6:50pm Saturday 10th November 2012
By Mark Taylor
THE windmills, waterways, ramps and lighthouses of crazy golf induce little but holiday mirth for most.
But for Oxford’s double world champion there was no joke about retaining his title in a hotly fought, international contest.
Michael Smith, 27, even practised putting on the carpets of his Oxford living room in preparation for the World Crazy Golf Championships at the Hastings Adventure Golf seafront venue last month.
He said the prestige of confirming his spot as the world’s best at the sport’s equivalent of legendary links course St Andrew’s was “the most amazing feeling ever”.
He added: “To win there is a very special experience. It was a very difficult course but I just played really well.”
Mr Smith, from Headington, not only took the trophy for the second year in a row, but also the £1,000 prize.
The competition has come a fair way in just a few years, with entrants from Scandanavia, Germany, the Czech Republic and the USA all vying to become world champiom.
Mr Smith attributed his negotiation of the devillish hazards in part to his background playing the madcap sport’s more formal cousin.
“I played golf for about 11 years before I got into crazy golf, and the thing I enjoyed the most was always the putting. I knew I could trust my style,” he said.
“I had the same attitude as many when I started, that it couldn’t be that serious.
“One the one hand it is enormous fun and I have been hugely lucky to have made some great friends, but on the other, the players at the top level take it incredibly seriously and it is fiercely competitive. We all want to win very badly.”
He can often be seen hacking away at the mini-golf courses in Summertown, Florence Park and Headington, but says the best preparation is scouting ahead.
“I usually go down to the course a few weeks in advance and start off by playing all the holes several times, seeing what will work and what won’t work.
“It’s all about getting down to where the tournaments will be held and practising as much as possible. I take a lot of notes too – preparation is very important.”
Growing in popularity it may be, the rewards don’t yet match those bestowed on the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
“Unfortunately there isn’t the money in it just yet to go professional, except possibly in the USA. But I was lucky enough to be part of the GB team in Stockholm, and have been all over the UK.”
Since taking up the sport in 2010 Mr Smith, also an aspiring novelist, has won 19 BMGA Tour Titles and made four appearances for the Great Britain Minigolf Sport team.
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