7/27/16 – West Virginia

Coal Country Mini Golf

Location: 22 Coal Country Lane, Fairmont, WV 26544
Phone: (304) 366-9300
Hours: 11 am-11 pm (Monday-Sunday)
Price: 18 holes – $5.75 (Adults); $4.75 (12 & under/Seniors).

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My visit to Coal Country Mini Golf

Review: Playtime’s over, ladies. Sure, we’ve all had a lot of fun playing these fancy-pansy highfalutin pretty-boy mini golf courses across the nation. But now it’s time to man up and find a real job. A real, rugged job. A job that makes your father say “I’m proud of you.” A job that makes women say “they’ve always called me a gold digger. But it looks like you’re the real deal. But for coal. Not gold. Haha. Kiss me.”* So drop your putter and grab a pickax. Throw away that bright purple golf ball and steal a few canaries from the local aviary. Because you’re in coal country and, folks, it’s time to start digging. For coal.

Located in the very heart of Coaltown USA,** hidden in a maze of evergreens and bumpy roads (wide enough for only one car at a time), only the truly rugged mini golfer will fully appreciate Coal Country Mini Golf. Now, in previous entries, I’ve harped on courses for being inauthentic, but if you’re looking for a mini golf course that accurately and honestly depicts the West Virginian coal mining industry (an industry that generates 3.5 billion dollars annually for the state) this is the only mini golf venue you’ll ever need. Full of genuine, authentic coal mining equipment (including crib blocks, loading machines, and an operational mine fan – where golfers could putt their ball through the spinning rotors), this course had all the zany fun of the professional coal mining industry without any of the zany cave-ins, gas leaks, and coal demons*** that real miners deal with on a daily basis.

However, setting authenticity aside, the centerpiece of the course was, without a doubt, the gigantic statue of “Big John” – the metallic 20-foot-tall miner who rotated 360 degrees non-stop on a massive plinth in the middle of the course. Now that is what I want to see in one of the nation’s best mini golf courses: a giant rotating miner staring down at you, humbling you before the majesty of all things related to coal mining and coal production. It was cool. No. It was amazing. In the biblical sense. I was, quite literally, filled with amazement. Furthermore, the course’s many lengthy holes, its uniquely complex obstacles, its informative signage, and the fact that it used authentic West Virginian coal as a course obstacle helped to elevate this venue to an almost ridiculous level of mini golf excellence.

Even the small scuffs and occasional bumps in the course couldn’t diminish how unique and wholly authentic this venue was. Oh sure, I could complain that there were a few newly-filled holes that made the surface a little uneven. But my heart wouldn’t be in it. I loved this course. And my love for Coal Country Mini Golf was only increased as, once again, I got a hole-in-one on the course’s last hole (a map of West Virginia), awarding me a “free game” ticket for my next visit to Coal Country. I was perhaps a little disheartened by the fact that I will probably never return to Fairmont  again and, as such, this ticket was as useless as a fire-resistant lump of West Virginian coal. But, fortunately, the 8-year-old girl who had been golfing behind me seemed to be happy when I gave it to her.

This course comes with my highest recommendation.

Other pick-up lines women might say: “Drill baby, drill” or “I love your black hair. Does the lung match the drapes?” or “Are you from Tennessee? I hope not, because you look like a coal miner from the heart of West Virginia. Which is something I am attracted to.”
**Fairmont, WV.
*** You know, coal demons. From that classic children’s song “Coal Demons.” It was really popular a few years ago. The song itself wasn’t that great, but man oh man did it have a catchy chorus.****
****”THE DEMON IS COMING, LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!
THE DEMON OF COAL, DON’T SHOUT! DON’T SHOUT!
HE’S GOT MASSIVE EARS AND A VERY DARK SOUL
WHEN HE FINDS US THEN WE WILL BE TURNED INTO COAL… DEMONS”

Course Score: 45; par – 44
Pros: Authentic; unique; clever; informative; celebrated West Virginian local culture; great layout (mining scaffolding created multi-tier holes); one of the most original courses in America.
Cons: A few scuffs; several lumps in the ground where the holes had been refilled/moved. Honestly, these are very minimal compared to the originality and authenticity of the course.

Big John Farewell

See you later, Big John

7/26/16 – New York (the rest of it)

Course: Around the World Miniature Golf
Location: 72 Beach Rd, Lake George, NY 12845
Price: $8.25 for 18 holes; $14.20 for 36 holes

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My visit to Around the World Miniature Golf

Review: Enough! I have had enough of all these irate New Yorkers* complaining that, by only reviewing NYC, I’m not seeing “the real New York.” You know, the portion of the state where 11.9% of its 17,442 bridges have been deemed “structurally deficient.” The part of the state that all those “I ♥ NY” shirts are referring to. The real concrete jungle where dreams are made of. And, while going to this course forced me to violate my “one course per state” protocol, I ultimately decided to visit Around the World Miniature Golf, located just off the shore of sunny Lake George.** I don’t know. Perhaps visiting this course was just a desperate attempt curry the favor a few more readers. But, given that this venue was an historic 63 year old course with an almost unbelievable level of critical esteem, maybe (just maybe) this was the best mini golf course in America. The one I had already spent a month and a half searching for.

