When the pandemic hit, social unrest began to increase and the weariness of 2020 lingered, longtime Pensacola journalist and game designer Mike Suchcicki had an idea. Why not relieve some of the stress by getting into the backyard and designing a fun game?
“There were two criteria. It had to be inexpensive and number 2 it had to be weatherproof,” said Suchcicki.
Mike and his son, Joe, kicked around a few ideas and finally settled on “Bushelball.” It’s kind of a modified version of miniature golf only it’s played with laundry baskets, plastic cups, painted foam “golf balls” and swim noodles and thrift store clubs. The “chipping greens” are cut up pieces of indoor/outdoor carpeting glued onto inexpensive bathmats. Most of the items can be found at dollar stores or discount and thrift shops, says Mike. That met criteria number one. And all items are weather-proof, meeting criteria number 2.
Designing the game was challenging and fun, say Mike and Joe. They decided on nine “holes” for the backyard course and they designed an intricate scoring system.
“Two points for getting it in the circle-the “green”- 3 points for the white basket, four points for the blue basket and five points for the red cup,” said Mike.
It’s fun, to be sure, but designing the course also took brain power and the use of engineering, science and math skills.
“Each hole is a different length, and the baskets are tilted differently, so there’s a different challenge to each hole,” says Mike.
And, as the game evolved, there was plenty of “trial and error. “For instance, when we created the first baskets the wind came around and started blowing them all away. We had to figure out how to weigh them down and make them stay,” Mike laughs.
Because the real purpose of the game was to put some laughter and joy into pandemic-life, Mike and Joe got creative. They gave the backyard course a fancy name.
“You are now standing in the “Royal Paul at Casimir Fields Resort & Country Club” (named after Mike’s late father and father-in-law) “and I’m sure you can appreciate the lush, rolling greens,” he adds with only a slight eye-roll.
The course has various high-brown designations.
“That corner over there is ‘Poo-Corner’ because, well, you know, that’s where the dogs like to go… And there’s a pile of sticks, so we call that ‘The Sticks’ and this is the legendary 5th hole. No reason. We just figured every country club needs a legendary hole,” says Mike.
Mike says the whimsy worked in fighting the Covid Blues.
“This summer I went for my checkup and my doctor asked how I was doing, and I said, ‘You know, I’m really quite happy.’ I’m generally an anxious person and generally this type of thing would have me white-knuckled and I realized I’m in a very good mood all the time and it turned out I realized it was because of Bushelball.”
Mike’s even created a website, www.bushelball.com , showing others how to set up their own Bushelball course, not for profit, just to spread joy. “You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want. Even if they don’t want to make their own Bushelball set, I hope I’m inspiring people to find their own ‘Bushelball’… that something that will help bring them joy in times like these.”
Mike and Joe have also created a couple of card games. Here are links to that website and to the Bushelball website.