Miniature golf is one of the most fun and versatile summer pastimes. It can be played outdoors, at night, indoors in the dark, or even on a giant recreation of Noah’s Ark. For more on that last one, you’ll have to read through our guide to the greatest mini-golf courses in America…
Mayday Golf, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: The best mini-golf courses mix a fun theme with creative course construction. Oh, and having a crashed plane sticking out of a waterfall doesn’t hurt. Choose from Mayday Mountain—18 holes that wind around a mountain and underneath the downed plane—and Rescue Falls, which ends with a model helicopter coming to your rescue. Relax: There’s no smoke monster.
Old Pro Golf 68th Street, Ocean City, Maryland: The venerable Old Pro chain of mini-golf courses are beloved by multiple generations of Ocean City beachgoers. And the 68th Street location is the closest you’ll get to swinging clubs in Jurassic Park. The course offers a healthy variety of holes with obstacles ranging from pesky prehistoric lizards to an angry club-wielding caveman.
Par-King Skill Golf, Lincolnshire, Illinois: Dating back to the 1950s, Par-King has been dubbed “Mini-Golf’s Taj Mahal.” It’s definitely one of the strangest courses out there, with holes featuring everything from spaceships to castles to a mini Mount Rushmore. Additional obstacles like clowns, merry-go-rounds, and a Sears Tower replica only add to the course’s surreal Americana vibe.
Smuggler’s Cove Adventure Golf, various Florida locations: Many golf courses boast pirate themes, but only one offers real reptiles! Every Smuggler’s Cove location features live gators you can feed (if you dare) with bamboo fishing poles. Just be careful where you whack your ball—if the gators get it, not even Chubbs Peterson can retrieve it for you.
Glowing Greens, Portland and Beaverton, Oregon: Ever wanted to play mini-golf inside a gonzo black light painting? That’s the experience you’ll get at Oregon’s indoor Glowing Greens courses. Playing in the dark might seem weird, but you’ll get used to it once you pop on your 3D glasses and experience animated skeletons, aliens and other obstacles. Trippy, dude.
Lexington Ice Center, Lexington, Kentucky: The Travel Channel raved about the greens at this ice skating/family fun center. It’s definitely the only mini-golf course where you can play on models of Mount Sinai and Noah’s Ark. Yes, there’s a Biblical theme, with courses based on the Old Testament, New Testament and “Miracles.” Have fun, but be sure to heed the first Commandment: “If thy ball should land in a water hazard, thou must taketh a penalty stroke.”
Molten Mountain, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: The main attraction at Molten Mountain golf is the titular 50-foot man-made volcano that actually erupts and spews forth pink “lava.” Sure the lava looks a bit like Pepto-Bismol. But you’ll be too distracted by two mini-golf courses—one inside the mountain and one out—to ponder how exactly they get the water to turn that color.
KISS Monster Mini-Golf, Las Vegas: Leave it to the legendary rockers to deliver the most extreme (and bizarre) mini-golf course of all time. In addition to 18 holes of rock-’n’-roll-themed madness, the venue boasts scarily accurate animatronic versions of the band, the world’s largest KISS memorabilia store and a wedding chapel. It is Vegas, after all.
Lumberjack Pass Miniature Golf, Lake George, New York: Set against the breathtaking Adirondack Mountains, this bucolic gem spreads its 18 holes over an acre of land with plenty of actual flowing waterfalls and treacherous sand traps. They also supply ball washers to clean your balls. For when they get caught in a sand trap, of course.
Space Golf, Orland Park, Illinois: Golfers and sci-fi fans alike flock to this indoor golf mecca. Models of Darth Vader, Yoda and Borg Captain Picard greet players as they enter a course filled with spaceships, aliens and more galactic wonders. It’s the closest you’ll get to a Star Wars-themed golf course in this galaxy. Just don’t argue over who gets to shoot first—the answer is always Han Solo.