Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Miniature Golf Craze Hits Pelham in 1930 as Two "Tom Thumb" Golf Courses Open


The year was 1930.  The "golden age" of miniature golf was underway.  During the 1920's and early 1930's, however, the sport of miniature golf was quite different than what it is today.  The sport, known variously as Tom Thumb Golf, Vest Pocket Golf, Midget Golf, was intended less as pure entertainment and more as a means of improving putting skills for the true game of golf.  At that time, miniature golf courses were fairly tame with nothing but rolls, banks and curves with an occasional pipe and fairyland creatures. 

Although the sport of miniature golf has origins that date to the earliest years of the 20th century if not before, the state of Tennessee lays claim to being the birthplace of miniature golf.  As one source notes:

"Tennessee can lay claim to being the 'birthplace of miniature golf' because one of its residents was the first to patent the game.  Garnet Carter, born in Sweetwater, Tennessee, on February 9, 1883, patented Tom Thumb Golf in 1927 and built a course atop Lookout Mountain to draw traffic to a hotel he owned with his wife, Frieda.  Frieda designed the obstacles, giving them a fairyland theme.

Garnet, who created the game from his own love of golf, never expected it to become and adult sensation. He figured out a way to manufacture courses to ship across the country, still featuring elves and gnomes among its obstacles.  By 1930, as many as twenty-five thousand miniature golf courses had opened around the country."

Source:  Kazek, Kelly, Forgotten Tales of Tennessee, p. 83 (Charleston, SC:  The History Press, 2011).  

Pelham, it seems, received shipments of two such miniature golf courses that were assembled and installed in 1930, at the outset of The Great Depression.  The first one, known as the "Pelham Tom Thumb Golf Course" was built on Fourth Street between Third and Fourth Avenues on property owned by Joseph Carraher between the McNulty and Carson Garage and the Godfrey Candy Store.  Carraher operated the Tom Thumb facility with William McNulty, a co-owner of the garage next door.  The facility had 18 holes and it cost 35 cents a round per person except on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when it cost fifty cents.  The facility had its grand opening on the evening of Saturday, August 2, 1930.

At nearly the same time, a second miniature golf facility opened on Fifth Avenue on the Edinger property.  It was operated by "Messrs. Allen and Gordon of New Rochelle and New York."  

Below are two items associated with these early miniature golf courses.  The first is an article from The Pelham Sun that referenced the "Tom Thumb Golf Craze" of the time noting that the craze had finally hit Pelham.  The second is an advertisement announcing the grand opening of the Pelham Tom Thumb Golf Course.

"TOM THUMB GOLF CRAZE HITS PELHAM; TWO BUILT HERE
-----
One to Open Up on Fifth Avenue on Edinger Property and One on Fourth Street.
-----

Tom Thumb, Vest Pocket, Midget, or Bootleg Golf -- call it what you will -- has come to Pelham with a bang this week.  Two courses will open; one on the Edinger property on Fifth avenue near Fourth street between McNulty and Carson Garage and Godfrey candy store on ground owned by Joseph Carraher.

The first will be operated by Messrs. Allen and Gordon of New Rochelle and New York and the latter by William McNulty and Joseph Carraher.  

Judging by the wave of popularity on which these miniature golf courses have come into Westchester there will be a steady putt-putt on both courses as soon as they open.  All the exasperating hazards of the full-size game are reproduced and the new game is absorbing in its interest.

Source:  TOM THUMB GOLF CRAZE HITS PELHAM; TWO BUILT HERE, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 1, 1930, p. 1, col. 2.   



Advertisement Announcing the Grand Opening of the
"Pelham Tom Thumb Golf Course" on Fourth Street
Between Third and Fourth Avenues.
Source:  Now!  The incomparable 'TOM THUMB' Golf Course
[Advertisement], p. 6, cols. 1-8 (full page advertisement).

"Now!  The incomparable 'TOM THUMB' Golf Course Opens in Pelham

'Tom Thumb' -- the miniature golf game which has taken the country by storm, has at last arrived in Pelham!  Now, every day and every evening you can enjoy a game of golf on this 18-hole course which we have just installed.

Good golfers and those who want to be good golfers find 'Tom Thumb' golf the ideal game for improving their putting skill -- their golf judgment -- and for learning new and interesting things about the game.  You are cordially invited to attend the 

-- GRAND OPENING --

SATURDAY EVE., AUGUST 2nd

Com and bring your friends and compare this course with any other you have seen or played.  You'll agree that this is a REAL course which has all requirements for a good golf game.

35¢ per 18 Holes 

50¢ Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays

CLEAN HEALTHY SPORT FOR MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN

The women and children will find just as much pleasure in this tatalizing game as the seasoned man player.  They'll get to know why 'Dad' takes his golf seriously and within a short time be able to talk the golf language.

FREE PARKING SPACE TO PATRONS OF THESE LINKS AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY OR EVENING

PELHAM TOM THUMB GOLF COURSE

RIGHT ON FOURTH STREET BETWEEN THIRD AND FOURTH AVENUES 

NEXT DOOR TO McNULTY & CARSON'S

'BILLY' McNULTY AND 'JOE' CARRAHER, PROPRIETORS"

Source:  Now!  The incomparable 'TOM THUMB' Golf Course Opens in Pelham [Advertisement]The Pelham Sun, Aug. 1, 1930, p. 6, cols. 1-8 (full page advertisement).  


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