Mini-golf is to golf as the slot machine is to Texas hold ’em: It’s cheaper, it’s faster and everyone’s about as good as everyone else. As summer activities go, this one works well for a playful first date or a family outing that might actually turn into something fun. Sadly, due to space constraints, your options are somewhat limited in the metro area. Here’s a rundown of some nearby options.
Putt’er There (Como Park)
1300 Midway Pkwy., St. Paul
Go here if … you have $5 and a half-hour to kill before you head to the zoo. Though adorably named, this course has relatively simple holes, ones where the trick is, more often than not, that the green curves to the right or left. That said, the holes are generously placed, so you and everyone you’re with should come in with an impressive scorecard that can be used to taunt the gorillas.
1349 Coon Rapids Blvd., Coon Rapids
Go here if … you got saddled with baby-sitting for the afternoon. Kids will think its castle theme is majestic, and are less likely to notice the course isn’t in the best shape. At 18 holes and a par of 66, there are a few actual challenges to be found here, including sloped greens and water hazards. If the game stresses you out, take it out on the little twerps with on-site bumper boats or go-kart racing.
Big Back Yard (Science Museum of Minnesota)
120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
Go here if … you identify with the less attractive characters on “The Big Bang Theory.” Each hole on this course comes with a lesson about water. If that sounds like it’s not your bag, consider this: Your body is mostly water, so you might learn by osmosis even if you just aim for the hole. If you’re really smart, you’ll wait until Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, when it’s only $5 to get in.
Big Stone Mini Golf
7110 County Road 110, Minnetrista
Go here if … you demand a bit of artistry with your laziness. This 13-hole work of craftsmanship was designed by sculptor Bruce Stillman, who wisely set natural shapes and surfaces – smoothed stone and glazed wood – against a backdrop that combines the surrounding woods and precision landscaping. From the metro, you’ll drive 40 minutes both ways to play for about an hour, and you’ll think it was worth every second.