World Crazy Golf Championships 2009

Competitors from around the globe are in the seaside town of Hastings, UK this weekend for the World Crazy Golf Championships.

Crazy golf, the eccentric relative of the real thing, claims to be Britain's most popular seaside sport. Every summer millions of holidaymakers hack their way around waterwheel- and windmill-festooned miniature courses, leaving in their wake the troubling question of whether it's the golf that is crazy or the people who play it.

The seventh annual contest is run by the Mini Golfer Association and is being held in the seaside town of Hastings, in East Sussex with 83 players and a first prize of £1,000.

Crazy golfers play to a par 36 for 18 holes. Only a putter is allowed, and an assortment of fiendish hazards is deployed to make the rounds harder for them. Take the infamous fifth at Hastings. Standing between the tee and the hole is an electrically-powered windmill which allows a gap of just two seconds between each sweep of its sails.

The timing and direction of a shot thus become critical. "You need to hit the ball slightly from the left," explained Mr Tim Davies, "then bounce it off the wall about eight inches in front of the sails, so it rebounds towards the hole at an angle of 153 degrees."

It is this sort of advanced calculation that enables the top players to score rounds as low as ten under-par, equivalent to ten holes in one. Beat that, Tiger Woods!

"There's a tremendous amount of skill in it," says tournament organizer David Hartley. "It might be called crazy, but it's no joke when you are out there today."

The origins of crazy golf are hotly disputed, with both Britain and the United States claiming to have come up with the idea. A mini-game was patented as 'Tom Thumb Golf' by Garnet Carter, an entrepreneur, in Tennessee in 1926. Yet an article published in the Illustrated London News in 1912 shows a group of flannel- and blazer-clad young men playing 'Golfstacle' – a game that appears uncannily similar to what was unfolding in Hastings yesterday.

"It's not really crazy," says Jo Williamson, Britain's current women's champion. "It's very enjoyable and sociable. I started off playing on holidays, and I just got caught up in it." Jo, 41, and her 46-year-old husband Nick – also a formidable performer – now play almost every weekend. "You're outdoors, it's competitive. It's part of the great British seaside experience," she said.

British reigning world champion Tim 'Ace Man' Davies said: "When you come here you know it's serious. You are up against the best and there's no quarter given."

The 47-year-old took up the sport seriously ten years ago, but is currently struggling with a slipped disc.

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