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American minigolf aiming for a new direction?


United States of America 08 Feb 2009 at 19:24 | Published by: JJM | Views: 7779 | News search

American minigolf aiming for a new direction?
Astra Miglane-Stanwyck aiming a putt from rough grass.  (Photo by competitiveminigolf.com 2008)

United States, one of the most powerful sport countries in the world, has kept a low profile in international minigolf. The biggest prize moneys are paid in American competitions. The biggest television audiences of minigolf competitions have been in United States. But the best American players have never even tried playing the European style minigolf courses that are exclusively used in WMF tournaments: eternite, beton and felt. The elite of American minigolf remains faithful to adventure golf and Putt-Putt courses, playing with a golf ball and a steel putter, without a rubber in club-head.

The board of World Minigolfsport Federation wants minigolf to start moving to a new direction in North America. In the memorandum of WMF board meeting 29-30 November 2008, WMF board notes that it no longer supports US Masters as an international major tournament of WMF, because of "severe communication problems with organizer". The main points of disagreement between WMF and USPMGA are:

  • WMF wants to have a continental major tournament in North and South America, which would be called something like "American Continental Championships". Until now, the WMF major tournament in North America has been called "United States Masters", which refers to one country only (USA), and not to the entire continent.
     
  • WMF board is unsatisfied with the lack of harmonization between the minigolf rules of USPMGA and WMF. In particular, WMF has criticized the American rule of giving a penalty point if the ball jumps over the edges of the minigolf lane. USPMGA agreed not to use this rule at US Masters 2008, but generally American minigolfers respect the penalty point as a logical part of minigolf rules, because such a rule is used in golf too.

    The penalty point rule doesn't actually play any role whatsoever in top-class American minigolf, because the American adventure golf courses have such a design that there is hardly any risk of the ball jumping out of bounds, with a relatively good shot. The situation is completely different in the European playing systems, most notably on felt and eternite, where a nearly perfect shot can accidentally jump over the edge of the minigolf lane.

    The dispute about the penalty point rule is a rather theoretical matter of principles: USPMGA views minigolf as a little brother of golf, and wants to keep the rules, playing equipment and visual design of minigolf courses similar to golf. WMF views minigolf as a completely independent sport, without seeking any connections to golf, either in rules, playing equipment or visual style of the courses. The penalty point is used in golf, and the majority of American minigolf leaders and players greatly appreciate the close similarity of their minigolf game to golf sport.

    An issue more significant than the penalty point rule, is the American tradition of allowing a golf ball only in minigolf competitions. European special balls have never been allowed in official competitions of any American minigolf federation. Some WMF leaders have obvious competitive and economical interests in this issue, but none of the European or American persons whom we interviewed mentioned the ball material issue at all in their comments.

    WMF board has decided that the next American Continental Championships will be played in 2010, and the competition will be "based on WMF sports rules". If this decision will be interpreted literally, it means that European special balls will be allowed in the competition.

WMF board has expressed its concern about the lack of participation from America and Asia in WMF meetings. Americans explain that the reason for their absence is economical and practical: WMF meetings are always in Europe, and travelling to the meeting would be expensive. Americans also have much shorter summer holidays than European workers, which is an additional motive not to spend the limited vacation days in WMF conferences.

Before the latest board meeting of WMF, Americans asked for a possibility to participate via Skype or other video conferencing software, over the Internet. WMF board did not arrange this possibility for Americans, and instead they wrote in the meeting memo a negative notion about Americans not arriving to the WMF meeting. We chose this issue as Vote of the Week (see the left column of this web page): Should WMF and EMF save in travel and hotel costs (and use the money for other purposes), by arranging their meetings with video conferencing software, instead of flying personally to the conference from all parts of the world?

Many American minigolfers feel that messages from WMF to USA are a monologue from master to servant, not a dialogue in the spirit of equality. WMF expects Americans to start using all WMF rules, but WMF rulebook doesn't even include Putt-Putt or adventure golf courses among the official course standards (apart from "Minigolf Open System", which can mean everything and anything, but not specifically Putt-Putt or adventure golf).

WMF board has asked the members of American continental minigolf federation (which includes also other countries than USA) to organize a delegates conference during the first half of 2009. WMF plans to send Roger Cadosch (Switzerland) and Gerhard Zimmermann (Germany) to participate in the meeting. The purpose of this conference would be to clarify the power structure of American continental minigolf federation, write clear rules and statutes for the federation, and choose leaders for the federation in democratic elections.

As we interviewed some American minigolfers, their general feelings were that Americans currently have more important domestic problems to solve, which are more urgent than worrying about relations to WMF. United States has two powerful minigolf federations, USPMGA and PPA, and only one of these can be a member of WMF, because WMF accepts only one member per country. In recent years the rivalry between USPMGA and PPA has mildened, and top players of these two federations have started participating in the events of the other minigolf federation. On grassroot level, American minigolfers of USPMGA and PPA are beginning to feel like one family. The American top players whom we interviewed believe that USPMGA and PPA should unite their forces, and start playing one national minigolf league, instead of two competing leagues.

