Par is set at 2 without exception on each Putt-Putt hole; in other varieties of mini-golf, par can vary from 2 to 6.
Putt-Putt’s short holes are designed so that a hole-in-one can be scored on each hole with a skillful putt, often through the use of banking; the metal rails facilitate accurate caroms. Most mini-golf courses include holes that are impossible to ace, and those that can be aced often rely on luck due to extremely long holes and randomly placed obstacles. Additionally, the borders of each hole usually are made of rocks or uneven brick, making accurate banking difficult.
When playing Putt-Putt, a player finishes a hole before the next player takes his first putt. In miniature golf, typically, each player takes his first putt, then the player farthest from the hole takes his second putt, as in real golf.
Traditionally, Putt-Putt courses have no over-riding “theme” and have a spartan look about them. Many traditional miniature golf courses have themes (such as a story book or a religious theme), while more modern mini-golf courses twist in and around manmade mountains, lakes, caves and waterfalls, with the resulting water and elevation changes often in play. Recently, themes such as jungles and volcanos have been making their way to Putt-Putt courses, complete with caves, foliage and plaster animals, though the themes never come into play.
Obstacles in Putt-Putt are limited to small hills, metal blockers, pipes, and rarely, small water hazards. Mini-golf obstacles know no limits, including boulders, windmills and other moving obstacles, bridges, ramps and loops.
Putt-Putt courses reward holes-in-one with a ticket that typically allows the player a free game if he collects three, or in some cases a scratch-off game card. In addition, the player’s ball (red, green, blue or yellow) is traded in for an orange ball, which prevents the player from claiming an additional ticket for that round. Some courses use a set of lights to allow the winning of tickets only for two colors of ball at a time, and announce the names of the golfers who score winning holes-in-one.
Generally, Putt-Putt golf courses are considered more appropriate for competition; miniature golf tournaments are popular at Putt-Putt courses but rare at other courses, due to the difference in skill level required. The rare ESPN-televised miniature golf tourney is always at a Putt-Putt course.