Mini-Golf of Summers Past
March and April are always busy with grading papers, so I've had little time for writing. In the interest of content, I'm reposting an entry from an older blog.
Spring is upon us, and that means it's time to hit the links in a small way. MINI GOLF! is a big passion of mine, and I here offer a review of the Ottawa mini golf scene. Sadly, I have not been to any of these locations since the original posting of this article (December 2013), but I trust the reviews still hold true. I think you'll agree that when it comes to planning your next golf date, these reviews will help you make the outing a hole in one.
December 10, 2013
This past summer (2013), my brother and I resolved to visit all of the outdoor mini-golf establishments in Ottawa, Ontario. In the past, we have mostly frequented Mini Golf Gardens on Colonnade road. This was our go-to mini golf destination: conveniently located, beautiful greens, good challenge, and good memories. But, I asked myself, what if I’m missing out? What if there’s a better mini golf course out there? And so, our journey began; a journey of self discovery, terrible scores (for me), and deliciousness. All journeys begin with the promise of adventure out there and end with a newfound appreciation for home. Somewhere in between is a great personal discovery. Our apotheosis came with the revelation that the course nearest home is truly where the heart is. Thus, I spare you the suspense; Mini Golf Gardens is the once and future king of mini golf in Ottawa. In my travels, I hope to one day visit an establishment that rivals it, perhaps in some far off land, perhaps in London, Ontario. I may never know if that wonderful looking course in London was as good as its website promised, because I was too tired to make the excursion.
For your convenience, I present to you my reviews of the Ottawa mini golf scene. I have included locations, but not prices, as the true connoisseur knows that you cannot put a price on good, green, balls-to-the-tin fun.
Mini Golf Gardens 2 Colonnade Road, Ottawa
Par: course 1 – 46, course 2 – 48
Aaron’s scores: course one – 62, course two – 56
Daniel’s scores: course one – 54, course two – 53
This is where it all began: by no means our first, but first in quality. Conveniently located off of Merivale in the heart of Nepean’s commercial sector, it’s a short drive from any part of the city. It is also closest to the Menchies frozen yogurt store where we celebrated our weekly sojourn.
Mini golf gardens is unique among Ottawa establishments because it provides two courses for the price of one. The first course is on the gimmicky side, but only a little. It features water hazards, obstacles, tunnels, hills, twists, and turns. Not an easy course, but not too difficult either. What makes Mini Golf Gardens so special, aside from the poor lighting on dark summer nights, is the variety. We have been dozens of times, and the holes never get boring. Plus, they have on occasion changed the layout of a hole or two, as well as the bulb in that very dark corner.
The second course is slightly different. Up until recently, the holes were unfinished, lacking walls and with poorly maintained greens. A few years ago, this all changed when the course got a huge revamp. While this made some unlikely hole-in-one shots even less likely, the new physical boundaries on the greens could never enclose the fun. A little less gimmicky than course one, course two still has its surprises: hills, sand traps, a swinging cylinder of wood, and magical wormholes that transport the ball to another section of the green set at a lower incline.
Another great feature of both courses is the option to take out of bounds shots, bypassing the tyranny of carefully manicured Astroturf.
Special Features: 2 courses, in the city (Nepean, but close enough), best in quality.
Difficulty rating: course 1 – 7/10, course 2 – 7.5/10
Fun rating: 10/10
Karters Korners – 6336 Fallowfield Road, Stittsville
Aaron’s score: 61
Daniel’s score: 49
This blast from the past was our first destination when we sought out new pastures. I remember coming here for birthday parties as a kid and having a good time. But sometimes the past is a chrome surface whose dazzle blinds us to the dreary reality of a course’s lack of imagination. While Daniel and I were strictly mini golf, I do remember the go karts being pretty fun. The mini golf, however, leaves much to be desired. The most striking aspect of this course is the essential sameness of nearly every hole. Although some charming obstacles, such as an airplane or a steeple, are placed on most greens, these never obscure the straight shot to the hole. Although our scores do not reflect the simplicity and easiness of this course (perhaps the long drive threw off our game), a competent putter should be able to get a hole-in-one on nearly every hole. Certainly, this course’s lack of imagination and challenge does not warrant the drive to Stittsville, about 40 minutes west of downtown Ottawa. The highlight of this course was the haunted house hole, where the house would emit scary sounds as the ball passed underneath – not for the faint of heart!
Special Features: Go karts, arcade, great for kids’ parties.
