Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bar Billiards and a little bit of Mini-Golf in London

A hunt for three Bar Billiards tables and a revisit to Camden’s Crazy Golf course

While in London on Monday 27th February I thought I’d take the opportunity to check out some of the Bar Billiards tables in pubs in the city.

Prior to my trip I had a look on the excellent Bar Billiards table map, put together by AEBBA.

I saw there were well over twenty tables within easy reach and I planned to get to at least three of the tables on my Barmy Bar Billiards Trail.

My first stop was at the Electricity Showrooms pub in Hoxton.

The Electricity Showrooms pub in Hoxton

Upon arriving I asked the barman if they still had a table, he said they did, but it was “just for decoration”. I had a look at the table and one of the other barmen said he thought it still worked and to put a quid in to give it a go. I asked if they had any cues, they didn’t!? The table was also peg-less! However, the table did appear to be in good condition and the felt/baize was all intact.

The Bar Billiards table at the Electricity Showrooms pub in Hoxton

While chatting to the second barman he also mentioned they have a dartboard too. One for the Capital Arrows London Dart Board List perhaps.

The Dart Board in the Electricity Showrooms pub in Hoxton

My next stop was to Kings Cross and the King Charles I pub. Unfortunately on a Monday it’s not open until 5pm. I decided to head back later in the evening after a visit to Camden.

After refuelling with a new Gluten Free Chicken Salad Sandwich from the Kentish Town Sainsbury's and spotting a sign for an Eternit supplier (sadly un-minigolf related) and prior to visiting the next pub Emily and I had a wander to Camden Market. On our way there had a look to see if the Clarence Way Crazy Golf course was still there. We've previosuly visited in October 2009, May 2011 and August 2011. It is still there and remains unplayed by us on our Crazy World of Minigolf Tour. The sign at the course has had some graffiti added to it since our last visit!

The Clarence Way Crazy Golf sign

The Clarence Way Crazy Golf course in Camden

We then set off to find the Fiddler’s Elbow pub for the first game of Bar Billiards. We found the pub, but finding the entrance was trickier. Eventually we spotted a door that let us in and had a hunt for the table. The pub no longer has one. We decided to have a drink anyway, the pub had some great 80’s tunes playing, including Ghost Town by The Specials – the pub was something of a ghost town as there was just us two and a couple of other punters in there!

The Fiddler's Elbow pub in Camden

Although there wasn’t a Bar Billiards table there I did notice a poster for a band that our friend Brad ‘The Fist’ Shepherd and his band, Monkish, knows. You can check out the website of the naughtily named band here. Brad told me he has played at the Fiddler's Elbow music venue three times before and never seen a Bar Billiards table.

A poster for an upcoming performance from a band at the Fiddler's Elbow pub


With a thirst for Bar Billiards unsatisfied we headed back down the Northern Line to go to the King Charles I. Prior to that though we made a stop off at the Hurricane Room on Grays Inn Road as a quick web search while in the Fiddler’s had shown that they had a Bar Billiards table.

When we enquired within we found they didn’t.

The Hurricane Room - no Bar Billiards there, but lots of Pool and Snooker tables

On a wall outside we did however spot a poster for an upcoming Chess Boxing tournament!

Chess Boxing in London!

We eventually reached the King Charles I and through the window I spotted some illuminated green baize! The pub did indeed have a Bar Billiards table and no one was playing on it when we arrived!

The King Charles I pub - not yet open on my first visit

The pub is fairly small but the table is very playable (one of the great things about Bar Billiards is the minimal amount of space required). The table was of the 3-pin/peg variety and was in good condition, albeit with a slight tear on the felt just to the right of the black peg.

The Bar Billiards table at the King Charles I - with lots of balls in play!

The King Charles I even had its own ‘House Rules’ for the Bar Billiards table, with some interesting rules on fouls! More on that later...

The 'House Rules' at the King Charles I

The pub was nice and warm, with a real fire on the go, and there was a nice atmosphere in the wood panelled pub. There were certainly some interesting decorations in the bar , with lots of mounted animal heads on the walls. One large Deer head stared at you while you played on the Bar Billiards table!

