How to Play and Win Mini Golf

By John Lindell

golfer hitting with sunset background

Learning how to play miniature golf is a relatively simple task. Becoming proficient at the game and collecting wins takes some doing. The beginner that starts out trying to learn the game will be faced with challenges such as how hard to hit the ball, at what angle, and how to get through and around the many obstacles set up on a miniature golf course that make the game so enjoyable. The goal is the same as regular golf--to complete each hole in as few strokes as possible.

How to Play Mini Golf

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

  1. Study the layout of the hole before you hit a shot. Examine all of the angles, bumps, obstacles, and raised levels on the hole to determine your course of action.
  2. Tee the ball up on the allotted space at the beginning of each hole. You will be given a colored ball and a putter when you pay the fee to play, and be directed to the first hole. There are designated places to put the ball for your first shot on each hole. Place the ball on one of them, and then prepare to hit it.
  3. Hit the ball with a firm but smooth stroke. Lightly tapping the ball will not get you into position to get the ball in the hole anytime soon, and flailing away too hard at it could cause it to actually bolt the course if it caroms off at high speed. After you have looked over the layout, try to judge how hard to hit the ball to get it in the best position to have it roll as close to the hole as possible.
  4. Be aware of the course rules. Miniature golf courses normally allow a player to move a ball that comes to rest against the walls of the hole or against an obstacle the length of the head of the putter away so as to give the player a legitimate chance to strike the ball cleanly on the next shot. Know when and where you can take advantage of such rules as you play. Most courses also allow a limit of five strokes per hole, so no matter how badly you play a particular hole, the worst you will score is a five.
  5. Play the angles on the course. While many holes may be straight, many miniature golf course holes have angled holes that require a player to hit the ball off a wall in order to send it toward the hole. Read the angle, and don't be afraid to hit the ball with authority once you have decided where on the wall it needs to bounce off to carom toward the hole.
  6. Utilize your sense of timing to make it through moving obstacles. The toughest and most memorable miniature golf holes are normally those that have an opening that the ball must pass through to get near the hole. These oftentimes are protected by moving objects that can block the entrance every few seconds, such as a windmill. Study the obstacle, and determine how long you have to hit the ball once the moving parts are clear from the opening. Hit the ball straight and hard once the moving parts have passed.
  7. Be decisive on your short putts. The vast majority of short putts on a miniature golf course, once the player has gotten the ball near the hole, are straight putts with no break to them. This means that if you hit the ball squarely with the putter, it will go in the hole, as long as you hit it hard enough.
    With practice, you will soon learn that the best stroke is to hit the ball hard enough to make it to the hole so that a loss of momentum will not cause it to veer away from the hole at the last second. Be careful not to hit the ball too hard, as this will make it pass over the hole without going in or make it bounce once it hits the rim of the hole.

Tips & Strategies for Winning at Mini Golf

With a few tips, it is possible to improve your miniature golf game and perhaps even start to win some of these friendly contests.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

  1. Hit the golf ball squarely with the middle of your putter. It is amazing how simple that sounds, but so many people fail to do this. When the golf ball is struck with the heel or the head of the putter, it tends to not go straight or for much distance unless the golf club is being held tightly. Always line the ball up with the putter so that it will be hit with the "sweet spot" of the club.
  2. Bring your own putter to the miniature golf course. The putters used at the vast majority of miniature golf courses are lightweight and flimsy, which makes sense because it makes them more affordable for the owner of the establishment. However, they are too short for many players to be able to use comfortably. Use your own club and your score will more than likely begin to improve right away since you are used to how it feels.
  3. Concentrate on clearing the initial hazards on your tee shots. Do not try to hit the perfect shot to get the ball through the hazard and into the hole as well. Work on just hitting the ball straight and through the hazard, and when others fail to do so, you will have an opportunity to pick up strokes on them.
  4. Strike the golf ball with authority. Most miniature golf courses have holes that require the ball to go a good distance to reach the hole, with many holes having inclines, ramps, and other obstacles that can send a weakly hit ball right back to the feet of the player. To win at miniature golf you need to get the ball close to the hole for short putts. In addition, a well-struck ball will go straight for a much longer distance, making it through any hazards. Balls that are lightly tapped often will wind up right next to a hazard, meaning the player then has to hit the ball backwards just to be able to line up the next shot to get it through the obstacle.
  5. Make the short putts. Hitting the short putts will spell the difference between being competitive and being in last place. There are very few holes on a miniature golf course where a putt breaks. Most are straight-on putts that require the golf ball to be hit once again with some authority. The hard hit ball will go in the hole as long as it is not hit too forcefully. The daintily hit ball will lose momentum and begin to curve on its way to the hole.
  6. Practice as much as you can. Like any endeavor, practicing miniature golf will allow you to improve your skills. Go to your local miniature golf course and play by yourself, learning the nuances of the course and how hard to hit the ball. This will let you figure out the angles on holes and where to hit your tee shots.

About the Author

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.