Their game was no different from the countless other games played around the world that day, except for one not-so-simple difference: it wasn’t finished until the next morning.
After 24 hours, 116.5 runs, 14,664 strokes and nearly 20 miles of walking, Putt-Putt Golf Erlangen is home to the Guinness Book of World Records for the most holes in miniature golf in 24 hours by four-wheeler.
Father and son Chris and Cole Hetzel, Tony Center and Bob Schuttinger all bogeyed through 2,097 holes on their beloved local 18-hole course to break the current record by 657.
The idea started as a joke with a passing comment by course owner Kevin Shea during one of her weekly tournaments last October. It wasn’t an unfounded joke though, as the Hetzels duo happen to have some serious pedigree for world record endurance attempts in specialized sports.
In June 2020, Hetzel Park in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky was transformed into a wiffleball stadium for an 11-player, 30-hour, one-minute marathon game of a baseball-like game. The following May, the pair went another minute to set a Guinness World Record for the longest four-square marathon in 30 hours and two minutes.
To say that Chris and Cole complained about the mistake was an understatement. When he broke the wiffleball record by 17 minutes, they reassembled the team and reclaimed the crown in emphatic style, setting an astonishing new standard after 36 and a half hours.
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“I think it’s safe to say we have an addiction to this endurance thing at this point,” Cole, a cross-country athlete at DePauw University in Indiana, told CNN.
“There is no such thing as doing the same thing for a whole day in a row. It’s a good time.”
The Big Picture
Of course, after Cole tracked down the current record of 1,440 mini-golf holes in Germany in 2005, it didn’t take long for the joke to turn into a full-fledged app. The process was no small undertaking given the strict and thorough Guinness guidelines, but with the papers finally submitted, July 31 was circled as the momentous day.
All that remains is to pave the way and complete the team. Putt-Putt’s Shea previously took over and organized tacos, ice cream, cookie trucks, a live DJ and a host of other festivities to attract support and turn the center into Erlangen’s 24-hour “neighborhood.”
In addition to personal glory, the event helped encourage donations to Matthew 25: Ministries (M25M), an international humanitarian and disaster relief organization. Headquartered in Ohio, the group worked to provide support during the devastating floods that hit Kentucky in August, as well as during a hurricane outbreak in December 2021.
The organization’s fundraising proved the “big picture” of Schwettinger, who previously volunteered with the group. After raising nearly $3,000 directly, Schuttinger added that the M25M notified him of a “massive increase” in donations around the time of the event.
“I understand first hand how amazing the help they are and what a great organization they represent,” he said. “What better link to a world record attempt than a global charity?”
hair in motion
The Hetzels were aware of the positions and Schoettinger of the weekly tournaments, but their decision to include them in the team was not sentimental. The centers were miniature golfers with a penchant for piercing, while Schuttinger, who has a background in bicycle racing, served as the team’s strategic and emotional anchor.
“The key skills we were looking for included the ability to consistently beat the rush, stamina and a positive attitude,” said Chris.
“There were more players to choose from, but we chose the team that we knew was all fast and we could get through 24 hours,” added Cole.
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After setting off at 8am, the quartet raced towards the current record. Aided by their furious pace, Shea and volunteers were on hand to keep score and provide much-needed refreshment as temperatures reached around 88°F (31°C).
“It’s important to make sure you eat within the 24-hour endurance,” Schuttinger said. “It’s nothing like a bike race or a running race – it’s just a Guinness World Records race in this case.”
“We were like a well-oiled machine, it just sounded like hair moving,” added Centre, who settled to his own cool rhythm with a group-best 897 holes.
hit the wall
Schuttinger tapped in at 10.45pm to take the world record, to the delight of a loyal audience who stayed outside to support the band. There was time for a quick group hug and a celebratory glass of champagne, but with more than nine hours left to extend the record, the job was far from over.
“There was no question whether we were going to beat the record,” said Chris. “It’s a question of stamina – how long can we do this and push ourselves?”
Despite the inevitable wall of fatigue in the early hours, Schwettinger rolled home to sink 3,197 holes in one with the 14,664 strokes and final on the ninth hole – twenty seconds shy of 8am, 24 hours after the first hold
“I don’t think we could have picked a better team,” Centers said. We just went out there and pushed and had fun and enjoyed seeing everyone who came to support us.”
“It was a day where we could sit on the road for years, dig into it and tell our stories about something so wonderful.”
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The Hetzels are already touting pickleball — the new American sensation — as a potential sport for them to target once the sound of the wooden ball hitting and the ball landing in the cup stops ringing in their ears. According to Chris, echoes like these real endurance records are side effects, lasting for days at a time.
For the time being, all eyes will now be on the annual Guinness Book of Records, which will be released in mid-September. Having never even entered, the duo hope to see their latest feat among the many great and wonderful feats in the world.
“We’re not in the book yet because we don’t have long nails and we’re not tall,” Chris joked. “I think this person has a good chance of being there.”