Around the world, golf courses are everywhere. Whether you want a massive professional one or just a local one to spend an afternoon, they’re all over and many are known for their wonderful settings and surroundings. However, mini-golf has been a nice twist on the game for quite a few decades. They often litter those tourist-packed towns in the south, an easy way to get folks to pull in and have fun for a couple of hours. The best use a nice setting of waterfalls and hills and mix them together in unique ways. Many are outdoors in areas that can see rough winters and thus it's obvious how you can only hit them at specific places. But others boast some fun indoor settings that can use their space limitations well.
A lot of places are known for being totally over the top in their décor and holes that take on challenges no professional golf course can match. Some can look like actual cartoons in various wild ways but it all makes for a great experience. The U.S. boasts the majority of them as something about the nation lends itself to some pretty fun courses. A few use their environment well while others rely on their created settings to boost up attendance well. Here are 20 mini-golf courses that should be tried at least once to show how even adults can adore this “kids game” in droves.
20 Winter Summerland - Disney World
You’d expect a unique experience from the gang at Walt Disney World and they do so here. It’s near their Blizzard Beach water park, which has the backstory of a “freak Florida winter storm” dumping a ton of snow to create Florida’s own ski resort. You have two 18-hole courses, one for the winter side and the second for summer. The winter side gets more attention for how you can play “Icy” courses in the Florida heat with snowmen based on Disney characters and Santa’s sled. The summer side is fun with a hole like a melting snowman and a sand castle of Cinderella’s castle.
19 Can Can Wonderland - St. Paul, Minnesota
Located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Can Can was formed by asking mini-golf fans what kind of holes they would design. The top 18 choices are now put in an indoor setting and are amazing. One is a full-on upside-down loop that’s a major challenge to hit right. There’s giant frogs, a carousel, a lighthouse, a huge slide, Ferris wheel, tower and more.
The place also has an indoor playground, an old-fashioned arcade with pinball and carnival games and a nice diner for folks to eat between rounds.
Thanks to being indoors, this means that even during one of those infamously bitter Minnesota winters, visitors can golf year-round.
18 Walker Golf - Minneapolis, Minnesota
An arts center is the last place you’d expect to find a mini-golf course but the Minneapolis Arts Center obliges. The golf area is found outside the museum and boasts holes created by local artists who went all out. Thus, you can hit the ball around hot dogs, a huge gumball machine, wild art showcase, a shuffleboard and a hall that plays with your perceptions. That would be good enough but there’s also the “Skyline” area where you can play 10 holes on the roof of the building overlooking the Minneapolis skyline. There, you can hit on holes like a pool table and a lake with a great view of the city.
17 Glowing Greens - Portland, Oregon
Indoor mini-golf courses are always unique yet this Portland one stands out. There are two, one in nearby Beaverton and a newly opened one right in downtown Portland. Each has a spooky décor with neon and black lighting, the low ceiling giving it a tighter edge. The place is done in a horror motif with giant monsters, freaky paintings and more like huge temples and other bits that make it stand out. The way the lighting affects clothing is fun as guests can’t get enough of hitting those balls around this neon setting and kids loving the theme. It may seem offbeat but it all comes together and thus, no matter the time of day, this is a place that glows in the dark brilliantly and makes mini-golf a real experience.
16 Shoot For the Stars - Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri is well known as a huge tourist mecca with its variety of shops, go-kart racing, water park, Titanic Museum, casinos and Silver Dollar City amusement thrill park. So it’s no shock they’d also have a pretty cool mini-golf course to boot. The idea is a send-up of life in Hollywood and thus holes are based on ideas from a star on the Walk of Fame to the paparazzi and red carpet premieres.
It’s totally over the top with recreations of L.A. landmarks and statues but it comes off fun.
Some holes can be real challenges like hitting in a circle designed like a “shot at fame” and a huge studio gate. It may seem odd to find a Hollywood experience so far South but it’s yet another reason to check out Branson for its tourist fun.
15 Riverwalk Mini Golf - Wilmington, Deleware
The title isn’t just for show. This Wilmington, Delaware spot is located literally right by Cape Fear River, one of the several that surround the town. That means you can see boats of various kinds flow by just feet away as you indulge in 18 nicely designed holes. The fountains and pools continue the river motif as well with a lighthouse nearby and the bustling shopping district giving it more of a push. With very good pricing, it’s a major attraction for both tourists and locals and thus can be quite busy on weekends. It doesn’t boast huge décor but its fantastic natural setting gives it an edge other courses can’t match.
