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BBC Five Live's Adrian Chiles and co
give their beginners guide to mini-golf
 real 14k

British Mini-golf Association chairman Peter Parr
"The windmill adds the extra element of timing"
 real 14k

banner Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
The crazy world of golf

As another exciting British Masters Mini-golf tournament comes to a close, BBC Sport Online's Mike Burnett looks at a holiday game that some are taking very seriously indeed.

Forget the Benson and Hedges International Open at the Belfry, the real test of golfing prowess has taken place in Southend-on-Sea.

Fanatics from across the country descended upon the seaside resort for a shot at one of mini-golf's premier title, the British Masters crown.

The prize money may not be in the same league as regular golf's, but you only need one club, and there are no expensive caddie costs.

Of course, to many outsiders, mini-golf was just that activity that you were forced to do as a kid on holiday while your parents were in the pub.

You do need to read the green - that is the key to success
  Peter Parr
British Mini-golf Association chairman

What game would be complete without losing your ball in the windmill for half-an-hour, or getting a hole-in-one after 17 rebounds?

And every course has to have an obligatory stain from when some three-year-old child's ice cream fell off its cornet.

But to the professionals, or semi-pros more accurately, mini-golf is serious business.

If you make the mistake of referring to it as 'crazy golf' or 'adventure golf', you could end up with a putter wrapped round your head.

While it has its similarities such as windmills, water hazards, pipes and so on, enthusiasts reckon it is much more skill-based.

Tiger Woods in action earlier this year
Tiger wonders how to get his ball past the mini Eiffel Tower
Peter Parr, chairman of the British Mini-golf Association, claims that it is more challenging than some might think.

"You do need to read the green - that is the key to success," said Parr.

"On a lot of the holes, you need rebound shots. It's not like you're aiming directly for the hole, you often have to rebound once or twice off the walls."

No-one can deny the popularity of the sport since its humble beginnings almost a century ago.

Having originated in the 1900s, it became known as 'garden golf' in the 1920s.

By the time of the Second World War, there were an estimated 30,000 courses in the US, with 150 roof-top venues in New York City alone.

Big money

The craze may have died off a little since then, but the rise of the professional game seems to be making up for that.

In America, the sport is taken so seriously that the championships are televised and offer up to 100,000 in prize money.

Unfortunately, some might argue that is the same country that offers endless coverage of monster trucks.

BBC, ITV and Sky have yet to battle it out for television rights over here, but the British competitions do attract a wide range of international talent.

European championship finalist Heinz Weber beat off a strong challenge from Denmark's Morten Rasmussen and fellow Dane Thomas Reininger to pocket 300 at the British Open last September.

Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea, with its Inca and Aztec-influenced courses, attracted 25 of the biggest names in British mini-golf on Saturday.

In the end, defending champion Robert Valerie put on a dazzling display to clinch the coveted title and a cheque for 250 by four strokes.

Valerie's father, Steve, finished six strokes behind, proving mini-golf greatness runs in the family.

So next time you find yourself negotiating a rather tricky miniature volcano with a golf ball, remember that you could be playing for more than just the next round of ice creams.

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