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The Evolution of Miniature Golf

Miniature golf isn’t a subject you’ve heard NGF talk much about, but we’ve tracked this form of golf for quite some time, just as we track digital and virtual golf game play. But some things about miniature golf may interest and surprise you.

Let’s start with the fact that 18 million people in the U.S. played miniature an average of four times last year. One in three of those mini-golfers, about 6 million, were also traditional, on-course golfers. Participants skew younger (avg. 34 years) and almost half (45%) are female – demographics many would love to see in the traditional game.



The ‘Mini-Golf Capital of the World’ has to be South Carolina’s Grand Strand, where at least 20 facilities are scattered along King’s Highway from Murrells Inlet to North Myrtle Beach. Here you’ll see the stereotypical pirate ships and windmills that defined the category until not too long ago. But the landscape is changing. Today we have places like Puttery, Puttshack and PopStroke that are aimed squarely at Millennials and anyone else who wants to eat, drink and be merry in a golf-themed environment.

Before you completely dismiss these young, fun-loving non-golfers as being uninteresting to the ‘real’ golf business, consider this: about 4% of the general population who have no golf experience claim to be ‘very interested’ in the traditional game. For those who play mini-golf, that number rises to 16%. So, mini-golf contributes in a meaningful way to golf’s latent demand pool by raising awareness and interest in a fun, non-threatening way.

For the record, NGF does not include mini-golfers in our count of off-course participants. That category is restricted to experiences that involve launching a golf ball into the air with a traditional golf club. But miniature golf does play a role in exposing people to a game, as Winston Churchill said, “whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

For a more detailed look at miniature golf, click here to read the NGF’s accompanying Spotlight article.

Joseph Beditz
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