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Putt Putt Memories

Golf ball rolling up a ramp into clown's mouth at a putt putt golf course.

By DON WALTER

I make it very apparent that I am addicted to golf. I don’t shy away from the statement or sugarcoat it in any way. Acquaintances throughout my life have asked about how it all began, this golf addiction.

I have my grandmother Dorothy to thank mostly. She had a golf addiction, too. She got me started in the game and encouraged the type of behavior that leads people to addictions. My summer days were spent at the local golf course. Equipment, lessons, summer passes—she provided all of it to keep me entertained all summer long. It worked.

It was not just dear old granny who created the golf addiction, however. On that special occasion during summer break, when my mom was at work and grandma had a tee-time, I would make other plans.

I would wake up late, call my friends, and set up the day. You see, when I was growing up, we didn’t have home video gaming systems, or a lot of arcades, and my town offered limited youth activities. But we did always have one special place we could go. When the days were bright from the sun, but not too hot, we would jump on our bikes and head for Ashley Square.

Ashley Square was a small business complex on the west side of town, and we could get there using trails created by kids just like us. On the north side of the building stood a small, unimpressive shack with batting cages and a putt-putt mini golf course.

In May we celebrate National Miniature Golf Day. For me it revives fond memories, and I take stock in the roots of my golf addiction. I still remember the hard pink-and-purple rubber grips and the rainbow color collection of golf balls that promised everyone a classic, no-experience-necessary good time. The course I played as a kid was a no-frills, simply-built, 9-hole course with the obligatory windmill hole and clown’s mouth ending. My putt-putt partners were girls and boys I knew from school and some who lived in the neighborhood. They weren’t interested in golf at all. But putt-putt was a different story. Everyone had fun whacking their golf balls around. It was tons of fun, and it was golf. Sort of.

Putt-putt is not really golf though, is it? The goals are the same … get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible. But you won’t see anyone “working on their game.” There’s no practice area before you tee off, and you certainly won’t find anyone trying to upgrade that yellow putter, unless, of course, it’s to trade in for a purple one.

Putt-putt is a game for all: short, tall, big, or small. It requires no feats of strength, no limbering beforehand, no proper attire, and you can even play with a drink in your hand. The real difference, though, is math.

Math? Well, geometry really—trying to figure out which side to bank your golf ball off of, to create just the right angle and thrust for crossing the bridge, ping-ponging around the water hazard, and ending up next to the hole. It’s challenging. Come to think of it, I bet my friends who ended up with careers in engineering would do pretty well.

So cheers to National Miniature Golf Day. Thanks for completing my addiction to golf. As a kid I always knew that, on the days the golf course beat me, I could find solace on the fake green carpets of putt-putt.

I’m thrilled to see it’s fended off the video game trends and is still played and celebrated today. I’ve heard recently the great Tiger Woods has stamped his name on some challenging new putt-putt courses in warmer weather states. I wonder if you still get a free game by hitting it into the clown’s mouth. MSN

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