Course: Par-King Skill Golf
Location: 21711 N Milwaukee Ave, Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Price: $8.50 for 18 holes; $17 for 36 holes
Review: What’s more “American” than mini-golf? Apple pie? Baseball? A bald eagle sabotaging a Russian submarine during the height of the cold war while “American Idiot” by Green Day plays loudly on the jukebox of the local five and dime? I suppose those are all pretty American, however, you still can’t spell U.S.A. without “mini golf.”*
But what about roller coasters? Like mini golf, roller coasters are iconic American roadside distractions with centuries of storied American history. And when you ride a roller coaster, you can’t help but raise your hands (in celebration of America) and scream loudly (to repent for any impure, unAmerican thoughts you may have had in the past**). But even roller coasters are pure deer urine when compared with the ubiquitously kitschy Americana that is mini golf.
But what about miniature roller coasters that are integrated seamlessly into the circus-like environment of a challenging, clever, and incredibly fun 36-hole mini golf course that has consistently been described as one of the world’s “most unusual golf courses?”
Located only an hour outside of Chicago, Par-King Skill Golf is a veritable miniaturized technicolor explosion. Filled with vibrantly colored statues, impressively interactive machinery, complex water hazards, and a massive bright pink castle, this course just needed 30 suffocating clowns trapped in a too-small car and I would have sworn it was a full-fledged circus. There were rotating platforms. There were miniature replicas of national treasures.*** There were working elevators that carried your ball through complex pipe systems. And most impressively, there were real roller coasters. Real tiny roller coasters. If you’ve ever ridden on Splash Mountain but felt sad because your mini golf ball couldn’t experience that same hair-raising, spine-tingling, butt-clenching, thigh-caressing joy… Par-King’s got you covered. Additionally, the course’s final hole (a giant roulette board that arbitrarily gave you 0-7 points depending on what you scored) was an exhilarating way to end the entire afternoon.
However: a word of warning. Just like all those totally real, definitely not made-up, high-class Hollywood hot tub orgies that Martin Freeman only got invited to after starring in The Hobbit, this place was pretty exclusive. Not only was it cash-only, but (as is the case with a real roller coaster) you had to be over 48 inches tall to play. So if you’re less than 4 feet tall, or if you want to enter the course wearing shoes on your knees, then you’re out of luck. Also, several of the trick-shots were cool, but kind of arbitrary. I know this is a small, nitpicky complaint, but when I skillfully, expertly launched my ball into the “Lasso an Ace” portion of a hole, my ball wasn’t placed any closer to the hole than if I had played the hole normally. The hole lied to me. I didn’t “Lasso an Ace.” I felt like a Hollywood celebrity seeing Martin Freeman at their exclusive hot tub orgy: disappointed.
But, despite these exclusive/deceptive flaws, this course put a unique spin on a potentially stilted roadside distraction. And its ability to pull off such a radical transformation so successfully was deeply impressive. Plus, its music selection was pretty jamming, which was another big plus.
* Unmited Stnaties of Agmericoalf
** Thoughts like “Our flag should have more stars on it” or “George Washington owned slaves. We should recognize that our founding fathers were ultimately flawed relics of their own contemporaneous era” or “I wish the Statue of Liberty was a dude. Why do chicks get all the fun?”
*** Like Mt. Rushmore. Not Jessica Lange. (Even though she is, without a doubt, a national treasure. Have you seen Tootsie? She won an academy award. And she earned it too.)
Course Score: Black course: Adam – 42, Dan – 42, Jake – 52; par – 41. Red course: Adam – 42, Jake – 46, Dan – 46; par 41.
Pros: Unique holes; fun music playlist; complex machinery; fun aesthetic; clever and complicated; extraordinarily, commendably original.
Cons: Cash only; must be over 48 inches tall to play; the “trick shots” were arbitrary; the last roulette hole perhaps made scoring arbitrary; no discount for multiple games; slight water damage/scuffs.