TIPS FOR THE SAVVY MINIATURE GOLFER
First, before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not talking about miniature golfers. Hope that clears that up. Now we can proceed with our exciting discussion of mini-golf.
Oh, and another thing: I'd hate to think that any of you out there would ever use the term "putt-putt," a term frowned upon in serious mini-golf circles. You never hear anyone in the PGMA (that’s the Professional Miniature Golf Association) refer to the sport as "putt-putt." That’d be like calling table tennis "ping-pong," now wouldn’t it? It’s hardly a fitting term for a sport under serious consideration as an alternative Olympic event.
Trybal Island Mini-Golf
Myrtle Beach is home of the United States ProMiniGolf Assocation, which in turn is affiliated with the World MiniGolf Sport Federation. People make a good living out of playing mini-golf, and competition is fierce at the two major U.S. tournaments – the Masters and the U.S. Open. The Masters was held in Myrtle Beach just last October, on one of the very courses I played… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s move on, shall we?
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MINI-GOLF VACATION
In order to get the most out of your mini-golf vacation, it’s important to know a little about the basic types of mini-golf courses, mini-golf etiquette, and the aesthetics of mini-golf.
There are eight basic types of mini-golf courses in Myrtle Beach, six of which will be described here: Hawaiian Golf, Jungle Golf, Dinosaur Golf, Translocated Golf, Disaster Golf, and Pirate Golf. Which golf is right for you?
Well, it really doesn’t matter what you want; that is, if you have children. If children are involved, then the basic Placation Rule applies: Whatever strikes the little cherubs’ fancy - which is usually the first course they lay eyes on - becomes the course that’s right for you. If you are lucky, that will be one of the state-of-the-art mini-golf establishments, such as Mutiny Bay. If you’re unlucky, it will be the washed-out 1960’s-style course with one pathetic windmill sitting semi-derelict on the outskirts of town.
But let’s just consider the optimal scenario, in which there are no children involved. In that case, you have a difficult decision to make. Should you go for thrills and chills at Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf, with its glowing skull cavern and animatronic mermaids, or should you opt for a more traditional tropical setting, such as at Jungle Lagoon Golf ? Frankly, it’s a tough call, and I’m not going to make it for you.
MINI-GOLF DO’S AND DON’TS
Okay, I’m going to tackle the big question head on: What do you do if someone in your party chooses the golf ball color that matches your outfit?
When this happens, you should refrain from hitting the offending party over the head with your putting iron. With a gracious smile, you select whatever unattractively colored ball remains, gray or whatever, and act as if you are completely indifferent to such trivial concerns as color-coordinated golf balls.
Then, first chance you get, you accidentally knock her ball into the lagoon. Whoops!
Rainbow Falls Mini-Golf
Another delicate matter is how deal with the player who is taking forever to line up his shots. In mini-golf, it’s considered a social gaffe to say things like, "HIT THE BALL, DAMMIT!" No. What you should say is, "Oh no! I think I left one of your car windows down!" I find that generally speeds things up.
Unlike regular golfers, who, as we know are legally colorblind and thus have no idea that they’re wearing a flamingo-pink polo shirt matched with chartreuse golfing pants, mini-golfers are sensitive beings, attune to every nuance of their environment. This is why they prefer the uniformly green surface of artificial turf, and why meticulously landscaped courses are so prevalent on the ProMiniGolf circuit. Granted, it does nothing to explain the Peptol-Bismol pink Taj Mahal behind the mauve giant octopus at Rainbow Falls Mini-Golf, but even mini-golf designers suffer from occasional lapses in taste.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
In the high-stakes arena of mini-golf course financing, it’s recognized that the enterprise with the biggest artificial waterfall or most realistic pirate ship will survive. This has led to fierce competition among designers of Myrtle Beach’s 47 mini-golf parks. However, here are the recent trends I’ve noted in modern mini-golf course design.
I’m not sure what the connection is between Hawaii and golf, but Hawaiian mini-golf is here to stay. In Myrtle Beach, there’s a trio of associated Hawaiian golf courses, the most popular of which is Hawaiian Rumble, featuring a rumbling, smoking volcano that explodes in a fiery blast approximately every twenty minutes.
My son and I played this course at night, which is a terrific time to observe the pyrotechnics. We especially liked the Jimmy Buffet background music and little touches like the talking parrots in the clubhouse. Hawaiian Rumble bills itself as the "#1 Miniature Golf Course in the World," but, frankly, I found the course itself a little cramped. Great volcano, though, no question about it.
Myrtle Beach has continued the proud and ancient tradition of Jungle Golf with a brace of courses such as Jungle Lagoon, Jungle Lake, and Safari Golf. A few of the older courses border on being obsolete, but personally I find some of the older concrete gorillas and zebras have a lot more style than their newer counterparts. Jungle Lagoon combines the best of old-fashioned charm and modern facilities.
Jungle Lagoon Mini-Golf
Let me just state, for the record, that I was really, really disappointed not be able to play the course at Jurassic Golf, which was inexplicably closed the evening we visited. Hey, it might have been Christmas and all, but you’d THINK they’d be a little more accommodating, wouldn’t you?
When I saw the course at Jurassic Golf, I began to appreciate the potential for movie spin-off mini-golf. King Kong Golf. Alien Adventure Golf. Hobbit Golf. Not to mention (and this is almost a sure bet in the immediate future) Pirates of the Caribbean Golf.
"Translocated" is a term I’ve come up with to describe any golf course displaying an unusually high degree of geographic or temporal confusion. Technically, all mini-golf courses fall under into this category, as we know that there are no volcanoes or dinosaurs at Myrtle Beach. However, translocated golf takes the fantasy concept to extremes in displays of pointless verisimilitude, such as at Cancun Lagoon.
Translocated golf courses such as Mt. Atlanticus Minotaur Golf also encompass ambitious mythologies, which I discuss at length elsewhere.
A number of mini-golf courses have disaster elements, the most common being a shipwreck, but there is one course deserving its own category, MAYDAY! Golf, "Home of the Big Yellow Airplane."
The yellow airplane in question, a Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon, is doing a nosedive into the course.
There’s also a Bell UH-1 "Huey" Helicopter making an emergency landing in another section of the course. Sadly, this complex was not open during the holidays, which just means we'll have to go back to Myrtle Beach another time to fulfill our disaster-on-the-putting-green fantasy.
Pirate Golf be by far t' most popular type o' golf in Mertle Beach. There are, by me count, at least a dozen pirate courses in t' area, and when you consider that thar be also pirate themed amusement parks, restaurants, theater shows, and sailin' trips, it’s clear that pirates be very BIG in Mertle Beach.
True, pirates be arguably part o' t' local history, but let’s not Captain Kidd ourselves, shall we? Pirate golf has nothin' t' do with historical accuracy and everythin' t' do with how cool a schooner looks in t' lagoon o' a mini-golf course. One o' t' more innovative courses features play on deck o' a pirate ship. Shiver me timbers!
*This section was compiled using the English-to-Pirate Translator
Well, sad to say, we ran short of time in Myrtle Beach and weren’t able to explore the exciting possibilities of Dragon’s Lair Golf, Ocean Adventure Golf, or Nascar Golf. Do you suppose that could possibly feature…be still my beating heart…go-cart mini-golf carts?
One can always hope. And where there’s hope, there’s mini-golf.