I’m not going to lie. It was incredible. Featuring two 18-hole courses, “Around the World” or “Around the United States,” this course took golfers on a world/national tour, all without the hellish experience of sleeping in fleabag motel every night.*** The Around the World course was especially impressive, highlighting 18 countries on each of its 18 holes. Do you want to visit Canada but don’t have the stomach for all that fatty poutine? Around the World’s “Canada” hole had a 20 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue obtained from the New York World’s Fair. Want to go on a quick trip to Hong Kong, but can’t afford all those pesky surgical masks that keep the air nice and breathable? Well guess what nerds, this course had an authentic Chinese rickshaw collected from abroad by course-creator Harry Horn, complete with a rotating tire that you had to putt your ball through. I don’t even have enough space to discuss the course’s Australian kangaroo (with a pouch you could launch your ball into) or its authentic Thai temple bell (hung over a wishing well that donated its contributions to charity) or the countless other unique specifics that made the course as detailed and impressive as a Renaissance painting (although, with substantially fewer naked dudes than the average Renaissance painting, which was kind of a bummer).

Similarly, “Around the United States” had an equally stunning amount of specificity and polish. But this course was particularly important to me as it featured many American staples that I have already experienced during my trip. Guiding golfers through a nation of Maine lobsters, Kentucky horse races, Texas oil rigs, Florida oranges, and the Colorado Rockies, if I had known the course was this detailed, I wouldn’t have had to go on this unending road trip in the first place. And finally, the course ended with the New York that we all know and love: a replica NY Subway, complete with authentic wooden seating and heavily graffitied walls (the only time that graffiti has ever been appreciated). And sure, there were a few scuffs on the course. And sure, the water was a bit murky. And sure, the nearby steamships blared their horns loudly several times during the hour, provoking a chorus of “My word!” and “What noise!” from the fictional British aristocrats I like to think visited this course at one point in history (still outraged by the brash audacity of the yanks centuries after the end of the Revolutionary War). But, overall, this course gets a very high recommendation. Its level of specificity and detail was commendable.

Not to be confused with “I Rate New Yorkers,” a different review website I’m working on where I try to find the best New Yorker in America. My money is still on that sous chef…
** Interestingly, because I was forced to visit Pizza Putt in Vermont, Around the World was only 5 minutes out of my way on the drive back. Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess. (But what a godawful cloud).
*** These past few days I’ve been playing a very fun travel game: every night, book a room in a progressively cheaper/increasingly terrifying motel. The game ends when you get murdered.

Course Score: 55; par – 48
Pros: Impressive amount of detail/authenticity/specificity; beautiful setting; unique holes; great production value; kitschy in the best of ways.
Cons: A few small scuffs; the water features were somewhat murky; the horn from the nearby steamship was quite jarring.

 

7/25/16 – Vermont

Pizza Putt

Location: 1205 Airport Pkwy, South Burlington, VT 05403
Phone: (802) 862-7888
Hours: 10 am-9 pm (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday); 10 am-11 pm (Friday & Saturday); closed Tuesdays.
Price: 12 holes – $5 (adults); $3 (12 & under).

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Regrettable proof I visited Pizza Putt

Review: I am trying.

Even if you do not agree with the ways in which I’ve selected each state’s “best” courses, I hope you know that, like a deaf aspiring court stenographer, I’m (arguably futilely) trying my hardest. Which is what makes this review so incredibly painful. Because, in many (if not all) ways, Pizza Putt, located in sunny South Burlington, was not the best course in Vermont. No. God no. But, infuriatingly, it was the most rated course in the state. By a margin of 20. So, while pristine-looking courses like the Stowe Golf Park located in Stowe, Vermont had two glowing Google reviews and fourteen votes on Facebook, Pizza Putt had 41 Google reviews and 764 votes on Facebook. And this was the case for every other mini golf course in the state – even for courses like the Mendon Mini Golf & Snack Bar (which, unlike Pizza Putt, wasn’t 3 hours out of my way). Pizza Putt was just like that one guy back in High School who knew how to make fart noises by rubbing his inner thighs together: inexplicably popular. So, despite the fact that many of Pizza Putt’s actual votes were extraordinarily negative (one lady posted multiple times on at least 5 different social media sites complaining about how her child had been gravely wounded at Pizza Putt), it was, in a statistically important way, the single most popular course in Vermont. I had to go there.

