Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Love Miniature Golf? You can thank a Tennessean.

Animation by Web Weaver
  Did you know that a Tennessean is considered to be one of the fathers of miniature golf, or minigolf as the World Minigolf Sport Federation prefers to term it?

An article by Roland Gray, which appeared in a 1931 edition of Modern Mechanix, notes, "Midget golf, which burst on the country last summer, is moe than a fad, more than a game.  It's a gigantic new amusement industry which is coining millions of dollars for the men back of it."

The article poses this question, "Who started driving the country goofy over golf?"  

"And here's the answer," Gray writes.  "Down in Chattanooga, Tenn., Garnet Carter, as genial a host as ever epitomized the hospitality of the South, began fancying a system whereby the guests at his Lookout Mountain hotel might get a little compact diversion."

Carter was born in Sweetwater, Tennessee in February of 1883.  He became a wealthy entrepreneur, an inventor, and an expert at promotion.  Your probably know his work best as the mind behind the "See Rock City" signs painted on barns and birdhouses.  He put Lookout Mountain on the map as a must-see vacation stop for American families.  While he did not invent miniature golf, he was the first to patent it and was instrumental in commercializing it.  His 1927 patent referred to the game as "Tom Thumb" golf. The game's popularity added to his considerable fortune, even despite the depression which came soon after its inception.

Carter developed his version of minigolf in a roundabout way.  He operated a hotel on top of Lookout Mountain, and he also ran the Fairyland Golf Club in conjunction with it.  He had a little extra space next to the golf course which he turned into an area for practicing putting.  He noticed that his clubhouse guests lingered a long time at this pitch and putt area, and he jokingly referred to it as his "Tom Thumb" golf course. He started charging  for the use of this tiny green, which continued to grow in popularity.

Garnet started a company to build and sell his little golf courses, and he worked with other developers to help distribute his minigolf empire around the country.

For further reading:

Garnet Carter
Modern Mechanix
Miniature Golf History
History of Miniature Golf 


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