In the (first!) Depression mini golf courses sprang up everywhere, in part because golfers and would-be golfers could no longer afford the real thing. It was known as a gold rush and in 1930 there were between 25,000 and 30,000 mini golf courses, with four million Americans playing every night, many of them all night long. Many of these were set up on people’s city rooftops, thanks to a franchise, Tom Thumb, which sold them to entrepreneurs at $4,500 a pop. Now Steve Hix, head of the Miniature Golf Association, is getting all déjà vu and “dreaming of discredited Wall Street bankers building golf courses atop their Park Avenue penthouses to make ends meet.”
Bloomberg: Hix reckons passage of the $700 billion financial-rescue package will signal a renaissance for what purists call the Tom Thumb game. Indeed, one newspaper cartoon shortly before the stock-market crash of 1929 shows Uncle Sam hoisting a miniature golfer on his shoulders to support a business with the ability to help the economy recover.
With only 6,000 miniature-golf courses currently operating in the U.S., along with a further 24,000 elsewhere in the world, Hix says his industry is more than wistfully prepared to embrace the 27 million American golfers who play by USGA rules.
“Subprime’s impact on land values really doesn’t need to curtail miniature-golf construction,” Hix says. “Thousands of Lilliputian golf courses were built on the roofs of apartments throughout America during the Depression, so many in New York that the city actually passed an ordinance forbidding construction.”
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