Making Mini-Golf Memorable with the Kids
Published: June 1, 2023
By: Rick Epstein
I don’t know about you, but I tend to overestimate the abilities of 2-year-olds. They walk and talk just like people, so I assume they ARE just like people. But take them miniature-golfing and they’ll remind you that not so long ago they had gills and tails.
It was a hot August night at Golfzilla Mini-Golf. My wife, Betsy, our three little daughters, and I were in line for our equipment. One of the posted rules was, “Be careful with your putter. It is a dangerous weapon.”
“Let’s not give Wendy a dangerous weapon,” my wife said.
Wendy was the 2-year-old. So we only rented clubs and balls for the four of us.
Sally, age 5, happily knocked her orange ball around the course with some skill, even scoring a lucky hole-in-one.
Meanwhile, little Wendy busied herself picking marigolds, trying to eat them, and picking up the balls, including those belonging to other golfers, and throwing them. “Wendy, stop that!” “Wendy, come back here!” “Wendy, spit that out!” Before long, complete strangers were saying, “Look out! Here comes Wendy.”
To distract her, we’d carry her over to a heavily chlorinated waterfall and hold her up to touch the concrete gnome that was perched on top of it. She’d quiver with excitement every time, thinking it was alive, expecting it to react. She was also intrigued by the Golfzilla statue at the 18th hole, but it was out of reach inside a cage.
Marie, 8, was having a bad time. Even more infuriating to her than Wendy’s ball-snatching, was Sally’s hole-in-one. Marie’s red ball was not going where she wanted it to, and frustration turned careful strokes into vicious slashes.
On the 11th hole, Marie took an especially vengeful bash at the ball. It bounced off a low stone wall and into a clump of marigolds beside a 6-foot Dutch windmill. Exasperated, but not quite ready to fling herself onto the ground, she bent over the flower patch and rummaged around in search of the ball. The blunt plywood blades of the windmill, their slow motion powered by a little electric motor, were awfully close to Marie’s head. Before I could say anything, Marie became, after Don Quixote, the second great tragic figure to be hit on the head by a windmill.
“Ow!” she said, backing away, not actually hurt.
Trying not to smile, Betsy said, “I’ll find it for you,” and stepped into the danger zone. Her bent head also received a tap, and this time the windmill stopped dead.
Marie howled, “Now we’re in big trouble!” She burst into tears and flung herself to the ground.
“What’s the matter with HER?” Sally asked curiously, provoking a roar of rage.
My wife gave a windmill blade a little push and the rotation resumed. We got a replacement ball from the attendant, and Marie recovered her composure and finished out the game with some dignity.
In the car going home, Sally asked, “Can we go again tomorrow?”
Trying to make Betsy laugh, I said, “It wouldn’t be as much fun if we went every day. But we’ll go again someday.”
“Good,” said Marie. I looked at her in surprise. Seems I wouldn’t recognize fun if it lay weeping on the ground right in front of me. That was 15 years ago. We never went back, and the place went out of business waiting for us.
Last June, with time on my hands, I stopped by the old Golfzilla course. Skinny trees and knee-high weeds grew everywhere, and vines were climbing the windmill. The waterfall’s basin contained a murky soup of wiggly larvae, and Wendy’s gnome had cleared out. Golfzilla lay rain-swollen and sun-cracked in his cage. But things are happening there now. Driving by, I got a glimpse of raw earth, a yellow bulldozer and new masonry. A news item confirmed it: New Owners, Big Makeover, Re-opening Soon! Call us fools, but my wife and I think it’d be fun to go back. All the girls will be home for a holiday weekend soon, and I bet they’d indulge us. They are now 24, 21 and 17, so their golf game may lack the intensity of extreme youth. It had better — especially if we let Wendy wield a putter this time.
Rick Epstein is a freelance writer and author who finds mega-adventure in mini-golf.