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Growing Up Golf Part 11: Mini Golf

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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.
Glow-in-the-dark-mini-golf

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.

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Kadin Mahmet has a passion for golf. He has coached at the collegiate level and has worked as an instructor specializing in youth athletics. You can follow Kadin on Twitter @BigKadin. "Like" Growing Up Golf on Facebook @ facebook.com/Growing.Up.Golf for more content.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rufiolegacy

    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    There is a glow in the dark mini golf place in the mall by me. It is in the basement, and slightly sketchy but after reading this it makes me want to grab my flat stick and head over!

    • Kadin Mahmet

      Feb 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Rufiolegacy thank you for the time. Give it a shot, my wife and I had fun as well.

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10 Years Later: Why the assistant coach has made college golf better

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It’s been 10 years since the NCCA Legislation began allowing assistant golf coaches to perform on-course coaching in college events. Today, 94 percent of the top-100 men’s golf teams have assistant coaches, and the coaching pool is stronger than ever, with individuals such as Jean Paul Hebert (Texas), Jake Amos (South Carolina), John Handrigan (Florida), Robert Duck (Florida State), Donnie Darr (Oklahoma State), John Mills (Kent State), Garrett Runion (LSU), Zach Barlow (Illinois), Bob Heinz (Duke), and 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year from Baylor, Ryan Blagg. The list includes a guy with 20+ PGA Tour experience (Bob Heinz), several former college standouts and some National Championship wins (Jean Paul Hebert – 1, Runion – 2, Amos – 2).

In the 10 years since the expanded role of the assistant golf coach, the National Championship has still been dominated by major conference schools, with only three non-major conference schools earning a spot in match play (Kent State 2012, and Augusta State in 2010, 2011). Of course, Augusta State went on to win both of its appearances in match play, earning back-to-back national championships under Coach Josh Gregory.

One of best examples of the success of assistant golf coaches is Chris Malloy at Ole Miss. Malloy, a graduate of Ole Miss, began his coaching career as the women’s assistant golf coach at Florida State. Shortly after, he was working with both programs and had an immediate impact, which included helping the men win their first ever ACC championship. Shortly after, Chris took over as the men’s golf coach at University of South Florida, transforming the team into a National Contender and a top-30 ranking. Today, at Ole Miss, Chris has done the same thing, transforming a team and a culture in three years, earning a spot in the 2017 NCAA National Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.

Although to date, mid-major teams have not fared consistently on the national level. The system of assistant coaches has proven to be an excellent tool in broadening the pool of candidates. Last year’s National Championship featured six mid-major schools with half being wily veterans, and half being a product of the assistant coach route; Michael Beard of Pepperdine served as the assistant at Arizona State; Bryce Waller of University of Central Florida served as the assistant at the University of Tennessee; Bryant Odem of Kennesaw State served as the assistant at the University of Wisconsin. It will also feature teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Virginia, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Purdue, which have coaches who have benefited from their experience as assistant coaches in their roles with these programs.

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

The pool of candidates for coaching positions today is deeper than ever. Athletic Directors are blessed to be able to interview several good candidates for almost each job. The result for the players are fully engaged coaches who bring passion and desire to improve each of their programs.

Bowen Sargent, the current head coach at University of Virginia and former assistant coach at the University of Tennessee under Jim Kelson, started coaching when the rules only allowed one coach. In the 10 years since the rule change, Bowen believes “it’s a positive change for sure. Having two coaches allows for a better student-athlete experience and for them to have more access to their coaches.”

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the US Open

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the U.S. Open

The diversity among coaches is also greater. Today’s juniors have the option to play for a skillful player such as a Mike Small at Illinois or Casey Martin at Oregon, or Doug Martin at Cincinnati, or even a world class instructor like Bryce Waller at UCF, Ben Pellicani at Limpscomb or Casey Van Dame at South Dakota State. Waller, an excellent instructor himself, has lead UCF to three National Championship appearance in 7 years. Likewise, Ben, a Golf Digest top-40 under-40 instructor who spent several years learning from Mike Bender has been instrumental in transforming Limpscomb into a national contender, participating in their first ever National Championship in 2017. Lastly, Casey who spent several years under Jim Mclean, then as the assistant at University of Tennessee, has transformed North Dakota State Men’s and Women’s Golf, with both teams currently ranked in the top-100 in the country.

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Athletic Directors are also starting to put more funding towards golf resources. The result has been an explosion of golf-specific training facilities across the scope of college golf. Many mid-major schools have top-notch practice facilities, including places such as University of North Texas, University of Richmond, University of Central Arkansas and Illinois State to name a few.

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

The tremendous pool of coaching candidates has also benefited other levels of golf. For example, 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year Chris Hill is now the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Concordia University, a Division 3 School near Austin, Texas. In his two years as coach, he has already lead the program to seven tournament titles.

As time passed, I believe that we will see a change at the NCAA Championship and it will include a growing trend towards mid-major universities not only earning spots at the National Championships, but having success like Augusta State. The person at the head of one of those programs is likely to have come from the assistant coach ranks and should be thankful for the rule change, which lead to these opportunities.

Please note: As of writing this article, only 6 men’s teams in D1 do not have assistant coaches. They are UTEP (51), McNeese (84), Nevada (88), Richmond (89), Cincinnati (92) and Tennessee at Chattanooga (96).

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