6/29/16 – Georgia

Course: The Fringe at Area 51 Family Entertainment
Location: 5100 Commerce Parkway, Roswell, GA 30076
Price: $7 for 18 holes; $10.50 for 36 holes,


Sam and I visit “The Fringe” at Area 51 Family Entertainment

Review: After 12 days on the road, I finally went mini golfing with another person. A real person! Recently, I’ve been spending most of my time talking to a pair of googly eyes I super-glued to my thumb; and, without a doubt, seeing my old high school friend was 1000% better than listening to Mr. Thumb talk about Syria for hours and hours on end. But I don’t want to spend this review talking about how nice it was to have companionship after one hundred years of solitude (give or take a few years). And I definitely don’t want to yammer on and on about how the sound of Sam’s voice, the warm press of his firm, supple hands against mine, and his irresistible musk that smelled like the Autumn harvest could have compelled me to stay in Georgia forever. I don’t want to talk about that. I can’t. I mustn’t.

No, what I want to talk about today is piracy. And to all you millennials out there, I’m not talking about Napster #lol #funny! I’m talking about the daring aquatic marauders glamorized in such films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Muppet Treasure Island, and Captain Phillips. Now, I’ve already mentioned the mini golf mega-chain Pirate’s Cove (that has 2 locations in Georgia alone), but, for the third time this trip, a state’s most popular mini golf course prominently featured pirates. Why is this genre such a popular one for mini golf? Do mini golfers collectively yearn for the sea, the adventures that come from months and months of rowing in the hot sun, the delicious taste of delightfully succulent lemons that protect us from the blight of scurvy? I don’t have an answer to these questions. It just seems odd how unusually prominent pirate mini golf courses are, given that they have relatively little representation in the rest of cultural Americana. Food for thought (just like juicy, savory lemons!)

That being said, I was underwhelmed by The Fringe mini golf, located just north of Atlanta. Featuring two courses, a pirate course and a wild west course, this venue was perfectly tolerable. The holes were simplistic, but in relatively good upkeep. And the props were of a moderately high production value. Just, like a podcast about being a struggling artist in Brooklyn, this course was wholly unremarkable. However, one thing struck me as odd while playing – many of the prop landmarks in the two courses referenced trademarked fictional characters. References to “John Shaft’s” mining company and “Barbosa, Sparrow, and Turner’s” law offices* were fun, but ultimately the intellectual property of MGM and Disney respectively. I don’t know much about copyright law, but even an illiterate child knows that these depictions do not legally constitute as parody and, if The Fringe is profiting as a result of these references, it is in violation of The Law. We should hold The Law more sacred than our own children. I would never violate The Law. I would never murder. I would never arson. I would never break into the private mini golf course of a North Carolina luxury hotel in the dead of night for the sole purpose of reviewing it. And I never will. That would be wrong. In the end, however, despite its legal shortcomings, The Fringe at Area 51 Family Entertainment was fine. Nothing special. But nothing terrible. And, if you have a friend with you, it makes for a very fun afternoon.

*Those three characters are enemies! There’s no way they would work together in a court of law. How could Sparrow work with Barbosa after Barbosa stranded him on an island and left him to die? And Turner would never work with those two. Turner always wanted to live an honest life as a blacksmith, married to the governor’s daughter. Not as an attorney with the two saltiest privateers in the seven seas. It would never work.

Course Score: Sam – 56, me – 55, par – 42.
Pros: The company of friends; each course was equally high production value; good props; good water features; several interesting holes.
Cons: Very simplistic; several of the holes were scuffed up; decent, but unremarkable.

6/28/16 – Tennessee

Course: Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf
Location: 1639 Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37862
Price: $12.99 for 18 holes; $13.99 for 36 holes; $14.99 for 54 holes.