Difficulty rating: 2/10
Fun rating 4/10
On the Green: 3121 Jockvale Road, Barrhaven
Aaron’s score: 60
Daniel’s score: 59
Don’t be fooled by those high scores: poorly maintained greens are responsible, not the difficult course. The course has some clever hole designs, though, consisting of hills, curves, walls, and sand traps, but the dilapidated greens and protruding cups make for a lackluster experience. A couple holes were actually unplayable, since the wall of the tin was raised so high as to completely prevent the ball from being putted in. With some proper maintenance, this could be a great course. Our progress was also hindered by pine needles, as the overhanging evergreen foliage intrudes upon the game. On the Green is worth a visit, at least, because it is conveniently located off of Greenbank in Barrhaven and sells Slush Puppies!!!!!! (I assured my sister that these would be mentioned, as we used to go out for mini golf and slush puppies a lot as kids, possibly at this location, but I’m not sure).
Special Features: Driving range, slush puppies, variable challenge due to pine debris.
Difficulty rating: 7.5/10 (9 with unintentional obstacles)
Fun rating: 7/10
Capital Woods at Capital Golf Centre: 3798 Bank Street, Ottawa
Aaron’s score: 62
Daniel’s score: 64
Notice the high par score. This course is but one feature of an outdoor golfing megaplex that includes a regular sized golf course. The mini golf, it seems, is intended as a practice venue for serious golfers. The greens are considerably bigger than most mini golf courses and less gimmicky. The greens feature curves, hills, and sand traps, but are lackluster in design. The experience became a little tedious in fact, and the promise of a 72 par difficulty was greatly misleading, as our scores can testify. This was one of the two courses where I won, but perhaps Daniel was worn out from the earlier golfing at On the Green. You see, these two courses were played on our first and only double-header golf date.
This course was a unique experience because of its size and because the course is positioned in a heavily wooded area. Players must navigate through overhanging branches to progress. Like On the Green, this course was littered with pine needles. I’d like to give special props to the woman at the front desk who was nice enough to give us the children’s price, since she had not yet surveyed the greens to ensure there was no debris.
Special Features: Full sized golf course, driving range, picturesque playing experience.
Difficulty rating: 5/10
Fun rating: 6.5/10
The 19th Tee Golf Range and 18-Hole Mini-Putt: 3690 Carling Avenue, Ottawa
Aaron’s score: 48
Daniel’s Score: 51
My second winning match was played on this delightfully gimmicky course. Although the 19th Tee was hardly a challenge, it was great fun. Each hole has a unique obstacle and a matching image placed at the marker for each green. For example, there is an alligator hole, a roller-coaster hole, a giraffe hole, etc. This was the only course, aside from Karters Korners, that features the classic metal loop-de-loop hole (a personal favorite).
Although it was a bit of a drive to the Westernmost extreme of Ottawa (though not as far as Karters Korners), this was well worth the drive. The course was busy, but not too busy. The holes are relatively small but well varied – a great choice for large groups with children. I especially enjoyed the plinko-style hole.
Special Features: Driving range, fun pictures with every hole.
Difficulty rating: 4/10
Fun rating: 9/10
The Game – Professional Mini Golf: 3708 Navan Road, Orleans
Aaron’s score: 60
Daniel’s score: 56
Another far off golf locale (especially coming from the west end), The Game put up a good show, but left some puzzling questions that would only be resolved after a visit to Dunn-D’s (see next entry). Each green has two paths, but high risk is hardly ever rewarded, leaving us wondering why the alternate routes even exist. As our high scores demonstrate, this course’s par 42 belies its difficulty. The course is compact, but still manages to sport some delightful water features and challenging hole designs. Yet, despite the variety and ambitious craftsmanship, the course felt a little tedious at times, repeating a small repertoire of obstacles. One highlight involves a hole that provides the option to putt into a stream that carries the ball through a pipe and back onto the green, but, as it turns out, this idea is borrowed from Dunn-D’s. All in all, worth a visit, but not the most original or exciting option.
Special Features: No frills but owned and managed by die hard mini-golf fans.
Difficulty rating: 8/10
Fun rating: 6.5/10
Dunn-D’s Mini Golf: 11, Chemin Notch Road, Chelsea, Quebec.
Aaron’s score: 60
Daniel’s score: 51
Nestled in the magnificent Gatineau Hills, Dunn-D’s provided the perfect end to our mini-golf expedition. This beautiful and spacious course featured many exciting hole designs, despite relying mainly on water features, curves, and hills. One of our first reactions to this course was an “a-ha” moment, when we recognized where The Game had got their hole ideas – including the alternate routes for each course and the option, on several holes, to use the streams to gain a shortcut to the hole. The Calypso versions of popular songs piped throughout the course was a nice touch.
Dunn-D’s is clearly a family destination. We arrived just 30 minutes after opening to find the course completely full, making this the longest course to play. I guess mini golf is more popular in Quebec. Make sure to call ahead as the whole place can sometimes be booked up by summer camps.
Thinking of trying out Dunn-D’s? It’s a done deal!
Special Features: Next door to a full-sized golf course (Dunnderosa), delightful calypso music, beware of crowds.
Difficulty rating: 7.5/10
Fun rating: 7/10