Trust me. I researched this for five hours.*

Now, by this point in the review, I could easily write a few halfhearted jokes about how Pizza Putt was the mini golf equivalent of a domestic triple homicide. But I don’t want to give Pizza Putt the dignity of a comedic burial. That would be a grave disservice not just to my readers, but to the the very concept of truth itself. Pizza Putt was dirty. It was scuffed. There were at least 30 uncleaned soda stains on the carpet. It was sticky. It was cramped. One of the holes didn’t even have the lights turned on so you had to putt in complete and total darkness (which, if we’re being honest, was probably better). There was graffiti on the walls. The paint was peeling. And, to top it all off, my camera ran out of batteries halfway through the course, so I had to stay in this purgatory (no, this hell) for an additional thirty minutes charging my camera so that I could get more pictures of the soda stains that were the course’s most prominent decoration (see photos below).

And perhaps the worst part about Pizza Putt was that, when it was first built, it was probably an alright course. Featuring an “around the world” theme, the course had decently high-value props (like Mt. Rushmore and Egyptian pyramids) and an alright layout (the “castle” hole was two stories tall). But the course’s high level of extensive disrepair seemed to be almost be intentional. I could say that Pizza Putt was the miniature golf embodiment of “not caring” but that’s too nice. There was a real sense of malice to this course. Pizza Putt wanted its customers to know just how little it cared about them. Just how little work they had to do to get the customer through the door. Just how insignificant and ant-like they were beneath the sole of Pizza Putt’s inexplicably popular boot. I don’t have anything more to say about Pizza Putt. I mean, I do. But I’m tired of trying to analyze how it feels to be slapped in the face.

Given that I was in Vermont, the land of maple syrup, after I finished golfing, I decided to make like a tree and get the hell out of Pizza Putt. Driving away, I rolled down my car windows to get the lingering smell of Pizza Putt out of my nose. And while the freshly fertilized Vermont fields and skunk roadkill smelled slightly better than Eau de Pizza Putt,** I was still forced to roll up my windows relatively quickly. As I crossed the Vermont border and escaped into the safety of upstate New York, I’d like to say that I didn’t flip Vermont the bird while I was leaving.

I’d like to say that, but my mother didn’t raise me to be a liar.

* For once, this is not a hyperbole. I tried to avoid going to Pizza Putt for five hours. And I failed. Miserably. All roads led to Pizza Putt.
** “By Calvin Klein.”

Course Score: 27; par – 31
Pros: Cheap; years ago it probably used to be merely mediocre.
Cons: Scuffs; stains; lack of lighting; sticky; dirty; in a state of extensive disrepair; I would not wish this course on my enemies.

7/24/16 – Maine

Course: Schooner Mini Golf
Location: 58 Ocean Park Rd, Saco, ME 04072
Price: $9 for 18 holes

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My visit to Schooner Mini Golf

Review: After waking up to the delightful 6 am squawking of seagulls (nature’s loudest and most obnoxious alarm clock*), I made a quick drive past the beautiful Atlantic ocean, several toll booths, and 15 McDonald’s restaurants** before finally arriving at Schooner Mini Golf, conveniently located beautiful, sunny Saco Maine. And, let me tell you, if you’re looking for the true Maine experience, go no further than Schooner Mini Golf. Featuring a huge built-from-scratch lighthouse, a wooden recreation of the wharf, and a 71 foot long schooner with a hole located directly on its hull (the hull is the middle part, right? I’m an expert on mini golf, not boats) this place was just a few rusted lobster traps away from convincing me that I was the kind of man who hunted whales for a living (until my search for the best whale in the ocean drove me to the depths of madness). Although, that being said, Schooner Mini Golf had hecka rusting lobster traps lying around. I don’t know. Maybe my search for “the best mini golf course in America” is my Moby Dick.

Troubling thoughts.

As most of you already know, love playing mini golf on boats, so already this place was off to a great start. But what really sold me was Schooner Mini Golf’s fantastic authenticity. The walkway onto the schooner was just a rickety wooden gangplank with a “watch your step” sign (because safety should always be secondary to looking amazing); the “wharf” was decorated with brightly colored buoys and oars; fountains sprayed majestic jets of water in front of the impressively massive schooner, magnifying the already sublime beauty of playing golf on a boat. There are several things you can’t experience unless you’re actually right on the ocean: the deafening roar of a billion seagulls; seashells that sound just like something scraping against your ear drum (although I may have just been holding the shell backwards); and Schooner Mini Golf. It was pretty cool.

That being said however, there were several elements which weren’t as stand-out. The course was a little worn down and slick in places and several of the cups were missing bottoms so your ball fell on gravel when you sunk a putt. But I guess my biggest complaint is that, like those wimpy corndog samplers they hand out at Costco, I wanted more. Really, the most “authentic” parts of Schooner mini golf were holes 10-12, where you went through the lighthouse, schooner, and wharf. And sure, the rest of the course featured fun ocean props (like the pointy wheel captains use to steer ships), but it was all pretty bland when compared to the course’s centerpiece. It felt like South Dakota. Sure, Mount Rushmore is pretty cool, but there really should be more stuff there for it to call itself a state. (Of course, this is all pointless conjecture – the first time I visit South Dakota will be in two weeks for this trip).

