Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Friday 21 August 2009

The first 2-Ball Golf Course in the world- Brief history




Do you remember at the beginning of 2006, a new beginning for the public mini golf course, opposite Fort Fun, at Princes Park, Eastbourne?

Have you ever wondered what happened, when within months of opening it had closed and been returned to the council? This is the story of what happened.

I need to begin by explaining that 2-Ball Golf was an idea I’d had in 1975. Since my early retirement in 2002, and moving to Mojácar in Spain, I needed to find another way of making a living and I decided to develop my idea. To my mind, mini golf is a boring game, especially for adults, and 2-Ball Golf was invented to make the concept more interesting.

The early days were spent on designing a retail version of the game and the first prototypes were made in Taiwan. They were so good I thought I was on a winner, but because you cannot patent a game, I knew I had to instigate as many opportunities as possible, before others jumped on the bandwagon. I drove to Richard Branson's home and left him a game, hoping he'd want to be an investor. The other three ideas I came up with were a full sized public course, the mobile ‘Party’ game for functions and events and the home conversion plan for installing the game into people’s gardens or unused tennis courts. A new van was purchased and the mobile game comprising of four very expensive holes were designed and built. A garden conversion design was commissioned complete with flower beds and water features. All that remained to do was find a public course before exploding the new game on the world stage.

I had spotted the course at Princes Park whilst visiting Fort Fun and Adventure Island sites in Eastbourne as part of my research into the Mini Golf industry.

By the end of 2005, after negotiating with the Borough Council, we had in place the four products we needed to begin our company.

We now had to bring the concept to the world’s attention and the means to do this would be the London Golf Show.

The Golf Show was at the end of April which left us barely two weeks to get ready to open in Eastbourne. We had, by now, mid March, moved into the Toby Carvery, Eastbourne, our home for the next six weeks.

At Princes Park, the kiosk was dirty and drab and the pavilion which hadn’t been used for at least 17 years had been vandalised. It’s charm lay in the pretty art deco façade. There was no water and electricity. Not authorised electricity anyway. The council had abandoned it with a live wire exposed and no fuse box. We would clear, clean and decorate the kiosk ourselves. Renovating the pavilion began on the 5th April. A water supply was to be established to the pavilion and also rewired ready for proper connection. However we could not find the source of the existing live wire which we had by now made safe. Also it would be fitted it out with shelving and equipment such as fridge, hot water boiler, till etc.. Stock was ordered and the total expenditure getting to this stage was about £10,000. We were exhausted but worse was to come with the setting up for the Golf Show. If you have never set up an exhibition, believe me, getting it all organised is so demanding.

We opened Eastbourne in time for Easter and the weekend was quite busy but the majority of visitors were not about to try something new and disappointingly, they wanted to continue to play putt putt. At this time we made a video explaining the rules of the game. The idea was that it would be ready to use on the stand at the Golf Show. The weather at the beginning of April was as unpredictable and the weekdays were quiet. It didn’t matter; we had our course. There was interest in our retail boxed game from a company in America. It seemed to be coming together and the Golf Show would cement the various aspects of the business together. Taking delivery of 10,000 full colour leaflets, believing that up to 300,000 visitors would be attending we went up to the Excel centre, London.


I was happy with the small stand. It showed off the products and we could do demonstrations on our green. The video finally arrived on the first public day. I had 400 boxed sets and 900 card sets of the retail game and I doubted if we had enough of either to meet the demand from intrigued and spend happy visitors.

How wrong I was. We sold one boxed set and we gave away more card sets than we sold, which in any case, didn’t get into double figures. Don’t get me wrong; we entertained hundreds of people on our demonstration green, many of whom said what a good game it was. The problem was they wouldn’t buy the game. One man said that the game was good. He enjoyed it but why buy the game when he could go home and play it for nothing now that he knew the rules. We always knew this was a major flaw in the commercial plan but it still hurts to hear it on the first day of the promotion.

