Fore! These Mini Golf Courses Are a Hole in One
Philly Mini Golf at Franklin Square (Photo: J. Holder for Historic Philadelphia)
Remembering your golf pro’s instructions, you crouch down behind the ball and read the green to visualize the ball’s path into the cup. You set your feet parallel to the line of putt, shoulder-width apart, with the ball in the middle in front of you. You imagine the cup as the center of a dartboard, take a few practice strokes, then raise your putter and swing through in a smooth, confident stroke, thwumping the ball toward victory.
The fact that you’re aiming to ring the Liberty Bell at Philly Mini Golf at Franklin Square or get the ball into Caramel Cow’s mouth so you can hear it moo at White Farms Homemade Ice Cream’s course in Ipswich, Massachusetts — not to mention that you’re playing on synthetic turf on top of concrete slabs — is beside the point. You still want to win, and thousands of miniature golf courses across the country are happy to make it a great outing for you and your family.
The windmill is a classic mini golf feature. (Photo: Mighty June/Flickr)
As funkadelic as many courses are, what with their homespun wooden windmills, and glow-in-the-dark clowns, the sport of miniature golf has a noble past. Back in the day, it was considered unseemly for women to raise clubs over their heads for a full swing that would propel the ball. Instead, the good folks at St. Andrews Links in Fife, Scotland, created the Ladies Putting Green (aka “The Himalayas”) in 1867. Today, it’s played by all ages, both sexes, and all nationalities — and the popularity of putting through a full 18 holes is replicated throughout the world, although the swales and mounds that give the course its nickname have been “enhanced” at family putting courses by anthill holes, obstacles, and animated figures.
In the U.S., the sport appeared at a private estate in 1919 called Thistle Dhu (“this’ll do”) in Pinehurst, North Carolina (the Pinehurst resort now has a course with the same name). It then took off in the 1920s on more than 100 New York City rooftops (could unaware pedestrians hear the “Fore!” at street level?) and onward into full-tilt craze mode in the 1930s, with tens of thousands of courses built nationwide.