But, overall, Schooner Mini Golf was still a pretty good course. Not outstanding. But not bad by any means. And so, as I got ready to drive to central Vermont, I cheerily waved goodbye to Schooner Mini Golf (perhaps forever) and I waved goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean. After all, I wouldn’t get to see a body of water like that for another 2 weeks.

* Unless being woken up by a ska band practicing at 5 in the morning is considered “natural.” There are days I’m glad I’m no longer in college.
** That were selling lobster rolls for ten bucks! That’s nonsense!!! The only thing the McDonald’s in Colorado sells is soul-searing regret. And delicious, succulent hamburger meat at an affordable price. (After eating McDonald’s for 2 straight weeks, I may have gotten just the smallest amount of Stockholm syndrome.)

Course Score: 42; par – 40
Pros: Fantastic, authentic ocean theme; original locations to play mini golf (schooner/wharf); pretty good upkeep; very clean.
Cons: Several scufffed/worn down holes; lower budget than some courses; needed a bit “more” ocean props at time.

7/23/16 – New Hampshire

Course: Chuckster’s Family Fun Park
Location: 9 Bailey Rd, Chichester, NH 03258
Price: $8.50 for 18 holes

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My visit to Chuckster’s Family Fun Park

Review: Let’s cut the chit chat. We don’t have enough time for some vague introductory paragraph that contextually situates New Hampshire as a part of America. And sure, I’d love to discuss how New Hampshire declared independence from England six whole months before America signed the Declaration of Independence* or how the first potato in the US was planted in New Hampshire in 1719 (the same year that Lichtenstein was created… 1719 was a pretty good year!) No. Despite the fact that I would love to talk about all those things,** I need to talk about Chuckster’s. For those of you too busy doing whatever it is people do when they’re not playing mini golf for two months (I wanna say… Ouija boards? I may have lost touch with the common man on this trip), Chuckster’s is the home of the longest mini golf hole on the planet! With a record length of 201 feet, Chuckster’s’ world-famous hole 13 is about half the length of the average par 3 big golf course. It is a very long distance.

But there are many things that a person can do with 201 feet of space. Were they so inclined, they could store up to 201 foot-long hot dogs end-to-end for later consumption. They could store one hundred and thirty four 18-inch-long hot dogs end-to-end for later consumption. And they could even store one 201-foot-long hot dog for immediate consumption (because why wait for perfection?). So then, with all of these potential replacements, the question remains: did Chuckster’s make good use of its space?

Certainly the venue itself, while perhaps lower budget than many of the courses I’ve previously visited, was nice. Located amidst the beautiful New Hampshire evergreens, the course was picturesque and tranquil, surrounded by boulders and bright blue rivers, creating a scenic enclave from the pressing troubles of the modern world.*** And sure, it was somewhat minimalist (there wasn’t really much to the course besides the nature surrounding it), but it was nice. Several of the holes were complex. Several were simple. Some were in good condition. Some were a little faded. Essentially, it was the mini golf equivalent of a La Quinta Inn. Sure, it’s not the Ritz-Carlton, but it’s still a quality establishment with a proud connection to its local heritage.****

But enough stalling. How was the hole itself? You know, the really long one? The one which, in days of yore, would have epic poems written in its honor as a testament to the productive might of man who tamed the world around him and remade it in his image?

Yeah. I mean, it was pretty cool. Definitely worth doing. Don’t get me wrong. It was a par 3 hole, which essentially means that you just watched your ball slowly roll down a hill for 190 feet before putting the other 11. But it was cool. Like spitting off the Empire State building. Or throwing a live pigeon into a moving vehicle. There was a majestic splendor to the whole event. However, since this hole was built on the side of a mountain (so that the ball could roll 201 feet unaided) did it mean that the course’s other holes were very steeply inclined and, as such, infuriatingly difficult to play? Yeah. I guess. But that’s just the price you’ve got to be willing to pay to say that you’ve finally played mini golf on the longest mini golf hole on the planet.

* Which, wow, imagine if the rest of America hadn’t signed the Declaration of Independence. That’s kind of like proposing to someone on the second date. Sure, she looks beautiful right now in the dim overhead florescent light of the Olive Garden, but that doesn’t mean she wants to spend the rest of her life with you…
** So much so, that I already did.
*** Troubles like… shaking your Ouija board too vigorously and angering the spirits of your deceased predecessors. Is that something the kids still do?
**** Wait. Hold the phone. I don’t actually think La Quinta Inn was created to celebrate its Spanish culture at all. It was just made by two white guys in the 1960’s. This changes everything…

Course Score: 49; par – 45.
Pros: Picturesque; peaceful; several more complex holes; home to the longest mini golf hole on the planet.
Cons: 
Decent upkeep; minimalist; several simple holes; the holes had a very steep slope (perhaps to allow for the longest hole on the planet); the longest hole in the planet: cool, but not jawdropping.

