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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cinco de Putt Putt

This past Friday, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo at TMA. Though it was officially Quattro de Mayo, hotter than cayenne pepper, and before we could all get away safely an ambulance was called, we still had a tremendously good time.

Cinco de Mayo (translated as "The Fifth of May" in Spanish) is the date observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. A common misunderstanding in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. It’s not. Mexico's Independence Day is September 16 (Dieciséis de septiembre), and is celebrated with food, music and fireworks like we celebrate the 4th of July in the United States.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations include food, drink, music and dancing. We played mini-golf or ‘putt putt’ and had a soccer match. I couldn't find any documentation of Cinco de Mayo celebrations being celebrated with miniature golf and soccer, but what do I know?

Remarkably, after much research, I found more information about mini-golf than Cinco de Mayo!

This year on May 12, 2007, National Miniature Golf Day will have its inaugural celebration. Yes, from now on, every second Saturday of May will be National Miniature Golf Day. It is officially recognized and will be published in 2008's edition of Chase's Calendar of Events. Who says we aren’t on the cutting edge and ahead of our time?

Miss Matz, you knew this all along, right?

Minigolf was developed from golf during the 19th century. The best candidate as the "first minigolf course in the world" is the Ladies' Putting Club of St. Andrews in Scotland, which was founded in 1867, and is still operating and open to the public. This 18-hole course of putting greens, called "the Himalayas", was founded by some members of the notorious Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews. Women had become interested in the game of golf, but conservative social norms of the era deemed it 'unacceptable' for women to publicly perform the violent movements that swinging a golf club requires. Therefore, an 18-hole course of short putting greens was constructed for women – apparently the first "miniature golf course" in the world.

In the early years, minigolf was extremely fashionable among movie stars and celebrities. During the 1930's, there were approximately 30,000 mini-golf courses throughout the country with over 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone!

Americans were hooked on miniature golf because here was a sport that any gender, any age could excel without being a well-conditioned athlete and an estimated four million Americans played miniature golf.

After the stock market crash of 1929, regulation minigolf links became too expensive for most people to afford. In spite of this, the desire to play this most popular game continued to flourish. The ingenuity of the players during this depressed period of American History spawned what became known as "Rinkiedink" golf. Undaunted by convention, enthusiastic players would use any space available to set up these unique and crazy courses. Due to the need for lights at night, many of these courses were built under a brilliantly illuminated billboard sign with the playing surface made of a clay or hard sand surface. There was even a green dye called "Grassit" which was used to color the ground to look like grass.

The first trade name mini course was developed and called ‘Tom Thumb Golf’. This course became the miniature golf most people know today as minigolf with an obstacle course and play-through hazards. Outdoor courses were landscaped with trees, flowers, shrubs, rookeries and fountains with umbrellas, easy chairs and snack bars to round off the ambiance. Look here for some really great old mini golf courses.

Indoor courses required imitation as well as miniaturization and came with their own set of design imperatives: ceilings were painted blue, supporting columns disguised as oaks or palms, and walls covered with canvas murals depicting open countryside or famous fairways. Balconies were transformed into clubhouses or verandas, offering drinks, snacks and rooms to gamble or play bridge. Some courses even provided caddies.

Public courses were open to anyone with a quarter or fifty cents. Miniature golf was one of the first outdoor sports that could be played at night – along with baseball and football. People could play an after-dinner round, purchase a combination movie and golf ticket or prolong a night at the theater by stopping on the way home to play in evening dress until the wee hours of the morning. Wanamaker's, the giant department store chain, featured Tom Thumb Fashions ~ "When you're Lilli-putting on the Miniature Golf Course ... remember your Clothes Technique!" Tom Thumb jackets with berets were $19.50.

Jump forward to the mid-1990's, and you find miniature golf ‘country club-designed courses’ holding the interest of players. Today's modern course features miniature replicas of regulation golf's "Famous Holes" complete with undulations, contours, moguls, water, sand & vegetation traps on the greens. Thus miniature golf now offers the player many of the challenges of real golf!

Though minigolf courses can be found in all parts of the world (the American Putt-Putt company had exported their minigolf courses to South Africa, Australia, Japan, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil and the Eastern Block by the 1950s) their popularity is by far highest in the United States, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and central Europe. In addition, there are pro mini golf tournaments held both nationally and internationally and a Pro Mini Golf Hall of Fame.

Muchos gracias to Janet for the fabulous pictures and to the US Pro Mini Golf Association for the info.

1 comment:

Flag Gazer said...

Who knew there was a pro mini golf association?!!

I learn more stuff here!!!