In recent years there’s been a lot of conversation about bringing golf into the 21st century, in combination with suggestions on how to grow the game. The prevailing attitude seems to be that the industry is facing an alarming trend of people leaving the game, which creates a need to appeal to new, younger players.
The golf industry’s struggled to get more people into the game, with an aging membership base and the younger generation gravitating to a more accessible array of pastimes, are also forcing many clubs to look for a diversification in revenue streams.
Mini Golf has proven to be an example of not only creating new business avenues, but also providing a pathway for a younger generation of potential club members.
As the industry is constantly looking for new innovations to attract more players, the resurgence of Mini Golf might just be the answer the sport needs.
Professional Mini Golf (or as many call “putt putt) has been played in Australia from the early seventies, but the game has received a boost in popularity over the past twenty years, with the first ever Australian Open Mini Golf Championship being held last year.
The World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF) is the umbrella organisation of Minigolf sports associations worldwide, and is developing and growing as a competitive sport, while also helping to promote the benefits of the game as a fun and accessible leisure activity. The WMF organises World Championships, which are played every two years and Youth World/Open European Championships, which are each played every year.
Last year, the inaugural Australian Championship was a testament to the sports cumulative popularity in the country, with live crosses to Channel 7’s Sunrise Program and a first place payout of $3,500.
In response to the boosted interest in the sport, three new Mini Golf facilities were added to the Australian market in 2016, all built by the team at Mini Golf Creations (MGC).
These courses include:
- The KDV Sport facility at Carrara Gardens on the Gold Coast
- The Wembley Golf Course in Perth
- The City Golf Club in Toowoomba
While still using a putter over carefully designed synthetic grass playing surfaces, the design team at MGC imparts real golf playing strategies into their designs to not only keep young children interested but to also ensure there is a challenge for seasoned golfers.
Gone are the days of rebounded shots off bricks, windmills and fibreglass characters, now replaced by very cool design of the terrain, brilliant landscaping and the feel of a real golf course. Like great design on a regular course, the players should be faced with a daring line to the flag and be rewarded when hitting a good shot.
The Wembley Golf Course in Perth have taken this process to the next level and are running competition play and tournament Mini Golf. This competitive edge is also utilised during corporate functions, which are proving to be an enormous success. Often the chosen corporate game on the Mini Golf layout is a modified Ambrose event which allows the golfers to be sent out in groups of six, and ultimately gets more players through the course at one time.
Wembley Golf Course General Manager Matthew Day said the addition of a Mini Golf course had presented the venue with a new audience, and subsequently a profitable revenue stream.
“Mini Golf was part of our vision to add new revenue streams to the golf course,” Day said. “It has brought many new faces to Wembley who would have never had any reason or inclination to go to a golf course.”
Bringing clients to the course in a corporate environment, playing Mini Golf and wrapping it up in under two hours is a massive incentive. It also does not alienate the players in the group who are novice golfers. Corporate functions and Mini Golf has enormous potential.
Mini Golf golf provides an excellent stepping stone to the other golfing facilities at Wembley, in addition to their terrific clubhouse. The team at Wembley had considered children and non-golfers starting on the miniature course, then progressing towards the driving range, teaching clinics and ultimately playing on the main course. While providing vital revenue for the club, it still hopes to achieve the ultimate aim of attracting more players to the great game of golf.
Wembley Assistant Manager David Oliphant confirmed the transitioning from Mini Golf beginner to actual club member was becoming real at the club. “Kids starting at the Mini Golf, then getting keen enough to hit balls at the range then join in on a junior clinic,” he said.
“Now they’re a long way towards being actual golfers and hopefully joining a club”.
Mini Golf courses can come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. There are certainly some very basic courses out there in the old style of narrow, brick lined fairways, but these generally do not inject enough interest for regular play. The larger facilities at Carrara, Wembley and Toowoomba allow multiple flags at the end of the fairways so realistically each golf course could present 36 or even 54 golf holes for that added variety.
The project at City Golf Club at Toowoomba was built on a smaller parcel of land (about 1500 m2) and also had the restriction of being quite steep. As a result the eighteen golf holes were a little smaller (an average of less than 35m2 per golf hole) yet still allowed two flags to be placed at the end of each fairway.
There were a few novelty items built at Toowoomba, due to its confined space, but the cricket hole, ten pin bowling hole and rugby league hole all provide plenty of interest without being too gimmicky.
A decent nine-hole facility could be built on a space around the 800-1000 m2 size but an eighteen-hole facility is best suited to a site in excess of 1500 m2.
City Golf Club general manager Peter Constance said the overall layout and design of the new Mini Golf course had proven to be innovative and creative with positive feedback from all participants and staff.
“Our Mini Golf Activity Centre has been operating in excess of three months and is proving to be a most outstanding success in all aspects,” he said.
“It’s popularity and reputation is already proceeding itself.”
The Toowoomba City facility was built on a footprint of about 1500 m2, the KDV Sport facility on 2000 m2 and the much larger Wembley course was built on 5000 m2. The Wembley footprint also included a large covered entertainment pavilion that provides the space required for children’s parties and larger corporate events.
Since the implementation of these courses, there has been much interest from golfing facilities but also from other sporting clubs. The revenue potential gained from these Mini Golf facilities can often be the saviour for struggling golf clubs, and realistically they should work best when linked with other golf features.
It’s worth investigating the impact of these new courses and getting on board with the resurgence of the Mini Golf game.