Miniature golf is a bizarre notion. You take a sport, such as golf, and turn it into a scary obstacle course, much like trying to follow the Yellow Brick Road to get to Oz. Only instead of lions and tigers and bears, oh my!, you face waterfalls, pirates, and other concepts that have absolutely nothing to do with golf but provide an evening of entertainment for the family. When you finally confront the “wizard,” the 18th hole, and the curtain of reality is unveiled, you realize it wasn’t so scary after all, and now you get to go home and put some calamine lotion on those bug bites.
This summer we took our kids mini golfing for the first time. I don’t think they appreciated the greatness of it like they should have. Mini golf is not a game for wimps. They supply you with pencils fit only for elves so you can’t break them in anger, and then they arm your toddlers with potential weapons like iron clubs. The idea seems simple enough: Hit the ball into the hole. But then they torture you with cruel tricks, like sand traps and windmill blades. If I wanted to be tortured, I would play a real game of golf.
In mini golf, you’re not even allowed to throw your club in disgust to alleviate your frustration. It’s also illegal to use a golf cart to ride the two inches to the next hole. Like soldiers training in the swamp, you have to endure swarms of mosquitoes snacking on your skin. The lines are longer than those of the Great Depression, not to mention the capacity of your child’s bladder. At least they give you colorful balls to remind you that you’re having fun.
Yet there is a certain satisfaction in knowing you have completed the course. You leave feeling like you just completed boot camp at Fort Benning, like you can now somehow serve your country better. So you celebrate by going out for ice cream.
I don’t think any other sport could have the success of turning into a fun family game.
Mini football? Throw a small Nerf football through windmill blades and tunnels to get through the goalposts. At least here’s a sport where pirates would make sense; they could be swashbuckling the players as they’re trying to score. (Not really; I’ve just always wanted to use the word “swashbuckling” in a sentence.)
Mini hockey? Combine an evening of family ice skating with shooting colorful little pucks through a challenging maze and into a miniature Stanley cup. The ice rink could be built in layers with bridges, slopes, and dangerous turns. On the plus side, the cold temperatures of the rink would eliminate those pesky mosquitoes.
Mini baseball? It doesn’t matter what you play, because instead of ballpark franks, they could serve those mini cocktail wieners.
No, only mini golf can bond a family together with the satisfaction of overcoming obstacles (for the price of a small car).
Our first time of mini golf will always be remembered for the poignant lesson demonstrated by our three year old Nate. Instead of hitting the ball, he kept picking up the ball and dropping it directly into the hole. He couldn’t understand why all of these other idiots couldn’t figure this out. Here they were whacking the ball all over the place with a stick and getting frustrated, when all along the answer was so simple. Quit wasting time with obstacles, just follow the Yellow Brick Road and put the ball right in the hole. A life lesson for all.