My visit to Ripley’s mini golf

Review: Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf is conveniently located only ten minutes away from scenic Dollywood, the nation’s largest (if only) theme park dedicated to that inimitable songstress/temptress Dolly Parton. And given that this course was owned by the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! franchise, I  chose not to believe how much fun I had at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Using a “farm” theme to their advantage, Ripley’s truly glamorized the rough and tumble life of a farmhand, making customers yearn for those good old Grapes of Wrath days when fields turned dry and crops (and livelihoods) turned to dust. Did this course mention America’s sinking water tables which threaten to ravage our Monsanto-supplied genetically modified crops? No, but it had a fantastic production value! Throughout the entire 3-course venue were a series of animatronic farm animals that interacted with customers as they played through. Giant, anthropomorphic pigs drank “Pig Gulp” sodas, motion activated groundhogs complimented you when you sank a putt, and chickens, sheep and other farm animals recited fun farm puns as you passed (“you can’t pull the wool over my eyes”). Ripley’s real-life farming experience was so high-value and high-concept that it almost made me forget that our current agricultural processes account for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It was that good!

One point of complaint: many of the holes at Ripley’s were slightly concave, curved inward to make the ball go into the hole quicker/easier. Why do this? Is it to make tourists play faster so that Ripley’s can make more of that sweet, sweet green? Is it to boost up the morale of a nation suffering from severe wealth inequality, falsely lowering scores to mask the corporate greed that has fractured our floundering nation in twain? Either way, it struck me as unfair. I mean, did I sleep in the residential parking lot adjacent to an overbooked motel last night just so that I could have a hole play itself for me? Have I spent a week and a half saying “no, I’m here by myself. One ticket should be fine” just so that I can get 5 hole-in-ones on Ripley’s Chicken Egg-Spress course? Have I not talked to another human being on a meaningful level for 10 days, only for this cowardly course to refuse to give me the dignity of finishing out my hole like a man, instead forcing me to suffer and watch as my ball slowly inched itself towards the hole, rendering me impotent. Powerless to stop the cruel hand of gravity. Damn you Isaac Newton for inventing such a cursed force of nature. And damn you Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf for using gravity for your own personal gains. I damn you both equally. I damn you.

However, the course did have fantastic upkeep, so, in the end, the concave holes were pretty forgivable.

In summary, while Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf was a great spot for a family getaway, for the consummate professional it was not up to the difficulty standard I have come to expect. And, perhaps as proof of this, when Ripley’s 17-year old attendant saw me leave carrying a camera, notepad, and my own putter, she just laughed and said “wow, you must really love mini golf!” Cryptically I replied “you have no idea” before driving for four hours to Georgia.

Course Score: Chicken Egg-Spress – 34, Par – 40; Porky Putts – 39, Par – 43.
Pros: Very high budget; every course was equally high quality; great upkeep; fun and funny; relatively interactive and personal given the faceless multinational corporation that owns it.
Cons: Simplistic holes that scored themselves for you; not a marked difference between their “easy” and “hard” courses.

6/27/16 – Kentucky

Course: Lexington Ice Center & Sports Complex
Location: 560 Eureka Springs Dr, Lexington, KY 40517
Price: $6.95 for 18 holes; $8.95 for 36 holes; $9.95 for unlimited holes.


Lexington Ice Center

Review: Up until now, this review guide has been a strictly areligious text, and for that I deeply apologize. The hedonistic high-stakes world of professional mini golf reviewing rarely intersects with the word of our one true Lord and Savior (and I’m not talking about Vishnu). Fortunately, for all you church fans out there who can’t wait until next Sunday to get in another session of good old-fashioned all-American prayin’, Lexington Ice Center’s got you covered. Located only a few minutes from Keeneland’s famous horse racing tracks, Lexington Ice Center has the largest religious themed mini golf course in the nation. Featuring 54 unique biblical-themed holes, and overlooked by a large wooden cross, this course (like the forthcoming rapture) will finally separate the sinners from the sin-nots.

The first 18 holes, retelling the Old Testament (the way it was always meant to be told) feature mini golf depictions of all your favorite biblical classics. Holes like “Noah’s Ark,” or “Jonah and the Whale” will bruise every piety bone in your body and give you a stitch in your side from all that genuflection. But if you’re tired of the same old bible stories, if you’re a real bible fan who got into the good book before it went mainstream, don’t worry because Lexington Ice Center’s other two courses (“New Testament” and “Miracles”) feature all those holy deep cuts that everyone else’s church has probably never even heard of – doing a bit of indulgent fanservice for the true sons and daughters of Christ, hole 8 on “New Testament” recreates that classic, unforgettable passage from Acts 17:24-25

