I’m happy to have a job that affords me the ability to travel as it usually means I can loop in some personal fun as well, which was definitely the case with the latest trip to London in late April. I arrived on Saturday with two work friends and after checking in at the hotel in the middle of Leicester Square we immediately moved onto Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub that was rebuilt before my country even existed. After a bit of fish’n’chips and a few pints in the historical basement, we were off for a tour of some London sights and pubs. Given that, it’s a bit surprising that I was able to rouse myself at 7am to start my trip on Sunday out to the British Masters. Nothing quite like waking up early for minigolf.
I had given a thought playing the tournament but I didn’t know if I would be able to dedicate a whole day to the tournament. As it turned out, I was but it ended up being enjoyable getting to watch a tournament from end-to-end versus worrying about how I was playing. My journey out to Sidcup started with a short walk to Charing Cross station which was overrun with very fit people headed out to the start of the London Marathon. No one there would mistake me for a runner but I’m sure I could have convinced a few that minigolf might be a more enjoyable way to spend the day. It was about a 30 minute train ride and then a nice easy walk on a beautiful morning through a couple of neighborhoods until I reached the course. As I was walking down the street toward the entrance, who do I see just starting their round on one of the holes by the road but fellow Minigolfnews blogger Steve Lovell! That seemed to be a good portent for a day. After a moment of recognition I made my way over to the course and started watching the first round and meeting some folks right away who recognized me from the site.
The weather was absolutely wonderful that day and as it moved on I would be warmly greeted by so many players in the tournament and was made to feel right at home. I’ve always said that the minigolf community were some of the best people on the planet and I’m excited that it extended to across the pond. When you talk the joys and pains of putting in a tournament it’s easy to find a common ground, regardless of your background or nationality. In between rounds I’d catch up mostly with Steve and got introduced to quite a few others. Even the advertising plane that flew over (I’m sure they knew it was the British Masters) was feeling positive with a “Jesus Loves Every 1 of U” banner trailing behind it. Without realizing he was winning, I would end up spending a good chunk of the lunch break talking with Andy Wilde about his planned trip to the US, American sports and all sorts of general country differences. After his eventual win, I would joke that I had a small part in helping but as it turns out he was the type of player who liked the distractions and helped him stay settled, so maybe I did!
While watching the tournament and trying to take pictures and keep up the social media, I noticed a lot of little things that were different in this tournament versus the ones we played back home.
- It had an eerie sort of quiet. While most of the day the players were quiet (aces were hard to get) it was amplified by players using rubber faced putters and a variety of minigolf balls. This removed the “tink” sound I’ve grown accustomed too when the ball leaves the putter, hits a rock, or drops in the cup. It was interesting to see that removed.
- In this tournament they took a decent break between each round (we tend to play straight through each round except for lunch). When they started the next round each player got one practice shot at the hole they were starting at. I kind of liked that because I feel like no matter how much I practice on the course beforehand, it would be nice to get those first hit jitters out on a practice shot.
- They didn’t play honors, keeping the same order for the whole round. Not sure if I like that or not. Sometimes I like falling behind a bit to see some lines and other times it's nice to be ahead to put pressure on.
- They all kept score on a single scorecard instead of each player keeping the groups score on their own card and comparing (like the PGA). Seems like this promotes some more comradery between the players but I personally like keeping my own score. It's something that keeps me grounded in the tournament.
- There seems to be more than the average amount of lefties (nothing to do with the tournament, just an observation).
Given what I saw of the tournament, I feel confident that if I get another chance I will definitely try to play as I’d feel comfortable in the environment. After the tournament, I got a chance to play a friendly with Steve. While I used a course putter and a Chromax ball, I played pretty well except for the 18th and a couple of missed putts (in part due to the cups and in part due to I would have felt more comfortable with my putter). Steve took the round handily (34 to 43) but it was great to play and chat. I also want to thank Scott Lancley for having me give out the trophies and Tweed Jacket to Andy during the award ceremony. Was a great honor to be included in the fun and I hope to see many of these folks again on one side of the pond or another.
My minigolf that trip didn’t end there however (and sorry for making this post even longer). The next night after work I took my co-workers to the new Swingers London West End location which was fairly close to our hotel. A big thank you goes out to Swingers for again treating us great and I hope we repaid the favor based on the food and drink we had! We played a team competition, picking sides like it was the schoolyard. While I thought I’d have the individual title sewn up after back-to-back aces on 3 & 4, I gave it all back with 10 strokes on 8 & 9 to tie for first. However, my team pulled out the victory overall versus the other two! I think everyone had a good time and it was again great to showcase both a nice venue and what the sport can do for a social setting. I highly recommend checking out either of the Swingers locations (you can The Putting Penguin's first review below and the second one will be coming soon), and I hear they will be headed to NYC soon, which I am looking forward to!
Next up – heading to the U.S. Open in a couple of weeks…
» British Masters Article» Swingers Original Review