Emily and I decided to play a best-of-three game match.

In game one I managed to reach a score of 450 points before wiping-out with a black-peg knock down, with Emily winning 370 points to nil.

Emily plays a shot on the Bar Billiards table at the King Charles I

In game two I won with a score of 440 points to nil. Emily had racked up a nice break of 420 points, however this was lost by knocking down a white peg. Emily had made a claim that I perpetrated a foul on her during play. If there was an independent Umpire for the match I may of been declared as a ‘perpetrator of a foul’ due to 'Goosing', but as we had no referee, the loss of points stood.

In between games we noticed that the pub also has a selection of board games for customers to play. I spotted there was a Shove Ha’penny board behind the bar and we saw some of the other board games atop the jukebox. They included Scrabble, Travel Scrabble and a 1000-piece Jigsaw Puzzle. Emily was tempted to break out the Jigsaw puzzle, but being as we were part way through a match and with a visit to ‘Jigfest’ coming up soon we continued with the Bar Billiards.

The Shove Ha'penny Board behind the bar

The third and final deciding game in our match saw me come out the winner with a score of 200 to Emily’s 170. The closely fought match was slightly notable as I managed to clear the last two balls from the table without the game being decided by a sudden-death last-peg shoot-out as has been the norm in our matches to date. I scored a 20 and a 50 to close-out the game.

Me playing Bar Billiards at the King Charles I

The ‘Committee Board’, above the scoreboard next to the table, shows the ‘Table Record’ held by a Julian Coles, which was made on the 13th of October 2009 and stands at 3,040 points. Including a break of 2,860.

After the main-event we threw another pound in the table and had a bit of ‘training’ before a five minute game. In this quick match I won with a grand total of 20 points.

Commenting on the evening out Emily summed things up by saying “We had a drink in ‘that’ pub, you had a sandwich, we did quite well.”

- All England Bar Billiards' Association
- Crazy World of Minigolf Tour
- Previous Bar Billiards Blog Posts
- Minigolf and Crazy Golf courses in and around London

Sunday, February 26, 2012

First play of Tea Green Golf Club's Minigolf course in 2012

A revisit to Tea Green Golf Club.

On Friday 24th February I headed up to my local Minigolf course at Tea Green Golf Club at Wandon End near Luton for my first rounds on the course in 2012.

Minigolf at Tea Green Golf Club

While there I had a two-round 18-hole match against one of the club ‘Pros’, and Minigolf course record holder, Scott Holmes. Both of us each scored the same in our first and second rounds, I hit a pair of 17s, while Scott had two par rounds of 18 to make the score 34-36 in my favour.

I also had two practice rounds against myself (one using a Pink Golf ball, the other with a Putter King Golf ball). The ‘match’ was a draw with a pair of 15s scored.

The Putter King ball scores an Ace on Hole 2 at Tea Green Golf Club

Finally I played two 6-hole rounds on the excellent little Putting Green at the club and scored a 14 and a 13.

The Putter King Golf ball on the Tea Green Putting Green


Friday, February 24, 2012

Finding out about StreetGames...

...and playing some in Luton!

As an avid user of Twitter and fan of all types of sports and games I recently followed StreetGames – a sports charity that brings sport to the doorsteps of young people in disadvantaged communities all over the UK.

Upon checking out their tweets I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was their 2100th follower and had therefore won a StreetGames t-shirt.

When the parcel arrived I was very happy to find that not only did I receive a t-shirt, but also a Goodie Bag full of great stuff, including a very nice StreetGames medal! Emily and I will no doubt be competing for this prize when it gets hotter and the evenings longer.

The StreetGames Goodie Bag

With the weather unseasonably warm and the evening still light enough to grab some decent photos of me wearing my new StreetGames t-shirt, I headed out to the streets of Luton last night to play. I had a quick game of one of my all-time favourites – Kerby. Along with some Double Yellow-Line Dominoes!

Me at my local Kerby 'court' in Luton

One of my favourite indoor games, taken to the street - Double Yellow-Line Street Dominoes!

On a serious note, StreetGames looks to support projects in disadvantaged communities in the UK that help young people get involved in sports and also provide volunteering opportunities. You can find out more about StreetGames here.

