Friday, September 16

Miniature Golf Innovator Dies in Scranton

Ralph Lomma revolutionized miniature golf.
DID YOU KNOW THAT MINIATURE GOLF has been around since the early 20th century? I didn’t.

But it didn’t become the game it is today until Ralph J. Lomma came along. Lomma, who died at a hospice in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on September 12, put the windmills, paddle wheels, blinking traffic lights, castles, clown-faced finishing holes that swallowed colored golf balls and other zaniness into the game.

Lomma decided mini-golf was too easy and a bit boring after playing a popular course in New Jersey with his brother Alphonse. The Lomma brothers opened their first miniature golf course in Scranton in 1955. They succeeded at tricking up the game and it caught on in a big way. The rest was history.

“Ralph Lomma was a shrewd businessman,” mini-golf historian Susan Chandler told The Washington Post. “He and his brother Al took what might have been a passing craze … and helped establish miniature golf as a fixture in American recreational life.”

Within a few years, the Lommas began building prefabricated courses that were easy to assemble and maintain. Ralph called them “money machines” and said the game was recession-proof, cheaper than a movie ticket, a fun-filled family activity. Starting in a basement, the business grew into a company that shipped nearly 6,000 courses to 37 countries. It even had its own tractor-trailer fleet.

Lomma’s courses popped up in far-flung places such as Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, on top of a Holiday Inn in China, and on cruise ships and military bases. Before becoming the king of miniature golf, Lomma was in the skillet business and sold ornaments. He was 87.

−The Armchair Golfer

Visor tip: Press Tent Blog

(Photo credit: marbla123, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

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