"For the next ten minutes the first player making a hole-in-one with a red ball, that's a red ball, will win one free game," the loudspeaker voice announced.

A few minutes later there was a shout, "Jeff made it, he did it. Yeah, Jeff!"

"We have a winner," the voice boomed. "And it's our birthday boy, Jeff. Congratulations Jeff! Now for the next ten minutes, any player making a hole-in-one with a green ball will win a giant soft drink."

The eight boys returned to their golf game and I walked back to the shady bench to continue reading my Agatha Christie and enjoy the easiest birthday party I had ever given anyone.

When Jeff turned ten last year he knew exactly what kind of party he wanted: "All the games we can play at Putt-Putt, a double-chocolate cake and hundreds of cokes." He clinched the deal by saying that all I had to do was drive the boys to the course and provide the cake, "They do everything else."

In confirmed this with a call to Putt-Putt Golf Course. "Just bring the kids over," said the park manager Chip Linville.

"They can play all the games they want for two hours, we'll give them Cokes and prizes. The birthday boy gets a special prize and the whole cost is $2.50 per person."

I immediately made a reservation for the following Wednesday; I had originally planned on a Saturday but Chip advised a week day instead. "You'll practically have the park to yourself, on weekdays we do get crowded," he said.

We arrived around 4 o'clock. The boys debated the merits of blue versus green or red balls, measured their arms carefully to select just the right length clubs and practiced a few swings.

"Not so high now," Chip cautioned "swing real low, lower still. That's good, that's just fine now." They collected score cards and pencils and scattered among the three course and work their way up, others chose the most difficult first on the theory that "we'll be tired later and want something easy."

Each course has eighteen holes with different challenging things to do. The boys hit the ball around curves, through tunnels, across lakes . . . well six inch streams, through revolving wind mills and around various obstacles.

"This is tough," said Brad as he tried -- for the ninth time -- to hit the ball through a rapidly opening and closing castle door.

"Wait till you get over here," his friend Howard called from across the park. "This hole is slanted and the ball keeps rolling back to me."

"A hole-in-one!" someone shouted. "I got a hole in one. Wait a minute. Where's my ball? My ball is gone."

"That was the 18th hole," his friend, who had played the course before told him "That's the last hole and they always take your ball then. Go get another one, we still have a half hour to play."

When the boys had each played three games I served the cake. Chip distributed soft drinks, and discount coupons for more miniature golf games, MacDonald's hamburgers and Baskin-Robins ice cream cones. Jeff got his choice of a stuffed animal, a frisbee or a putting ball. He chose the frisbee and the boys dashed over to the parking lot or a quick game.

The last stop was the Putt-Putt game room where the boys fell on the machines -- "Here's pinball . . . look at this driving game . . . here's a space game" -- with such joy that I thought we could hae skipped the golf and just held the party inside. I handed out quarters and returned to Agatha Christie for another half hour.

"We're all coming back next Saturday," Jeff announced in the car driving home. "They let you play all morning from 9 to 1 for only $2.25."

"Not a bad deal," I thought. It sure beats the Saturday-morning television cartoom routine. And think of all the mysteries I could read in four hours of peace and quiet!