Memorial Day weekend is what I consider to be the start of the "official" mini golf season. It's here. It's hot. I couldn't wait to play a pair of courses that we hadn't played before. Within our normal radius of under an hour from home there are two sister courses that I read about last summer but never got to explore. The Tappan Golf Center is located in Beautiful Tappan New York. The second course is about three miles away in Closter New Jersey.
We played the Tappan course first. Luckily I found a parking spot under a nice shady tree as the temperature was approaching the 90* mark. We stumbled around and finally found the mini golf office which is in the driving range. The personality-free clerk took our money and handed out clubs and balls. There was to be no decision-making here. You get a club, you get a ball. End of story. No searching for a club that fits or feels right. No choice of ball colors. How can I coordinate my ball with my outfit if you don't get a choice!
Ball and club in hand, we navigated our way to the course which is clean and well maintained with mostly new greens.
The course has some difficulty to it with obligatory water, rough turf and obstacles but it is clear that this course was designed by a Spartan. The layout is austere. The holes are bland and repetitive. I see now that the staff reflects the course. I think my golf partner liked the course more than I. I got the feeling that the owners focussed on the driving range, had a little spare land and thought the mini golf course would provide extra revenue. There certainly were none of those nice ball retriever flags. There were a couple of trees which provided some well-appreciated shade.
Once more into the drink!
Carol lost her ball about half-way through. It appeared to have gone into some plantings but perhaps it went into the water. We couldn't find it which meant she had to trudge back for another visit to the Golf Nazi who was not at all happy. Again there was to be no choice of ball color which meant that she returned with a ball to match mine. This is also another of those courses with no paths. There weren't very many patrons but I can see this as a potential problem.
Despite the well-kept greens and somewhat challenging holes, I give this place a B-. Points off for staff and overall atmosphere. This is a course I would go to if I had too many espressos and needed a snooze.
Tappan Golf Center
116 Route 303
Off to see the sister...
After a break for lunch and much needed hydration, we were off to Closter, NJ and our second course of the day. I was hopeful because the photos of this place included a large giraffe. Not in a kiddy-land way but I thought that perhaps it boded better for some mirth. I was wrong.
The parking lot was large and hot and we could see the course was right smack on a busy road. Once again we had to go into the driving range and find our way to the mini golf office. Who comes up with this design? Would it be too expensive to have a clerk / office at the course? All hopes of this being a happier experience were soon dashed at the office. The clerk, who could have been the twin to the previous staff member, was once again sour and silent. Again we were handed our clubs and balls and again there was no choice offered. This time, to add to the charm, there is an ugly sign on the ugly office informing that there is a $10 deposit on each club and a $1 deposit on the ball. I have never seen such a thing. Has there been a rash of club and ball thefts in this affluent community?
After our merry-making encounter with the office staff we go back out and around to the golf course, in the now 90* plus heat, only to find that the obvious entry gate is padlocked. A friendly groundskeeper [who must not be one of the ownership family] motions to us that the entrance is actually back inside the range, past the mini golf office and out a garage door which was currently blocked by a delivery truck. He graciously unlocked yet another gate for us to enter without having to go back and around, and smuggled us inside. This was evocative of an illegal border crossing and if we had been in Arizona I'd be fishing out my residency documentation. Still, I was grateful to our "coyote" for his help. It would have been helpful if the clerk had mentioned something about the entrance or pointed us in the right direction when he took our money and handed us his choice of balls. But he hadn't.
OK, we're inside. That couple who crashed the White House state dinner had an easier time getting past the Secret Service. Now the course awaits. If the other course was slightly dull, this one is it's less-impressive sister. This is a quick course. All of the usual stuff was there but with even less charm or appeal.
Even that large giraffe from the website was looking more embarrassed than happy!
This giraffe must have been left on the property by the previous owners. I can't imagine this management bothering to put him there. Perhaps the locked gates are to prevent the giraffe from escaping. We played our 18 average holes while burning and being serenaded by traffic noises. I half-expected look-out turrets with armed guards and binoculars to be watching over us to be sure we didn't steal anything.
Our game was mercifully quick. We made our exit back around to the garage door in the driving range, deposited our balls and clubs back at the office and then back to our car. It was like a scene out of a prison movie and I felt like we should be handed our belongings in a manilla envelope. If Sing Sing were to have a mini golf course, this would be the model.
Overall: C. The mitigating factor in its favor is the good condition of the greens and the bland-but-lush landscaping.
Closter Golf Center
153 Homans Avenue