The Fun History of Mini Golf

the history of mini golf

Here at The Grove Resort Orlando, we are pretty excited about the opening of Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center that happened a few months ago. Flip Flop’s is 7,000 square feet of excitement and features a Glow-In-The-Dark Indoor Mini Golf Course! And that got us thinking about how mini golf began.

For a game that can be found in nearly any city or town throughout the nation, the history of mini golf is quite unknown. Mini golf courses are really mini-adventures, with features that take us to faraway lands and get our imaginations moving. 

The History of Mini Golf

So how did these colorful, family-friendly, miniature golf courses come to be?

It All Began in Scotland

Similarly to golf, mini golf also got its start in Scotland. In the late 1800s, it was considered improper for ladies to swing the golf club past their shoulders, and so a special course was created for women. This special course was for members-only and was designed to be plenty challenging despite the swing restrictions. The course remains one of the most challenging to this day. Keep in mind, this particular mini golf course is not one of the fantasy-themed ones with elaborate structures, those will come later.

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London’s “Golfstacle” Came Next

History shows us that the next mention of a miniature game of golf was in The Illustrated London News introducing a course called Gofstacle.

the history of mini golf

An old mini golf track (now demolished) in Täby, Sweden. Wikimedia

Standardization in 1916

Eventually, in 1916, a standardized version of mini golf course came about in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Dubbed the Thistle Dhu, it was mass-produced and featured fountains, gardens, and geometrically-designed walkway patterns.

A Patented Course is Born

Fast forward to 1927 and Garnet Carter was the first to actually patent a game of mini golf. Named the “Tom Thumb Golf,” his course was created to draw traffic to the hotel he and his wife owned on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Frieda Carter, his wife, is said to have designed most of the course’s obstacles.

the history of mini golf

1925 Tom Thumb Golf – Garnet Carter Putting

Artificial “Green” Invented

A well-known golf fanatic, of his time, named Thomas Mcculloch Fairbairn invented the ideal artificial green by mixing cottonseed hulls, sand, oil and dye. After this discovery became widespread news, mini golf rapidly grew in popularity and occurrence.

The Depression

Once The Great Depression hit in the late 1930s, most mini golf courses were closed or demolished.

Rinky Dink Courses

During the Great Depression, the former glory of mini golf courses was lost, but in the absence of them, an array of “rinky-dink” courses sprouted. People would scrounge for whatever materials were available and created their own versions of mini golf. Tires, barrels pipes, rain gutters, and other scrap materials became common features. Despite the Depression, by the end of the 1930s, most people were playing some form of mini golf.

the history of mini golf

Fast Forward to Today

Between the 1930s and today, mini golf went through many more phases and trends. It seems that it doesn’t matter the time period, age, or generation, miniature golf courses bring joy to all. They serve as forums to have fun with one’s family and friends, to challenge one’s coordination, and excite one’s imagination.

Enjoy a few rounds of glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, play arcade games, and relax on while on vacation in Orlando, Florida right here at The Grove Resort Orlando. Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center is the latest entertainment addition here at The Grove, and it’s waiting for you and your loved ones to enjoy!