14 Hollywood Drive-In - Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando has long lived by the mantra of “ride the movies”. So it makes sense they’d have a mini-golf course based on movies. Located by the CityWalk dining/entertainment area, this course is designed like the cheesy B-movies of the 1950s. There are two 18-hole courses, one themed to horror films and the other to sci-fi. Each is delightfully over the top from cemeteries and haunted houses to huge flying saucers and alien homes. Hitting a ball into the maw of a huge creature of alien ship is just pure fun and the sounds of the parks nearby are better.
It’s very popular at night with the mood lighting for each section making it shine better and the CityWalk comes to life.
13 Mayday Golf - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Anyone driving through Myrtle Beach will spot this place as it’s hard to miss the huge yellow cargo plane hanging by the street as well as the helicopter atop a mountain. The idea is that a pilot of the 1930s has crashed on an island and the course is your way of getting to rescue.
There are two courses, Mayday Mountain and Rescue Falls, both offering a variety of challenges and both are fun to play amid the jungle and mountain settings.
Walking over a variety of rivers and bridges to get to the holes is good with the challenges amped up and showcasing a major treat whichever way you go.
There’s no need to yell for help as this course offers one of the most fun mini-golf experiences even by Myrtle Beach standards.
12 Dino Park - Thailand
You have to go all the way to Thailand to get to this place but it’s worth it. The theme is obvious and yet awesome as dinosaurs never cease to thrill guests. It looks like a course out of the old Flintstones cartoons with rock caverns, hills, mountains and other decorations (right down to a wheel car). Dinosaurs abound, often props designed to hit the balls around with some robots who can move a bit. The jungle setting is perfect for a primordial land, with a terrific restaurant offering grill fare before guests’ eyes. It’s part of the popular Marina Phuket resort with a theme that most places in the States should wish they could pull off so well.
11 Around the World - Lake George, New York
One of the oldest mini-golf courses around, this New York mainstay has been entertaining guests for 55 years. There are two 18 hole courses, one for the U.S., the other of the world with huge decorations abounding.
Featuring a massive Paul Bunyan statue, a windmill, pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Rome, Italy, London, a Viking ship, a roulette wheel and more, the decorations are simplistic compared to newer courses.
But they still shine wonderfully as guests can enjoy a variety of great play in a good setting and hitting balls through recreations of landmark buildings never gets old. It’s as popular now as it’s been since 1963 and likely to continue as this New York spot gives guests a chance to “putt around the globe”.
10 Hawaiian Rumble - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Often cited as one of the best mini-golf places on the entire planet, this is a stand-out of Myrtle Beach, a place packed with courses. The theme is right in the title, recreating the Hawaiian islands, complete with a “volcano,” waterfalls and various walkways over pools. It’s home to the Masters Tournament of mini-golf with a unique spread above where guests can visit huts to watch the action. The volcano gives some rumbles and at night, torches give the area an even more exotic appearance. It showcases how the best mini-golf around can be found in this South Carolina town and thus makes it a must for anyone who loves putt-putt.
9 Lexington Ice Center - Lexington, Kentucky
You don’t usually think of religion and mini-golf but this Kentucky-based course brings the two together. There are three courses, 18 holes each, based on the Old Testament, the New Testament and Miracles. Thus, you have holes with such bits as hitting a ball to “walk on water”, on a bridge across the “Red Sea,” one going from blue to red (“water into wine”) and more. The sheer length gets to folks as 54 holes means you can spend a lot of time and the fun design work pulls you in.
So even if you’re not a Catholic, indulge in some Biblical fare for a mini-golf course that is a lot of fun to play on.
8 Urban Putt - San Francisco, California
The tight quarters actually help out this San Francisco course. It’s set in a brownstone complete with a bar nearby so families can enjoy some food in between holes.
The course is designed with a city motif with holes replicating various sights of the city from the Golden Gate Bridge to various hills to add to the challenge.
That it all takes place in a tight indoor setting is a unique touch for the place as tourists and locals alike enjoy taking in the fun course. It showcases the “urban” motif well and thus makes this one of the few mini-golf areas in San Francisco but one as unique as the city itself.