“The God who made the world
and everything in it
is the Lord of Heaven and Earth
and does not live in temples made by hands

Complete with handy placards citing the relevant biblical quotes, this course is more enthralling and informative than the Wikipedia entry on unusually shaped vegetables. Unfortunately, this course did have a few shortcomings. Most pressingly, it skipped over the most exciting and compelling elements of the bible (the betrayal of Judas, Christ’s crucifixion, the harrowing of Hell, etc.) in favor of inoffensiveness. Look. If you’re doing a bible themed course, you’ve got to commit 100 percent. Just once (and only once), I want to play a hole that goes past a pillar of salt on its way to the wreckage of Sodom, warning me that while mini golf is fun, it is no replacement for the teachings of my elders. Also, some elements of the course were worn down and simplistic, and the religious depictions were sometimes tenuous (the hole, “in the beginning there was light,” was just painted black on one side, and white on the other).  But, overall, Lexington Ice Center was a charming way to spend the afternoon, and an interesting representation of central Kentucky’s religious community.

Course Score: Old Testament – 48, Par – 40; New Testament – 51, Par – 41.
Pros: Unique theme and strong commitment to the aesthetic; informative; pious.
Cons: Very simplistic holes; the biblical theme was oftentimes a representation not an outright depiction; some of the holes were a little worn out; some of the biblical placards were water damaged.

6/26/16 – Indiana

Course: Rustic Driving Range and Miniature Golf Inc
Location: 5955 Terrace Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203
Price: $7 for 9 holes; $9 for 18 holes; $14 for 27 holes.


My visit to Rustic Driving Range and Mini Golf

Review: Ok, yeah. I take back everything I said about being tired of mini golf. This place was incredible. These past few days I’ve been visiting a seemingly unending onslaught of self-righteous, cookie cutter “one-with-nature” courses. Well, this place actually was nature. Established in 1932 (the year we split the first atom), Rustic Driving Range has been operating for the past 84 years. And, let me tell you, its dedication to the ideals of the 1932 (the first year a woman was elected to the U.S. Senate) really comes through. The holes were actually made of real grass. Seriously, look at those pictures. It’s real grass! It was just like a real golf course, only smaller! The last time I felt this much giddy joy was when I played poppa’s violin for the first time (only this time, I didn’t crack the resin and forever betray poppa’s trust!) This place was great!

Were there any downsides to Rustic Driving Range? Kind of. But they went hand in hand with the upsides. This was nature. Real nature. The reason that we invented the indoors. And sure, there were a few fire ants in the sand traps (made out of real sand!), but that’s the price you have to pay for putting in the mini golf equivalent of a Jack London novel. I mean, come on: there were ducks that lived right on the course like it was no big deal; almost every hole featured a unique nature-based obstacle (on one hole you had to ramp your ball over an authentic stone water well, like an old-timey Evel Knievel). And these courses were long. Real long. Longer than a Toblerone bar. Longer than a student film about SeaWorld. Par 5 long. Just walking across the rustic Indiana countryside, I felt like Meriwether Lewis, making his way across our fledgling nation (America), only this time, Clark wasn’t there talking about his stupid plants (when he could have been talking about actually cool things, like penicillin or the electric guitar).

When all was said and done, I ended up spending two hours at Rustic Driving Range, putting a solid 27 holes in a rustic paradise. I finished just as the sun descended back into its earthen tomb and the fireflies began to dance like tiny fairies in the tawny sunset. It was beautiful. It was sublime. And most importantly, it was one of the best mini golf courses in the nation.

Course Score: 9 holes – 35; par – 36. 18 holes – 70; Par – 72.
Pros: So many – this was mini golf the way it was meant to be played. Long holes; unique gameplay; dedication to a heretofore forgotten wilderness.
Cons: Fair amount of fire ants and mosquitos, but the front desk provided bug spray, so even that wasn’t a huge problem.

6/24/16 – Iowa

Course: West Grand Golf
Location: 6450 Raccoon River Dr, West Des Moines, IA 50266
Price: $8 for 18 holes.


