I have a new obsession. Last weekend, my girlfriend and I walked into a drab building in Tacoma’s sketchy Narrows District. Rain was pouring down outside, but inside, tucked behind a bowling alley and an arcade, is something special. Like Gulliver on Lilliput, we stepped into a miniature world and were suddenly transformed into giants.
People of all ages were there, putting colorful golf balls around fake sand traps (and very real water obstacles). The whole place was alive with activity. Hoots of victory and groans of failure echoed under the low ceiling. Teeing off at the first hole, I was confident. I hadn’t been to a mini golf course in years, probably not since going with my cousins on a muggy summer’s night in Pennsylvania ten or fifteen years ago. In all that time, my game has not improved. My ball wheeled wildly off course. A par-3 hole? Ha! I’ll do it in nine. For the sake of my dignity, Stephanie stopped counting at six. Even though my technique began to show signs of life in the back nine holes, she still ended up beating me 65 to 75.
I’m a long way from being the Tiger Woods of putt-putt, but I think I’ll be back. You see, the really cool thing about mini golf, the thing that will likely keep me coming back to Tower Lanes, isn’t the competition. It’s the novelty and the nostalgia. It doesn’t matter if you sink a hole-in-one or miss the hole ten times from two inches away, the fun part is the strangeness of inhabiting this brightly-colored astroturf universe, where half-size rivers tumble through a plastic and concrete wilderness. For us full-grown people, a trip to the mini golf course feels like a trip into our own technocolor childhood. Win or lose, I think we all need that perspective when our stress levels are high.
In the land of mini golf, the world feels smaller and so, too, do the problems.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer and photographer in Tacoma, WA. You can follow him on Twitter for more pint-size thoughts or leave a mini comment below. Thanks for reading!