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Growing Up Golf Part 11: Mini Golf
I remember the days of when I was a serious bowler back in the 1990s and glow-in-the-dark bowling was introduced to spark revenue after league play on Friday nights. Glow bowling was the same as regular bowling with some added features of music, strobe lights and black lights. You play the game the same way, except you do it the dark. Well it didn’t take long for golf, or I should say miniature golf courses, to take notice of the new interest that glow-in-the-dark generated.
Glow-in-the-dark golf is the same as regular miniature golf with the difference of playing in a dark room with black lights. The outlines of each hole are painted with fluorescent paint that glows very bright with the aid of the black lights. The holes all have a fluorescent lights inside of them. The obstacles are all outlined as well. At the end of each hole there are glowing green arrows to lead you to the next hole.
The balls, too, are glow-in-the-dark — they’re charged at the beginning of the round by the attendant. The attendant has a strong light the balls sit under while waiting to be handed out, and throughout the course there are little charge boxes that you place your ball into and press a button and a light flashes like a camera flash to re-charge your ball.
My daughter’s golf class is on Saturdays, and Sundays are reserved for going to grandma and pappa’s house for family day. One recent Sunday, grandma and pappa had a prior engagement and we were unable to go there for the evening. I thought this would be a good time to try and venture out with the family and give glow-in-the-dark miniature golf (putt-putt) a try.
The local shopping mall has an indoor glow-golf course, so my wife and I packed up the kids and their putters and headed out to give it a try. I know some may look at miniature golf as not real golf and serves no practical golf purpose other than entertainment. I beg to differ; it’s very similar to regular golf. You play 18 holes, each hole has a designated par and you keep score the same as you do in regular golf. Now maybe to the serious golfer or for a golfer who doesn’t have kids, I can see your point. But for those of us with children in the early stages of golf development, this is a perfect golf association opportunity.
I was able to explain to my daughter that in golf you play 18 holes, up to this point she only knew that golf was a game where you tried to get the ball in the hole. I have never explained to her that we keep track and count how many times we hit the ball to get it there. I also explained to her what par meant (I didn’t go into birdie or bogey at this time). So now she understands that each hole has a designated number — or par — that we need to try to tie or beat. This turned out to be a great incentive (going for par) because my daughter was determined to get par or better. This is something you should remember. The reward incentive is very effective, even a piece of candy for sinking a putt to meet a set number or score. Kids really thrive on incentive-based tasks; just think back to when you were in elementary school and how cool it was to get the ultimate reward: the gold star.
So as our glow round continued, she lined up all her putts and followed her instruction from class. I was very happy to see that. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle this approach or association. This was also a good time to teach her some minor golf etiquette. She learned that she had to wait her turn, be courteous to the other players, that we walk on the putting surface (just like when we are on a real green) and good sportsmanship by cheering on her little brother who was having just as much fun as she was.
You may not have thought to use miniature golf as a stepping stone but there is a good wealth of information that can be taught to your little golfer. First, there is the hand-eye coordination required to play. This translates into better reading and thinking. Secondly, the logic required for kids to adjust their swing as they shoot for the target also helps children learn to think. They also unconsciously acquire decision-making tools at the same time.
Adult interaction will exponentially increase the learning benefits of kids playing minitature golf. Most mini-golf courses have themes, usually a geographical or historic theme. Even those that have a theme set in fantasy or fiction lend themselves to creative thinking. If you incorporate creative questioning, this will cause a child to imagine, create and dream as they observe their surroundings. By asking questions throughout the game about the surroundings, you as the parent can help the child become intentional with observation.
Let’s not forget math. Math skills can be taught strategically. Using the par for each hole, kids can perform simple math; addition and subtraction based on their shots, or more sophisticated mathematical functions such as probability and percentages. Mini-golf is often therapeutic for those kids who have trouble concentrating. The very nature of playing golf demands a higher level of concentration and miniature golf is a great way to get them on the right track.