 

7/22/16 – Massachusetts

Course: Kimball Farm Mini Golf
Location: 400 Littleton Road, Westford, MA 01886
Price: $12.50 for 18 holes

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Kimball Farm mini golf

Review: With over four locations and a storied 77 year history, you can’t say Massachusetts without saying Kimball Farm.* A family affair (not that kind), Kimball Farm has been continuously owned by 3 generations of Kimballs: starting as a humble ice cream shop in the late 1930’s, the flagship Kimball Farm in Westford, MA still sells Kimball’s world famous ice cream from the original Kimball barn. Which is arguably the third most-sketchy place to sell ice cream, right behind graveyards and windowless vans that play music whenever they’re in the area. But I digress.

As Kimball Farm’s flagship location, Westford’s location was a very impressive, but very strange bundle of contradictions. It had bumper boats. It had chickens and peacocks on a small farm. It had a bright, flashing arcade. It had a rustic, wooden farmhouse with a working waterwheel. It blared top 40 tunes from the speakers. It sold ice cream out of a barn. The whole time I was there, it felt as if a time traveler had taken the equipment from a Dave & Buster’s to the Great Depression, but hid it behind an unassuming mask of mahogany and folksiness so that he alone could bathe in the skeeball tickets that emerged from the maw of his own stolen technological empire (in this hypothetical example, the time traveler is a master thief. And a master lover.) In short, Kimball Farm had a somewhat confusing vibe. More importantly however, it also had mini golf.

Unfortunately, as I pulled into Kimball Farm, it was raining cats and dogs (made almost entirely out of water which, in many ways, was worse). When I was golfing at Disney World, they shut down their mini golf course for 2 hours until a lingering thunderstorm had completely passed, so I was very worried that Kimball Farm would make me wait for hours until the course was safe again. Fortunately, Kimball Farm didn’t really give a shit. Five minutes after a bolt of lightning struck less than half a mile away, I was out on the course ready to play some good old fashioned mini golf!

And boy, was it ever old fashioned! Featuring two golf courses, a waterfall course and a mining course (closed due to flooding from the very recent rainstorm), this course was a slice out of the 1930’s we all know and love.** It had a functioning wooden waterwheel, quaint rope bridges, rusted mining equipment, all while set in the beautiful Massachusetts forests (where, to this day, if you listen closely enough you can still hear the ghost of Ben Franklin kicking himself for chickening out before inventing the trifocals). It also had a butt ton of waterfalls. Just, seriously, beautiful waterfalls up, in, and around the wazoo. Environment-wise, it was a pristine walk though a manmade nature, where even the sounds of your own children couldn’t distract you (because you couldn’t hear them over the roar of thousands upon thousands of waterfalls right in front of your very eyes).

Were there flaws? A few. The course was scuffed in places, and several of the holes in the front 9 were a little simplistic. More disconcertingly however, several of the holes had multiple cups where you could sink your putt. On the same hole!!! That’s like placing two additional basketball hoops on either end of the court. That’s like racing a horse on a horse with two extra legs. This is elite, high profile mini golf, not a participation award at a 5th grade science fair!  All in all, while these downsides to a very near-perfect venue didn’t bring me to the depths of despair, they were still a little disheartening. And, after spending a somewhat wet afternoon at Kimball Farm, I definitely wanted something to cheer me up before I drove all the way up to New Hampshire.

Fortunately, there was a place nearby that sold some pretty great ice cream from the back of a barn.

Other things you can’t say Massachusetts without saying: “Mayflower,” “Boston Tea Party,” “John Kennedy was the best Kennedy,” “we should have had more witch trials,” “Harvard is the Purdue of the East Coast,” “If Elizabeth Warren had a twin sister, I don’t know if they would be friends. Or enemies.”
** And not the one where all those people died in the dust bowl.

Course Score: 43; par – 42.
Pros: Beautiful, 1930s farmland atmosphere; good upkeep; surprisingly good drainage; many pristine water features; very good rustic vibe; peaceful; Waldenesque; 
Cons: 
Several scuffs on the course; the front nine had several simplistic holes; several holes had loose fabric; multiple cups per hole; it was partially flooded, but like, it had just rained for 2 straight hours, so I’m gonna give them this one.

7/21/16 – Rhode Island

Course: Adventureland
Location: 112 Point Judith Rd, Narragansett, RI 02882
Price: $9 for 18 holes

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Adventureland Mini Golf

Review: There’s no delicate way to say this. But you should know the truth. No. You deserve to know the truth. As we all know, for a month and a half now, I have been overwhelmed by the debilitating illness known as mini golf ball fever (a rare and exotic disease from the darkest jungles of the Dutch East Indies). But now, in a cruel turn of coincidence, I apparently also have regular ball fever.* Oh, the quote unquote “doctor” I saw said it was called epididymitis but I know what it really is: fate’s foolish attempt to prevent me from finding the best mini golf course in America.** Well guess what, fate? It’s gonna take a lot more than some wimpy, easily-treatable ball-busting to keep your old pal Dan down. Not while he’s still breathing. Not while he still has so many mini golf courses left to review. And speaking of which…

