Interview with Lucy Giesen of NZ Mini Golf Federation

Published on 18th April 2017 in Latest News

Q. Lucy, how did you get into mini-golf?

In 2015 a friend asked me if I would consider representing New Zealand and play at the Minigolf World Championships in Finland. NZ was forming a team.

Until that time, like most people I know, minigolf had been more of a leisure activity I grew up with as a child; played it on family holidays, at kids birthday parties or sometimes competitively with a group of friends. I’d never considered Minigolf to be anything other than that.

I decided this would be a great opportunity to see the international scene of the sport and develop my golf skills once again – so of course I agreed to represent my country!

I was also interested in the bio mechanics of golf, having studied it in high-school.

The background to the team entering the event was the establishment of the NZ Minigolf Federation. This was done by three Kiwi’s living in Amsterdam in 2014.

Q. What was it like going to the World Championships?

Our NZ team of six males and thee females were part of 19 countries in the tournament. Some teams had reserves, managers and coaches.

Nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to see, best described in a series of shocks:

Shock number 1 – different clubs. The international putters had rubber on the sides of the club head.

Shock number 2 – different balls. There are about 2,000 balls on the circuit. Players carry little briefcases around, full of balls. On some of the courses you can use a different ball on each hole so you can imagine our confusion when we were faced with this.

Shock number 3 – different surfaces.
There were two surfaces we played on: Felt and Miniature (also known as Eternit).

The Eternit was my favourite. It has a fibre cement base and although when you look at it, it looks basic and easy, it is more technical than meets the eye.

The ‘felt’ was a more familiar style, except no funny obstacles and a darn sight harder than any course I had played on before. It was more about hitting the ball straight through the skinny tunnel to then get the hole in one.

The venue had three courses side by side, two felt and one Miniature. A veranda overlooked the fibre cement course where you could sit and watch everyone play, have a drink, food or ice cream; so the place had a great vibe.

Q. How did you prepare in time for competition?

We had all taken our own clubs over but didn’t need them.

Luckily a Danish player, Vince, who we later named our ‘coach’, came to the rescue and we borrowed his array of Minigolf balls and clubs.

He had little plastic containers scattered around the course next to the lanes so everyone in our team was using the right ball on the right hole.

This was our crash course in European Minigolf.

Q. What was the competition standard like?

The international players in the tournament were incredibly skilled at this sport.

Most lanes are designed for a hole-in-one, so a really good player can score an 18, and some did.

It was more about hitting a straight shot and using the angles of pool rather than the windmills and waterfalls. Something we were NOT expecting.

Players have six opportunities to get the ball in the hole, sometimes returning to the start of the hole again. If you don’t sink it on the sixth turn, you score a seven and move on.

You really have to understand the slope in order to get a reasonable score under seven.

While the Eternit / miniature surface (fibre cement) had some easy holes, which put you at ease, they had some mighty tough ones too. These holes can psychologically send you into a headspace of scoring a seven.

They had rules such as; if the ball goes out of play, you don’t lose a shot, you simply take it from the edge (a club-head in) from where it went out of bounds. I think that rule saved a few scores.

In my best round I managed eight hole-in-ones, however, I also scored two scores of seven. By the end of the tournament, I felt like I was getting the course down to a tee, I had well and truly put my competitive hat on and although no one from our team made it to the next round, our best player was a guy who grew up playing golf from a young age.

In hindsight, we should have arrived earlier to have some more practice days. Although you can research it on line, it isn’t until you actually see for yourself that you can fully understand the different elements of international circuit of Minigolf.

Q. So, a great experience?

Although I have never been so nervous in all my life, it was incredible.

We shared our on-site tent with the UK team and had many laughs and were constantly learning and chatting about the different lanes and how to score the best possible result.

While I was getting coached by our Danish friend, I distinctly remember looking around at all the tournament players and thinking, “WHY don’t we have this in NZ or Auz? Kiwi’s and Aussie’s are so competitive they would love this”.

Q. What has occurred since the World Championships?

We’re introducing the competitive element of the sport to Oceania.

I have been selected as the ‘Oceania Representative’ on the ‘World Minigolf Committee’ and through the World Minigolf Federation, I provide details of ‘World Regulated’ Minigolf courses to investors who want to establish a competitive element to the sport at their facility.

I personally think there is a lot of opportunity in Australia to not only increase participation in minigolf, but to also introduce the competitive element of the game.

Many courses in Europe have two or more courses next to each other, with one style being felt and the other being ‘Eternit / minaturegolf’. That way customers can choose if they want one round or two. Most players opt for two rounds to make the most of their money.

Q. What would you say to facilities interested in minigolf?

I believe the ROI is worthwhile and a huge market for opportunity in both NZ and Australia.

We encourage facilities to become interested in the competitive element.

We would love to hear from them, particularly as we would like to see regional, national and international tournaments take place down the line, and of course have a trans-Tasman battle.

There are four types of surfaces, according to the World Minigolf Federation: Felt, Concrete, Miniature (Eternit), and MOS (Miniature Open Standard).

To host an international event you must have two courses of different surfaces at the one facility e.g. 1 x MOS + 1 x Eternit, or 1 x felt + 1 x Miniature.

MOS is the only style we currently have in NZ and Australia.

We’d love to hear from anyone who’s looking to develop or renovating minigolf facilities to get in touch.

Q. And you held the first ever NZ MiniGolf Open?

Yes, on March 18 this year we held the event in Auckland and it was a huge success.

We had 75 players compete and received some amazing media footage on TV, newspaper and online and from there we selected a team to take to the next World Champs, in Croatia in September 2017.

We even had Allan Cox fly over from Sydney to compete in the tournament which was fantastic.

The categories we played were: Men’s, Women’s, Youth and Parent/Child with one of the youth players being a stand out with an incredible few rounds. This is the start of building our brand and awareness that Minigolf can be competitive as well as family friendly and fun.

Q. What next steps does Australia need in order to form an Australian Minigolf Association?

We are in the beginning stages of setting this Association up and have a number of keen golf and minigolf parties interested to help get the ball rolling which is great. We had a meeting in November 2016 at the Emirates Australian Open in Sydney with Golf Australia which was a great start.

We are always looking for more people who are willing to give up their time and are excited to see the development of this sport as we enter the competitive stage.

We had such a successful NZ Minigolf Open and I would love to see the same thing happen in Australia; particularly as so very few people know about the international circuit of Minigolf.

Seeing the international circuit of Minigolf, we are on a mission to change minigolf in NZ and Australia.

I am moving to Sydney in May so hopefully this means I can help further with the development of the association, a national tournament and gathering a team for the Worlds Championships.

Q. Will you will be competing for NZ at the World Mini-Golf Championships in Croatia in September?

Yes. I need to shift my world ranking in the women’s section from 91 to the top 50’s! haha.

We plan to take a full team to Croatia (6 men, 3 women) and would love to have Australia there alongside us. Particularly so we can have a trans-Tasman battle. But no seriously, it is a lot of fun and the community are amazing.

Everyone from Europe are always so excited to meet new people and particularly a team.

This time however, we will know what to expect so it won’t be as bigger shock to the system, and this time, I plan to REALLY put my competitive hat on to do well for New Zealand.

Thanks Lucy for your insights.

Paul Vardy – Golf Australia interviewed Lucy Giesen in April 2017.

Lucy Giesen can be contacted:

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