Miniature golf is played by millions of Americans each year, causing a demand for new facilities everywhere. The enthusiasm has inspired the development of profitable minuscule greens in locations from shopping malls to roof tops to stand alone facilities to state-of-the-art family entertainment complexes.
For most Americans, miniature golf is nothing more than a leisure activity-one that conjures up images of gimmicky theme courses, golf balls in assorted colors, and of course, windmills. But for a dedicated few, miniature golf is a competitive sport, with its own pro tour, cash purses and corporate sponsors
Over in Europe, it's very competitive. Germany has four thousand facilities and they have a tournament at each facility. The local winners travel to a national bahnengolf competition, which is used to determine the country's six best men and three best women. Not surprisingly, Germany is currently considered one of the world's preeminent miniature golf nations
A major difference between U.S. and European mini golf is that Americans compete for cash prizes, while Europeans simply play for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
Another difference is that instead of unique, theme-oriented, "adventure golf" layouts, Europeans play on standardized courses like Betong, Eternit, or Swedish Felt Run, all of which are approved by the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF) for international tournament play. Betong was invented in Switzerland and features a lightning-fast, smooth concrete putting surface and continuous perimeter border of galvanized steel; Eternit features a cement-fiber putting surface and fiberglass obstacles; and Swedish Felt Run courses have a felt putting surface and solid wooden surround. In the case of Eternit, there are just 25 WMF sanctioned holes, any 18 of which may be included on a layout.
In WMF international tournament many players are obsessive-compulsive about their equipment. Some competitors carry bags modified to accommodate a car battery, which is used to keep balls heated to a consistent temperature. In the minigolf tournament in Finland in 2004 year there were two men and two women that shot perfect 18's.