Winter is upon us, and most outdoor activities have come to an end. A great activity to provide physical and mental stimulation is mini golf (the more common term Putt Putt Golf is a protected trade mark).
We've played a couple times at Cal's facility and had a great time. The facility has an ideal layout for forming an impromptu course, with wide,carpeted non-orthogonal halls and a TV lounge adjacent to an activities room. The arrangement of the hallways and doors makes challenging dogleg holes a snap.
Some holes can be short straight shots, while others can be doglegs with no straight path between the tee and cup possible.
Encourage creativity in the game, and don't be surprised to see a bank-shot off the wall to get around an obstacle.
Objects found in the area can be pressed into service as obstacles to make the course more interesting. Two large red tulips make a nice garden hole. Do watch out for potential headaches like the opening under the TV cabinet here. Cal had three shots in a row bounce off the tulip and end up under the TV (yes, he still beat Eric and I even with a few troubles like that!).
Some objects can be added for fun, such as the big yellow bird peeking around the corner here. It came out of the bargain-bin at a crafts store for a couple bucks. A little tape and it adds a challenge and some interest to one of the holes. If people get really good at the game, you can add requirements like putting through the bird's legs. Croquet anyone?
Setting Up a Course
There is no wrong way to do this. It depends on what's available.
- The course area should be carpeted if possible. Putting will work best on a carpeted floor. Special balls are available that can be used on tile floors if required.
- The "greens" are pieces of felt roughly 3 feet in diameter. Not strictly necessary, they serve to create a more golf-course-like feel. Some are round, some oblong or kidney shaped. The shape doesn't have much impact on game play but adds visual interest.
- The putting "cups" are cheap plastic practice cups, available from most golfing supply centers for a couple bucks a piece. The white plastic or aluminum type are the best - the green ones are difficult to see on the "greens."
- The putters are the real thing, purchased at Goodwill and Value Village for a few dollars a piece. Each player should have his own putter of the appropriate length so try to find an assortment. Selecting a putter adds to the game, so having a number of styles and types makes it more fun. Note that some putters only have one face while others can be used right or left handed. Make sure to include putters that can be used either way and include some left-handed putters if you find any.
- The balls are the real thing too. Look for a colorful assortment at Goodwill and Value Village.
- The tee makers are upside-down paper bowls, with the hole numbers marked in felt-tipped pen. Position a pair of bowls about 4' apart to form the tee line.
This picture shows the first green being visited by a pair of ducks who normally live on a table. The "green" is about 3' in diameter, with the plastic putting cup near the center. The tee markers for the second hole are visible in the background.
Playing the Game
Golf is usually played with a threesome or foursome. Divide people who are playing into groups of three or four.
The first group tees off in turn, with the farthest person shooting next. The putting cups don't do that good of a job capturing the ball, so any ball crossing the center area is considered to be in the hole. If balls are close to an obstacle, they may be moved one club-head length away to allow access for hitting the ball. Part of the challenge of mini golf is playing around the obstacles, so at times, it may be necessary to hit the ball wrong-handed if it's near a wall or other obstruction. Balls that are out-of-bounds (under furniture for instance) may be moved in-bounds, no nearer the hole, with a one stroke penalty. If a tee-shot lands out-of-bounds, it may be re-hit from the tee with a one stroke penalty.
Each stroke is counted, and the player with the lowest score wins. A golf course usually has 9 holes. A game may be either 9 holes or 18 holes. Score cards can be printed on card stock, with one being used per group.
The course can range from simple to complex, and there's no right or wrong way to do it. Each time mini golf is played, the course may be set up differently and different obstacles used. The course should be set up with an eye to providing alternatives - a normal path and a bank-off-the-wall path or an option to go through an obstacle rather than around. You may see some surprising problem-solving skills in action.
A final piece of advice....someone with a closest full of golf sweaters and hats and shelves of trophies doesn't need any help. You may be amazed how well years of putting skills are retained!