The United States ProMiniGolf Association (USPMGA) is responsible for organizing miniature golf tournaments throughout the U.S. Minigolf is governed internationally by the World MiniGolf Sport Federation (WMSF). The membership of the USPMGA includes both course owners and players. Players who join the association become candidates for Team USA, and are eligible to play on the USPGMA Tour. USPMGA has its own Team USA Training Center located in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and also has its own Hall of Fame.
Sports Destination Management: Minigolf is incredibly popular. How many courses are operating nationwide?
Bob Detwiler: We believe there are about 3,000 courses in the United States. More than 50 percent of the population plays at least once per year. By the way, that includes the President of the United States.
SDM: Are the players who are members of the USPMGA mainly professional players or are they simply recreational players who are really passionate about the sport?
Detwiler: It’s a mixed bag. We have divisions for amateurs, women, seniors, people at all levels. We have people who are pros and people who think they’re pros. A lot of our membership would be what would be considered pro players, though.
SDM: Is the number of courses fluctuating at all?
Detwiler: I think the number is growing. The reason is that it’s a family-friendly activity, and there are very few things whole families can do that are affordable. You can go to a movie together, but you don’t really talk – and it costs more to do that than it does to play minigolf. In minigolf, all ages can play together, from three to 93, and they’re talking and having fun the entire time.
SDM: Minigolf is often associated with resort areas.
Detwiler: Yes, you’ll find a lot of it around the beaches. People can only spend so long getting burned up in the sun. Minigolf is one thing they can do when they want to take a break – and again, it’s something they can do with everyone as part of the family vacation.
SDM: Plus it’s a non-threatening sport.
Detwiler (laughing): There aren’t a lot of injuries in minigolf unless someone decides to hit you in the head with a club. The sport is interesting in that it opens the door for a lot of people who could not compete in baseball, basketball, that sort of thing. You don’t have to be a 250-pound, musclebound athlete to have fun and be good at this. You only need to have the determination and the desire to get better. It brings people off the couch and that’s always good.
SDM: What events does the USPMGA put on each year?
Detwiler: We have a US Open and a Master’s each year. The Master’s is held each October at the Hawaiian Rumble in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We award a green jacket, just like the PGA does. The US Open moves around. Next year, it will be in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.
SDM: What factors go into your site selection for the US Open?
Detwiler: We try to get in the major media markets. The US Open we had at the Jersey Shore, for example, was a big success. We’ve been to Chicago, Maine, North Carolina.
SDM: What do you look for in a course?
Detwiler: Minigolf is like the PGA. Every course is different, every hole is different. We want a course that is in good condition, and we like to be in an area where there are other things to do, since people like to have a vacation when they come to compete.
SDM: Are there any trends in courses?
Detwiler: There might not be as many clowns and dinosaurs; you might find more water features, rocks and undulations in the terrain to make it challenging.
SDM: USPMGA is a member of the World MiniGolf Sport Federation. Does that mean minigolf isn’t just an American phenomenon?
Detwiler: Minigolf is actually played all over the world and there are tournaments all over the world too. I helped build two courses in China, and they have held a China Open over there.
SDM: Is there any demographic that plays minigolf more? As in, is the average player male, female, in a certain age group, etc.?
Detwiler: We’ve seen players in our events from eight years old to 75. The demographics are so good. I always say it would be great for a TV show because it would hit every age, every gender, everything. People just love it. It’s fun.
SDM: One last question. What turns the water blue?
Detwiler: Blue vegetable dye. It also helps lower algae because the sun can’t get through as well.
Bonus fun fact from SDM to dazzle your friends: Many people interchangeably refer to minigolf as ‘putt-putt;’ however, putt-putt is actually the trademark of an American company that builds and franchises miniature golf courses in addition to other family-oriented entertainment.