Golf

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Trending, Money-Making and Suddenly Hip, Minigolf is Going Upscale

6 Nov, 2020

By: Michael Popke

Putt-putt – oh, excuse us, minigolf – is going upscale.

Not only has it become a go-to family activity during  quarantine, but the game’s popularity is likely to keep increasing with the development of more indoor and interactive courses (owned by some heavy hitters) that combine food, drink and a fun way to socialize while still remaining social distant.

Think Topgolf and Drive Shack.

New facilities are under development in communities all over the country, and even Tiger Woods is getting in on the action.

PopStroke in Fort Myers, Fla., the first facility to mark the partnership between the golfing legend’s course design company and the mini-golf entertainment venue brand, opened in September. It features two 18-hole putting courses designed by Woods and his TGR Design firm, as well as outdoor dining with a full menu, a variety of craft beer and other alcoholic beverages, 24 flavors of ice cream, outdoor games, a playground and an app that, according to Golfweek.com, “includes just about everything needed for contactless payment and ordering.”

“This is a new way for individuals to experience the game of golf,” Woods told TCPalm.com. “It’s about bringing people together.”

Or, as PopStroke founder Greg Bartoli puts it: “We’re trying to make the game more entertaining.”

Woods has teamed up with PopStroke to design other courses in Fort Myers, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Meanwhile, Atlanta will be home to the first Puttshack in the United States when it is scheduled to open in early 2021. Created by the founders of Topgolf in 2018 and originating in London, Puttshack refers to upscale putt-putt as “competitive socializing,” and the 25,000-square-foot Atlanta facility will boast four nine-hole courses that feature custom themed holes, interactive leaderboards and a digital prize wheel, according to the company’s website.

Atlanta’s Puttshack will be located in The Interlock, a $450 million mixed-use development that includes 200,000-square-feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 350 apartments, 70 single-family homes and a 161-key Marriott Tribute Portfolio boutique hotel, according to Curbed Atlanta.

In Kansas City, Mo., the opening of Sinkers Lounge was delayed because of the pandemic. Located in the city’s Power & Light District, it will be the first of its kind in the area and  “will house nine ‘leisurely’ mini-golf holes, along with ‘tabletop golf’ holes, which a [news] release said is a mashup of mini-golf and shuffleboard,” according to KMBC.com. Sinkers Lounge was created by local small business Swell Spark. And although its website does not specify an opening date, in the interim it is offering Sinkers at Home — a “patent-pending, at-home minigolf kit featuring 36 different hole designs for hours of fun.”

“I think there are a lot of people who look to us as leaders in the out-of-home entertainment industry here in Kansas City and so it’s a relatively straightforward pivot to show that we can also be a great in-home entertainment company,” Swell Spark CEO Matt Baysinger told the Startland News. “Because of the way that we’ve created the kit, you can make literally hundreds of different mini golf course designs.

Then there’s Lee Naylor, who owns the Bistro 19 restaurant and bar at Golf Dorval in Quebec, Canada. The bistro had to close due to the pandemic, according to the Montreal Gazette, but that only fueled Naylor’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“The golf course is packed almost every day,” he recently told the paper, adding that the lines of golfers waiting to use the driving ranged prompted him to build a 12,000-square foot miniature golf course that he calls “high end,” with sand traps, water holes, lights and “glow-in-the-dark” LED golf balls.

According to the Gazette, “after Golf Dorval approved the plan, Naylor chose 18 different holes by going online and researching the best holes at other mini-putt courses. The playing surface will be made of artificial grass that cost $30,000.”

“With COVID, we notice how many people want to be outdoors now. And the demographics have changed,” Naylor said. “And because the driving range is so busy here now, we figured we’d try a mini-putt course with an ice cream place, something family-oriented.” The course is scheduled to open in spring.

Stillnot convinced of miniature golf’s lofty status? Consider that two special days have been designated to honor the game: National Miniature Golf Day on the second Saturday in May (that’s May 8 in 2021) and Miniature Golf Day, celebrated worldwide every Sept. 21.

“Minigolf is actually played all over the world and there are tournaments all over the world, too,” Bob Detwiler, president and founder of the United States ProMiniGolf Association, told Sports Management Destination in 2015. “I helped build two courses in China, and they have held a China Open over, there.”

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