West Grand Golf

Review: Well, it’s been 11 states. And just like that, my trip is already 1/5th completed. Now, by this point in the journey, a less professional reviewer than myself might say something like “wow, only 1/5th done?” or “how is that possible? This has felt like an eternity” or even “I slept in my car last night. I drove another 6 hours today. I’m tired. So tired. Tired of driving. Tired of eating nothing but Subway sandwiches for a week straight. Tired of these midwestern cookie-cutter ‘one-with-nature’ courses that use the ‘beautiful contours of the land’ to create a ‘relaxed but immersive’ mini-golf ‘experience.'”

I could say something like that, but I’m not that kind of reviewer. So here’s my actual review:

Did you know people from Iowa sure do love corn? I had no idea! That is, until I went to West Grand Golf miniature golf in Iowa! The 9-time winner of CityView’s “Best Mini Golf in Central Iowa” award, how could someone searching for the best mini golf course in America not go here? They’d have to go. They wouldn’t have a choice. And let me tell you, if you’re in the mood to see corn extending for miles in every direction, then West Grand Golf is the place for you. Like a corn maze that had filled up its maze portion with more corn, corn was everywhere! There was enough corn to feed an army. Enough corn to power a single biofuel car for days! And, don’t worry, because Iowa’s plentiful grain plants weren’t just used as scenery, they extended into the course itself – throughout the venue, wheat was strategically planted within the holes themselves, cleverly turning the environment into an obstacle (just like 127 Hours!). Also, the water hazards were pretty tricky (albeit, once again blue tinted).

However, I did have one pretty big complaint about West Grand Golf: Not. Enough. Corn. A course of this caliber needs (deserves) to be filled with corn. Hectares upon hectares of corn. Corn. More corn than is humanly comprehensible. Corn filling the blue tinted water. Corn filling the skies. Corn covering our bodies, replacing our weak skin with pure, impenetrable husk. Corn. Corn. Corn. Corn. Corn.

In addition, the course was pretty worn down and scuffed in places, making the holes a little slippery. It was a very unforgiving course. If you missed the hole by an inch, the ball kept rolling for another 4 feet. Which was kind of like getting your hand cut off because you stole bread from a fictional sultan in an ancient Arabian sultanate (and what is a mere loaf of bread to someone as wealthy as the sultan?). The punishment did not fit the crime.

In summary, West Grand Golf was a perfectly ordinary course in a unique location, but nothing really made it stand out. Its biggest sin was its own mediocrity.

Course Score: 53; Par – 45.
Pros: Popular date location; shaded oasis; good water hazards.
Worn down and slippery; simplistic course; scuffed in several areas; bland.

6/24/16 – Nebraska

Course: Adventure Golf Center
Location: 5901 S 56th St, Lincoln, NE 68516
Price: $6 for 18 holes; $9 for 36 holes.


Adventure Golf Center

Review: Step aside Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because there’s a new face in the world of botanical whimsy. And its name is Adventure Golf Center. With all of its verdant greenery, blooming foliage, and stone masonry, this course felt better suited as the setting of an Ancient Grecian orgy than as the location of a miniature golf course. Consisting of two 18-hole courses, the entire venue was covered in flowers (the perfect token of love to initiate a Grecian orgy); the pathway spanned several floors (giving your Grecian orgy a perfect view over the scenic Lincoln, Nebraska skyline); and water features trickled throughout the entire course (masking the amorous sounds of your Grecian orgy, so that your prying neighbors, the Tamlins, can’t participate).

Were there downsides to the Adventure Golf  center? Of course. The holes were pretty simplistic, even by mini golf standards. And, once again, the water was dyed a sickly blue color (why is that the industry trend? Does regular water look unnatural?). But overall (unlike the Tamlins’ unwelcome advances) this course was delightful. It was a little sliver of flowery paradise in the midst of the cold darkness that we call humanity. I felt like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden – I may have started off the afternoon as the tragically orphaned daughter of wealthy British aristocrats; but, with the help of this garden’s magically rejuvenating powers, I ended the afternoon a strong confident woman, proud of my femininity. Proud of my connection with nature. Proud of myself. Soon, my cousin Colin will heal from his infirmity. And we shall rejoice. But until then, I shall spend my days inside the garden to which I owe everything. The Secret Garden.