Checking out the StreetGames website you can see they run projects offering a range of sports including: Angling, Athletics, Badminton Basketball, Cricket, Fencing, Football, Futsal, Handball, Judo, Multi-sport sessions, Netball, rock climbing, Roller Sports, Rugby League, Rugby Union, StreetCheer, StreetDance, Table Tennis, Tennis, Tri Golf and Volleyball.

Perhaps Minigolf/Crazy Golf and Dodgeball would be good activities for future projects...?

You can follow StreetGames on Twitter, Facebook & YouTube and check out their website here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The #Minigolf Internet Champion

To celebrate my landmark 14,000th tweet I'm declaring myself the #Minigolf Internet Champion!

Check me out on Blogger
Watch me on YouTube
Follow me on Twitter
And I’ll see you on Facebook

Minigolf Challenge Match at TopGolf Watford

Results and report from the latest head-to-head Miniature Golf match-up between ‘Squire’ Richard Gottfried & ‘Rowdy’ Russell Fenner.

TopGolf Watford's Adventure Golf

On Tuesday 21st February I headed over the border into Hertfordshire to visit the TopGolf game centre in Watford and face-off against my old Dodgeball UK rival and sometimes Minigolf opponent ‘Rowdy’ Russell Fenner in a Challenge Match on the 18-hole Adventure Golf course.

Our last match-up in November 2011 had ended in victory for me with a score-line of 44-55, with Hatfield’s ‘Rowdy’ Russell hitting a few unfortunate shots to end some way off.

This time the game was to be much closer and more like some of the previous contests we’ve had at the course.

Over the front-9 I shot a 23 to Russell’s 29, but on the 10th hole an excellent fightback began from the Stevenage Borough fan as he scored a hole-in-one – the only one for either of us in the whole match.

'Rowdy' Russell Fenner playing the 10th hole at TopGolf Watford's Adventure Golf course - the scene for the match's solitary hole-in-one

Hole 11 was to prove slightly tougher though and ‘Rowdy’, a Tottenham Hotspur supporter, scored an unfortunate four on the stone circle obstacle hole.

Russell hitting his second shot on the 'green' at the stone circle 11th hole

Me playing my tee-shot on the 13th hole

With Fenner hitting a solid run of six twos on the back-9 there were just two shots in it heading into the modified and nightmarish 18th hole!

The way the final hole is now laid out means that a perfectly paced shot needs to be played as an approach to the ball connection mini-ramp and tunnel. Too light a shot, or slightly too hard, and another lay-up would be required, possibly two. Tackling the newly added, but slightly skewiff, central obstacle that contains an enclosed ramp, some netting and another exposed ramp would be the ploy of a madman and so both of us went for the lay-up safe two.

Russell was playing the even numbered holes, stepped up and nailed the two.

I stepped up, hit the tee shot, and waited. It stopped slightly shorter than Russell’s had, but not far enough that it required another lay-up. I also scored a two, which was enough to secure a victory of 46-48. Russell’s back-9 score of 19 to my 23 was very commendable indeed.

As is now tradition following a game on the Adventure Golf course we headed indoors to the warm to have a game of Pool. Russell won both games. The first seemed to take about half an hour as neither of us were playing particularly well, but to an outside onlooker they may well of thought we were playing the ‘snookers’ on purpose!

Another great evening of minigolf, looking forward to more challenge matches in warmer weather later in the year.

Photos of the TopGolf Watford Adventure Golf course prior to the game's start.

- TopGolf Watford

Previous Blog Posts:
- Minigolf at Watford TopGolf - Major Course Improvements & Match vs. 'Rowdy' Russell Fenner
- Crazy World of Minigolf Tour

Putter King Miniature Golf Survey & PKSH2

The Putter King is giving the participants of the 2012 Putter King Miniature Golf Scavenger Hunt a chance to get a sneaky peek at the list of tasks for the #PKSH2 ahead of the full release on the 1st of March.

If you enter my name as the answer to the final question of the Putter King Miniature Golf Survey - Did someone refer you to this survey? (if so please enter that person's name) - it'll help me unlock the FULL official list for the 2nd Annual Putter King Miniature Golf Scavenger Hunt!



