“Garnet Carter was an entrepreneur, and he developed 300 acres here on top of Lookout Mountain as a resort community in 1928,” says Bill Chapin, Carter’s nephew. “With the Fairyland Inn as the cornerstone of his development, he had plans to continue development with a world class 18 hole golf course. The golf course construction went slowly. Uncle Garnet decided that they needed some entertainment for their guests at the Inn. He came up with the idea of miniature golf.”
To his surprise the course was taken over by adults, who liked the fantasy setting and enjoyed the challenge of putting a ball through the miniaturized fairways. Carter soon began manufacturing courses for national distribution under the patented name Tom Thumb Golf to continue with the fairyland theme of elves and gnomes. By 1930 there were over 25,000 miniature golf courses in the U.S.
The earliest documented minigolf competitions were played in the United States. The first National Tom Thumb Open minigolf tournament was arranged in 1930, with a total cash purse $10,000 (the top prize being $2,000). Qualification play-offs were played in all of the 48 states. The final competition took place October 23, 1930 on Lookout Mountain. It attracted over 200 players representing thirty states.