Défi mini-putt (Mini-putt Challenge) was a weekly show in the early 1990s on the Quebec cable sports network, Réseau des sports (RDS). It was the first professional miniature golf tournament to be regularly broadcast in Quebec.
Although the format of the show varied over the years, the typical set-up for the 60-minute show was the following: four competitors would play 18 holes of miniature golf on one of the courses of the "Mini-Putt" miniature golf franchise. It was a skins game. The first 6 holes were worth $50, the second 6 were worth $100, while the final 6 holes were worth $150. At the end of the season was a championship knockout tournament, in which the player with the highest score after each hole was eliminated.
Each course had exactly the same design, and every hole was a par 2. The Mini-Putt franchise used a minimalist design, featuring only hills, bunkers, and a few obstacles. This contrasts with the exotic, windmill-laden layouts of most miniature golf courses in the eastern United States and Canada.
The 18 holes of the "Mini" course were:
- Le totem, with three twelve-inch totem poles
- La croix, a course in the shape of a cross
- La courbe, a slightly inclined curve
- La disco, a sideways T-shaped course
- Le billard, a long rectangular course
- Le hockey, an L-shaped course
- La rivière, a ramp to jump over a river
- Le putter, a U-shaped course
- Le chameau, with two steep hills
- Les trappes, a ramp bordered by two traps
- Le carrefour, a Y shaped course
- Le slalom, with two off-centered gentle hills
- Les laurentides, with three steep hills
- Le zig-zag, a stretched Z-shape course
- Le monstre, an irregular incline
- La culotte, similar to Le putter
- L'équerre, a curved metal bracket to lead to the hole
- Le plateau, a steep 2 feet high incline
Golden age (1970–99)
During this period, Mini-putt celebrities were very popular. Some of the stars of the show were Jocelyn Noël, who had great consistency in the regular season but sometimes struggled in the knockout tournaments (most notably in 1992 when he struck a totem pole on the first hole, aka "les totems" and was eliminated), as well as the legendary Carl Carmoni best known for his mastery of the green and his Pepsi addiction, Sylvain Cazes and Gilles Buissières. The biggest star of the show, however, was the inexplicably enthusiastic Serge Vleminckx, the show's announcer. His exuberant shouts of "Birdie!" for a hole in one, "la normale!" for two strokes, and "le bogey!" for three strokes, helped attract a cult following for the show. Another famous "double" couple was Suzanne and husband André Buist. Later seasons of the show featured teams of two, as well as an upgrade to the Mini-Putt franchise's more difficult course, the "Maxi-Putt".
However, by the end of the 1990s, the Mini-Putt chain began to falter, and the show was discontinued. Jocelyn Noel went on to participate in American miniature golf tournaments (PPA of Putt-Putt Golf), as well as Martin Ayotte, 4 times appearances. Serge Vleminckx went on to announce games for the short-lived Montreal Roadrunners roller hockey team. A lot of ancient players started to organize Mini-putt tournament during the summer where courses still exist.
Since 2005, a lot of new talents have emerged from the underground scene, which led to new tournaments organised by past champion Carl Carmoni and fellow enthusiasts, and the creation of the Mini-putt league of Sorel-Tracy. These efforts culminated in 2012 with the presentation of the Coupe Mini-Putt 2012, a webseries of 4 episodes that followed the former Défi Mini-Putt's format. Serge Vleminckx reprised his role and was assisted by Carl Carmoni and Jocelyn Noël as analysts.
Linguistically, the show prompted "mini-putt" to become the favoured Québécois term for miniature golf, while in the rest of Canada and the United States, the terms "miniature golf", "mini-golf", "crazy golf", and occasionally "putt-putt" are used interchangeably.