Finding New Zealand’s mini golf champ
Professional mini golf is serious business, says New Zealand’s current mini golf champion Bobby Hart.
The Laingholm resident is part of the New Zealand Minigolf Federation - formed in 2014 - which is preparing for the first ever New Zealand Minigolf Open to be held in Auckland on March 18.
Competitors will take to the turf at Liliputt on Tamaki Drive with the top three finishers booking a spot at the World Championships in Croatia later this year.
While a traditional Kiwi audience might be oblivious to the fact professional mini golf is actually a thing, make no mistake, it’s a growing phenomenon.
‘‘In Europe, it’s massive,’’ Hart said.
‘‘When I went to Kosovo, I was playing against guys who have been playing professional mini golf for 30 years.’’
The nuances of the game are spectacular. Surfaces can vary anything from felt and turf, to concrete and fibreglass.
There’s more than 20,000 variations of mini golf ball ranging from rubber to glass. Some professionals will even use a different ball for every hole, depending on how it plays.
And while the game might be seen as ‘‘just a bit of fun,’’ it’s that quirky nature that makes mini golf’s potential so great, Hart said.
‘‘You look at all these other sports, they are all reverting to these smaller sided games to attract crowds and attract people to the game,’’ Hart said.
‘‘You’ve got futsal with soccer, the sevens, the nines, T20, all of that. Golf has been missing out this whole time.’’
Hart was crowned New Zealand champion after placing 31st at the world champs in Kosovo making him the highest ranking Kiwi.
The sport had potential to take off in New Zealand and we could even have a world champion one day, he said.
‘‘You don’t have to be physically fit or have physical requirements to play, anyone can pick it up and become better at it. We just want to get people to understand there is a professional side to it and you can actually represent your country.’’
There will be four categories at next month’s tournament - mens and womens, as well as youth aged 13 to 17 - and parent and child - with children aged between 5 and 12.
Keen mini golfers still have time to sign up and qualify.
New Zealand mini golf champion Bobby Hart is gearing up for next month’s New Zealand Minigolf Open.