The Swing Set

D.C. mini-golf lacks windmills but offers plenty of quirkiness


East Potomac Golf Course is the oldest miniature golf course in the United States that still continues daily operations.

Miniature golf seems so simple: Use a little club to hit a little ball toward a little cup. If you do it right, the ball will go in. If you don’t, try again. And again. And again. Keep your language clean, because most likely there are kids around. As summer starts to wind down, we’ve got tips on where to play the season’s most hallowed sport, in town and out.

National Building Museum

The National Building Museum’s indoor course was designed by local building and landscape architects, so expect a heady game. The particularly tricky No. 5 hole on the Blue Course (there are two nine-hole options) is made to resemble the Anacostia riverbed and was designed by members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “It’s beautiful, but you have to hit it down a certain path,” says Cathy Frankel, vice president of exhibitions and collections. “Otherwise, you are so out of luck.”

This is the second time the NBM has erected the temporary greens. This year’s theme is “Build the Future,” so designers imagined what the city’s infrastructure might look like when the club-toting kids are all grown up. The holes are open during regular museum hours; on Aug. 8 and 22, they’re open until 9 p.m.

National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW; through Sept. 2, $5 per course, $3 with museum admission; 202-272-2448. (Judiciary Square)

H Street Country Club

It’s not just available alcohol that makes H Street Country Club’s nine-hole course — located on the top floor of the Northeast bar — unique. The course, sculpted from wood and resin by Arlington artist Lee Wheeler, “is all D.C.-centric,” says bar owner Ricardo Vergara; the holes feature sculptures of local landmarks and personalities. “Our version of The Awakening is Marion Barry coming out of the ground. So, we poke a little fun at D.C. politics.”

The real challenge of the course is the lack of barriers between holes: A hard hit can land you in the middle of someone else’s game. Should this happen, you’re supposed to start the hole over, but “we’re pretty lazy with the rules,” Vergara admits. “It’s all on the honor system.”

H Street Country Club, 1335 H St. NW; $7 (free with dinner Monday and Tuesday), accompanied children allowed before 9 p.m.; 202-399-4722

East Potomac Golf Course

If you’re up for classic mini-golf, head to East Potomac Golf Course in Southwest, where the 18-hole course is the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the country. There are no papier mache apes here, but you can use the understated course to practice your skills for the real thing (there’s a full-scale course right next door). “The more you’re connecting to the game in any way, the more confidence you’ll get,” says Tim Krebs, general manager of the course and a PGA professional.

Mindset-wise, mini-golf is good preparation for big-golf, too. “Don’t be tricked into thinking putting isn’t mental,” Krebs says. “If you think you’re going to putt better on a mini-golf course, you’re going to putt better.”

East Potomac Golf Course, 972 Ohio Drive SW; open daily until Labor Day, $5-$6.50; 202-554-7660

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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