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Golf used to hold ‘court’ long ago

By Ken Love

For the Mirror

The sport of golf as we know it today took root in America during the mid-1890s and spread throughout the country over the next few decades.

Few golf fans, however, may know of a golf-related game that appeared somewhat out of the blue at country club across the U.S. during those same early years.

This new game was dubbed “court golf,” similar to conventional golf but on a much smaller scale. Some might have called this new game a form of “mini-golf,” but court golf was different than the miniature golf we know today.

Since artificial turf had not yet been invented, “court golf” was played on real grass, typically in an open area near a clubhouse.

These small court golf courses typically consisted of six or nine holes, with each hole stretching only 10 to 12 yards. To make play challenging, courses often featured man-made obstacles that included grassy mounds and short fences.

To navigate a court golf course, contestants would need a pitching club in addition to their putter.

The new sport became a favorite at country clubs and resorts across the country.

Nearby Bedford Springs Resort was one of the earliest clubs in Pennsylvania to install court golf at their facility, and in July of 1911 a Bedford newspaper included the following account of the sport.

“A portion of the lawn has been laid out for court golf, a new departure for the Springs, and it is no unusual sight to see forty or fifty persons watching the more skilled players drive their golf balls under rocky bridges or over bunkers, fences or hedges. A tournament has been planned for next week.”

Over the next few months, the sport caught fire at Bedford Springs. Later that same year, another mention of the sport appeared in the local paper.

“Court golf at Bedford Springs has taken such a sudden and firm hold that it is quite the popular diversion on the lawn, aside from tennis. The next tournament, beginning Tuesday, brought out an entry list of over 40.”

Over the next several years, court golf remained a popular sport at the Springs and across the country. It was typically promoted at country clubs and resorts as a less strenuous activity than the ‘big game of golf.’

Court golf continued to thrive at Bedford Springs, and over time the field of play would grow to occupy approximately half of the entire front lawn (the portion nearest to the club’s full golf course).

By the mid-1920s, however, the sport’s popularity began to wane.

By 1930, the modern-day miniature golf craze began, and Tom Thumb golf courses were being built in nearly every sizable town across the country. Court golf’s days were numbered.

Within a few years, court golf vanished in this country. Today, the sport is just a distant memory, an interesting footnote in the history of golf.

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