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Mini Golf Courses, Big Experiences

by Carley Wade

May 17, 2019

Annanahabed – Dreamstime.com


No if’s, and’s or putts about it — golf in all its forms is a great excuse to plan a Father’s Day getaway around. The Big Guy in your life can have loads of fun with the little ones, too, at these colorful courses designed with whimsy in mind. No matter whether you call it mini golf or putt-putt, here’s some of the country’s kitschiest courses:


Disney’s Fantasia Gardens in Orlando features two full courses, with one  easier for younger children — with music, fountains and tutu-clad hippos — and the other with all of the standard PGA accoutrements like sand traps and hills, water hazards, sloping greens and par-3 and par-5 holes that range in length from 63 to 109 feet long. Everyone staying at the Disney resort gets a free round. There’s also a unique game called FootGolf — the holes are 21 inches wide, big enough for soccer balls.


Historic Philadelphia is always worth a family trip, but if you hit up this colonial charmer during summertime, it’s great to take on 18 holes representing the city’s most iconic spots. See Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Bridge and the iconic LOVE statue in miniature, before checking out the rest of Franklin Square — the fountain (reopening this summer)‚ the carousel and SquareBurger’s milkshake of the month.


Who needs a passport when you can travel overseas at Around the World Miniature Golf in Lake George, New York? Its two courses bring the icons of the globe alive, and the other the highlights of the United States. You’ll find the Statue of Liberty, Vegas icons, and Paul Bunyan at the latter, and London Bridge and the Taj Mahal replicas at the former. Don’t miss out on the local ice creams when you’re here.


Family playing mini golf at the beach.

Family playing mini golf at the beach. Photo: Joshua Resnick – Dreamstime.com


Dollywood isn’t the only thing the foothills to the Great Smoky Mountains deserve to be famous for. Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini Golf in Gatlinburg features 54 holes with animated barnyard characters, water features and interactive elements. The other elaborate 36-hole course is Davy Crockett-themed. If seven or so hours of mini golf isn’t enough for one day, check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not attractions like the 3-D movie theater with smell-o-vision and the mirror maze.


The Holly Inn in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, was the site of the first miniature golf course and practice facility in America. (The resort and its village were coincidentally designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted as a health retreat.) Today, the concept of “mini” has changed, but back in 1916, the 18-hole Lilliputian Thistle Dhu course was built on the grounds of the house of James Barber. Today it’s called a putting course and it’s open to all guests. The hotel also has a KidClub, with full- and half-day programs including meals and snacks, and private in-room babysitting for $20 an hour for one or two children.


It’s no surprise that due to its location near the beach Duffer’s Mini Golf in Wildwood, New Jersey, has a nautical theme. Oversized talking pelicans, sharks, an octopus and a shipwreck put “mega” into “mini.” Afterwards, order a banana split or sundae at the on-site ice cream shop; there’s also a family-friendly restaurant and arcade with Skee-Ball, air hockey and traditional pinball machines.


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