Only the third person to play the perfect 19 hole...ever!
March 5, 2014 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Triple Crwn Winners-3 Perfet games pitched-23 300 games bowled-50k Rick Baird notched 18 straight hole-in-one shots to record a perfect putt-putt score. In more than 50 years of sanctioned competition, it was just the third time that anyone had achieved the feat. Putt-putt is different from miniature golf. It’s played only on official courses; there are no pirate ships, no windmills, and no holes that cannot be conquered with one stroke — if you execute the perfect shot. On that day in 2011, Baird executed the perfect shot 18 times in a row

Everybody has their one thing that they’re good at, and if you ever find it, you want to stick with it.”
—Rick Baird
posted by shockingbluamp (29 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
"Yep... Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing... Something we was born with... Something that's ours and ours alone... Something that can't be taught to you or learned... Something that got to be remembered... Over time the world can, rob us of that swing... It get buried inside us under all our would haves and could haves and should haves... Some folk even forget what their swing was like..."
posted by Fizz at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everyone else calls it putt-putt, I think he's earned the right to just call it "putt".
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2014 [27 favorites]

Is this an American thing? It's like crazy golf without the crazy.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:53 PM on March 5, 2014

It's like crazy golf without the crazy.

That's precisely what it is, according to the web. It does appear to be an American thing, but this American has never heard of it before. Probably not my demographic, judging by the piece.
posted by Edgewise at 4:07 PM on March 5, 2014

Yes, Putt-Putt is a brand of miniature golf in the U.S. (currently in 16 of the 50 States). So, most Americans probably don't know it or play it, although I think it was more broadly based when I was a kid. I can even recall seeing a televised Putt-Putt match once, probably in the mid-1970s; it was that popular at the time. I played quite a few rounds at Putt-Putt courses growing up, mostly as a birthday party event, and also played some crazy golf style courses; both are fun in their own way. The Putt-Putt game is on the same miniature scale of crazy golf, but the holes are designed to emphasize skill over luck and are utterly without whimsy.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 4:14 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

He then celebrated his improbable round with a chili cheese dog in the club's Snak Shak, where he dared others to beat his score. "Just try," he said. "Oh yeah, that's right -- you can't."
posted by mosk at 4:26 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

They used to be all over the place in the 70s and 80s, but imploded at some point. I remember for a while I was seeing a lot more dormant/partially scrapped Putt Putt courses than active ones. And then it's been years since I last saw either.
posted by ardgedee at 4:28 PM on March 5, 2014

Later he was found dead on a Skee-ball ramp, his mouth stuffed with, like, 1200 tickets.
posted by jquinby at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

The courses are still around and some are still operational in Texas. I used to play every weekend with my family in the summer, and on special occasions like birthday parties. I wish there were a few around Dallas, I'd go play as much as I could.
posted by Benway at 4:41 PM on March 5, 2014

In the early 80s the Putt Putt course in Panama City Fl had the best arcade this side of Aladdin's Castle at the mall. I spent a lot of time and quarters there. Rarely played putt-putt though.
posted by COD at 4:54 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grew up with a Putt Putt golf place in my hometown. Strangely, I've always called miniature golf "putt putt." I had no idea it was an actual brand.
posted by fremen at 4:55 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I hadn't realized Putt-Putt was yet another thing about which The Kids don't know. Lawn, off, etc.
posted by easement1 at 5:00 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow. This was a pretty big thing when I was a kid. Tournaments were televised on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings. Always at a regulation Putt-Putt course - they all have the exact same two 18-hole layouts.

There's still a professional tour, apparently.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:24 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

This was one of the most surprisingly inspiring things I've watched recently. Dude achieved perfection in the thing he's passionate about. Wow. How many of us can say that?
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:08 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

There was a plot of land near where I live that had a sign out front saying, "Putt-Putt Coming Soon! Franchise Opportunities Available!" for nearly 20 years. I remember when the sign first went up I was still a teenager. I was so excited. I love Putt-Putt, and they would probably have an arcade.

As the sign sat longer and longer with no sign of development, it kind of became a joke to me. I got to be old enough that I'd feel weird being there with all the teenagers. I'd have to hope they had a special "adult" day or something. The sign faded with every passing year, but still I hoped.

Finally, the kudzu consumed the sign and I forgot all about it. When they cleared the land a few years ago I became hopeful, but then they took down the sign.

It's a Swaminarayan Temple now. Which is cool, because it joins a Buddhist temple, Orthodox Church, and Mosque — along with the usual Protestant denominations — in my neighborhood.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:22 PM on March 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

So, I played in tournaments at the amateur level back when I was in high school (less expensive membership than Pro, but no cash prizes). My low was a 24. I did have a 10-stroke front nine, and then things fell apart a bit.

So, the things about Putt-Putt courses is this: while they're locally owned and franchised for the most part, the actual hole designs are pretty tightly regulated. They're specifically designed so that an a proper shot will go in the hole (in theory). The shots aren't uniform in the "Every McDonald's Big Mac tastes the same" kind of way. But if you're touring, and you're playing on someone else's course, you understand the basic physics of certain holes, because you've seen a few of those holes before. And that's a big part of what allows a pro to walk onto someone else's course on Thursday practice, and then start reeling off aces first thing Friday morning.

