Whether it’s called putt-putt or miniature golf, it’s always fun

| March 31, 2022 | 0 Comments

ZOEY RAVNEL and her dad at Pan Pacific playing the shark hole.

Whether it’s called putt-putt, mini or goofy, miniature golf is always fun.

I grew up in Ohio, and our family summer vacation destination was usually Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The drive was 12 hours from Cleveland, which was much shorter than traveling to Florida. Our priorities when vacationing were palm trees, saltwater, and seafood shacks that served hushpuppies with every meal. Myrtle Beach was the farthest north that palmettos grew, and the congestion of seafood restaurants along the coastal town’s North King’s Highway is still unrivaled.

So is the number of miniature golf courses. There are more than 50, and Myrtle Beach touts itself “The Miniature Golf Capital of the World.”

Putt-putt primer

Kitsch is a must for miniature golf. Themes are always popular, especially when accompanied by outlandish and manufactured landscapes. The water surrounding these elaborate holes is generally dyed Ty-D-Bol blue, and most obstacles, whether buildings or creatures, feature moving parts.

Jurassic Mini Golf in Myrtle Beach is dinosaur-themed, and when the gigantic lizards are lit up at night, it’s quite dramatic. But for audacity, nothing matches Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The course is built into a steep mountainside, and players ride a 300-foot vertical tram that travels on rails from hole to hole. There are two 18-hole courses, with obstacles like outhouses, bathtubs and moonshine stills.

Miniature golf depends on good weather, which is why the South and California have so many courses. The term “putt-putt” was copyrighted by Don Clayton in 1954. Clayton owned Putt-Putt Fun Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the cost to play one round at the time was 25 cents.

Putt-putt evolution

“Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest waste of real estate,” claims Rodney Dangerfield’s character Al Czervik in the golf film classic “Caddyshack.” Exactly, and that’s the main reason so many Southern California putt-putt courses have disappeared. The land they occupied was too valuable.

Cassidy Olson recalls playing at King’s Beach Miniature Golf at Lake Tahoe on family vacations. That, and the disappearance of local courses, inspired him to start LA Pop Up Mini Golf, a company out of Hermosa Beach that specializes in bringing a mobile course to people’s homes and businesses for private events.   

“It’s about nostalgia,” he said.

Olson, who teaches high school history during the week, designs and builds the holes in his shop. He’s constantly on the lookout for items that can be converted into obstacles and hazards for his course.

“I’m always scouring Amazon and antique and vintage shops for things I can cut up, slice and dice,” said Olson.   

His favorite obstacle is a shark he constructed from an old mailbox.

Putt-putt events

Olson has done some unique events. He was recently hired by a law firm downtown that occupied its building’s entire top floor. The firm requested an 18-hole putt-putt course laid out in the hallways for a happy hour party.

But Olson’s favorite was an event at Dodger Stadium. He set up 18 holes along the warning track in the outfield, and each had a different Dodger theme. One hole paid homage to Justin Turner.

“I built a small bridge and bought a red beard from a costume shop,” explained Olson. “The golfers had to putt the ball over the bridge and beard.”

LA Pop Up Golf is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a great addition to birthdays, corporate parties, even wedding receptions.

“Age doesn’t matter,” said Olson. “Everyone can do it.”

If you’re interested in adding a unique twist to an upcoming event, give Olson a call at 310-892-9988, or email lapopupminigolf@gmail.com.

By Jim Kalin

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Category: Entertainment

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