During the past decade, three European countries have developed warm personal ties to American minigolfers: Hans Olofsson of Sweden (with his various travel companions to American minigolf competitions), Timo Metsäranta of Finland (with his various travel companions to American tournaments), and Olivia Prokopová of Czech Republic (with her various travel companions to American competitions). For American minigolfers, Hans Olofsson is the most widely known and respected European minigolf leader. A tough opponent in competition, and an active promoter of MOS adventure golf on the European side of Atlantic Ocean.

As WMF board members Roger Cadosch and Gerhard Zimmermann plan a travel to America in the first half of 2009, the chances are that they will be welcomed with less than greatest possible enthusiasm by Americans. Zimmermann can be the ultimate culture shock to American minigolfers: a previously unknown person in America, who comes to promote a different game culture than what Americans are playing, from a country whose top players have never bothered to visit American MOS competitions, and owner of a company that is world leader in sales of European special balls. The atmosphere of the conference can easily become, as many Americans suspect, a monologue from stranger to stranger, rather than a dialogue between partners who know each other well, fully trust each other, and sincerely respect the minigolf cultures of each other.

» memorandum of WMF board meeting 29-30 November 2008
» website of USPMGA
» website of PPA

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Comments (9)


Finland JJM (John Mittler)

15 Feb 2009 at 08:47
There are at least two alternative (competing) theories about the global future of minigolf sport. One theory is that the game should get closer to golf, both in playing equipment and in the style of the minigolf courses, to be more simple, comfortable, stylish and attractive for new countries. Another theory is that the European version of minigolf should grow to new countries, including USA, until it fills all continents. These two competing theories include quite notable conflicts of economical, competitive and other traditional interests of each country or national minigolf leaders.

United States of America Slice (Brice Bergesen)

15 Feb 2009 at 03:56
Actually it is from 1987. It is the only putting photo I have on my new computer.

United States of America Smitty (Jeffrey Smith)

14 Feb 2009 at 20:10
Look at Slice's profile photo. I think it's from the 1960s:)

United States of America Slice (Brice Bergesen)

14 Feb 2009 at 19:14
Smitty (Jeff Smith) told me about this site and my best friend Rainey Statum has competed in Arizona and Myrtle Beach against Hans Olofsson and Olivia and was very impressed, both in their putting abilities and as people. Also Jon Drexler played some minigolf in Europe and brought back a box of balls, which was fasinating, as was his putter with the rubber face where there was no sound when the ball was hit.

A couple of comments about the differences in our game and the minigolf game. To me there is a big gap. It is like wanting to merge American football with Australian Rules football or rugby. The fields are about the same size, about same number of players and the ball is mostly the same, but all three are just different games. In Putt-Putt, everyone uses the same ball and the person who can make that ball kick correctly off the rails will come out on top. We have to learn to cut, hook, and pop our putts with various degrees of spin whereas I am guessing in Euro minigolf the same basic stroke is used and the difference is what ball to use.

I think it would be much more difficult for us to adopt to using a dozen different balls during a round than for the Euros to learn to putt with an actual golf ball. Hans showed a few years ago that he is the equal of a PPA pro by finishing third in our National Championship. Having said it would be difficult for us I would love the opportunity some day to travel to Europe and play in one of the events, if buying a zillion different balls would not break me! Also I have used the same "Bulls Eye" type putter since 1967, so using a rubber faced putter would be a challenge, but I would be game to give it a go.

Most of the players that dominate the USPMGA tournaments are current or former PPA players. I would think that if the WMF wanted to talk to a group in the USA, it would be to the PPA. We have more tournaments in all regions of the country, and close to the top 100 putters in the USA are members or were members of the PPA. If we met maybe we could convince the WMF to consider the way we do things rather than focus on trying to convince us to move to the way the WMF does things.

Anyway, this is a great site and I think it is awesome there are so many that love the general game of putting as much as those of us in the PPA do. If all goes right, Rainey Statum will drag me out to Arizona this June to play in my first USPMGA event, but until the dates change for Myrtle Beach, like Jeff Smith, I to will be in Lake Charles, I to defend the tournament I won in 2008 in the Tournament of Champions, a tournament that has been played yearly since 1965.

Finland JJM (John Mittler)

10 Feb 2009 at 07:37
Feel free to blog about your thoughts, Smitty. It is true that the greatest legends of USPMGA majors came from PPA -- for example, the three McCaslin brothers and Brad Lebo. It is possible that Putt-Putt courses give more precise feedback to the players about inaccuracy in their playing technique, so they are better aware of their small mistakes. This is the situation between minigolf and golf anyway: golfers are generally not very well aware of how accurate their putting technique is, because they get quite vague feedback from missed putts: you can never be sure how much you missed your aim, and how much you miscalculated the break.