All in all, this course was pretty good, but not extraordinary. So instead of rambling on about how Adventure Golf Center was a high-quality course that didn’t necessarily drop my jaw, I thought it might be fun to share an anecdote from the course: on the 3rd hole, a charismatic elderly lady talked to me for 20 minutes about the war (during which she mentioned both Japan and Korea, so I’m not really sure which war she was referring to…); then, when she asked me where I was from and I lied and said “Portland, Oregon” because I didn’t want to admit I was travelling across the country for the sole purpose of playing mini golf. Without missing a beat, she talked for five more minutes about how the amount of sex trafficking in Portland was the highest in the nation. As if I was personally responsible. I’m not sure what this anecdote had to prove, but it stuck out to me as important. And strangely beautiful.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, despite its lower production value, I ended up having a great time in Adventure Golf Center: a beautiful, tamed wilderness. And I learned a lot about Portland’s edgy nightlife scene, which will come in handy when I go there in August. And, let me tell you right now, if Portland’s mini golf scene is even half as rampantly endemic as its sex trafficking rates, I bet their course will be tremendous.

I can’t wait.

Course Score: 43; Par – 41
Pros: Great upkeep; cheap; peaceful and serene; the multiple levels were fun; the garden aesthetic was beautiful.
Cons: Simplistic holes; blue water; pretty unmemorable; but not a lot, overall this place was lovely.

6/24/16 – Kansas

Course: Smiley’s Golf Complex
Location: 10195 Monticello Terrace, Lenexa, KS 66227
Price: $9 for 18 holes; $11.50 for 36 holes.


Smiley’s Golf Complex

Review: Like Mississippi, Kansas did not seem to have an overly vibrant miniature golf scene. Most of Kansas’ best mini golf venues were located on the Missouri side of Kansas City, which doesn’t really work for the purposes of this poorly conceived review guide. (Also, more importantly, why is half of Kansas City in Missouri? That’s madness! That’s like placing Oklahoma City in Montreal. Or refusing to give the United States Virgin Islands full congressional representation in the United States of America. That wouldn’t make any sense!) However, Smiley’s Golf Complex was a well esteemed venue located in sunny Lenexa, Kansas, that had two different mini golf courses: “Famous Golf” and “Mini Haunts.”

And, true to its name, the “Famous Golf” portion of Smiley’s offered the prospective mini golfer a very polished, professional experience. It was sleek and user-friendly: the Microsoft Excel of mini golf courses. And, like a young female lawyer in a world full of men, “Famous Golf” worked twice as hard to prove itself. It was shaded; it was freshly re-carpeted for the summer rush; and, just like a stand-up comic at an AA meeting, it fit seamlessly into the environment around it. Furthermore, using the expansive Kansas prairie to its advantage, many of the holes were longer and more complex than any I had previously encountered which was a pleasant surprise. I still remember the first time I used Microsoft Excel: the wry smile that emerged from my chapped lips as I concatenated my first two data cells . After playing 18 holes of “Famous Golf,” for the first time in years, that wry smile returned.

But, if “Famous Golf” was the Microsoft Excel of the mini golf world, “Mini Haunts” was, without a doubt, the mini golf equivalent of a giraffe that had overdosed on tranquilizers. I realize that those were mixed metaphors, but after putting 18 holes on “Mini Haunts,” the comparison feels apt. To the best of my discerning abilities, the theme of “Mini Haunts” was “things that are scary.” But that isn’t entirely correct. It was more like “random junk we have lying around that we can put spooky adjectives in front of.” It was the Boo Berry Cereal of mini golf courses (and when I buy the most terrifying-named breakfast food, I expect to get a goddamn chill down my spine, not a cardboard box full of lies). Placed strategically around the course was a crass menagerie of the world’s most famous scary objects. You know, objects like the “Giant Skull” (a giant skull), the “Voodoo Curse” (a repurposed Easter Island head), or even the “Supernatural Rock” (which was literally just a rock. See below). It was disheartening. In short, Smiley’s Golf Complex, while impressive, was ultimately as precarious and unbalanced as a boulder perched on the top of “Trouble Hill” (the 17th hole of “Mini Haunts” – it was just a hill.)

Course score: 71; Par 55. Not a great game.
Pros: Great “Famous Golf” course; unique holes and an admirable use of space.
Cons: The “Mini Haunts” course was obviously an afterthought; the “water” features were just cement that had been painted blue; some of the holes were in a well-worn state of disrepair; the “Mini Haunts” holes were far more simplistic than the “Famous Golf” holes.