7 Perils of the Lost Jungle - Herndon, Virginia
Once a major highlight of tours in Virginia, Perils of the Lost Jungle closed in 2016. However, Woody’s Golf bought and moved it to their place to give it new life. It’s like walking through a major theme park attraction of a sinister jungle filled with temples and rivers with a mist going around everywhere.
The holes are designed around pitfalls like a quicksand pit, a snake home and an abandoned camp.
What makes it stand out are audio-animatronics of snakes, a komodo dragon, some human guides, a witch doctor and even Tarzan swinging overhead. Throw in holes like outrunning killer bees, a huge gorilla glaring at you and an alligator spitting water and it just gets more thrilling.
6 KISS By Monster Golf - Las Vegas, Nevada
Combine one of the wildest rock acts of all time with the aura of Las Vegas and the results are worth checking out. Located in the Rio Hotel, this is basically an all-out tribute to the legendary rock band complete with a gift shop and a nearby museum. The indoor course is all in neon lighting with black walls and huge props of guitars, jack-in-the-boxes and huge platform boots. The darkness actually adds a bit of challenge to the holes even as you follow the ball down the neon-lit paths with lasers flying about. And yes, there is indeed the obvious: A hole where you have to hit the ball up a ramp designed like Gene Simmons’ tongue.
5 Ocean’s 18 - New Bedford, Massachusetts
That title may make it sound like it’s a bowling alley. In reality, this course, located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is a terrific indoor golf course. The ocean theme is clear with holes designed like lakes, lighthouses, ocean reefs and more. It’s the kind of thing you’d see outdoors but having it all inside a huge building makes it stand out. There’s also the fun neon lighting as guests love, designed to look like an underwater world. The painted walls may seem whacky and kitschy but they actually add to the fun as the setting makes this a great place to do mini-golf even during a bitter winter. No matter the time of year, it can feel like you’re enjoying an island getaway and making this a spot to check out in the Bedford area.
4 Par-King - Lincolnshire, Illinois
Located in Lincolnshire, Illinois, this is often cited as one of the most unique mini-golf places on the planet. It boasts the line “the world’s most unusual golf course” and does its best to live up to that moniker.
One hole has you hitting the ball into a tower which then takes it up and drops in into a long ramp with a loop.
Another takes the ball on a trip around a wooden roller coaster. There are recreations of Mount Rushmore, Chicago’s Sears Tower and a rocket ship. But it’s the unique motif that makes this really stand out, the holes just so much fun to admire from the roulette wheel to the giant clock and thus it's a must-see for any mini-golf fan.
3 Fantasia Gardens - Disney World
Fantasia Gardens is the true gem when it comes to Disney mini-golf. It’s based on the classic 1940 animated movie with the holes designed around scenes from the film. There are two 18-hole courses with their own challenge levels and the holes are nicely designed. A couple are based on Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with broom statues pouring out water and the main hole is designed like a whirlpool.
Guests enjoy it more at night with the great lighting and the sight of fireworks going off by the theme parks nearby. The “fairways” course could be easily mixed up with the real golf courses around the area, complete with sand traps. But most prefer the more whimsical version of putting past statues of various animals and others for a magical experience only Disney could provide.
2 Molten Mountain - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
It takes a lot to stand out in a golf town like Myrtle Beach. However Molten Mountain is able to do it. The highlight is the title mountain, a 50-foot volcano that “erupts” every half hour. There’s also how it boasts both an outdoor and indoor course, both 18 holes so if the weather is bad or too hot, you can easily play indoors.
The outdoor course is shaped like a tropical island with lovely gardens and waterfalls to enjoy as you play.
The indoor course is more like the underground of the same island with holes designed like caverns and “cave lighting.” That it’s set within the volcano adds a special aura to it with the rumbling of the “eruptions” combining with the lighting and mood. Other Myrtle Beach golf places call this “The Death Star” for how it smashes their business as its design makes this a great place to be rain or shine.
1 Pirate’s Cove - Orlando, Florida
There are several versions of this popular chain across the country. The Orlando version may well be the best. There are technically two, one in Lake Buena Vista near Disney World and another closer to the main city. Each embrace the pirate theme majorly and stand out a bit more being in Florida. Guests can go around makeshift mountains and waterfalls as they take on the greens as well as pirate-themed bridges and huge recreations of ships.
The good weather helps out as it’s a major attraction in a town already filled with them. Sadly, the Lake Buena Vista location is set to be closed in 2020 so you’d best hurry to get there, although the other location will still be around. Either way, it shows how Orlando does mini-golf pretty well.