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.

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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.

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