Introduction: The Pencil Putter: Backpack Golf Course Keychain

With school right around the corner, kids are already mentally preparing themselves for long bus rides, uneventful playground breaks, and lackluster lunch periods. With all this on his radar screen my younger cousin was anything but excited about putting away his golf clubs for the winter. Thats why I decided to make him this little back-to-school gift to entertain him and his friends during some of the breaks in the school day. Instead of just dreaming about summer activities, he'll now be able to keep playing with his friends right on the lunchroom tables!

The Pencil Putter is a small, simple, easy-to-build super miniature golf course. The golf course is fully playable, but is small enough that it functions as a keychain on a lunch bag or backpack. Because of its use as a keychain, the golf courses are always handy and are ready at a moments notice. An ordinary pencil becomes a golf club, and round beads that normally lie around unused in supply cabinets become golf balls. Whether competing against a friend, or challenging yourself by going solo, Pencil Putters are sure to entertain. With plenty of room for creativity and innovation, Pencil Putters are a project limited only by your imagination. Constructed using common materials and tools, this is a project that just about anyone can try out. So get ready, this is going to be a school year like no other!

Please Note: School and education are very important. Do not use this toy during classes or in a way that will interfere with your learning.

A word about safety: Just like many projects, it is possible to hurt yourself during the creation of this toy. The Pencil Putter project has been designed to be simple and safe to build. However, improperly using tools such as drills, saws, and exacto knives can cause bodily harm. When working with or around such tools exercise great caution. Certain steps throughout this process have inserts reminding you to be safe and be sure you follow such safety guidelines.

Step 1: Materials, Supplies, and Tools

As mentioned earlier, the materials and tools used to build the Pencil Putters are all very common. As such, all should be able to join in creation of these fun and enjoyable projects. A comprehensive list of the materials and tools are listed below.

1/4" square balsa wood strips roughly 3 ft. in length: used for edging
1/2" thick wood board: used as base for course
Several wooden toothpicks: used as pole for flag
Paper: Used for top part of flag
Metal paperclips: Keychain attachment for courses
Green felt: Surface of the golf course
1/4" spherical beads: used as golf balls
Black, red, blue, green, white, yellow paint, and paintbrush : used for adding details
1/16" thick balsa wood board: board for see-saw in hole #3
2 safety pins: Supports for see-saw in hole #3
1 1/2" long nail: Axis of rotation for see-saw in hole #3
2 gift or credit cards: Barriers for hole #2
1/2" inch square balsa wood strip: Barrier for hole #1

Safety Goggles
Coping Saw
Rip Saw
Drill and Bits
Wood Glue
Hot-melt Glue Gun
Exacto Knife and Saw
And of course... a Pencil

Step 2: Making the Base Piece

After having gathered all of the materials and supplies from step 1, the actual construction of the project can begin! The first step in constructing a Pencil Putter is to make the base. The base is the piece on which the rest of the project is built upon, so be sure to do a good job! The rectangular part of the base is 3 inches by 2 inches with a point that extends up 1 inch (see the image I made for the  base plan). Trace the plan in the image onto the 1/2 inch thick piece of wood. After having traced the plan and remeasured to check for accuracy, cut out the piece of wood using either a bandsaw or hand saw. Caution: Be careful and safe while using the saw. Once this piece has been cut out and sanded smooth, the next step can be started, drilling the holes for the golf ball.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes for the Ball

Drilling the holes for the ball can take a little practice, so try it out on an extra board before attempting to do it on the base piece. There are two separate holes the must be drilled. One of the holes is drilled into the top and is called the entry hole. The other hole is drilled into the side and is called the exit hole. Because the ball being used is roughly 1/4 inch in diameter, both holes should be drilled with a 3/8 inch bit. This will allow the ball to pass through without getting caught. Drilling the entry hole on the top is simple. Place the bit roughly halfway up the point of the base and drill through approximately half the thickness of the board. The more difficult part of this step is drilling the exit hole that delivers the ball out the side of the course. To create this hole place the wood base in a table clamp. Drill the exit hole at a slight angle so it slopes towards the entry hole. Tilt the drill enough while making the hole so the ball will be able to roll out. Once the exit hole is connected to the entry hole, you can stop drilling. Caution: Be careful as always when using the drill! If done correctly, a ball placed into the entry hole should now be able to roll out of the exit hole. Congratulations, you're now ready for the next step, painting the golf course!

