I have a confession to make. I am a miniature-golf, um, connoisseur. The lure of the Lilliputian links is strong. Like croquet and badminton, it’s a pursuit that is both genteel and ridiculous. I have played everywhere — atop a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean and up and down the splendid range of seaside luxury layouts. I have pulled out my putter at decaying, abandoned courses in forlorn RV parks, and at desiccated greens beside abandoned gas stations in the middle of the desert.
The true aficionado can find competitions and tournaments worldwide, complete with ruling bodies and Halls of Fame, and even televised finals. And the sport has even wormed its way into popular culture, at least as a punchline in film comedies such as Happy Gilmore
, and American Pie
. (Who could forget Fred Ward’s immortal portrayal of minigolf pro Roone Dimmick in 1988’s Big Business
Miniature golf courses themselves are also aesthetic refuges, secret sources of weirdness. They appeal to the eccentric entrepreneur and the outsider artist, who cram their grounds with strange, mismatched art and objects dragged from hither and yon, or cobbled together with spit and wit. Ingenious obstacles and amusing trick shots are framed with a jumble of crazy landscaping, sculptures, and water features that appeal to young children and – me, evidently.
Denver’s no Myrtle Beach, but it does have a nice spread of courses, many part of family-fun centers, that range from the just the basics to some elaborate and hallucinatory experiences. And there’s still at least one place where you can try and get it in the clown’s mouth. Here then are eleven of my favorites, in alphabetical order.
Adventure Golf & Raceway
9650 Sheridan Boulevard
$8.25/adult, $6.95 child
The ne plus
ultra of local minigolf, this spot contains a perfect combination of well-designed, challenging holes, elaborate and interactive décor, and beautiful and shady landscaping. The 54 holes include a haunted house, castle with dragon, a singing/wisecracking quartet of shrunken heads, talking trees, a downed plane, and a working volcano!
Amusement Park at Heritage Square
18301 West Colfax Avenue
$10 unlimited play
Although the venerable Heritage Square theme park/shopping village is going belly-up, these folks want you to know that the amusement park, picnic grounds, and event center are staying. A serviceable 36 holes is a nice supplement to the variety of rides and game available here.
501 West Florida Avenue
$7 adult/$5 child
Denver's Parks and Recreation department runs this lovely 36-holer next to one of the more conveniently located driving ranges in the area. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and hydrate. On this and other courses that lack shade, the concrete, rock, and synthetic-turf elements can drive the surface temperatures up high enough in the afternoon for you to smelt lead on the back nine.
Boondocks Fun Center
11425 Community Center Drive
$8 each round
This funplex has 36 well-groomed, appealing holes that are part of a massive center that includes bowling, an arcade, Laser tag, GoKarts, bumper boats, and the like. Not for the retiring or shy, come early – it is usually raucously crowded. A great place to drop off of your kids — or me — for the day.
Colorado Journey Miniature Golf Course
5150 South Windermere Street
$7 adult/$6.25 child or senior
The gimmick for this locale is that its holes are named and shaped like Colorado landmarks – there’s a Garden of the Gods hole, you have to putt though the Eisenhower Tunnel, etc. It’s great water features and the near-exclusive use of local flora makes this a great place to bring out-of-towners.
Family Sports Outdoor Miniature Golf
6901 South Peoria Street
$5 each round
A small but serviceable eighteen-hole course that is part of the South Suburban Parks and Rec system, part of an extensive Family Sports Center that includes an indoor playing field, a gaming center, and twin ice sheets (the Avs practice here).
Gateway Park Fun Center
4800 North 28th Street
$6.50 age 8 and up/$5 ages 4 through 7
Gateway’s whimsical décor is a hoot – pink elephants, purple gorillas, and multicolored mushrooms – and the grounds are botanical-garden-level pretty. Amenities include batting cages, maze, arcade, racetrack, and driving range.
Go Putt Miniature Golf
9741 Park Meadows Drive
$7.50 age 10 and up/$5.75 ages 3 through 9
Strategically located in the Entertainment District out at Lone Tree, Go Putt is going strong after fourteen years. All 36 holes were recently resurfaced, so look for fast greens and none of the weird hops balls take on older courses.
Monster Mini Golf
8227 South Holly Street
$9 adult/$8 child
This is one of two strange and awe-inspiring local examples of that final cultural horizon, Indoor Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf. A huge eighteen-hole playing area studded with blacklit statues and murals of monsters, demons, killer clowns, and . . . Colorado icons such as John Denver, Trey Parker and Pam Grier! The music is conversation-killing loud.
3604 South Kipling Street
$7.50 adult/$5 child and senior
Nearly twenty years young, this course has a unique style of layout, albeit one that is repeated, with limited variations, over its 54-hole length. Its main draw is the eclectic hodgepodge of decoration it’s accumulated – and when was the last time you saw the uninflected irony of a ball washing machine stationed at a putt-putt course?
Putting Edge Colorado
14500 West Colfax Avenue #337
$10.50 adult/$8.50 child and senior
If Roger Corman made a baby with Peter Max, and Moebius was the obstetrician, this would be the result. This truly trippy three-dimensional glow-in-the-dark artwork is the work of a deeply creative and tormented soul and has to be strolled through to be appreciated. It’s also a relatively tough eighteen-hole course. Ostensibly where children go to have fun, this is where the hipsters should be hanging.