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.

(I apologize in advance for quality of the photos. The basement lighting made it challenging and I’m not nearly as good of a photographer as the Pink Putter. Hopefully you can get the overall vibe from the videos and photos)

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Massive windmill in the parking lot is a good omen
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Vintage 1840’s style Dutch windmill run by wind power. This replica was designed to shutdown in high wind speeds.

I document my entrance to the basement.

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Panoramic of the whole space
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Hole 1 – Skull is one that Mr. Ahlgrim made for his mortuary sciences studies
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Something doesn’t seem right
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If you can’t beat em, join em
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The box you hit through on hole 2 was previously used to ship dead bodies on trains back in the day. You can’t make this stuff up.
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Guillotine creates a challenging shot on hole 3. The sound of it going up and down makes a constant clacking noise that you can hear in all of the videos.
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Banner hanging above hole 4. Pinball / pachinko styled hole with tombstones
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Clearly the owners have a sense of humor
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Traditional moving windmill hole right next to a coffin. Not shown in the photo is a traditional light house.
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Creepy sounds coming out of haunted house on hole 6
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Menacing scythe hanging above hole 7. Thought I’d grab a photo from the ground floor.
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Hit the ball the wrong way on hole 7 and end up in the graveyard with a stroke penalty.
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Hiding in the bottom left of the photo is the challenging light house hole 8
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Score card and pens with view of the final hole
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Close up of parking meter on hole 9
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Water flowing on the ramp on hole 9. Ball has a chance of getting a hole-in-one or going right back to you. Deceptively challenging although I was told Mr. Ahlgrim has this one mastered.
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Final place of rest for the balls is also where you select your balls when you start. Note the score cards and pens.
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Putter stand with a variety of choices

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Played a bunch of Choplifter (next to Galaga) for free!
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This pinball game has a soundtrack that you can hear in the compilation video that is unsettling given the setting. One of the cooler pinball games I’ve ever played. Three tiers to play with one being below the ground level playing surface.
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One of many collections of articles. They were covered by everything from local papers to Sports Illustrated.
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Mr. Ahlgrim with a great pose
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Wall of comments and thanks from the community

Ahlgrim Acres Website 

Ahlgrim Acres on Roadside America

Pros:

Basement of a funeral home
Death themed to fit the location
Tons of personal touches by the owner / creator Mr. Ahlgrim
Full arcade / game room
Massive traditional windmill in the parking lot
Sense of pride comes through

Cons:

Only 9 holes (I would love to play more)
Some of the holes are a little ramshackle (but still charming)

Nerdy Notes:

  • 9 Holes, Par 23
  • Variety of putters and balls (see photo above)
  • Custom score cards and pens
  • Free coffee, tea and hot chocolate from machine in other room
  • My guide from the funeral home once held a record of most consecutive games in 24 hours with 36 rounds at one point in the 80s.
  • House rules on a number of holes detailed in score card
  • The basement / game room is “strictly never used during funeral business”
  • Course was built in the mid to late 60s when Mr. Ahlgrim moved into the new building in Palatine.
  • The overall family business was established in 1862
  • Many of the games and kitsch in the basement had bizarre and interesting stories behind them.

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