Picks and Pans Review: Miniature Golf

updated 09/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

photographs by John Margolies; text by Nina Garfinkel and Maria Reidelbach

In the history of the pop culture, miniature golf no doubt ranks lower in the number of lives it has changed than, say, drive-in movies or Dr. Ruth. It does, though, make Pez or Vanna White seem almost inconsequential. This amusing book—with its covers made of artificial turf—includes 230 photographs by Margolies, who has published previous volumes on roadside architecture and Catskill resorts. The text, by two New York art historians, is more extensive than one might expect. The authors detail the pastime's rapid rise in popularity, beginning with the first miniature golf course, built in 1916 in Pinehurst, N.C. There were more than 25,000 courses by 1930. They also cite a lot of contemporary comments about miniature golf's appeal to those not prosperous enough for the real sport, such as this one from The Nation: "When the pseudo-Klieg lights are playing full upon the humdrum householder from Hackensack, he may not only experience that comfortable country-club feeling super induced by drooping plus fours and prehistoric posture; he may also be able to capture the illusion that he is John Barrymore at work." By the mid-'30s, the fad and its followers had played themselves out; there are only about 100 miniature golf courses in the U.S. today. Margolies may be taking it all too seriously when he writes in his foreword that miniature golf "will continue to play its way into our collective consciousness for many years to come." He and his coauthors have a sense of humor though; they divided the book into exactly 18 chapters. (Abbeville, $19.95)

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