We’re calling it. Mini-golf is the great uniter of families.
For squirmy little kids, dying-of-boredom teens, and adults trying to keep everyone happy, a round or two of mini-golf really is fun for all ages. It allows for various skill levels, promotes levity and laughter, and provides a break from screen time — especially important during a family vacation.
If you’ve been meh about mini-golf up to now, you haven’t been putting on the right greens. These decidedly above-par mini-golf courses across the U.S., whether historic, novelty or just exceedingly cool, may just inspire you to give mini-golf a go on your next family getaway.
A Historic Course in the Oldest City in the U.S.
Ripley’s Bayfront Mini Golf, St. Augustine, Florida
Opened in 1949, Ripley’s Bayfront Mini Golf is the oldest mini-golf in the US — so says the National Register of Historic Places. In 1963, it even played a role in the Civil Rights Movement; it was St. Augustine’s first public facility to desegregate. You won’t find many of the bells and whistles of newer courses, but the old-school charm and beautiful bayfront location are, well, charming. ripleys.com
Fun and Photo-Ops Near Dollywood
Crave and Toy Box Mini Golf courses, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Minutes from the entrance to the Dollywood theme parks, these two themed courses are heavy on gimmicks and over-the-top props. Candy-themed Crave features a 19-hole indoor course and another 19-holer on the roof. Toy Box is — you guessed it — toy themed, with oversized toys ripe for photo ops. Candy shops and other retail opportunities are aplenty. cravegolf.com, toyboxgolf.com
Fore! Among the Fossils
Jurassic Golf at Field Station: Dinosaurs, Derby, Kansas
Because who doesn’t love dinosaurs? This 18-holer in the Wichita suburbs is part of a larger dino-themed attraction that includes dozens of life-sized animatronic animals, shows, a playground and a chance to dig for bones. The course itself is flat (because we’re in Kansas), with some fun water features and lots of dinosaur facts along the way. Jurassic Golf.
A Tropical Tournament of Champions
Hawaiian Rumble Minigolf, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
In case you were wondering, there is a PGA of mini-golf, and it’s ranked this Hawaii-themed course among the most challenging in the world. An erupting volcano is the centerpiece here, and there are squawking parrots, palm trees, and the requisite cascading waterfalls and babbling streams. More mini-golf is never far away — Myrtle Beach claims to have more courses than anywhere in the world. hawaiianrumbleminigolf.com
Minigolf “Taj Mahal” in Chicagoland
Par-King Skill Golf, Lincolnshire, Illinois
Pink castles. Elephants. Mount Rushmore. Creepy clowns. They all occupy the course known as “Minigolf’s Taj Mahal,” the vintage Par-King course in the Chicago ‘burbs. There are two 18-hole courses here, both of which are considered very challenging, thanks to their moving obstacles and water hazards. It takes some skill and concentration to play here, so much so that kids under 48” tall are not permitted on the course. par-king.com
An Emphemeral, Artistic Course
Skyline Mini Golf at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
You can only catch this 10-hole mini-golf course from May to September, and only on the roof of Walker Art Center, one of the Midwest’s premier contemporary arts institutions. Each year, the course is custom-designed by participating artists, so the theme and holes are different each season. This year’s course was designed by young artists from the city’s Hmong community. walkerart.org
Glow-in-the-Dark Fun on the Vegas Strip
Twilight Zone Blacklight Mini Golf, Las Vegas, Nevada
Leave it to Las Vegas to up the weird quotient. Set entirely indoors (in Bally’s Hotel & Casino) this trippy course consists of a series of glow-in-the-dark rooms illuminated with black light, along with some creepy props and blaring music. It’s a lot, and may be too much for kids subject to sensory overload. But for a break from the other sensory overload of Las Vegas, it’s a fun place to while away a few hours. There’s even a glow-in-the-dark wedding chapel—because Vegas. syfyminigolf.com
Putting with a View at Glacier National Park
Golfing to the Sun, West Glacier, Montana
For old-fashioned fun and gobsmacking scenery, head to Big Sky Country and this quaint 19-hole course. Set in West Glacier Village, the course offers rustic ambiance, a Billy Goat “guide,” and informative signs that teach golfers about park history. Plus the background can’t be beat — the peaks of Glacier National Park loom in the near distance. glacierparkcollection.com
Arghh! Mateys on Cape Cod
Pirate’s Cove Cape Cod, South Yarmouth, Massachusetts
Roam among the pirates in a place where pirates may have actually roamed — on Massachusett’s Cape Cod. A sunken ship, at least one (prop) shark, waterfalls, spooky caves, and Disney-esque attention to detail, plus two 18-hole courses make this one of the most popular family attractions on the Cape. piratescove.net