See the latest Blog Post over at The Putter King website - Attention Putter King Scavenger Hunters

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A day out of fun and games in Milton Keynes and Northampton

A minigolf revisit, a Dalek, Bar Billiards and no Laser Tag - a trip to Milton Keynes & Northampton.

On Monday 20th February Emily and I headed off on a trip to Milton Keynes and Northampton.

We’ve been to MK a number of times and on my last visit I had faced-off against fellow Minigolfer Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley in the "MK Winter Sporting Challenge". We would have a re-match of sorts in Northampton later in the day.

Before heading to the Centre: MK for some shopping we stopped off at Willen Lake to see if the minigolf course there was open. It wasn’t. We previously played the course in July 2007 when it became the 29th course played on our Crazy World of Minigolf Tour.

The Willen Lake Adventure Golf course

Another view of the Willen Lake Minigolf course

Last July we had played a Crazy Golf course at the Centre: MK, unfortunately there was nothing going on in the Middleton Hall area on this occasion (we’d also found some great Gluten Free Meat there in March 2011). But wandering around the shopping centre we did spot a Dalek and an Only Fools & Horses Reliant Regal!?

A Dalek and me at the Centre: MK

The Trotters' three-wheeler

We then headed back on the M1 up to Northampton. It’s somewhere we’ve never, properly, visited before. On the way to the Manchester Miniature Open minigolf competition in 2009 the hire car we were driving had caught fire just outside Northampton Services and we’d received a tow to the rental office in the town, but that’s as far as we’d previously got.

This time though we managed a good walk around the town centre and it was a nice enough place to spend the afternoon.

In the Tourist Information Centre we had spotted a leaflet for the Laser Force arena in the town centre and ahead of meeting up with Northamptonshire’s number one Crazy Golfer Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley we decided to scout it out.

First off we looked inside the Sol Central leisure complex, but couldn’t find the laser tag. We did however find an Amusement Arcade that was closed.

The closed Fun Station at Sol Central in Northampton

We eventually found the arena, but unfortunately the Laser Force laser tag at Sol Central is closed on Mondays (except in holidays).

The Laser Tag in Northampton is closed on Mondays

From the posters and adverts outside it looks like a good set-up and we’d like to play there in the future. It’s also got a ‘Machine City’ zone! I wonder what fellow Laser Tagger Oliver ‘The Machine’ Florence knows about this?

Even more disappointing was the fact that, as with the Peterborough version, they also have a Boom-A-Rang Air Hockey Table!

You can just about see the Boom-A-Rang Crazy Air Squash Table in the background

We met up with ‘The Roller’ who took us on a bit of a mystery tour of the bits of the town centre we’d not yet seen. The undoubted highlight of this was visiting “the third most hated building in Britain” – the town’s Greyfriars Bus Station. While posing for a photo outside it we also got a beep from a passing car!?

Marc and me at the Greyfriars Bus Station in Northampton!

With the Laser Tag closed, a dearth of Miniature Golf in Northampton and the other Laser Maze in the town centre now closed down we headed to the Crown & Anchor pub for the main-event of the day’s contest – Bar Billiards.

We found the table in a corner of the quite spacious Crown & Anchor pub and luckily no one was playing. We did notice that Monday nights were competition nights in the Northants Bar Billiards Association! With league games played between 7.30pm and 10.30pm.

The Bar Billiards table in the Crown & Anchor Pub in Northampton

With Marc having beaten me in the Milton Keynes Winter Sports Challenge, picking up a win in the Pool discipline on his way to ultimate victory (despite having to play half way inside a Hurricane Simulator on a table with an ‘adverse camber’) I was right to be wary of him as an opponent, even if it was his 'debut' playing of the game of Bar Billiards.

Marc 'The Roller' Bazeley has a read of the rules of Bar Billiards

In our first head-to-head match-up, Umpired by Emily, Marc picked up the win with a final score of 190 points. I had notched up a score of 800, but this was lost as I knocked down the dreaded Black Peg on the last ball shoot-out.

