Playing eighteen holes of golf doesn’t always mean playing on the freshly mowed greens, hitting the ball for a hundred+ yards. You can play the mini version: on small courses with obstacles. A road block, a curve, sometimes a net or maybe a moving windmill. We all know it, we’ve been there, on holiday with our family. For most of us, it stays at the holiday parks and we cherish it in our memories. Some of us become a world champion.
Marc Chapman is three time world champion crazy golf, but before he became passionate about it, he was part of the mainstream: playing mini golf or crazy golf as a child. For a British youngster, that means playing at courses in those typical seaside towns. Until in later years Chapman found out he’s pretty good at it. “I was playing a little bit of golf, but I didn’t had the time to play every week or weekend. I discovered mini golf reading about this World Championship every year in Hastings. I found out there were more people playing this game for fun. So I thought: ‘I can do this, play some tournaments, maybe win a little money’. And then it became a little bit of an obsession: I started to win small tournaments and when I did that, it’s about winning big tournaments, and then it’s about how many big tournaments can I win and then yeah, well, look where it is now…”
The World Crazy Golf Championship is played each year at the course in Hastings, South East coast of England. An adventurous course like there are quite a few in the UK. That’s where it distinguishes itself from Europe. “There’s a disconnect between the world game of mini golf and the UK’s idea of crazy golf”, says Chapman (34), who helps the mini golf governing body to develop more global reach for the sport, trying to make the connection between the UK and the European sport. “In for example Germany, Austria, Sweden, they have standardized courses of concrete material (or fiber grass or Swedish felt). Wherever you go, it’s the same eighteen holes. Whereas in Britain it’s more adventure golf, family fun. Those European courses? They don’t exist in the UK.”
As a result players like Chapman don’t get great results if they play in Europe. “We play on courses we’re not used to. The Americans have the same problem. They are good players, good putters, mentally very strong, but they don’t have the experience on those types of courses. We had a World Championship in China a couple of years ago. Turns out they built the European style of courses, ha ha, so that wasn’t good for us.”
Talking about differences: a golfer switches his club, depending on which hole they are and which tactics they have devised. A mini golfer does the same, but then it’s all about the balls. “Yeah, we play with different balls. Not at the World Crazy Golf Championships, everyone plays with one ball, but at other tournaments the type of ball you play with is very important”, says the world champion. “Balls are different in weights, sizes, hardness. The most important for us is that they bounce different heights. That gives us more options. If I have a bouncy ball, I can play off the walls, or two walls. It becomes a little bit of pool or snooker.”
It is allowed to use a different ball at every hole, but once you start with one ball at a hole, you have to finish with it. It gives the player a lot to think about. Chapman: “Players have a different ball selection because they like different types of shots. You have to learn about these balls and what they can do. If the temperature goes up for example, than the ball sometimes get more bouncy. So you have to put the ball in an ice bucket or something. You need to prepare this ball in order to work the way you wanted it to work on each specific hole.”
To know the tactics and play with all types of ball, that’s for the advanced and experienced players. “If you begin with mini golf, that’s too much information”, says Chapman, who is a professional fencing coach in Canterbury. “At first you’ll just start playing and looking for the fun of it. If you want to become better, you need to practise. Anyone can play a shot, but to play the shot consistently every single round over a whole weekend: that takes a lot off skill and mental strength. I learned about psychology and mental strength as fencing coach and when I was a youth international. That is a massive advantage, also as a crazy golfer.”