It’s been around in the U.S. since 1916, in the Northeast since 1926 (when the first rooftop was used, in New York City), and a big part of Connecticut summer fun for generations. Myrtle Beach, S.C., may be considered the mini golf capital of the world, but our state has plenty of courses worthy of summer day-trip status.
Why did mini golf make the family summer bucket list for Jamie Johnson, Virginia Tantral and their twin eight-year-olds, who live in Stratford? Jamie, who is from Texas, knows it as “putt-putt” and only recently discovered it with her family. “We like that it is a family game, though for now as the kids are learning, we’re not even counting score,” she said. “That keeps it more cooperative and fun than competitive.”
But she has found there are plenty of lessons to be learned on the green. “We discuss sportsmanship, the physics of the ball navigating the course and putt-putt jargon like ‘hole in one’ and par,” Jamie said. “We reminisce about our own childhoods playing and talk about the course; we like the ones with moving parts like a windmill or running water.”
She calls it the “perfect outing” in that a game takes about an hour and there are often food and other activities on site. “The kids love it so much they’re becoming expert course spotters,” she added.
While going pro might only be for the best of us (yes, there’s a United States ProMinigolf Association), the rest of us can plan some tee-off play and other fun at the following local putt stops.
Mini-Golf at Saybrook Point, 154 College St., Old Saybrook; 860-388-2407; oldsaybrookrec.com; $5 per person ($3 for kids on Mondays during the day). The slogan “Putt a round by the Sound,” tells all about this course’s stunning location, which overlooks the water. It sustained damage in Hurricane Sandy, but reopened in 2013 with a new course that includes a number of local landmarks and a clubhouse offering snacks and drinks.
Sports Center of Connecticut, 784 River Road (Route 110), Shelton; 203-929-6500; sportscenterct.com; $8.50-$10.50 (return your ball for $1 back). This nature-themed course, featuring a waterfall and river, is open year round. And there’s much more on site: a weather-protected driving range, a jungle-themed Lazer Tag arena, Fun Bowl Bowling (kid-sized alley), the Game Zone arcade, batting cages, and a double-decker ice skating arena. Join the frequent mini-golfer club for the chance to earn free future rounds.
Norwalk Cove Marina Mini Golf, 48 Calf Pasture Beach Road, East Norwalk; 203-838-2326; norwalkcove.com; $6 per person. Waterfront views are the main attraction at this course, which offers obstacles, sand traps and extreme contours that help make each hole fun. Plan a trip on a kids summer concert day, or visit SoNo or Stepping Stones Museum for Children after your game.
Putter’s Paradise Mini Golf at Berlin Batting Cages, 1801 Berlin Turnpike, Berlin; 860-828-7518; berlinbattingcages.com; $5.75 per person. Novices and experts will both find a home here. There’s the Fun Course with traditional windmill, bucketwheels and wishing well, or the Challenge Course featuring rock traps and breaks in the green.
The Only Game in Town, 275 Valley Service Road, North Haven; 203-239-4653; onlygamect.com; $7-$10 per person. Options abound here, with two different outdoor courses (one with 18, and the other 9, holes) and indoor Thriller Mini Golf (featuring glow-in-the-dark effects and music).
Sonny’s Place, 349 Main St., (Route 190), Somers; 860-763-5454; sonnysplace.com; $5-$7.50 per person. Just a few years old, the course winds around fountains, ponds, a river and a cascading waterfall with a variety of tilts, ramps and obstacles. Other activities include an arcade, batting cages, go-carts, a driving range, a rock climbing wall and the Monkey Motion trampoline/bungee jumping attraction.
Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor, 1048 Farmington Ave. (Route 4), Farmington; 860-677-0118; farmingtonminiaturegolf.com; $6-$8 per person (weekday repeat games cost $3). A peaceful setting with lots of flowers, this course features a church, a windmill and other building challenges. The ice cream parlor has more than 40 flavors of hard scoop ice cream.
Olde Sawmill Grill and Miniature Golf Course, 345 Oxford Road (Route 67), Oxford; 203-888-3954; oldsawmillgolf.com; $5-$7 per person. Overlooking Little River and a “real” golf course, this course was designed and built by the owner. A highlight (at hole 16) is a sawmill, which gives a nod to the sawmill history in town. The restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating, offers a variety of food as well as ice cream.
Monster Mini Golf; 14 Starr Road, Danbury; 203-744-GOLF; monsterminigolf.com; $8-$9 per person. Second location opening late this summer or in the fall in Orange. This indoor monster-themed glow-in-the-dark course features music to accompany play. Download the app from iTunes and there’s no need to keep score the old fashioned way. An arcade is on site for before- or after-golf fun.
Melissa Ezarik of Stratford is the mother of a soon-to-be second grader who scored his first hole in one last summer. She is a a journalist and editor of a national education trade magazine.