After a very quick drive through America’s smallest state with the longest name (The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) I arrived in Adventureland, located just inland from the cozy coast of sunny Narragansett. Rocking a laid-back traveling circus vibe Adventureland had, among other things, a carousel, go karts, a batting cage, and bumper boats (which were integrated into the mini golf course itself!!); and, finding a parking spot, it really felt like Adventureland was just a Ferris wheel and a freak show away from becoming a full-fledged carnival (although, that being said, the lady golfing in front of me didn’t talk to her kids for a whole hour which I thought was a pretty freaky thing of her to do…) But enough talk about the venue. Let’s answer the most important question of all. How was the mini golf???***

Eh. It was fine. Don’t get me wrong, there were some super cool things about Adventureland’s 18-hole course. Their Rhode-Island themed props were appropriately decorative (featuring boats and lighthouses and not, lamentably, statues of Ambrose Burnside: Rhode Island’s thirtieth governor who popularized sideburns as a facial hairdo). And their Plinko-inspired hole was as colorful as the language of man who had just stubbed his toe while describing what a rainbow looks like to his friend who, sadly, went blind years ago. Plus, featuring several complex holes and a fun trek up and down a small hillside, this course was by no means terrible.

But, like Achilles if he had been born with 15 heel bones, this course had several key weaknesses. Primarily, there was water damage around the course, and several of the holes were slick, scuffed, and a bit run-down. Also, and infuriatingly, my ball got stuck in one of the pipes and I had to shimmy down on my stomach and push it out with the end of my putter, looking, for all intents and purposes, as if I had gotten a concussion while trying to do “the worm.” And, unfortunately, I had to crawl on my stomach because (and this is my biggest critique of all) they charged you an extra dollar if you had to replace a golf ball! Which I suppose would be forgivable, if the course did not have broken pipes and many streams throughout that could easily sweep your ball away forever. More forever than diamonds. Forever! I don’t know. It’s days like this that are the hardest for a self-proclaimed professional mini golf reviewer… As a venue, Adventureland was fine, but as a mini golf establishment, it was difficult not to see its weaknesses.

Which explains why it has been hurting so much to sit down these past few days…
**Although, according to the urologist I visited in Worcester Massachusetts, epididymitis is often triggered by spending long periods of time sitting stationary (like, for example, during a two month long road trip), which just serves to reaffirm my oft-repeated statement that “this trip will destroy me.”
*** The second most important question of all: “what do they do with the rest of the horse after they make all that glue?”

Course Score: 47; par – 43.
Pros: Good Rhode Island aesthetic; fun plinko course; several complicated holes; integrated the bumper boats into the course which I thought was neat.
Cons: 
Flooding on the course; scuffed, slick holes; water damage; broken equipment; extra fees.

7/20/16 – Connecticut

Course: Matterhorn Mini Golf
Location: Route 44, Canton, CT 06019
Price: $9.77 for 18 holes

Connecticuit Fritz

Matterhorn Mini Golf

Review: After a truly hellish drive out of New Jersey featuring a punctured tire, a broken cell phone, a road-rage-filled driver who took both hands off the wheel to flip me the double-bird out of his skylight while going 70 on the Jersey Turnpike (which was, in many ways, the real New Jersey experience), and a car seat that was becoming increasingly painful to sit on,* I finally arrived in Conectticut. The “Constitution” State. The “Nutmeg” State. The “I’ve Spelled Conecticut’s Name Incorrectly Seven Times Already, No Wonder It Isn’t On the Map Yet No One Knows How the Hell To Spell Conneticut” State. And so, traveling across New England’s sleepy but pristine countryside, I sincerely hoped that Connetticut’s best mini golf course wouldn’t worsen my already horrendous day. But it did…

NOT.

Matterhorn was sweet! Usually in these reviews I go off on some tangent, but not today. It’s all about Matterhorn, baby! You want a course that gives you the “real” Switzerland experience (albeit filtered through Conetticut’s** unbearably humid, coastal lens)? Well you got it! Like a pu pu platter of military neutrality, the family-owned and operated Matterhorn guided intrepid mini golfers through all walks of Swiss life. Wanna visit the Swiss Alps? Well guess what, Matterhorn used white turf to mimic a ski slope for one of its holes! Wanna learn about the famous Swiss tennis player Roger Federer? Matterhorn glued a ton of tennis racquets to the ground and said in a seductive voice “you’re going to love this course more than your own child!” (A child who, it should be noted, is currently learning about Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider on Matterhorn’s eighth hole!) Was there any sense of order to this course beyond “things that are Swiss?” No. But did I care in the slightest? Let me answer that question with another one: did this course not have a ton of goat statues with delightful and intricate designs, crafted by local Canton, CT artists?

Look at the pictures below, fool!

