The ball needs to go down a five-yard ramp, through a windmill, over a bridge, then another five yards into a hole. Although it may sound like a computer game, it isn’t — it’s an outdoor game of mini golf. Kids enjoy it as much as its online counterpart and, triple bonus, they are having fun outside in the fresh air, interacting with friends and family.
Mini golf is a novelty version of golf; participants use a ball and putter on a miniature course. Originally, the game was played just like regular golf with a country club atmosphere, lush greens and caddies. But after the stock market crash of 1929, regulation miniature golf was too expensive for most people. So people made their own courses. Obstacle or hazard holes were made with scavenged items — wagon wheels, barrels, pipes — and became the models for today’s courses. In the 1930s, there were approximately 30,000 courses in the country with more than 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone.
The game is still popular today, mainly because it can be enjoyed by any gender at any age. You don’t need to be an athlete to play. And it’s not super expensive: a family of four can play 18 holes for under $20.
Fore U Golf in West Lebanon, N.H., opened their original mini golf in 1996 and two new courses in June 2005. With an ice cream stand, a shortgame practice area, and batting cages, the mini golf course is a busy place — about 22,300 rounds of golf were played on the two courses in 2013, according to Meredith Johnson, owner. “My favorite hole on our courses is on Alpine Adventure. I like the ‘cave hole’ because it is cool on hot summer days and the view from the window looks through the waterfall and over the beautiful gardens in front,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt that with a lucky bounce you can score an ace on this hole!”
Mr. Puttz in Bradford, Vt., offers 18 holes on an expansive course; one hole has a covered bridge large enough to walk through. In the summer, it’s open every day from 10 a.m. to dusk. There’s also homemade Slick’s Ice Cream and a driving range. The Fabulous 50s Car Hop Drive-In in Newport, N.H., (yes, there’s still one left in the area) has an 18-hole course behind the restaurant. You can drive up and eat in your car, or eat inside in the dining area, then play a round after your meal.
No matter where you play, “it is all about making memories,” says Johnson. “Listening to laughter wafting by as we are working in the gardens is one of the most rewarding parts of our job.”
WHERE TO GO
Fabulous 50’s Car Hop Drive-In
308 Sunapee Street
WEST LEBANON, N.H.
Fore U Golf Center
298 Plainfield Road
Pizza Chef of Quechee
5893 Woodstock Road