acoupleofputts

The minigolf adventures of Tom and Robin.


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Highway 8 Revisited – Forest Lake, MN

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Played on October 8, 2011, Re-played September 20, 2014

Reviewed by the Pink Putter

We played Highway 8 back in 2011 and put up our review in early 2013. At that time, the course was completely run down and overgrown, but we could still see the charm that it once had. In July of 2013 we got an e-mail from Roxanne Simons, the current owner of Highway 8, explaining to us how the course had fallen into disrepair as her sister Joanne, the previous owner, had breast cancer and sadly passed in 2011. She informed us that she moved back from Seattle to take over the course and had recently put a lot of work into refurbishing it. We were touched that Roxanne reached out to us and invited us to come back and play. It wasn’t until September 2014 when we made our way back to Highway 8, but we we’ve been set on giving it a re-review for quite some time.

Rating:

Par – Highway 8 was built in 1989 by the Schroeder family and was taken over by daughter Joanne in 1993. Since our visit in 2011, the course underwent significant changes. I’ll let the before and after photos do most of the talking, but it’s clear that Roxanne and her brothers put a lot of TLC into remaking the course and giving it a country theme. With new boards, obstacles, moving parts and landscaping, you almost wouldn’t recognize it as the same place (with the exception of a few of the holes which they saved). While the cost has gone up from $2 a game to $4 a game, this is still a modest price for a full 18 holes. The play is varied and fun, with lots of kitsch and many classic tropes. And while this course doesn’t have quite the grandeur of some of our Hole-in-One favorites like Par King and Vitense, it certainly has lots of local character and charm with room to become even better. Highway 8 is a strong Par and I highly recommend that if you are in the area, you stop for a round.

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Adventure Falls – Taylor’s Falls, MN

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Played on September 20, 2014

Reviewed by the Pink Putter

The second stop on our day trip to Taylor’s Falls was the Adventure Falls, a mini golf course linked to a classic style Drive-In right in the heart of town. We had driven by this one on previous trips, but this is the first time we actually played it.

Rating:

Par – Adventure Falls is a run of the mill course that delivers a full 18 holes accompanied by ponds, streams and a small-scale waterfall. The holes have minimal obstacles and the few we saw consisted of rocks and faux sand traps (tan carpet). The focus of the play was fairly straightforward and was given variety through small hills and bumps as well as some curved greens.

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Wildwood RV-Park & Campground Mini Golf – Shafer, MN

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Played on September 20, 2014

Reviewed by Mr. Tee

Located across Highway 8 from the spectacular Franconia Sculpture Park and a mile or two from Taylors Falls is the Wildwood Campground. Driving by you may miss that they have a mini golf course but it’s not too far from the entrance. In fact, the only reason I knew it existed is because my family stayed here a few times when I was in middle school and high school.  I couldn’t find any old pictures but I do remember the course and clubhouse looking quite different in the late 80s and 90s. I have fond memories of playing here after a day at Wild Mountain’s water park and alpine slide. Sadly, both Wild Mountain and the course have not managed to age well with time.

Rating:

Sandtrap – This was a rough one. As you can see in the pictures below, the course is literally coming apart at the seams. It’s a pretty straight forward green turf and red landscaping brick design. The natural terrain is sloped and the layout actually incorporates the angles. A few of the holes are fairly challenging and at $2.50, you could do worse. Overall, it’s a dud. This place could easily be a solid Par course with maintenance and repair. As it stands, there are several options in the area that are a much better play and in far better shape.

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Centennial Lakes Mini Golf – Edina, MN

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Played on September 13, 2014

Review by Mr. Tee

This 24 acre pond and park was brought to our attention by our guest reviewer/designer Jared. We had meant to play the course with him but feeling spontaneous celebrating our three year anniversary, we decided to take it in on a rare warm Fall Minnesota day.

Rating:

Par - If you’ve followed our blog at all, you’ll know that our bias leans towards kitsch / fun themed courses with lots of oversized obstacles. I gave the game of golf a try as a kid and it just never stuck. Mini golf was far more fun and less frustrating. All of this explains why we gave this a course our “average” rating of par. The course is meticulously landscaped and maintained. The real sand traps and large pond were a fun change of pace for us. The surrounding park is nice but it’s hard to ignore the massive condos and shopping malls outlining the whole area. If you’re a golfer, it’s definitely a good place to bone up on your putting skills. It definitely challenged us and I don’t believe either of us even got par on any of the holes. If you’re bringing kids that aren’t regular golfers or if you’re putting skills aren’t so hot, it could be a long frustrating experience.

