to devour your ball forever in their mysterious interiors, but what self-respecting course does not have its quintessential windmill?

On this Labor Day weekend, it seems fitting to pay homage to the unofficial end of summer with a small tribute (no pun intended) to this mini golf staple. I will add images as I take them or find them, so please feel free to come back.

This windmill not only provides the challenge of providing safe passage to the hole but the player's sense of balance as well.

Emerging eloquently from the bushes, colorful blades distract from the fact that they do not provide any challenge to golfers.

Even the most rudimentary courses know the importance of having a 'mill.

Perhaps the most beautiful windmill I have ever seen, this little beauty has a Victorian Caribbean chic. It also has an unusual side entrance.

Does IKEA design mini golf courses as well? This 'mill has the trandmark simple, clean, Scandinavian design, not to mention IKEA colors to boot! The coordinating ball is an especially nice touch!

A nice, classic windmill that seemingly comes with optional human distractors. They may be smiling now, but just you wait.

Hitchcock's windmill? Very beautiful and ominous.

Similar to its large-scaled counterparts, this 'mill has seen better days and now operates as a tourist attraction.

Who said miniature golf had to be mini! The is the largest "mini" windmill I have ever seen.

What's better than a macro "mini" mill? A mini mini 'mill that doubles as an airplane propeller. Many thanks to Putting Penguin for sending this along.

Another simple and stark tribute to European design, perched atop its own little hill.

I think we now all know the answer to what happens when you cross a cow with a windmill. The details of this little 'mill are impressive; the base, black painted on white subtly contrasts with blades painted with white spots on a black background. An unusual animal/inanimate object combination, but nonetheless a visually captivating and challenging specimen.

Calling the Moulin Rouge, I think you lost your windmill.

This hole cleverly combines elements of a lighthouse with the blades of a windmill, a perfect hybrid for a New England course. Although the heavy use of diamond shaped detailing provides a not-so-subtle tribute to Vegas. Many thanks to Putting Penguin for sending this along.

This mill exhibits a pleasing feng shui balance and, might I add, those blades look as though they will shred balls in half. Many thanks to Putting Penguin for sharing this photo.

Attack of the "waffle bladed" mass produced windmills #1.

How do you make a mass produced windmill seem novel? Add extraneous titlting, disorienting, shrubbery and a water hazard.

Is the fence keeping the windmill in or players out? And by the way, you are not seeing in triplicate, this is the same basic windmill making appearances in the previous two photos.

Like a blue Phoenix rising out of the Phoenix desert, this beautiful and substantial windmill incongruously mingles with the surrounding palm trees.

Boston has its "Green Monster." This golf course has a yellow monster. I wonder what lurks behind the two-toned window.

It is so rare to get a look at mini golf from the windmill's point of view. Is this 'mill stalking its player? Now there's a great B, C, or D grade concept for a horror film!

Windmills have been an important staple of mini golf from the beginning as this image from around 1930 attests.

Another maxi mini golf sized 'mill with plenty of details. Just look at the impressive woodwork around the railing and the blue/gray color coordindation.

The Amazing Technicolor Windmill!

Russia meet Holland, Holland Meet Russia.

This is a very unusual windmill indeed! It not only has a Bauhaus sensibility, but the larger set of blades at the top of the windmill only serve to distract from the smaller set below. A windmill within a windmill - that's innovation.

Happy golfing!

Image credits in the order they appear: pbo31, inkynobaka, MeadowlandsLibertyCVB.c om, Jess Hutch, Neato Coolville, Ann Dee Scraps, busysignals, FRaNKy--, misocrazy, Putting Penguin, Mini Golf Enthusiast, Mini Golf Enthusiast, Sam Lundquist, Putting Penguin, Putting Penguin, Andy Gosling, Devon Cliffs Haven Holiday Park, Hastings Crazy Golf, FuzzyCo, The Effigy, Momma Bird79, The National Building Musuem, vomsorb,James Vornov, Leisure Time Development, Gobo Gal.

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