6/23/16 – Missouri

Course: Shoot for the Stars Mini-Golf
Location: 3110 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
Price: $13 for 18 holes.


Marty McBooster and I visit Shoot for the Stars Mini Golf

Review: After a quaint drive past several local gun stores, a gas station with two confederate flags*, and a billboard that read: “Diversity is the codename for #WhiteGenocide” I finally arrived in Branson, Missouri – the folksier, Midwestern cousin of Las Vegas. And what better way to enjoy the self-proclaimed cultural hub of the flyover states than by going to its “Hollywood” themed mini golf extravaganza? Located right on the downtown Branson strip, Shoot for the Stars Mini Golf was part of the Hollywood Wax Museum, a multinational chain so obsessed with celebrity culture, that it made TMZ look almost subdued by comparison.

And if Arkansas’ mini golf course appeared to be “fake,” Shoot for the Stars reveled in (and glamorized) the falsehood of celebrity culture. Guided by recordings of a fictional sleazy, weaselly,  fast talking (read: Jewish) agent, Marty McBooster, the course led its patrons through the self-absorbed Hollywood machine one hole at a time. Starting with the first hole, entitled “Being Discovered,” customers eventually worked on a “Movie Set” (hole 5), went to their own “Movie Premiere” (hole 10) and finally, puttered down the red polypropylene carpet on “Oscar Night” (hole 16). I felt like a real A-list celebrity! Just like Brendan Fraser! Or the Baldwin brothers who aren’t Alec!

Moreover, disregarding its clearly fake palm trees, Shoot for the Stars was impressively technologically slick. Featuring high value replicas of Hollywood monuments, motion-activated paparazzi cameras, and voice recordings of Marty McBooster (who, to my amazement, never said the word Hanukkah once!) this place had a higher production value than many actual films (here’s looking at you Paranormal Activity). In addition, mist machines placed around the course, as well its many water features prevented me from getting heat stroke. Which was nice.

In summation, with all of its garish props, its flashy emptiness, and its misleading promises of easy fame, Shoot for the Stars was, without a doubt, the perfect imitation of Hollywood celebrity – exciting, expensive, and, in the end, artificially vapid.

Before I conclude this review, I must admit that I’ll be sorry to leave Branson behind. It was a nice (if gaudy) place. Though, that being said, I don’t think the folks of Branson will be sorry to see me go. According to one local, I speak like “I’m in some kind of a hurry.”

Looking at the solid month and a half of mini golf ahead of me, nothing could be further from the truth.

*And one of those “Don’t Tread On Me” snake flags – the last time that flag was this popular, the second amendment still referred to guns that had bayonets attached to them. (More accurately, the last time it was this popular, the second amendment was still 14 years away from being ratified. History is neat.)

Course score: 47; Par – 45.
Star-O-Meter score: Famous.
Pros: High production value; told a cohesive story; mist machines; committed to the high concept premise.
Cons: The holes were pretty simple; there were wood chips on the ground that were hard to putt around; slightly more expensive.

6/22/16 – Arkansas

Course: Big Rock Mini Golf
Location: 11411 Baseline Rd, Little Rock, AR 72209
Price: $9 for 18 holes; $15.00 for 36 holes.


My visit to Big Rock Mini Golf

Review: Again, choosing this course was difficult, the most popular venue in Arkansas was, by a large margin, the mini golf mega-chain Pirate’s Cove that has 25 locations in 14 states. I will eventually be reviewing their flagship location in Traverse City, Michigan, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to visit this one too (that’s like trying to review both Vin Diesel and a cardboard cut-out of Vin Diesel: they aren’t entirely identical, but they look like one another, they have the same acting capabilities, and in your heart you know they’re essentially the same thing).

Instead, I opted for the second most popular, but comparably rated, Big Rock Mini Golf, which I hoped would show me the real Arkansas. Not the overly romanticized Arkansas that you read about in your stories, where the humble, but well-read Wal-Mart greeter falls in love with the haughty, but dashingly handsome Murphy Oil executive. No, I wanted the gritty, salt-of-the-earth Arkansas that produces 46% of the nation’s rice. The Arkansas you can’t imagine in your hopelessly idealistic storybooks.

