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Mini golf, also known as miniature golf and the generalized trademark Putt-Putt, is a sports modeled after the life-size sport of the same name. Created in Scotland in the early 1900s as a way for women to enjoy golf in a more "feminine manner," the game quickly became a favorite among movie stars and celebrities. The first miniature golf course in America was Thistle Dhu or "This'll Do." It opened in 1916 in Pinehurst, North Carolina, as a tribute to the Louvre's Tuileries Garden, complete with sculptures, fountains, and elaborated terraces. The original courses, however, were simple flat landscapes that look very different to those associated with the sport today.
It wasn't until the early 1920s that mini golf took off, partly thanks to the invention of "artificial green," which allowed the courses to be opened everywhere, without the need for grass maintenance. The next revolution came in the 1940s, when obstacles were first introduced.
Many of the rules are the same as in regular golf: courses have 18 holes and players must attempt to hit the holes in as few strokes as possible. Mini golf, however, also has a series of obstacles, including ramps, tunnels, and animated barriers. Many courses are based on themes, such as pirates, tropical jungles, or fairy tales. Designs can get quite complex, with hand-crafted designs and state-of-the-art props and animatronics.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is considered the "Mini Golf Capital of the World," with over 50 courses in the center of the city alone. Florida comes a close second, especially in tourist areas and resort areas. Florida also boasts some of the most elaborate courses, many of which resemble theme park rides and are an attraction all in themselves.
Mini golf is popular as family entertainment, but it's also considered an official sport, played at competitive levels around the world. Organizations such as the US Pro Mini-Golf Association (USPMGA) and World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF) organize championships. Professional players concentrate on straight putting, with no obstacle courses to interfere in the game.
Then notion of "pro" miniature golfers might cause some folks to snicker, but the USPMGA members are serious as can be about the sport. We're talking about a 32-page rulebook covering everything from guidelines for laying out holes to what equipment is acceptable.