Miniature golf can be enormous fun, especially if you choose your course wisely. Some local options are scary-hard; others, straight-up scary. Here are five mini-golf courses — varying in scenery, history and difficulty — where you can try for that hole-in-one you’ll never fore-get (sorry).
The Founding Fathers didn’t putt-putt here, but still: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more historic mini-golf course. This 18-hole spot on Hains Point is the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also the only outdoor mini-golf course in the District.
“It’s not an amusement-type mini-golf, with windmills and all that stuff,” says events manager Kelly Walker; in other words, it’s much the same as when it opened in 1931. Walker describes the course, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, as challenging enough for adults — there are plenty of obstacles — and sufficiently fun for kids. The area is shaded and offers inspiring views of the city.
Once you’ve hit par, hop on the free Wharf Jitney and have dinner (or a Milk Bar cone) at the Southwest Waterfront.
Open daily through October. 970 Ohio Dr. SW. $7; $6 for kids and seniors.
Only the finest club will do for the mini-golf elite — one wouldn’t want a shoddy course to stand in the way of universal acclaim. Try a few practice rounds at H Street Country Club’s indoor, nine-hole course, which co-owner Ricardo Vergara describes as “whimsical and D.C.-centric.” You’ll putt around tiny D.C. landmarks, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, the Beltway and the Washington Monument — which is being scaled by King Kong. There’s a fiberglass Marion Barry and zombielike dead president sculptures — green skin doesn’t do Abraham Lincoln any favors — as well as splashy murals that depict District neighborhoods.
Celebrate your victory with Mexican street fries, brisket tacos and a Cadillac margarita, perhaps on the restaurant’s rooftop deck. Once you’re fueled up, challenge your friends to a round of giant Jenga, or meet them at the shuffleboard court. Kids aren’t necessarily excluded, either: Even though the bar is usually 21-and-older, the younger set can come during brunch on Saturday (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and before 7 p.m. the rest of the week.
Open Tuesday through Sunday. 1335 H St. NE. $9.
Here’s a test of your mini-golf prowess: You’re about to tee off when a green ogre springs to life, stretching 20 feet tall and grumbling in your direction. He’s harmless, but such an event could easily cause distraction. Get used to it: Monster Mini Golf, a funky indoor, 18-hole course in Gaithersburg, is home to many creepy, animated creatures.
“The entire facility is in black lights — we don’t use any white lights,” says general manager Frank Thanicatt. “But it never feels dark, because we use a special type of fluorescent paint that pops against the black light.”
There’s also an arcade and “laser maze,” and Marylanders of note are painted onto the walls: comedian Judah Friedlander, whose friends always promise to bring him in one Thanksgiving; Baltimore-born actress Anna Faris — there’s even a reproduction of the ancient oak tree that grew on the property of Benjamin Gaither, the city’s namesake.
Thanicatt says the venue attracts all ages, from grandparents teaching their prodigies how to golf to adults on team-bonding outings. During his years in the corporate world, Thanicatt worried about who would survive if he organized a company outing to, say, a trampoline park. “But everyone can enjoy mini-golf,” he says. “It’s low-impact.”
Open daily. 9116 Gaither Rd., Gaithersburg. $11.99; $9.99 for kids.
Like any other TopGolf center, the one in Alexandria lures visitors with its high-tech driving ranges, games and bar. (Hit microchipped golf balls at targets and earn points for your accuracy and distance — while a beer is delivered to your bay.) But it stands out from other locations for a couple reasons: It was the company’s first in the United States, and it’s one of the only ones to offer mini-golf.
There are two challenging, 18-hole miniature golf courses, located next to the driving ranges. Expect to navigate through the requisite water features and rock displays, and note the good hole variety — TopGolf designed the courses so they don’t feel redundant.
Once you turn in your clubs, check out the rest of the venue. There’s a party-like atmosphere, especially on weekends, when visitors pour onto the outdoor patio. Recover from the grueling physical activity with sangria from the clubhouse or try the smoked chicken tacos and, fittingly, injectable doughnut holes flavored with chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. (Or all three, if you want to celebrate a particularly successful showing on the greens.)
Open daily. 6625 S. Van Dorn St., Alexandria. $9; $7 for kids.
This nautical-themed course in Arlington boasts a 140-foot-long mini-golf hole — one of the longest in the world, according to those who measure such things. There’s a waterfall that cascades throughout half of the 18 holes, creating pools of water that golfers need to putt around, says park manager Sarah Johnson. Expect to navigate the twisting waterways around larger-than-life starfish, lighthouses and pelicans — and past a pond with real fish that golfers can feed. The course is well-landscaped, with plush greenery, and there’s a good mix of challenging and easy holes.
Once you’ve returned your clubs, explore the rest of the park’s offerings, including nine batting cages, a couple of hiking trails and a water park designed for both kids and adults. “There’s a lot of nature and greenery, which is a little unusual for Arlington,” Johnson says. Hit the snack bar for the usual park fare, or bring a picnic and grab a spot under Upton Hill’s shaded pavilion.
Open daily through October. 6060 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $6; $5 for kids and seniors.