So, did Big Rock show me the real Arkansas? I don’t know. The course was very nice. It was a spacious 36-hole complex surrounded by beautiful Arkansas evergreens. It had rolling streams and complex water hazards. It was in a pristine condition, the holes themselves weren’t damaged in the slightest. But that, perhaps, was its biggest problem: it felt overly manufactured. The water was a sickly, over-dyed blue. The ropes and boulders scattered around the course were made of plastic, not rope and boulder. There was a teepee in the back, but the course didn’t have any literature about its Native American heritage, so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to think. In short, it felt like a caricature of Arkansas, not the real thing. And, I guess, this leads me to the real question of this review. What is the real Arkansas? Is it the inexplicable teepee in the back of Big Rock Mini Golf, buried behind a row of majestic evergreens; is it the rusting tractor lying a few feet away from the course; is it the fake rope and rocks and water? Seriously, what is the real Arkansas?

Of course, I cannot answer this question. I’m an outsider. I’ve never calloused my fingers in the harsh Arkansas rice fields that produce 46% of the nation’s rice. Ostensibly, only people who have actually lived in Arkansas would know what the real Arkansas was. So, what did the real Arkansawnians [sic] say about their state? When I asked one of locals to take a picture of me, he asked, without a trace of irony: “why would you want proof you’ve been to Little Rock?”

I didn’t have an answer to that question. But it seemed poetic.

Course Score: 54; no par listed.
Pros: Fantastic upkeep; complex water hazards; good view of the Arkansas evergreens; the course provided drinking water to customers to keep cool.
Cons: Fake rope; fake rocks; fake watermill; fake water.


6/21/16 – Mississippi

Course: Mac N’ Bones Golf & Grill
Location: 1 Mac and Bones Blvd, Pearl, MS 39208
Price: $7.50 for 18 holes; $10.00 for unlimited play.


My visit to Mac ‘N Bones

Review: Oof. Going in, I knew that there were inherent flaws in choosing “the best mini golf course in each state.” Simply put, not all states have the same mini golf capabilities; Google maps listed only 3 major mini golf locations throughout all of Mississippi. And while none of these venues seemed particular noteworthy, Mac N’ Bones Golf & Grill at least had a high-concept pirate vibe, so I was very optimistic going in. I mean, remember when Pirates of the Caribbean came out? Everyone was like “a movie based off of a Disney ride, there’s no way this could be good,” but then their jaws dropped because Pirates of the Caribbean was an unparalleled adventure into a nautical paradise, featuring particularly iconic performances from Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the mischievous Captain Jack Sparrow (look it up, it’s true).

That being said, this place was rough. The course itself was scuffed and dirty; there were leaves covering many of the holes (making it harder to putt); there was maintenance equipment lying right in the middle of the course; their lake was clogged-up and mosquito-filled; and I was the only customer on the course (I had to take my own photo). And yet, there were still approximately five employees there on a Monday afternoon, standing guard over this empty, maltreated mini golf facility. Just standing there, doing nothing. It got to the point where, throughout my entire game, I kept wondering: “is this place a drug front? Is this whole mini golf course just a way for them to launder their ill-gotten gains from selling illicit drugs?” And after spending the better part of an hour there, my answer was a tentative “maybe,” which isn’t great.

Now, by this point in the review, it would be all too easy to write off Mississippi’s mini golf scene in general, saying something scathing like “Mississippi’s mini golf quality is as low as its high school graduation rate.” But that misses the point. The real heartbreaking problem with Mac N Bones is that it had the potential for greatness. The location was prime Mississippi marshland; the holes were complex and interesting; the pirate-themed props were high-value and numerous. But they had all fallen into a state of heavy disrepair. It was like looking at a particularly ancient Russian countess – beneath her heavy wrinkles and sadness, you can see the traces of her former beauty. But now you are both old and cruel and your hearts have been hardened by the world. And sure, you’ll always have the memory of St. Petersburg, but that’s the problem, it’s just a memory: fleeting, inconstant, and, in the end, illusory.


Course Score: 51; Par – 44.
Pros: Really fits into the Mississippi marshlands; with renovations, it has the potential to reclaim its former greatness.
Cons: Many.