Mini golf may be the most leisurely of leisure sports. But there’s something about staring down those large-mouthed clowns, windmills, and King Kongs brings out that competitive edge. So to help you hone your game for the family competitions to come, we spoke to two men who know how to navigate a shrunk down course: Greg Newport and Dave Peterson. A pro mini-golfer, Newport will lead team U.S.A. at World Adventure Golf Masters in Croatia this September and is also one of four Americans to have a scored a perfect 18 in professional putt-putt. Peterson is the Design Director at Castle Golf Inc. who creates mini golf courses all around the country. Here are a few tips they shared to help maximize your mini golf potential.
Scout the Hole Before You Shoot
There’s always a best way to get the ball into the hole; you just have to find it. That means taking a moment to eye the grounds “There’s usually a gameplan in the designer’s head,” says Peterson. “They want you to hit it a certain way. So you should step back and look at the hole and see how the ball should play. Is the bank shot going to work? How hard should your first shot be?”
And while Peterson acknowledges that designers create several paths to success, he notes that there’s usually one strategy that will beat the rest. “It takes some thought to figure out that ideal route. Don’t just walk in swinging.”
Don’t Always Chase the Hole-in-One
There’s no greater feeling on the mini golf course than sinking that first shot. But Newport warns that chasing the hole-in-one every time might quickly blow up in your face. “People always want to get the ace on every hole. But that’s not the smartest approach,” he says. “Trying to ace every hole can get you in a lot more trouble pretty quickly.” In other words? Get too cocky and your ball might bounce off the course and into the snack shack.
Remember The Follow Through
A mini golf hole that weaves around a stegosaurus is really no different than the 17th green at a TPC Sawgrass: both require the same basic putting mechanics. Most importantly, you need to maintain a follow through. “You’re supposed to swing the club forward as far as you take it back,” says Peterson. “That’s how you get the ball to roll: by following through. Otherwise, it just skips along.
When In Doubt, Whack It
Newport’s tactic for mini golf mastery? Give the ball a good wallop. “Speed of the ball can cancel out a lot of things,” he says. “No matter how good you are, you’re not going to hit the spot you want to hit every time. Speed minimizes the mistakes. It’s an easy way to help your score.”
Talk Smack to Your Kid
Golf may be a gentleman’s game, but mini golf offers a lot more flexibility when it comes to competitive spirit. So don’t be afraid to talk some trash to get into your kid’s head. Even your wife isn’t safe from your top notch mind games.
“You can’t let anyone else in the family embarrass you, so you gotta get inside their heads,” Peterson shares. “Make them nervous. The rules of golf etiquette still apply, so no trash talk while they are swinging. But before and after? It’s fair game.”