How To Play Backyard Miniature Golf


Miniature golf is the vibrant, exciting offshoot of traditional golf. With a variety of challenging holes , and by using only a putt putt club, playing this fun game is a favorite for players of all ages.

Although it shares similar aspects of traditional golf, miniature golf is a sport in its own right, even with its own worldwide federation. To play miniature golf in a backyard, all that is needed are a putter (or putt putt clubs), a ball, and different holes that can be made using every day objects.

From the plain and the simple, to the complicated and ornate, miniature golf courses can be made to suit a wide variety of available materials and tastes.

Boy on ground trying to hit golf ball in hole using handle of club.

What is Miniature Golf

Miniature golf is a putting game, where players try to putt their ball into a hole with as few strokes as possible.

Unlike traditional golf where the ball has to be hit long distances in order to reach a hole, miniature golf’s holes are close together and do not need drivers or wedge clubs to hit the ball.

Various courses have different obstacles, some including windmills, castles, and other visual and technical features that make the course more challenging and fun.

Official Miniature Golf Courses

If you are looking to create a world class miniature golf course in your backyard, here are some specifics from the World Minigolf Federation.

Types of Miniature Golf Surfaces

Official miniature golf courses are broken down into three types:

  • Feltgolf- The playing area is made completely of felt with wood bordering around it.
  • Concrete- The playing area is made of concrete.
  • Minigolf Open Standard (MOS)-Courses made with artificial turf and various obstacles. This is the most common minigolf found in the United States.

Average Size of Miniature Golf Courses

Like traditional golf, miniature golf usually consists of 18 holes.

However, unlike traditional golf courses that span acers, a miniature golf course can fit on less than an acre of land, or even inside malls and entertainment venues.

Official Rules of Miniature Golf

To put all of the rules of miniature golf into a nutshell, each player is to try to get their ball into the hole.

However, they must do it in as few shots as possible.

The ball is played from where ever it lands (with exceptions of out of bounds balls or irretrievable balls).

If a ball ends up out of bounds, the ball is placed at the boundary point that it passed and is played from there.

Players cannot walk on the playing surface when another person is playing.

No aim improving gadgets allowed (yes, those apparently do exist).

The tournament rules for players are similar to other sports such as wearing clothes, no drug use, or any behaviors that distract from the game.

For an entire list of the official rules of miniature golf, check out the official miniature golf rule book.

Making A Backyard Minigolf Course

Making your very own miniature golf course is not only fun, but allows you to find creative and unique ways to improve your putt putt game.

To make create your own customized miniature golf experience, take the following three aspects into consideration:

  • Turf
  • Hole
  • Obstacle

Make sure that the hole isn’t too hard to complete, with a par of 5 or 6 being the most strokes to aim for.

(Par is the expected amount of strokes a hole should take to complete).

You can aim for the traditional 18 holes, or make as many holes as your yard or available space will allow.

The Best Turf for Miniature Golf

There are tons of great materials that can be used for your own miniature golf course.

Artificial Turf

If you are looking for something that can be moved, or that isn’t permanent, artificial turf may be the way to go.

The great thing about artificial turf is that it can come as roll out mats.

You can also choose from several lengths and thicknesses of grass, from short and sparse to long thick, depending on your preference and budget.

You can have the feel of grass without the watering or maintaining commitment.

The same can be said for felt.

Felt Turf

With felt there’s less resistance, making putting the ball much easier.

However, felt is not generally weather proof, and also has a tendency of having dirt and leaves stick to it, making it harder to clean.

Other Surfaces

Concrete is a great surface to play miniature golf on because it is smooth making it easier for the ball to roll.

It is also easier to mark certain paths for the ball to roll down, having chalk marks to serve as boundaries instead of having to find physical objects to mark out of bounds.

Cement is also a great surface if certain holes require a certain bounce to get to the hole.

This can also be a disadvantage if a ball is hit too hard, there is a chance that the ball will bounce and ricochet easier out of bounds than other surfaces that offer a little bit of physical resistance.

Dirt fields are not the best option for miniature golf courses because the resistance the dirt has makes it hard for balls to roll, making putting the ball to the hole very difficult.

If you have a yard that doesn’t offer a very smooth surface for balls to roll down, it is recommended that a rug of cheap artificial turf be purchased.

However, if balls other than traditional golf balls are used, dirt and other surfaces can be used as long as the ball can roll towards the hole.

DIY Miniature Golf Holes

To make your own golf course, you need holes for the balls to enter.

Here are a few cheap options for holes that you can make:

  • Cups (Either anchored sideways on the ground, or buried in the ground.
  • Holes (dig up a hole 4 1/2 inches in diameter)
  • Cut 4 1/2 inch PVC Pipe (Sewage Drain Pipe works well, new not used if possible)
  • Small plastic food containers
  • Yogurt containers
  • Tin cans
  • Terracotta pots (best if most of it is buried in ground to avoid breaking)

Either standing up, or the main body of the object buried with only the hole exposed, there are myriads of options to make a functional hole.

However, make sure that the hole is big enough to allow the ball to go in and that nothing is obstructing the hole (such as a exposed ridge).

