Miniature Golf in the 1930s

September 8th, 2023

By Becky Chapin, Archivist

The history of mini golf is fascinating, many say it was a group of women who formed the Ladies’ Putting Club of St Andrews, in Scotland, in 1867 as a response to the belief that golf was unladylike. The first standardized mini golf course was developed in 1916 in North Carolina, with an American boom in the 1920s-1930s. Nearly all mini golf courses in the US were closed and demolished before the end of the 1930s when the boom crashed at the end of the Great Depression. A rare surviving course from that period is the Parkside Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course located in Irondequoit which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The late 1930s brought new obstacles to mini golf courses like windmills, castles, and wishing wells. The Putt-Putt brand followed in 1954 which emphasized skill and player improvement; most routes were 2-par holes involving ramps or angled blocks that could be mastered in one go through practice.

Site of the South Main Street Mini Golf Course

Two images of the Main Street Mini Golf Course survive, though the course itself cannot be seen.

Locally, Geneva had a couple miniature golf courses while some children created their own mini golf holes in their backyards. Hugh McPadden leased land to a Rochester group to open a course on South Main Street in July 1930. This property was to the south of the Masonic Temple (then a funeral home) where presently the Ludlow House stands.

The 18-hole course was a limited lease as McPadden was in litigation with the city over the refusal of the Common Council to grant a permit for the erection of a gasoline service station. The Main Street Miniature Golf Course remained at the location for about four years, though curiously ads from 1943 show it still open despite being unlisted in the city directories. Maybe some of our readers will remember the fate of the course?

Around the same time, the city Park Board was developing and constructing a miniature golf course in Seneca Lake Park. The park course opened in August 1930 alongside a shuffleboard course and playground on a former city tourists’ camp land. There is very little information on this course, but it was seasonal and only open from May to September.

Four women playing miniature golf

Helen Oakley and friends play miniature golf at Seneca Park, 1930s.

An article from 1932 expressed satisfaction that the course still attracted a large clientele “since practically everywhere public interest…died out entirely,” around 1930, but the game continued “to find favor here.” The Seneca Park course would be used for competitions briefly, but often flooded due to the rain. There is no indication of when the course closed, but it likely closed before 1940.

There were no miniature golf courses in Geneva for some time. Richard Cass proposed the Town and Country Miniature Golf course to the Town of Geneva in February 1978 which he would run with his brother Don, opening in April 1978. Reports of playground groups visiting the course appear in the papers in 1978 and 1979 and we came across some photos in photo albums loaned by the Geneva Recreation Department. In 1981, the brothers sold the land to David Stowell and Paul Perotto who owned and operated Mr. Twistee’s next door. Mr. Twistee’s continued to run the mini golf course, making minor alterations a few years later. In 1988, PK Putters was constructed on the corner of Pre-Emption Rd and Hamilton St and also ran a driving range.

little girls playing miniature golf

Young girl miniature golf on Mr. Twistee’s course in 1998.

No Geneva miniature golf courses have survived as both PK Putters and Mr. Twistee’s closed their courses in the 21st century.

We’re sharing your stories in the exhibit My Geneva is…Parks and Playgrounds opening in September 2023. Stop by and share your favorite playground memories with us and other visitors! Have photos of Geneva’s playgrounds? Consider contributing to our photograph collection by donating or loaning photos for us to scan.

For more information about miniature golf, go to



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