Step 4: Painting

Painting the golf course is relatively easy. There are two major paint jobs that must be done. First, the edges of the base are painted black. We did this with spray paint so there would be a smooth finish, but painting by hand works as well. The second part that must be painted is the back. To enhance the appearance of the Pencil Putter, we painted the back to resemble a pencil, but you can paint/decorate it as you wish! Now that the base has been painted, the green "turf" can be applied over the top.

Step 5: Laying Down the Greens

Gluing the green felt to the base when creating the turf is quite simple and fun once you get the hang of it. The first step in this process is to establish an outline of where the felt should be laid. By placing the balsa wood edging on the course and tracing its outline, the area where the felt must be laid becomes clear. The felt should be sized so that it just touches the outline left by the edging. Trace and cut the felt and match it up with the course  to be sure it fits correctly. Next, using hot-melt glue, apply a thin line of glue on the edge of the board farthest away from the point. Quickly place the felt onto the glue and press down firmly before the glue has a chance to dry. Once this felt has been secured on one edge, start the somewhat repetitive task of folding the felt back, applying a line of glue, and pressing the felt down while the glue dries. Continue doing this process until the entire board has been felted. Caution: Be very careful when dealing with hot glue or exacto knives. Finally, using a small scissors, cut the felt around to the entry hole on the top of the board. After the felted the board you can move on to the next step, applying the edging.

Step 6: Installing the Edges

Edging on the course is necessary to prevent the tiny golf ball from flying across the room. Unless you would like to run around the lunch room looking under the tables for tiny golf balls! The edging we used in this project is 1/4 inch square balsa wood strip.These wood strips were approximately 3 feet long to begin with, and then were cut down to the correct size. By using a fine-tooth saw, such as those from an exacto knife set, cutting the balsa wood is quite simple. Align the wood strip with golf course and cut sections that fit onto the base. Cut the sections of wood slightly longer than they need to be so they can be sanded to the exact necessary size. Once all the sections have been cut, begin gluing them into place using wood glue. To ensure that the edging stays in place during gluing, you can use rubber bands to secure the pieces. Once all of the edge pieces have been glued in place, continue the project by making the keychain.

Step 7: Making the Keychain

Making the keychain attachment for the Pencil Putter is very easy. Using a large paperclip, cut out the U shaped bend at about a length of 1 inch. Using a small drill bit the diameter of the paperclip, drill two holes into the point of the Pencil Putter. Check whether the paperclip section can slide into these holes. If it can't, make adjustments by bending the paperclip. Once the paperclip has been properly adjusted, glue it in place with hot-melt glue. Finally, slip a keychain ring onto the paperclip. You can also use a decorative rope or friendship bracelet to hold the courses together. Now you are ready to move onto the next step, adding some finishing touches to enhance the appearance and playability of the course.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

The few finishing touches are simple steps that add a lot of character to the golf course. These finishing touches are painting the starting point, painting the hole, making the flag, and painting the golf ball. The starting point is where the ball is placed at the beginning of each hole. This is made by dipping the end of a paintbrush in white paint and then dabbing it onto the felt. The interior of the hole is then painted white. Making the yellow flag that goes in the hole is also quite fun to build. A toothpick is cut to approximately 1 inch in length. Also, two isosceles triangles that are about 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch wide are cut from paper. Apply hot-melt glue on one of the triangles and press the other triangle on top. Next, using an exacto knife cut out the back of the hot glue the diameter of the toothpick. Fold these flaps apart, and slip the toothpick piece in the opening. Again using hot glue, secure the paper triangles onto the toothpick. Paint the entire flag structure lemon yellow. Finally glue the flag in place in the back of the entry hole. The final finishing touch to complete is to paint the golf ball white. This can best be achieved by using tape to hold the ball in place and then applying thin layers of white paint until the ball has been completely covered. By dabbing the paint you can replicate the dimples on real golf balls. Once these steps have been completed, move onto the last and final step, customizing the course.

Step 9: Customizing the Pencil Putter

Perhaps the best part of the Pencil Putter project is customizing it to create your own individual holes. With a little bit of creativity the possibilities for your golf course are endless. The following three steps detail the creation of three different custom holes that I created. Don't think you have to do them the same as I did though. Feel free to expand on my ideas to create your own unique course.

Step 10: Customizing Course: Hole #1

For hole number one I wanted a fairly easy build set up that would also offer some blockades for the user. This hole is a fun one that has had only one hole-in-one since it's creation. Want to try it out yourself?