I score 100

Almost inevitably in our second game – a triple-threat match including Emily – the balls failed to be released from the table after putting our pound coin in, so we had to get ‘The Man’. However, as this was not a seaside Amusement Arcade (aka 'The Buttons') Emily refused to get #TheMan, so I had to ask at the bar.

The table was promptly fixed and the balls released. As an added bonus we got a chance to see the ‘inner workings’ of a Bar Billiards table as the top section had to be lifted up to get at the ball release mechanism!

In the three-way-dance match I scored a win with a final score of 750 points, with Marc and Emily both knocking down the Black Peg to wipe-out their scores of 400 and 340 respectively.

Marc plays a shot off of a cushion

Emily goes for the 200-hole in the Black Peg Shoot-Out

In the games we seemed to favour the top-left-hand corner of the table and the balls seemed to ‘collect’ here quite often!

One view of 'Jiff Corner'

A nice line of balls 'protecting' the Red ball

Game three was another one-on-one match between me and ‘The Roller’ and was another victory for Marc, this time with a 660 points to zero score-line after I’d wiped-out from 1,050! Marc also picked up his ‘career best’ break with a score of 530 points in one visit to the table, after I had opened with my ‘day best’ of 350 with my first three shots following the start.

Going for a double score with the Red ball

The final game saw Marc pick up his third win on 'home soil' with a score of 1,090 to zero, as I once again knocked down the Black Peg as the ball dropped into the 200-hole. On this occasion the result would not have been affected even if I had potted the last ball cleanly without hitting the peg, as under the watchful eye of the Umpire both players were forced to ‘go for it’ in the last ball shoot-out!

Marc taking on the shot for the 200-hole

Commenting on his Bar Billiards victories Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley said “I’ve still got some way to go before I’m mixing it with the Pros, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon nonetheless.”

After the fun of the Bar Billiards we went for another wander around town and headed to (the) Shipmans pub on (the) Drapery for a drink. Unfortunately there were no pub games on offer in this long, thin pub. We did however discuss the game of "Hood Skittles", which is now on our list of Pub Games to play!

To round off our fun day in Northampton we headed to The Church Bar & Restaurant on Bridge Street as we had spotted they offered a Gluten Free menu. The food and surroundings were excellent.

It, and Northampton as a whole, is worth a visit.

A view of The Church Bar & Restaurant


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Drinking and 'Pub' Games at the 29th Luton Beer & Cider Festival

Dominoes, Table Skittles and Gluten Free Beer at the Luton Beer & Cider Festival.

On Friday 17th February we headed to the 29th Luton Beer & Cider Festival at the High Town Sports & Arts Centre in Luton.

The souvenir glass from the Beer Fest and a hand of my Dominoes

Ahead of the event I’d been informed by the Beds & Mid Herts Coeliac Group that there would be four Gluten Free Beers on offer (in amongst the many beers, ciders and perries)! I'd also spoken to one of the organisers, who is a Coeliac, and found out the beers would be available on the foreign beers stand.

The four GF beers available were from Green's and were the Bottle Conditioned Re-fermented Blonde, Brown and Dark Ales & Greens Discovery. I chose a bottle of the Blonde Beer and would definitely buy it again. It was excellent that the Beer Festival had chosen to include Gluten Free beers on the roster too. I'm a big fan of Cider and Perry, but it's nice to go to a Beer Fest and actually have the choice to buy a Beer if I want to. 

The four Gluten Free Beers available. There were plenty of posters around the venue advertising the beers, along with a factsheet explaining what Coeliac Disease is.

In amongst the drinking me and Emily played some Dominoes in a best-of-3, 5 & 7 series to decide the Luton Drink Club Dominoes Champion.

A Dominoes game in 'action'

The main hall at the Beer Fest housed a vast array of ales and was where the four Gluten Free beers were being sold.

Me with a Gluten Free Ale and another 'third' of strong Cider!

The hall also housed the CAMRA stand where they had two Pub Games available to play – Shove Ha’penny and Table Skittles!

The Table Skittles at the CAMRA stand

The Shove Ha'penny Board

Me lining up a swing on the Table Skittles

An excellent evening with lots of different drinks to try. Roll on the 30th Luton Beer & Cider Festival!


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