And sure, maybe this course had a smaller budget than the mini-mega-Goliaths of Myrtle Beach, but, like a chorine in a 1930’s Busby Berkeley flick, it had moxie!*** You could see the love and care behind every inch of the course, from its pristine surfaces to its “Toblerone hole” (hole 11) that actually smelled like chocolate; from its ever-present yodeling/polka soundtrack, to the fact that it actually sprayed refreshing water on you when you crossed the blue “lakes of Switzerland” hole (hole 15). There was literally so much exciting/unique Swiss specificity in Matterhorn that I can’t fit it all into this 700 word review (well, I probably could, but then I’d have to nix that gag where I misspell Connecticut and is that a world we really want to live in?)

Finally, after a fantastic round of mini golf, Matterhorn’s staff (decked out in lederhosen/dirndl-inspired aprons) collectively wished me “auf wiedersehen” which was as delightfully charming as it was culturally inaccurate (“Uf Widerluege” is the Swiss German pronunciation of goodbye – they just said the conventional German translation expecting me not to do 20 minutes of intense research on the subject for a blog about mini golf. Although, now that I mention it, 64% of the Swiss population speaks regular, plain old German so, if we’re being honest, I was in the wrong on this one. Oops.) And, leaving Matterhorn at 9pm, for the first time since I left New York, still deeply hungover from Bushwick, I let out a light but fresh and airy smile (like the kind you see in a Quiznos commercial, but this one wasn’t caused by a deranged Quiznos director brandishing a loaded gun at me from behind the camera in order to guarantee that I was acting as hard as physically possible). Amazingly, after the terrible day I’d had, Matterhorn proved that every cloud has the potential for an enormous silver lining. And besides, after a day like this one, how could my life possibly get any worse?****

Why does it hurt so much to sit down???
** How the heck do you spell Connecticut? Oh wait, I just did it. That was easy. You just write Conetticutt. Shit.
*** I realize I just lost about 95% of my audience with that last reference, but hopefully the ones who didn’t switch to a different mini golf review guide in disgust let out a polite chuckle. 
**** He said, preparing for a dramatic irony that would be made painfully apparent in his next review…

Course Score: 50; par – 45.
Pros: Great Swiss vibe; informative; wonderful upkeep; cool, interactive holes that used all 5 senses; exciting art placed around the course; a lot of love went into making this course.
Cons: 
Perhaps not as high production value as some of courses I’ve seen;  several of the holes were simple straightaways (but not a whole lot of them).

7/19/16 – New York (the smelly part)

Course: Bushwick Country Club
Location: 618 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: Free, but you have to give the bartender your ID so he knows you won’t steal the putter. It was one of those places.

Friends bushwick

Justin, Phil, Molly, Andrew, Olivia, David, me, Colleen, and Clare go to Bushwick Country Club (not pictured: Sam, Morgan, Arianna, and Emmy – but they were totally there, you’ve just gotta trust me!)

Review: What constitutes the best mini golf course? Just like the phrases “turn right here,” “I shot an elephant in my pajamas,” and “please don’t put your whole fist into your mouth sir, this is a house of God,” the word “best” is, to me, highly ambiguous. Is the “best” mini golf course dependent on the venue itself, or the memories made there?* Or, more specifically, is it dependent on the memories destroyed there as the sweet grip of alcohol devours your weak and feeble brain cells faster than you can say “I have played enough mini golf to drive a man to the depths of despair” (which is pretty fast if you slur your words). Located in the “fashionable” part of Brooklyn – if being adjacent to two rats fighting next to the corpse of another dead rat is fashionable – the discerning mini golf connoisseur will find the Bushwick Country Club: an ironic dive bar** with a quaint 6-hole mini golf course in its back yard.

And, let me tell you, this place had everything: a photo booth, a slushy machine, lethal $6 beer/shot combos, a men’s restroom covered in graffiti/missing a toilet seat. Everything! But most importantly, it had the only mini golf course I could convince my New York friends to go to. That’s why it seems reductive to judge this course purely on venue – in layman’s terms, Bushwick’s course was “pretty jank.” It was a dingy, scuffed, cramped course in the back of a dive bar, with interesting but barely functional props, using whiffle balls instead of regular golf balls (presumably because someone would get hurt otherwise). One of my friends put it most accurately “it’s like a frat hazed their initiates into building a putt putt course.” Which would be a sweet frat.

But, that being said, this was the most fun I’ve had at a mini golf course in a long, long time. I got to hang out with/talk to friends I hadn’t seen for years (who all asked, at various points during the night, zany things like “why are you doing this Dan? If it’s a cry for help, that’s fine, just let us know and we’ll get you the care you desperately need but don’t deserve”). Plus, like all great mini golf courses, Bushwick Country Club had a functioning windmill made out of empty PBR cans which should tell you what kind of place this bar was with more accuracy than this rambling review ever could. It may have been a dive bar, but, armed with the knowledge of its own inadequacies, and full of my nearest and dearest friends, Bushwick Country Club gave me something no other course could. Booze. And lots of it.