Our PR company arranged a public demonstration on the show green, late in the afternoon on the first day. Sadly, there were no TV companies and no press men attending and although Henry Alliss, son of the famous TV commentator helped with the demo, it made no impact whatsoever.

Four days of no sales. We were shattered afterwards but had to get back to Eastbourne and prepare for the May Day bank holiday weekend. Just 30,000 people attended the show. How had I got it so wrong that I was a factor of ten out?


That first May weekend was worryingly quiet and we were beginning to have problems with young bike riders. They would ride over the course including the greens and often in front of their parents. I had to constantly patrol the course and it was becoming apparent that I was becoming part of the game; part of the problem. The kids, and some were very young, were playing with a game with ME. Other problems included having flags removed and thrown into the boating lake.

The art deco pavilion was ready for opening by 27th May. (We had water but electricity was run from the kiosk). The very next day we turned up to discover that we had had an attempted break in causing much damage to the new windows. It was heartbreaking. We called the police and they turned up the following day. The windows could not be left as they were and it was decided to brick them up. The very next day, the same thing happened except that the perpetrators had tried to dismantle the newly bricked up windows. The doors had been damaged and there was glass everywhere.

That evening as I watched from the kiosk, a man approached the pavilion and urinated in a doorway.

The end came soon afterwards. On the following Wednesday, the 31st May, a series of incidents left us wondering if it was worth it. Firstly, we had the lady and child with their own golf clubs and ball, playing on the course. I told her that it was a pay and play course and if she wanted to play she would have to pay. She looked at me and said, “You are joking. This is a council site, belonging to the ratepayers and I’m not paying”. We had many such incidents and on one occasion we had the park rangers come to evict three youths who refused both to pay and to leave. They told the rangers that they had never paid in previous years. They even had the cheek to ask for a scorecard!

The second incident was the mother walking her children across the course, en route for the fair. Two boys each picked up an iron flag from two of the greens and began fighting with them. Sue shouted and one child dropped his flag on the green and ran, with the other chasing him flag aloft. I intercepted him and retrieved the flag. The woman said not a thing.

The final straw was the cricketers. If it wasn’t so funny you could weep. The dad and two sons in whites set up their wickets on the course and commenced a game of cricket, using part of a green as the pitch.

Sue was coming towards me from the pavilion as I returned from ‘Lords’. We looked at each other and knew what we had to do. Our business was inoperable. The lack of security compromised our business and meant that the course could never be maintained to a standard we wanted. We packed up and tendered our resignation to the Seafront Department that very afternoon. We couldn’t blame them for what happened but we felt in some way let down by the council for giving us no protection. It wasn’t only us. The bowls club next door had suffered break ins and damage done to the rinks. It was a constant battle. The difference was that they had many members; we were just two.

Eastbourne is a lovely town and we enjoyed our months there. Princes Park is a wonderful facility for the town and the Friends of the Park do such good work, voluntarily, to keep it beautiful. What a shame that a few thoughtless and downright stupid people spoil it for the majority.


As if leaving Eastbourne and our dream of a course wasn’t bad enough, more bad news was to follow from America. The application for protection of my trade mark and name was turned down. I had no more money for an appeal.

Also, the commercial trials for the boxed game set, which took place in Minnesota, were a failure. Also, I received a nice letter from Richard Branson, thanking me for my gift.

There was nothing left to do but return to Mojácar, our home in Spain.

Our enterprise in bringing a new and innovative product to the market place had failed to win public approval.

Today, I still believe that the idea of 2-Ball Golf is good. Mini Golf or Crazy golf is boring and there is room for a new game of skill and strategy. However, I like to think I’m enterprising and as I had no more money, I turned to a new venture, writing novels. I wrote my first novel, ‘APSARAS’, in 2007 at the age of sixty.

It has been published by Eloquent Books of New York and is available from leading online book stores.

Kevill Davies

To see how 2-Ball Golf is played click on the you tube link:

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