Materials needed, (Not much!)
       *Two small pieces of quarter inch squared wood.
       *One small piece of half inch squared wood.
       *Paint and Glue

Alright, so this little hole isn't too hard to make, but some suggestions can get you off to a good start. First off, just cut out the blockades the size you wanted. The ones shown in the picture are 1/2 inch long. Paint these up the way you'd like, and play around with the layout. Next you have to trace these pieces out on the felt a little with a pencil, so you are able to cut out holes in the greens for the blockades to fit. Cut little by little so you can fit it in just perfectly. After you've done this you can glue down the felt. Once doing this you should be able to slip in the blockades with a little hot glue, and you'll be good to go! Play on!

Step 11: Customizing Course: Hole #2

This hole was one of my favorites to build. It has two small bridge blockades that have a few holes in them. We've yet to get a hole-in-one so be sure to let us know if you are able to get it mastered!

       *One Gift Card (Check that it has no money on it!!!)
       *Hot melt glue
       *Paint of the color you wish

Dont let all the steps shown in the pictures above fool you to thinking this one is hard to make, I actually had a lot of fun carving out the gift cards, and preparing them for the course! First off, you'll want to cut out the gift card into four pieces that are 1.5 inches by 3/4 inch. Glue these into pairs so that the blockade is sturdy. Next you need to cut out the shape of the opening. To do this I just used a coping saw. Don't worry if the edges are rough, because they'll be smoothed out after sanding. To sand these pieces, I took a dowel that I covered with sanding paper (see picture...) then I put the dowel in my drill. If you do this be careful using eye protection and only putting the drill on low power. Also make the holes slightly taller then you actually want the final result to be, because the bottom part will be stuck roughly an eighth inch into the base. Now, just round off the top of the blockades, and then paint them! To put the blockades into the  wood you'll have to cut grooves into the base wood. This step takes a little practice to get the groove just the right size, so practice on a different board. Using sand paper and exacto knives cut the groves so the bottom of the blockades fit in snuggly. To make the edges of the hole look nice, I also used wood glue to put small pieces of wood into the cracks made in the edge of the groove. These sides then need to be smoothed out, and painted over. Next its time to felt. When felting this hole cut out small strips in the pattern to match the obstacles so that the blockades can be pushed in. Alright, so put down the felt, and then the blockades should perfectly slip in. Put hot melt glue on the edge of your blockades and then push them into the wood in the pre-cut slots. Hold them in for a moment until the glue is dry. Step back... so you can examine your fine work! 

Step 12: Customizing Course: Hole #3

For the third hole I wanted something totally different, totally new, and totally rad... this is what I came up with. Hole number three has a miniature see-saw in the middle, that is able to easily rock back and fourth with the weight of the mini golf ball. Best of all, it is also very easy to make!

First off, you need some supplies:
       *One small piece of balsa wood (1/16th inch)
       *Two toothpicks
       *One nail (1/16th inch diameter)
       *Two small safety pins (That have holes fitting loosely around the nail)
       *Some paper and hot glue

Now that you have the supplies the next step is to cut the piece of balsa wood board to the dimentions of see-saw. (1.75 inches by 5/8 of an inch) Before gluing the nail to this board you'll have to get the safety pin supports ready. To do this, cut the top part of the safety pin so you just have two v-shaped things. These will act as the supports on both sides of the see-saw. Once you have both the board and the safety pins ready its time to attach the nail to the middle of the bottom side of the board. Cut the extra pointy side of the nail, but leave an eighth of an inch for the safety pin support. The best way to do this is with hot melt glue re-inforced with a small piece of paper. Remember to slip the safety pin on the one side of the nail that has the head, before you glue the nail to the board. Make sure you also leave enough room for the safety pin to swivel on the nail. Now that you have the nail glued to the board, all you have to do is attach the toothpicks to the edges. These can be cut to fit as railings on the see-saw, and then glued in with wood glue. Once the course is felted, its time to stick the safety pins through the felt and into the base board. You should make sure to test this before hand, because it can be quite difficult if you don't have small starting holes. Using a needle nose pliers you should be able to get the pins in on both sides into the wood far enough for your see-saw to work and look perfect. After minor adjustments your see-saw should be in working order. Just be creative on the paint job, and enjoy your new course!

Step 13: Final Thoughts, Closing Statements

I was very pleased with how the Pencil Putters turned out. They were simple, quick, safe, and easy to build. With their simple beauty and durable design, these miniature golf courses will work well for hours and hours of fun! I cant wait to give this set of three to my cousin, he'll just love them! Have fun building them, and of course playing with them once you are done!

Thank you very much for reading through these instructions! We'd love to hear your comments, and see how awesome your courses turned out. Thanks again, and best of luck with your building!

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