Dom Joly: Windmill power the next big craze

Tattooed participants look capable of doing you some serious damage with a putter
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I'm getting more and more into golf. Not the standard 18-hole, silly clothes, mashie niblick type, no sir, I'm into crazy golf. Sadly, I'm not supposed to call it that over here in Canada as it's deemed politically incorrect.

The crazy lobby came out in force and protested against the use of the term by wandering aimlessly down streets dressed as clowns and Napoleon but then completely forgot what they were protesting about. Despite this, the powers that be decided to change the name and so here it's called "mini-putt" or "fun golf". This seems even weirder to me. Calling it "fun golf" implies real golf is not fun.

This actually could be argued convincingly – especially the way I play the game – but it does seem a little odd to slag off the very game that you owe your existence to. My wife is only 5ft 2in and I could see that she was a little disturbed at the term mini-putt.

Her problem was that people would walk past, see her playing and start shouting "look, look at the little person playing mini-putt... how sweet she is."

I think she might be overreacting but it's not for me to decide. She should consider herself lucky – in the States one of the names for the sport is "midget golf". There actually is a World Minigolf Federation and they like to use the name "minigolf".

They also list yet more names for the sport that include "goofy golf" and "extreme golf". It looks like somebody really needs to grab hold of the reins and come up with a definitive term. If my wife ever sees a "midget golf" course she's going to get very upset indeed. Apparently the sport can be sourced back to St Andrews, where a club was established in 1867 which played on the "Himalayas". This consisted of 18 short putting greens and was actually for women as it was deemed unseemly for women of the time to contort themselves into the violent movements that a proper golf swing requires.

The sport really took off in America in the 1920s when, at one stage there were over 150 rooftop courses in New York alone, although the Wall Street Crash of 1929 put paid to this – presumably because most of the people playing were financiers who should have been at work; their absence led to the crash and so they all jumped off the roof. This is only a theory but it makes sense to me.

Up until the Crash, the courses were simple flat putting greens, but when it re-emerged in the US as a new craze in the late 1930s innovations were included like tunnels, wishing wells and, of course, windmills. I'm not sure why I associate crazy golf with windmills so much – possibly it reminds me of the first time I ever played the game on the coast in Somerset. I made 15 attempts before managing to get my ball past one of the blades of the mill. I can still feel the thrill.

The classic crazy golf site is nearly always by water. I don't know why but it seems to be inextricably linked to summer holidays – you never go skiing and find an indoor crazy golf course. It's always outside in slightly dodgy places like Minehead. You can't help looking at the other tattooed participants and praying that they don't have another can of Diamond White as they look capable of doing you some serious damage with their putter. To my mind the crazier the golf the better – I like courses that use a clown's mouth and blow steam. I want the full bells and whistles and these are increasingly hard to find.

Part of the reason for this might be that crazy golf has a hard time finding funding. Sports England has refused to allow the BMA (British Minigolf Association) to become a member and therefore it receives no public funding. The reason given is that only one variant of each sport can be accepted as a member and, as crazy golf is clearly a derivative of real golf, it's a no. In America it has much more support – there is even a National Miniature Golf Day on the second Saturday of May every year.

I think it's time we reclaimed this sport, gave it some proper funding and tried to take our rightful place as world champions. If the country needs a figurehead, then I'm ready to take up the mantle.

Onions and the Ashes just make me weep

I am having to sit in a smelly vegetable patch in my in-laws' garden in Ontario to steal next door's Wi-Fi in order to watch the Ashes. When we were all out for 102, I wept quietly among the onions...

Comments