Unfortunately, all great things must come to a bitter, painful conclusion. And, like most nights spent in the human Petri dish known more formally as “Brooklyn,” after about 4 hours (give or take a few searing shots of whiskey) the world pulls the rug out from under your mini-golf-stained feet, and you wake up in a strange apartment two hours away from Penn Station with a throbbing headache and a crushed wiffle ball that you must of slept on because wow does your upper thigh hurt like hell. But you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to press through the blinding hangover, say one final goodbye to the friends you won’t see again for years, stumble wearily into the street, ask an old lady pushing a grocery kart full of unopened toilet paper*** “where’s the q line,” and make your way to Connecticut.

Mini golf awaits.

* It’s obviously about the venue. This whole review is an exercise in madness.
** Which was really more of a wall in the hole, than vice versa…
*** What the hell was she doing with all that toilet paper???

Course Score: 20; no par listed.
Pros: Great night out; cheap drinks; lots of fun; this course gets a high recommendation.
Cons: 
Cruddy course; low upkeep; wiffle balls instead of real golf balls; crummy neighborhood.

7/17/16 – New York

Course: Pier 25 Mini Golf
Location: 225 West St, New York, NY 10013
Price: $6 for 18 holes (cash only)

New york skyline

Pier 25 Mini Golf

Review: Wow. I’ve been to New York City before, but I always forget how big and crowded it really is. It’s just filled with so many people: bankers, artists, retailers, actors*, taxi drivers, Neil Patrick Harris, and even sous chefs crammed together into a hot, cramped city – everyone’s in a rush to get somewhere; no one wants to remember where they’ve been or what they’ve seen. One day soon, something will simultaneously, irrevocably snap in the minds of those who live in this sweltering, crowded city and its inhabitants will fight to the death while we watch helplessly from the sidelines, horrified but placated because our ever-present bloodlust has temporarily been slaked. And finally, after months of fighting, only one victor will remain in the empty, bloodstained city: the king (no… the God) of the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. My money’s on the sous chef!****

But enough rambling. I know why you’re here. For some mother effing mini golf. And sure, I could have skipped the Big Apple and instead reviewed a course from upstate New York, but if you’re trying to find the most popular course in the state, you’ve gotta take a bite of that big apple and plant yourself an orchard. I’m not sure if that allegory made sense (or if it even was an allegory), but regardless. I had to go to New York City – the heart of America. And, by far and away, the most popular, highest reviewed course in downtown New York was Pier 25 Mini Golf, located in Hell’s Kitchen***** right on the waterfront.

Was Pier 25 a great course? I don’t know. It had a lot of great elements not normally associated with all the elite, luxury, high profile mini golf courses I’ve visited on this trip. Surprisingly it was one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) course I’ve visited, which was surprising given its proximity to downtown Manhattan (where real estate costs over 1,500 dollars per square foot, which is insane******). It was also one of the most popular, highly attended courses I’ve been to on my journey – I was stuck for over an hour behind a particularly obnoxious couple who kept making out on the course after they sunk every single damn hole, oblivious to the fact that I was right behind them waiting for my turn to putt.*******

That being said, it was a pretty simplistic, low upkeep course. Sure, there was a neat cave, a small waterfall, and several more complex holes in the back nine (after you’ve forgotten the flat barren green plains of the first half), but that was far outweighed by the divots and dirt on the worn down course, and the shoddy repairs made with green duct tape throughout. Moreover, several of the water features were nonoperational which, like the presidency of William Henry Harrison, felt like a bit of a let down. But, all in all, if you’re in downtown Manhattan and have an hour to kill – you will never get a better view of the city. Decent course… fantastic location.

* It’s so great that every single actor in New York performing on Broadway! The theaters must be huge to fit that many talented players: thespians (and thespiennes) who have finally all gotten the validation they desperately crave, and will never again need someone to say “I want to pay 50 dollars to see you say words. You’re good at saying words. And also you made a smart decision taking out all those student loans to go to drama school so that you could get a degree in mask-work.”**
** That last footnote just reaffirms the age-old adage that “those who can’t act, write”***
***and those who can’t write, type hamfisted lowblows at easy targets for cheap laughs.
**** I’m writing this review hungover on the train back to Trenton, so I apologize if it goes to a dark place.
***** Not to be confused with Heck’s Kitchen, which is just a really shitty kitchen.
****** Which, for those keeping score at home, can buy 1/10th of black market kidney in Delhi (see Hawaiian Rumble in SC).
******* This footnote isn’t related to anything in the main paragraph. I just realized I had a lot of footnotes in this review already and I wanted to add another one. You can ignore this.

Course Score: 46; no par listed.
Pros: Cheap; convenient; popular; you can’t beat that view of the city; the only mini golf course in Manhattan. 
Cons: 
Simplistic holes; poor upkeep; several water features nonoperational; duct tape for repairs.