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Photo contributed by Sam Hall of ChattanoogaHistory.com. The Putt-Putt Golf center on Highway 153 was opened in the summer of 1974. This photo is from around 1980.

This photo of the former Putt-Putt Golf location near Northgate Mall was taken about 1980. It's a family photo from the collection of Sam Hall, curator of ChattanoogaHistory.com.

"The Hixson Putt-Putt golf is a fondly remembered entertainment venue of my teen years," Hall said. "It provided a fun and low-stress destination for many dates. One can tell a lot about another's personality by how they interact in a game of miniature golf."

The heyday of Putt-Putt in the Chattanooga area was in the 1970s when there were at least three locations: Lee Highway, Hixson and Cleveland, Tennessee. The Hixson and Lee Highway properties were sold at auction in 1985, according to newspaper reports.

The first location near the intersection of Lee Highway and East Brainerd Road was opened on June 3, 1959. Miss Putt-Putt U.S.A., Joan Honeycutt, of Johnson City, Tennessee, was flown in for the grand opening of the Brainerd-area course, according to press reports.

In a column in the Chattanooga Times, Honeycutt was quoted as responding to a gentleman who asked her for a putting lesson: "Gracious," she said. "I didn't win this honor putting. In fact, I am a poor putter."

The column noted that more than 600 young women nationwide had vied for the title of Miss Putt-Putt. Several city officials, including the Chattanooga police chief and vice mayor at the time, turned out for the ribbon-cutting.

(READ MORE: Remember When, Chattanooga? GPS graduate Drue Smith was the queen of Tennessee political reporters)

ChattanoogaHistory.com

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.

If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

The Putt-Putt Golf parent company was founded in 1954 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, by a Dan Clayton, a young insurance salesman who conceived of the carpeted courses as a stress release. Putt-Putt courses were designed as a contrast to more whimsical miniature golf courses which trace to the 1920s. Marketing for the Putt-Putt Golf chain, which grew at one point to 700 courses in 42 states, was "no frills, just skills."

In 1927, Lookout Mountain hotel owner Garnet Carter became the first person to patent a game of miniature golf. The course, called Tom Thumb Golf, was built to draw people to the hotel, but it helped birth an entire industry, according to newspaper archives.

When the Putt-Putt course opened in Brainerd in 1959 it was billed as being home to "luxurious grass-green carpets, beautiful lighting effects and a country club atmosphere." In 1959, it cost 40 cents to play an 18-hole round.

By the time the Hixson course opened in 1974, Putt-Putt Golf was a full-fledged national phenomenon.

Vance Randall, a school teacher and basketball coach at Lakeview High School in North Georgia, became perhaps the most accomplished Putt-Putt semi-professional in history. Randall won two national championships and one world championship (1971) at Putt-Putt and pocketed some $100,000 in career winnings from Putt-Putt tournaments, according to newspaper reports.

The Lee Highway location later became the site of a 136-room hotel, and the Hixson location at 5221 Highway 153 became a TitleMax location.

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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