For example, the hole #14 in the video was the #2 hole on course #1 of my home franchise when I was playing. The only difference is that the hole is positioned in a different spot, near the right edge of the hill, rather than left center. Because of that, people who played that shot back door on my home course went to the right of the right-hand pipe and let the bend of the hill do the work. I preferred to two-bank it, which allowed me more leeway on my speed, since I was going much more perpendicular to the hill, at the cost of being more erratic under poor conditions and being less forgiving of accidental spin. (Now you know far more than you want to know about playing putt-putt.)

For those of you who shoot pool, or perhaps even own a pool table, understand that while the physics are similar, the reality of playing is a bit different.

Things don't always go perfectly according to plan. Moisture in the carpet affects traction and skidding. And skidding plays a much larger role with a banking shot, with a decent angle, because the changed angle of the ball might not be what you want it to be if the weather is off. (And no, you're not allowed to wipe to rain off of the rail; the rules actually prohibit that.) Wind plays a role, like with "real" golf. Other hole conditions change over time. Rails expand and shrink, and what was a sweet spot is now a lost cause because years of players hitting that spot over and over has indented the rail. A bit of the cement glue that was holding carpet in place has ceded some of its strength, and suddenly there is a bubble in the carpet, or a bend that wasn't there before.

My point to all of this is that making a series of 18 perfect shots will generally leave you with a 21 or 22. In all of my years of playing, I saw a single live 19 in tournament play and no other.

I never had my big ultimate perfect round moment. The closest I got was when I was in high school and the local newscast was doing the "sportscaster tries to beat high school athletes at their own game" series. He got slaughtered in our match play, but I did get to give his cameraman a great shot when I exploited a dent near the lip of the winning hole to have the ball delay going into the hole. (Think the visual from the 2005 Master's shot, but 2-rails, back door.)
posted by parliboy at 6:57 PM on March 5, 2014 [114 favorites]

Parliboy, it's comments like that that make me love Mefi.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:56 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

We called it all "Putt-putt" when i was a kid in Michigan. I rather like it, while I find no value in regular golf.
posted by Goofyy at 12:31 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had a couple Putt Putts in my hometown. I always thought it was miniature golf using their brand name and had no idea some people took it seriously. The arcade was my main motivation for going since I can remember, and into my teenage years miniature golf was something relegated to drunken Saturday nights when we ran out of other options. It was fun enough but not usually the goal for the evening, so even if nothing was going on elsewhere, hey, at least we're not stuck at home with the 'rents and can smoke and drink in the parking lot.

A friend worked at one location all through high school, so those of us in his circle (marching band ftw!) got lots of free tokens and runs through the course at 11pm. It became a de facto meeting spot (aside from McDs) for some of us on the weekend, usually looking to find out whose parents were out of town, in other words where is the next keg party. The summer after my junior year, a friend in those circles who had been yanked from us and sent to military school was home on break, had a drunken fight with his ex girlfriend one Saturday night, and committed suicide with a bullet to his head in the Putt Putt parking lot. My friend who worked there heard the gunshot and discovered his body in his truck, which was still running.

So, that's what I thought about every time I went to Putt Putt from that day onward (and still do, but it's been many years now). There were still many drunken keg parties in our future and plenty of idle hours spent in pursuit of such, but after that it wasn't any fun hanging out at Putt Putt on Saturday night.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:17 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

"They think it's just golf in miniature. But, it's not! It's Miniature Golf!" - Phineas Flynn
posted by plinth at 3:35 AM on March 6, 2014

Metafilter: Utterly Without Whimsy
posted by Billiken at 7:27 AM on March 6, 2014

This article has enlightened me to the fact that the crappy, bare concrete and carpet without so much as a scrap of landscaping mini golf course we had in town was probably that way on purpose.
posted by Mitheral at 2:48 PM on March 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

The 2006 championship was held at my local Putt Putt! A great place to take my daughter during the few weeks a year when it is not blazing hot out.
posted by TedW at 5:15 PM on March 6, 2014

Here's a 2006 profile of U.S. mini-golf champion Matt McCaslin.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2014

If it's 18 hole-in-ones, why is it called a perfect 19 game?
posted by IndigoRain at 2:59 AM on March 8, 2014

Indigo, as far as I can tell, it's only called a "Perfect 19" here on Metafilter, in keeping with the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just saw this today, when a coworker passed it to me. I didn't know that I wanted to watch animated trajectories of golf balls on mini-golf courses, but I absolutely did. A great film.
posted by Phredward at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2014

In Quebec we have a sports stations called RDS (Réseau des sports). Currently they are owned by TSN and have all the major sports on (NHL, NFL, MLB, etc.) but back in the 90s they were independant and their broadcasts were very very different.

Things you could watch on TV back in the day on RDS were such popular sports as: wheelchair water-polo, blind hockey, underwater hockey, bowling and, of course, mini-golf (Le Défi Mini-Putt!).

The mini-golf sportscast became pretty infamous for the on-air announcer, who used to call shots in a soft voice then suddenly yell out "BIRDIE!!!" when a hole-in-one was made. See this video of mini-putt legend Carl Carmoni as an example.

And so everytime we Quebeckers play mini-golf we can't help but enthusiastically yell out "BIRDIE!!" when balls are sunk.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:25 AM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Late to this. My hometown is where Putt-Putt started. And tragically we no longer even have a franchise, and haven't for years.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:51 PM on March 24, 2014

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