mini golf vs putt-putt

Mini Golf vs Putt-Putt: Similarities & Differences

Mini golf and putt-putt are one of the most popular pastimes in the world and there’s often confusion if they refer to the same game. Though they might sound like the same game, mini golf and putt-putt are actually quite different. 

While both are offshoots of regular golf, the main difference between mini golf and putt-putt is that mini golf tends to have a more complex and themed course design compared to putt-putt. Additionally, the par score for putt-putt is typically between one and two, whereas in mini golf it can range anywhere from two to eight. 

There are various other similarities and differences between mini golf and putt-putt, which we will explore in more detail. But first, let’s take a closer look at how both of these leisure games originated. 

Where Does Mini Golf Come From?

Like its name suggests, the term “mini golf” literally describes the smaller version of golf. Mini golf was first introduced in the late 19th century and was based on regular golf, albeit with a much smaller layout and with various obstacles. 

Standard golf has a tendency to be more serious and ‘professional’ by having to go out on the green, playing in the heat for hours, and requiring a golf cart, mini golf is much more simple. 

In comparison, in mini golf you can dress as casually as you like and play in almost any type of weather condition. It has more relaxed rules and you certainly don’t need to use a golf cart to get around. 

Though there are varied theories on the origins of mini golf, according to the general consensus, the first-ever mini golf game was played as early as 1912. It was conceptualized as a miniature version of golf that had a similar design to an actual golf course, just confined within a small area. 

Since then, mini golf has become one of the most popular family-oriented leisure games in the world. 

Where Does Putt-Putt Come From?

The origin of putt-putt is rather interesting. The history of putt-putt started when Don Clayton opened the renowned Putt-Putt Fun Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, back in 1954. It was the first of its kind and he set specific rules on how this game is to be played.  

The Putt-Putt franchise constructed a two-par mini golf course with the aim to create an easy-to-play game for golfing amateurs. The courses were designed with simplicity in mind and a set of rules that even the youngest of kids could understand. 

Though the owner copyrighted the name in order to ensure that his brand keeps up with the high-quality standards for the years to come, the word Putt-Putt became synonymous with the actual game. 

Differences and Similarities between Mini Golf and Putt-Putt

As we’ve explored the origin of both games, it becomes evident that they have different origins and were conceptualized with different course complexity and themes, as well as rules and scoring systems. Let’s explore the similarities and differences between mini golf and putt-putt in more detail.

Game Type

Both putt-putt and mini golf are offshoots of the original golf game. While both are derivatives of standard golf, they were conceptualized differently. Mini golf has similar types of rules to regular golf, just in a much less complex format. 

On the other hand, putt-putt is a more simplistic version of golf. Though both have theme-based courses, the complexity between the two can vary. The game putt-putt was also named after Putt-Putt Fun Center by Don Clayton. 

Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that while both games are spin-offs of regular golf they have different origins and were conceptualized differently.  

Course Complexity

The course layout in putt-putt is kept simple so that anyone can easily sink a ball inside the hole in just a few strokes. Putt-putt courses typically have 18 holes and each hole is designed with basic challenges.

Typical Putt-Putt Course Layout
Typical Mini Golf Course Layout

These challenges include a typical rectangular design with barriers on all sides and minor obstacles such as elevation and directional changes, barriers and pillars. 

On the other hand, mini golf courses have a more similar course layout to a regular golf course but on a much smaller scale. The courses are designed in a way that makes use of the environmental layout as well as various obstacles. 

These obstacles include hazards, flags, statues, water features, elevation changes, bridges, pipes, windmills, mechanical structures, and underpasses, among many others. 

Course Themes

The difference between both games can be further explained by the fact that almost all mini golf courses are theme-based, meaning that the design and complexity of every obstacle will revolve around a single or multiple themes. 

Example of Putt-Putt Course Theme
Example of Mini Golf Course Theme

These themes make you feel like you have entered into a new world. Some of the most popular mini golf themes include fairytales, pirates, jungles, space, castles, adventure, and many others. Mini golf courses also make use of mountains, lakes, and waterfalls to enhance the theme.

On the other hand, putt-putt courses have a simpler and more basic design. While traditionally lacking thematic layouts, nowadays most putt-putt courses are theme-based. Popular themes include jungles, caves, animals, and adventure. 

Guidelines & Rules

The main difference between putt-putt and mini golf lies in the way the games are played – particularly the player sequence. In putt-putt, the second player does not start their turn until the first player successfully strikes the ball into the hole. 

When playing mini golf, all players take the first stroke in sequence. This means that each player will have their first turn before anyone has their second. Then, the player whose ball is the furthest away from the hole goes next, until each player manages to sink their ball. 

Scoring in putt-putt is typically easier than in mini golf, as the holes are designed to be less complex and are usually smaller. This makes it possible to occasionally score a hole-in-one. In contrast, scoring a hole-in-one in mini golf can be harder to achieve, due to the many obstacles and complex layouts. 

However, one thing that putt-putt and mini golf have in common is how the games are scored. According to the general rules of both games, the player who sinks in the ball with the least amount of strokes wins.

Occasionally, putt-putt courses also reward holes-in-one players with a free game ticket. Feel free to read more on how to keep score in mini golf if you want to learn more. 

Par Score

Putt-putt courses have par scores of one to two for each hole, as the course layout is kept fairly simple. On the other hand, the par score for mini golf courses can range anywhere from two to eight, depending on the complexity and the number of obstacles. 

As you can see, the par variance in mini golf is quite substantial as there are various layout differences between mini golf and putt-putt courses. They can range from simple to very complex courses presenting various challenges to players. 

Is Mini Golf or Putt-Putt Better For Me?

Whether you love playing mini golf or putt-putt, it’s important to know that both are branches of the original golf game and are extremely fun to play wherever you are.

Although both games share some similar characteristics, they can differ in nature and give you a different type of experience. If you prefer a more rule-free environment with simpler course layouts, then putt-putt may be the better option for you.

However, you should definitely plan a trip to a mini golf course if you want to have a more rule-based experience combined with thematic course designs and sophisticated layouts.