By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The hardest part, without question, is trying to maneuver the golf cart around, but it's all worth it in the end.

What are we talking about? Miniature golf, of course, the most fun you can have with a club and a limited space and still keep everything legal near the ocean.

Your kids love it, you can deal with it because you can use the game to improve your putting and it sure beats having to sit in the sand while your skin bakes like a crab on a sidewalk.

Now, obviously, you can play miniature golf anywhere, but it just seems like more fun "down the shore." Maybe it's the salt air. Whatever it is, it works.

We've had miniature golf in this country for nearly 100 years (true, the game went away during the Great Depression, like so many other things) and it's thrived.

Quite simply, it's fun. Anybody can play and anybody can be good at it. A hole- in-one at any age puts a charge in the whole family.

It doesn't take long to play and it doesn't matter if you've ever played the "real" thing or not.

Just putt a ball 30 feet or so through a windmill and do it 18 times. And you can talk all you want while doing it and not have to worry about a slice.

It doesn't get any better than that.

But, and there's always a but, when something is so fun, there has to be a drawback.

For miniature golf, it's this:

A disturbing trend is the lack of a chance to win a free game by knocking one in the clown's mouth on the final hole. It's like having Chinese food and not getting a fortune cookie.

These days, at most places, there is either no shot at a free game (because the course owner is cheap) or there's a "mystery hole" opportunity (which means the course owner is still cheap, but can say you have a chance).

By mystery hole, miniature golf course operators mean that you have better of gotten an ace on the most difficult hole on the course.

You know, through the tunnel, over the ramp, around the bend and into the hole with the cup that's edges are raised, knocking your ball off course. In other words, impossible.

And in some more other words, stupid.

When you're done playing, you have to ask the sweaty guy in the little hut what the mystery hole was and if you say you aced that particular hole - winning a free game - the guy looks at you like you're Pinocchio. And then you get grilled about the particulars, feeling like you're getting questioned about robbing a bank.

Mini golf owners, wake up. Giving away a free game is good for business. The player who gets one will bring back others who will pay you to play your course. And they'll speak well of your establishment.

You know, word-of-mouth advertising, it's free and it's effective.

Free games or not, miniature golf is and will remain an American institution.

As long as there are children, and as long as there are parents, male or female, who love the idea of going to the beach for a vacation but don't want to spend it at the beach, miniature golf will live on.

If you get the chance, take your kid to play and watch the smiles. Not your kid's, but yours.

Oh, and that line about the golf cart and how hard it is to work your way around the course? I hoped that made you chuckle. My son used it on me during one of our rounds and I roared. Proving once again that I know a good joke when I steal one.

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