Mini golf is an American pastime with a lot of history. While some refer to the sport as putt-putt, crazy golf, mini putt, and other names, the basics of mini golf remain the same. As a biproduct of the original full-size golf sport, mini golf is relatively easy to play while being a lot of fun. Throughout its years of existence, golf itself has gone through several evolutions and changes to make it the game we play today. The same can be said for miniature golf. Harris Miniature Golf Courses is actually one of the pioneers of the US miniature golf business. The company revolutionized the ways in which miniature golf was introduced into the American atmosphere on a mass scale by reimagining the game’s possibilities.
How Mini Golf Began
The first iteration of the game we now know as mini golf was documented in the June 8th, 1912 edition of The Illustrated London News. An article in this newspaper introduced the Golfstacle as a concept of a smaller, miniature-sized golf course. The green was made from carpet and other artificial materials and incorporated geometrically shaped obstacles to present players with unique challenges.
Just four years later in 1916, Pinehurst, North Carolina introduced the Thistle Dhu as the first official standardized mini golf course. The Pinehurst mini golf course is also credited as being the first official mini golf course in America. The Thistle Dhu used a mass production, commercial approach to bring mini golf courses to the masses. The term “Thistle Dhu” was a play on words from “this will do,” meant to reflect the concept that if a large-scale size golf course was not accessible, a mini golf course would do.
The Evolution of Mini Golf
As the years went on, miniature golf continued to evolve and flourish. In 1922, the golf aficionado Thomas McCullough Fairborn developed a new artificial green made out of a mix of cottonseed hulls, sand, oil, and dye. This changed the miniature golf game and made it accessible almost anywhere. In the late 1920s, New York City boasted over 150 rooftops with miniature golf courses. In 1927, John Garnet Carter patented his version of the game based on a course he built on Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Carter called the game “Tom Thumb Golf” and within a few years, thousands of Tom Thumb Golf mini golf courses opened across the country.
Mini Golf During the Great Depression
The American miniature golf boom of the early 20th century came to a halt in the 1930s due to the Great depression. As with most other industries, mini golf businesses started closing left and right. Before the end of the decade, most mini golf courses had to either close or were demolished.
An anomaly was the Parkside Whispering Miniature Golf Course, located in Rochester, New York. This miniature golf course was one of the few that survived and earned itself a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Mini Golf in the 1950s and 1960s
In the years that followed the Great Depression, various types of mini golf courses popped up all over the country. In addition to curves, banks, rolls, and pipes, even more challenging golf courses included wishing wells, castles, windmills, and other obstacles. Around 1961 miniature golf became an organized and widely recognized sport.
Present Day Miniature Golf
These days, mini golf is an incredibly lucrative, fun, and entertaining industry. Miniature golf course developers like Harris Miniature Golf Courses, have changed the game as far as what it means to introduce choices and challengers for players. Mini golf courses can be designed for groups both large and small. Games can be played in the daytime or evening and at the level of difficulty with which players feel most comfortable. With unique layouts, exciting greens, and challenging courses, the possibilities of today’s mini golf adventures are endless.