Although the history of mini golf starts in 1867, in Europe, the first “modern” courses were built in early 20th century in the US. Find here everything about the history of that popular game and how mini golf developed in time.
Mini golf has not always been the game you know. Its very origin is quite far from the family game we now love.
Just like its big brother Golf, mini golf finds its origins in Scotland, at the world’s oldest and probably most iconic Golf course, Saint Andrews. It’s 1867 during Queen Victoria’s reign. Queen or no Queen, Ladies were strictly forbidden from playing golf.
Actually, not exactly. They were forbidden to play golf over their shoulders and neck. which makes it much more complicated…
Saint Andrews created at that time a 18 holes putting green where ladies were then allowed to play. As long as they did it quietly… They then created the “St Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club“, also known as The Himalayas.
Still far from the “modern” mini golf we know, but there is the base to the development of mini golf.
Now, lets go a bit forward in time. We are in 1907, in the UK.
The very first written mention of mini golf as we know it (or close) is an advertisement in “The Illustrated London News” for a game called “Golfstacle”. It is commonly recognized as the first mini golf course, with obstacles, tunnels, etc.
All other “miniature golfs” that spread across Europe (Mainly UK) were actually putting greens or Pitch and putt courses. Golfstacle was invented and built by a Colonel from the British army, William Senhouse Clarke.
Definitively a wise man who earned his place at the top of the mini golf pantheon.
From this point, miniature golf courses are thought to start spreading in Europe and the US. Although documented courses are quite rare, we can mention a few ones such as the “Thistle Dhu” (pronounced: “This’ll do”), created by James Barber, a rich american in 1916 in North Carolina, although it was again more a putting green than a “mini golf course”, it is believed to be the starting point for the development of mini golf in North-America
The first “golden age” of american mini golf as we know it is known as the 20s, where several European entrepreneurs came back to their home countries with the idea of creating courses, mainly in Scandinavian countries and Germany
For instance in 1926, Fr. Schröder created a “modern” mini golf course with obstacles, concrete and carpet in Hambourg. It is thought to be one of the first in mainland Europe. He declared having been inspired by the courses he saw spreading across the US during a travel. This declaration suggests courses were already popular and started to be common in the US at that time, although few written evidence have survived.
The second “boom” took place from 1940 until 1970 mainly. The economic expansion, with people taking more and more time for leisure activities was a perfect booster for mini golf.
The number of courses exploded during this period, making it an affordable, family activity.
The international federation (World Minigolf Sport Federation: WMF) is created in 1963 by Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Although mini golf is mainly known as a family activity were rules change with courses, the federation published international rules.
In 2007, WMF counts 63 member countries and more than 40.000 official competitions are registered worldwide.