If you’re skeptical about the idea of a mini-golf pro, then you probably haven’t met Brad Lebo. He’s played on ESPN. He has an entire trophy room to hold the spoils of his victories. He has four national championships to his name, with a coveted green jacket from the mini-golf Master’s. Oh, and he’s won more than $130,000 over the course of his career in pro Putt-Putt and mini golf.This is not to say that Lebo can quit his day job (dentistry). In the US, no one earns a living primarily from Putt-Putt or mini golf. But it does keep him busy; Lebo travels to about 50 nationwide tournaments each year between March and October. That’s two, often three, Putt-Putt or mini-golf tournaments a weekend.Speaking of which, yes—there is a difference between the two games. Putt-Putt is a corporation that franchises courses. They have 108 patented holes, repeated across courses. The holes are designed to be “aceable” for low-scoring games with a lot of holes-in-one. Miniature golf, on the other hand, is like Putt-Putt on a psychedelic fever dream. Courses have a wide array of designs and obstacles—think volcanoes, windmills, and waterfalls—with longer, wider holes. Players are often trying to make the hole in two shots.Planning on hitting the microgreens this summer? We got Lebo's top tips for players looking to up their mini-golf mojo.1. Pick the right putter. When you get into putting position, the top of the putter should hit you at about belt level, with your hands positioned near the middle of the grip. Have your own putter? Bring it. Lebo always does.2. Take stock before you start. Before the first hole, take a walk around and get a feel for the lay of the land. Are there any water traps? Slopes? “Balls generally will tend to break towards bodies of water and towards any dropoffs in the elevation of the land,” Lebo said.Before each hole, walk from the tee to the cup. This will help you note any obstacles, uneven surfaces, or other hazards. Take a look at the border, too; if you want to bounce the ball off an edge, you’ll want to avoid any uneven spots or gaps when you aim.3. Pick a target. Lebo said picking a “very precise aiming spot” can boost your accuracy, whether it’s a scuff on the ground or a nick in the bricks. Draw a mental line from your ball to that spot.4. Set yourself up for success. When you step up to the tee, your feet should be aligned with that mental line you’ve just envisioned. Keep the ball close to the inside edge of your forward foot (left if you’re right-handed, right if you’re left-handed). Then, align your eyes directly over that imaginary line.5. Watch your speed. On your first few holes, or on a practice green if one’s available, try some shots to get a feel for how fast the ball travels. Depending on the surface, speed can vary widely from course to course—so what worked for you at Pirate’s Cove may not work at Lost Sock Mountain.Illustration: Dav Yendler
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