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Putt’er There – Como Park, St. Paul, MN

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Played on September 6, 2014

Reviewed by the Pink Putter

Putt’er There has been a course on our docket for many years, but for no good reason we put off playing there until a beautiful Saturday this past September. It was an extra good day for me because I won by quite a bit (which rarely happens against the highly skilled Mr. Tee). This course has been family owned and operated for over 50 years. In 1999 it went through a major makeover which transformed it from 9 holes to a full 18.

On a somewhat related note: In one of our favorite books, Miniature Golf, there are two pages with photos from a “Fairway Golf Range” in St. Paul, MN. This course no longer exists but may or may not have been located where Putt’er There is today. After much research, I’ve learned some of the story and know the two courses were at least close to one another. Fairway Golf Range (or Fairview Golf Center as I’ve seen it called) was owned by a man named Norbert “Norb” Anderson, a gifted golfer who sadly passed in January 2013. Norb began manufacturing fiberglass animals in 1972. He partnered with Jerry Vettrus to form a company called Sculptured Advertising, which would later become the infamous F.A.S.T. Corporation in Sparta, WI – best known for it’s fiberglass graveyard. Although Norb was eventually bought out of the company, he managed to keep a heard of animals, many of which ended up at his mini golf course as well as a black angus that was paraded annually for the Minnesota State Fair. A few Google searches brought up a slew of news articles (like this and this) reporting on a number of his animals that have been stolen and returned over the years. I wish I knew more as to Fairview Golf Center’s exact location and history. If you have any information to add to this story, please write me at acoupleofputts@gmail.com!

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#minigolfmiddleeast

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For two weeks this November, we had an amazing opportunity to work with the students, faculty and staff at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar to design and start building a 9 hole mini golf course. This was in tandem with Tasmeem Doha, a biennial international art and design conference that will be hosted at the school next March. During our stay, we lectured on mini golf tropes and obstacles as well as our own work with the Walker Art Center. Then we worked with the students to help them as they came up with ideas and built cardboard prototypes. We, along with the graphic design faculty, discussed how materials, narrative and form work together to effect the game play experience. We are so grateful for this incredible experience and can’t wait to return in March to see and play the final rendition of the course. Until then, we’ll let our photos and video do the rest of the talking.

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Ahlgrim Family Funeral Services – Palatine, IL

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Played July 21, 2014

Review by Mr. Tee

My Halloween nights from 2006 to 2011 were spent in the Haunted Basement of The Soap Factory, a Minneapolis art gallery. I worked in various roles to help scare the crap out of over 10,000 people every October and loved every minute of it. When we first started this blog, we searched through lists of best of and unique mini golf courses and this one immediately stood out. A mini golf course in the basement of an active funeral home that is death themed. Sold! The owner built it for both his kids and the community and the notion of demystifying death through mini golf was intriguing. We attempted to go in the Summer of 2013 on our annual July jaunt to Chicago but they were booked with real funerals the whole time. I called ahead earlier this year and was thrilled to possibly play even though the Pink Putter wasn’t making the trip this time. The beginning of a potential scary story starts with “I went by myself to a Chicago suburb on a Monday afternoon to the basement of a funeral home. Upon arrival I was greeted by a man in a full dark suit and quickly found out there was no cell phone coverage in the basement. My heart was racing.” This is no tale of doom and gloom though. The whole experience was pure fun!

Rating:

Hole-in-One – The idea of going to a funeral home has never been exciting until now. The 9 holes are equally dark and campy, like a good horror film. This homemade course references traditional tropes associated with mini golf like windmills and light houses, and death. A skull from the creator’s mortuary school experience, a rail box used for transporting dead bodies, a kitschy haunted house filled with sound effects, a graveyard and a guillotine. The atmosphere is equally creepy as it is fun. The combined noises from the HVAC system, haunting sound effects CD and video games add perfectly to the natural ambiance. The play was challenging and it took a few times playing through the course to really get close to par. Shuffleboard, pool, video games, snooker and pinball are available to play as well and surround the course. Remember I’m talking about the basement of a funeral home. Mr. Ahlgrim found a way to embrace the notion of play in a space where few would consider it and did it without desire for financial gain. I salute you Mr. Ahlgrim and your staff. You’re our type of people. I’ve already gone on too long and I’ll let the videos and photos speak for themselves.

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