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Argentina  INESfun

22 Feb 2020 at 13:37

There are about 300 recesses on one golf ball, and thanks to them, the ball flies three times farther than a smooth one. ... Balls of the same size...

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United States of America  Smitty

09 Sep 2021 at 03:16

Congrats, Joey! Great playing.

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United States of America Patrick Sheridan's blog« See all PatPenguin's blogs

Miniature Golf in the Time of Virus
08 May 2020 at 12:49 | Posted in: General | Views: 929 | Comments: 0
Miniature Golf in the Time of Virus
One of the perils of putting at home

At this point, after what is almost two months of stay-at-home orders across the globe (or even more aggressive lockdowns depending on where you are), you’ve probably already read 20 thought pieces on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life, entertainment, business, politics, etc. You have also likely seen that the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF) has canceled all 2020 international championships and many other minigolf events such as the USPMGA’s U.S. Open, that was to be held in May, are also canceled. This leaves the competitive miniature golf landscape a little dry but there are signs of it starting to get rolling in certain parts of the world.

There have also been a couple of pieces already written about the impact to miniature golf and what putting might look like as we come out of the lockdown orders.
Richard Gottfried has put together a good piece discussing the changes that will be in place with many courses as we return back to visiting businesses and how that might impact the “miniature golf experience.” I tend to agree with him on not being excited about how some of this plays out in the short-term. As much as I’m itching to get back to putting, doing so in gloves and a mask isn’t the most appealing thing for me.

However, as a documenter of the miniature golf experience, I feel like I also need to bring some perspective to how this is impacting me personally as someone living in the Northeast United States. (I also need content for the site during these times!) Even more so, this is right around the time I would start my blogging for the year in earnest again as we come into the opening of the season.

In general, the first month or so of stay-at-home wasn’t felt that much on my minigolf game. In my section of the country this time of year traditionally sees little in the way of outdoor miniature golf and what indoor putting we do have is generally just casual, no real tournaments inside. Some folks have tried to put together some winter events, but depending on where you live, they might be a bit of a trek to get to. Thus, not being able to head to the local course wasn’t that much of a change. If anything, many of us saw it as a way to promote indoor putting (look up #puttathome across any social media platform), which is what many of us would normally be doing in the winter months anyway.

As the weather started to turn and courses looked at opening, it also looked like miniature golf was going to be one of the business that might be able to stay open. Rounds could be done in a socially distant manner and courses were all ready to take precautions to heavily sanitize equipment and even promoted bringing your own. There seemed to be a light for us putters, even though we were hearing that some tournaments were being canceled. However, for most of us that light went out as the restrictions became stricter. At least the courses put plans in place that could be rolled out again once the restrictions were lifted.

I write this now during the first week of May and the loss of minigolf is hitting home more now. With the U.S. Open scheduled at the end of May this would have really been the time where I picked up speed on my minigolf. Usually courses open early-mid April here, depending on the weather, and we’ve had a few nice days where I know I would have been out on the course trying to get back into form. With the Open back in New Jersey, I was very much looking forward to it being at one of my favorite tournament courses and what is kind of a “home” Open course. With the pressure of wanting to do well there I would have been out hitting the mini-links as early as possible to get back into tournament form and probably would be just looking at my first day trip down there to get in some practice rounds. I had been thinking for months about how I could improve over my best Open standing (T-10) that was at this course and what I needed to do to better work on a few holes. Having that anticipation and sense of purpose taken away has been deflating. Even more crazy to look back on where I was a year ago and how minigolf centric it was – just filmed Holey Moley, prepping for the U.S. Open and getting ready to head over to Sweden for WAGM.

Not owning a course, I can’t speak much on the true economic impact this is going to have on our sport but I can speculate. My hope is that in areas like mine the impact is minimal given we are slower on the opening curve anyway. Memorial Day (end of May here in the US) is normally one of the big markers to opening and getting in the crowds, and the early signs are the courses might have a chance to be open for that weekend with restrictions. I would guess, though, that the impact is going to be felt by courses both here and in warmer, tourist areas, throughout the beginning of the summer. Many of the restrictions are going to minimize the throughput these courses can have given the spacing needed for social distancing and that might have a compounding economic effect. The bigger chain courses might be better positioned to absorb that loss of income but I wonder about some of the more locally owned venues.

From the perspective of the sport of minigolf overall, I think we’ll be fine going into 2021. Once the Olympics were cancelled it seemed like there was the general expectation that 2020 was going to lose a lot on the competitive sport landscape. So seeing the international minigolf championships lost wasn’t as big an impact. I think there’s a good chance that many local or national tournaments get played later in the year so there will be opportunity to keep that in people’s consciousness. One good thing about the lack of sport is that ESPN has been running back some of the old PPA tournament programming in some favorable timeslots so that’s gotten people talking about miniature golf. In addition,
Holey Moley is coming back in the United States on May 21st and given the state of most sports in the US at that time it will be well positioned to capture an audience. While not the perfect picture of competitive miniature golf as we know it, it’s still a good way to get people thinking about the sport.

The stay-at-home era has also brought up some interesting things in the minigolf community. I think many of us have found out more about the political and scientific views of some of our fellow putters than we wished to know. However, one of the nice things about our sport is that a lot of that rarely makes it way onto the course (though be careful at the pub after a round). As I mentioned earlier, #puttathome took on a huge life during this period, starting as a way to drive an Internet challenge for those on lockdown. Even “regular” golfers have gotten into the act, in past as a way to keep their skills up as
this article highlights. It then morphed into numerous promotions as courses and organizations found a way to keep their product top-of-mind as people found creative ways to enjoy putting around the house. On May 9th I’ll even be doing a Charity Fundraiser centered around putting at home. There’s even been competitions centered around it as Putt18 recently completed the Trans-Tasman cup and is organizing a 4 country tournament soon with the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. I will be representing the US along with fellow Holey-Molier and minigolf enthusiast Tom Loftus of A Couple of Putts. I’ve also been trying to keep up with minigolf friends over Zoom and while I’d like to think we’d be doing that anyway, lacking the in-person contact on the course has driven more the need to connect that way these days.

I guess the way to sum this up is that, like with most things in life, minigolf has continued to be there during this pandemic as something for people to look to. If anything, seeing all these people do minigolf challenges and holes at home makes me feel like people have embraced it more and I hope that drives them to hit the courses and tournaments when things start to return to normal.

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the writer and do not represent the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF), Minigolfnews.com or any other organization that the writer may be associated with unless expressly stated in the blog.

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