In the 1920s the miniature golf craze hit America, and by 1930 there were some 40,000 courses, known variously as Lilliput Links, Tom Thumb Golf, Rinky-Dink Golf, Garden Golf and Baby Golf. There was money to be made in the “sport” and by 1930 anything that smelled potentially lucrative was sure to draw the attention of the criminal underworld.
On October 1, 1930, two men from Chicago checked into a hotel in downtown Manhattan, where they were recognized by Ray Doyle, reporter for the New York Mirror recognized them as two of Al Capone’s torpedoes. It seemed that Capone was branching out, and his lieutenants weren’t shy about broadcasting the fact. “Al Capone has new ideas and a new fancy. He has gone into the little golf game in a big way. For several months past Al has been purchasing large blocks of stock in miniature golf construction companies.”
“Our observations showed a huge profit in the operation of the business,” Capone’s lieutenant continued, “It is more profitable than rum running. It was also keep us away from all police and Grand Jury investigations, which are a nuisance to us and waste of time to all concerned.”
It helped too that Capone enjoyed the game. According to Capone’s henchman, “Al has gone nut about this miniature golf. When he and I were traveling between New York, Miami and Chicago in recent months, we went in for twosomes a lot. I beat him at it. But he is fast becoming a star.”
Alas, before he could become a miniature golf impresario, Capone went off to jail, and emerged from Alcatraz nearly a decade later as a broken man.