United States of America Smitty (Jeffrey Smith)

10 Feb 2009 at 00:26
First off, the best putters in North America play in the PPA. Now we are seeing some PPA members playing in the USPMGA. Until several years ago, PPA pros were prohibited by PPA rule from playing in any other type of miniature golf tournament. Now that we are able to play both PPA and other tournaments we are witnessing victories by either Europeans or players with a PPA background almost every time. Another problem exists here in North America. PPA pros tell me that the USPMGA tournaments are poorly run when compared to PPA events. (I have yet to tee it up in USPMGA competition, due to conflicts with a favorite October PPA tournament- The Al Simpson Gulf Coast Tournament of Champions, so I don't know this first hand.) It seems obvious to many of us that there should be some communication and cooperation between the PPA and the USPMGA. Hopefully, that day will come sooner rather than later for the sake of 'minigolf' in North America. I have opinions on whether or not Americans will ever embrace the European style game and may post them at a later time.

  ( )

09 Feb 2009 at 07:08
I would like to add that the opinions I expressed in the commentary below are my own and not the official stance of the PPA and/or the USPMGA.

  ( )

09 Feb 2009 at 07:07
In my opinion, it would be highly unlikely that most of the Top US players would be participating in such an event held here under WMF sport rules, with the golf ball rule being one of the major deal breakers. As you mentioned, the WMF has an internal conflict of interest with this rule. If the WMF benefits financially from this then there is a definate conflict of interest. But even without that stumbling block, a major issue does exist with the european golf ball rule in that there are not many vendors, if any at all, that sell those type of golf balls in this country. It is much easier to adapt to a one golf ball system than it is to adapt to a system where literally hundreds of balls may need to be considered.

Both the USPMGA and the PPA utilize the USGA approved golfball list which is published monthly by the USGA to determined which golf balls are legal, but with one notable exception. The USPMGA only uses 1 list, last year I believe it was February 2008's list, to determine which balls were legal. Thus, if a golf ball was introduced to the list in April of 2008, it would not have been legal for competition as it was not on the February list. The PPA uses all lists published during the calendar year to be legal. Thus, if a ball was on the list in January but has been discontinued and off the list in May, it is still legal until the end of the year, but not January of the following year. The PPA's thought on that is if a ball is legal in May, a player should not need worry about the ball still being legal in June.

There are many holes that exist on "MOS" style courses such as in Myrtle Beach are almost virtually impossible to ace without getting very lucky. I agree with Hans Oloffsson when he said in his blog that Putt-Putt style courses should have it's own classification and not bunched into an "MOS" format. There is standardization on Putt-Putt type lanes (we call them holes) in that all holes are designed generally that an ace is possible with a good shot. But even though it is possible, only 2 perfect games of 18 have ever been shot, the last one happening 30 years ago, Warren Morris in 1973, and John Napoli in 1979. We have had 20 players who have shot games of 19, Daryl Freeman being the only man to do this twice, and the list includes Brad Lebo. Still there is at least some standardization where Skill prevails more than Luck on the Putt-Putt style courses. However, being on the PPA Pros Players Committee and PPA advisory board; and knowing the other members of the board, I would doubt that the PPA would bow down and adopt every WMF rule in existance. Our sport is not recogized by our government, and all of the funding is paid for the players themselves to participate.

I also support the existance of penalty points because of the argument that was made that above that in our system there is hardly any risk of a ball going out of bounds with a relatively good shot. Thus, you should be penalized accordingly if you do hit that bad of a shot. The PPA and the USPMGA differ on the penalty point rule whereas in the PPA it is not a penalty if the ball exits the lane from the open end of the hole (generally the area where you tee off at), it is only a penalty if the ball jumps a rail to go out of bounds. In the USPMGA the penalty point is given no matter where the ball leaves the surface.

While I am not on the board for the USPMGA, I have spoken to them in the past and I was told some of the "demands" that the WMF wanted them to do, which in my opinion were very unreasonable. I will not go into those specifics because I can not speak for them directly, and besides, those issues are/were between the USPMGA and the WMF.

I will look forward to possibly being a part of a group speaking to Roger Cadosch in the US. I met the gentleman and got to speak to him for quite some time in Myrtle Beach in 2007 over dinner. If I remember right, I think we played together one of the days at the 2007 Masters.

Sweden Viking (Pierre Geerhold)

09 Feb 2009 at 00:49
It is so obvious too me that the WMF doesnt really want our sport too grow! Why are they alienating everyone that doesnt wanna do exactly what they want? And the sickest thing is that the one who going too "sell" our kind of minigolf is the one with the biggest economical interest in this, hm is it a bit biased?

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Peter Nordin wins top 12

Sweden 08 Feb 2009 at 15:59 | views: 5204 | Comments: 7

Peter Nordin, Sundsvall BGK, won the A-class in the top 12 competition at the MunktellArenan indoor eternit course this weekend. The competition is played over 2 days as a round robin tournament where all 12 qualified players meet each others. Peter won 8 tied 2 ...
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