Course: The Hinkle Family Fun Center
Location: 12931 Indian School Road NE, Albuquerque NM 87112
Price: $7.99 for 18 holes; $11.29 for 36 holes.
Review: Pacino. Gore. Jazeera. Roker. Obama. Capone. Dente. What do all of these things have in common?? With the exception of Obama, they’re all surnames of famous people/objects named Al! (Obama was just a red herring). But, while these Als are all, undeniably, pretty amazing, with such a wide variety of great men/news organizations/pastas named Al out there, one can’t help but wonder: “what is the best Al in the world?” Fortunately (as opposed to my whole “mini golf” dilemma), the answer to this specific question is deceptively simple. Sure, there are many great “Als” all around us, but there has only ever been one “Big Al.” And you know what Al I’m talking about… I’m talking about Duke City! I’m talking about the largest city in the entire state of New Mexico! I’m talking about the city that single-handedly put a giant “Q” smack-dab in the geological center of the Land of Enchantment!*
Mother friggin’ Albuquerque!!!
After a fun (not at all soul-crushingly boring) seven hours of driving, I finally arrived at Al “Big Al” Buquerque in the heart of New Mexico. And while it is perhaps best known as the site of the world’s largest hot air balloon festival, Albuquerque is also, more importantly, the site of the second mini golf course on my 50-state road trip. The Hinkle Family Fun Center**. Surrounded by New Mexico’s beautifully scenic brushland (and directly adjacent to an equally scenic CVS), The Hinkle Family Fun Center has been continuously owned and operated by Gene, Betty, Doug, and Bryan Hinkle (the eponymous Hinkle family) since 1994. And let me tell you right now, this place had everything for the discerning mini golf enthusiast: waterfalls, lakes, a practice putting green, waterfalls, at least eight different American flags on display, ninety-five degree New Mexico heat, and even waterfalls! But seriously, featuring two incredibly well-maintained courses (and at least 15 different water features), this venue was more relaxed and peaceful than a yoga studio on Quaaludes. There were two-story tree houses to putt through, caves to explore, and a great view of the nearby Sandia Mountain Range. Honestly, if it weren’t for the scorching desert heat, I could have stayed at Hinkle’s almost as long as the Anasazi civilization stayed in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. Which is approximately 1,400 years!!***
But, although this venue was, for the most part, an extremely peaceful getaway, it still had its fair share of flaws: the two courses were pretty low production-value, all the holes were par-2’s, and the venue’s red-and-blue colored obstacles weren’t terribly unique. Obviously, this wasn’t a “bad” venue by any means. Just, like the face of an employee at a frozen yogurt store… Hinkle’s was unmemorable. In addition, the fact they used colored turf to mimic water (rather than just use the real thing) was kind of disappointing. Ultimately though, although Hinkle’s was not particularly noteworthy, it was still a very relaxing way to spend a few hours in NM. Plus, after I finished putting, I won a Nerf gun from their arcade for only two bucks. Which was sweet!
* Land of EnchQantment.
** Seeing as this is already the second Family Entertainment Center I’ve visited on my trip, I thought it would be neat to give y’all a little more info on them. According to IBISWorld, family fun centers (arcade/go kart/bumper car/mini golf venues) are a ten billion dollar industry with approximately 50,000 locations worldwide. To put that number in perspective, there are only about 850 Olive Garden restaurant locations in the whole world… Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
*** The great thing about using historical specificity as a punchline is that, even if the joke is bad/lazily written, the reader still learns something in the process.
Course Score: 43; Par – 38.
Pros: Great upkeep; decently challenging; turf/props in good condition; multi-level holes; peaceful environment; many well-maintained/peaceful waterfalls and caves; fun tree house vibe.
Cons: Lower production value; very hot; all holes were par 2; mostly simplistic holes; nothing that made it truly memorable.