If you choose to place a object on its side for the ball to enter, make sure the object is secured to the ground by way of duct tape or other adhesive substance so that it doesn’t get knocked away when a ball enters.

Yellow golf ball about to be hit through tunnel of bricks on miniature golf course

DIY Miniature Golf Obstacles

The main thing that separates miniature golf, especially the United States version from its counterparts are the obstacles.

An obstacle can be something as simple as a bend in the path from where the ball is putted to the where the hole lies, or as elaborate as a fire breathing dragon guarding the hole in a castle.

The main thing they have in common is that they cause a challenge for the golfer to overcome in order for their ball to reach the hole.

Inclines and Declines

The most basic of obstacles in miniature golf are inclines and declines.

That is when a ball has to go up a hill, or falls down a small trench in order to reach the hole.

If you are using artificial turf, making inclines and declines are easy to create, especially if the ground under the turf is made of dirt.

Dig small mounds and trenches between the hole and the tee off space and lay down the turf or felt on top.

Smooth out any wrinkles that many hinder the ball from rolling.

If you are using concrete or other surfaces, inclines can be made by using parts of cardboard boxes as inclined plains that reach to higher levels that can be placed on benches, other boxes, etc.

Tunnels

Tunnels are a fun addition to any miniature golf course.

They can run through different terrain, be buried and come out at unexpected areas, or lead to fun props that may line the course.

Tunnels can be made from a variety of objects:

  • 4 1/2 inch PVC pipe
  • Bent pieces of cardboard
  • Large empty cardboard rolls
  • Pringle containers

You can have tunnels run through playhouses, drop the ball off next to the hole, and more.

However, make sure that you angle your tunnel declining down so that the ball doesn’t become stuck.

Bumps in the Road

Place several objects in the way between the initial putt zone and the hole, making it so that the ball has to maneuver around them.

Rocks, blocks, boxes, toys, and other objects can be used.

Moving Obstacles

Moving obstacles are some of the favorite, but most irritating obstacles found on most miniature golf courses.

Here are some fun ideas of making your own backyard moving obstacles:

  • Attach a flyswatter or other object on the swing, and make the swing sway while the ball is in play. This way, the fly swatter can hit the ball away from its intended target (make sure it doesn’t hit the player while in play).
  • You can have other players gently toss in other balls in an attempt to push the player’s ball off course.
  • You can place a tarp over a section of the course and have bystanders shake and wiggle it as the ball is in play.

Miniature Golf Putter

The only club needed to play miniature golf is a putter.

There are special putters made exclusively for miniature golf, but a putter that has little to no lift will work to play.

To spice up your miniature golf game, you can experiment by using different objects as putters, such as:

  • Fly swatters
  • Brooms
  • Stick horses (even more fun when you require the player to ride it to where the ball landed).
  • Tennis rackets
  • Paper plates (very challenging)

The wider the object used as a putter, the less control the player has on the ball.

So the wider the object, the more challenging the game.

Person about to hit ball through miniature golf obstacle

Frequently Asked Questions About Miniature Golf

Are Miniature Golf and Putt Putt Golf the same?

Many people wonder if there’s a difference between miniature golf and putt putt golf.

The short answer is yes, there are a few differences between them.

Putt Putt golf was coined by a chain of family amusement venues called the Putt-Putt Family Fun centers.

Their version of miniature golf includes holes that can be scored with one or two putts, and have obstacles confined to inclines, declines, and blockers.

Also, in putt putt the player finishes out the hole while in miniature golf the players take turns with each shot.

What are some other names for Miniature Golf?

Miniature golf is called several different names:

  • Mini golf
  • Min-putt
  • Crazy Golf
  • Putt-Putt (although actual Putt-Putt is slightly different than miniature golf)
  • Adventure Golf
  • Pee Wee Golf
  • Goofy Golf

Who Invented Miniature Golf?

Miniature golf’s roots go back to the 1860’s and to the women who belonged to the Ladies’ Putting Club of St. Andrews in Scotland. (wonderopolis.org)

Back in the day, golf wasn’t seen as a very ‘ladylike’ pursuit, so women were often not allowed to play golf on the same courses as men.

The creative and golf loving ladies of St. Andrews decided to create their very own course, naming it the Himalayans.

It was 18 holes of fun, but was a shorter distance and didn’t require so much room.

Later, in the early 1920’s, a new brand of miniature golf became popular when Thomas McCullock Fairbairn created a type of artificial turf that made the game accessible to people everywhere.

Although popular in the 1920’s, the great depression of the 1930’s almost caused the extinction of miniature golf.

However in the 1940’s people once again began to produce miniature golf courses, and as the years progressed new and exciting challenges and hazards began appearing in United States miniature golf courses everywhere.

Who Can Play Miniature Golf?

Miniature golf is a sport played by young and old.

It is a great activity for families who have a broad range of members, and for fun special activities such as reunions and birthdays.

It is also a great ice-breaker pastime that many individuals choose to use as a first date idea.

Create Your Own Course

Kids and adults alike will enjoy the challenge of making their very own miniature golf course.

Gather up some recyclables, make a castle out of an old cardboard box, create tunnels and inclines and give miniature golf a shot.

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