Monday, May 31, 2010


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
Tappan, NY

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
Closter, NJ

Monday, May 24, 2010


This weekend we played the Overlook Golf Center's mini golf course.  I like to refer to this one as "The Punisher"!  This is a beautiful and serene course located about 10 minutes from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  This was the fourth time I have played this course and it always gets the better of me but I appreciate the challenge.

The course is beautifully maintained and right now is in full bloom with Spring plantings.  It is amazing how quickly my blood pressure can climb even surrounded by beauty and tranquility.  This is no wimpy course.  There are no storybook characters, no windmills and no whimsy.  The fairways are long and most of the holes are par 4.  This is a course for dedicated players.

The reason this course is so challenging and also the reason I call it "The Punisher" is because all of the holes have traps that are set up in a way that they require extra precision.  Sure there are the usual winding fairways and the berms and obstacles but this course goes a step beyond obstacles and obstructions.  There is a lot of water.  Some of the holes seem designed to be impossible.  This is not a "hole in one" course.  This is a course you nibble at, knowing it's best to use the par numbers rather than be over-ambitious.

The fairway pictured above has the water feature smack in the middle. At first glance it would appear that the  solution would be to take a short shot and lay-up for the hole.  The problem with this is that the sadistic designer did not merely place that large water oval in the center of a large u-shaped fairway, but that the greens surrounding the trap are all sloped towards it. 

 My golf partner has her own name for this course: "the ball washer".  I normally reply by muttering under my breath: "ball buster".

This dastardly hole is a very long down-hill slope that required dodging rock traps.  When you get to the bottom the actual hole is across a water trap.  There is a way around a large island of plants but the initial incline is pitched toward that water trap and not to the route around the island.  Another favorite punishments of this course is placing several holes immediately in front of large water features by twelve or less inches.  To  complicate the shot even more they place the perilous hole at the top of an incline.  What this means is that you first have to hit the ball hard enough to make it up the incline but not so hard as to go into the drink.  Precision is the key.  This course focuses on precision over aim.  Of course you need aim to eventually land the ball in the hole but getting to that point before the allotted maximum stroke limit [6 stroke limit on this course] is reached is where the challenge is.

"The Punisher" is a good course.  I enjoy the torture and can't wait to try it again.  I'm working on analyzing my game here.  I lost the game this weekend.  I lost my focus.  I lost my temper.  I did not lose my love of the challenge.

I rate this course an A-.  The reason I can't give it an "A" is because they do not have those great ball retrieval flags and more importantly because of an annoying design flaw.  There are no paths.  The fairways are back-to-back and impossible to walk around.  This means if you pick a day when it's crowded the group behind you is literally on top of you.  It also means that if anyone has to leave the course they have to interrupt your game in order to walk down the fairways to get out.  I don't understand this flaw because there certainly seems to be enough land that they could have spared a little more for the course.

Overlook Golf Center
39 DeGarmo Road
Poughkeepsie, NY

Open 7 days from 9 to 9
Also in the complex are batting cages, driving range and go kart driving.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Memorial Day weekend is just one week away and with it comes the official start of the barbeque season.  This is my recipe for barbeque sauce.  Sweet and tangy, you're never going to use that bottled stuff again.  This sauce takes minutes to make and keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder [optional]
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika 
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Combine ingredients in a microwave safe 2 cup bowl, cover loosely and microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Carefully remove from microwave oven, stir and allow to cool to room temperature before using.


Remember that barbeque sauce goes on late in the grilling or smoking process.  When grilling, never put the sauce on more than 15 minutes  before the food is done on each side or the sauce will burn because of the high sugar content.  When smoking [true barbeque] no more than 1 hour before the food is done or serve at the table.  

Monday, May 17, 2010


It was an ideal Spring Saturday here in suburban New York.  It was sunny and warm but not hot.  The sun was bright and strong and there was a mild breeze.  We chose Saxon Woods as our mini golf venue.  We had played the course only once before and I was eager to get back for another round.  The course is set in a Westchester County park which features an 18 hole "real" golf course, a beautiful swimming pool, picnic area, a playground and the mini golf course.  The location is beautiful and lush and it feels like you are much more than the 15 or so miles from the congestion of New York City.

This is a pretty, challenging and well-kept course.  The greens are in great shape.  Nearly all of the holes are difficult, involving water, berms, traps and turns.  I like the challenge.  


There are a couple of gimmicky holes.  There is one that has a choice of three tunnels.  One has large flower pots spiraling up a steep incline making a direct shot impossible.  One has a bright yellow metal loop-de-loop  paying homage to the courses of my childhood but even the loop-de-loop is steeper and more fierce than they kiddy ones.  

One of the bonus features of this course is that the flags in each hole hold a basket which makes it possible to retrieve the golf ball without bending.  For those of us who are middle-aged with less than perfect backs this is a little touch that I wish more courses offered.  

I did manage go make two holes-in one which always makes the experience a little more gleeful.  Overall I rate this course an A-.  My only deductions are that the fairways could be a little more visually stimulating and that the huge public pool is adjacent to the course which, I'm sure, in Summer will be loud and possibly distracting.

Saxon Woods Mini Golf
1800 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY  10604
  phone: 914.995.2618

4-The cost is $6.00 and no park permit is needed.-2618

Friday, May 14, 2010


I recently got a request from a reader in Scandinavia for a recipe for "American Cole Slaw".  There are many variations from sweet to savory and ingredients vary widely.  It's almost Memorial Day and the start of the official picnic season in the Northeast so here is my version of the American classic.  No picnic would be complete without potato salad and cole slaw and certainly you can't have a pulled pork sandwich and leave off the slaw!

This is simple and straightforward.  It is fairly mild with a little bit of a bite.  You can add things like raisins or nuts or even fruit but to me that is sacrilege. 


1 small head green cabbage [shredded]
¼ head red cabbage [shredded]
¼ sweet onion [grated]
1 carrot [shredded]
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon celery seed


In a large bowl combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seed to blend. Toss in the vegetables and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Toss again before serving. Keeps well for up to a week in the fridge.   

Monday, May 10, 2010


Yesterday was a less-than-ideal day for a round of miniature golf.  It was below my self-imposed 65* temperature, there were wind gusts up around 50 mph and it was Mother's Day.  We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not be playing but we wound up in the neighborhood and could not possibly drive past without stopping in for a game.  

Fairview Golf Center is located in Elmsford, New York and is nestled in an industrial complex.  There are two courses along with a double-deck driving range, a pro shop and a small snack bar. We like this place.  This is not a kiddy, amusement center.  There are no pinball machines.  There is no Dance Dance Revolution blaring.  OK, I miss the giant windmills and 10 foot tall rabbit, but that's just me.  These are two very challenging courses.  


This weekend there was no decision to be made.  Only the Legends course is open as the Masters course is being spruced up for the season.  As a bonus the price is reduced to $5.00 from the normal $7.50 per round/per course.  The Legends course has longer holes, steeper inclines, drops and dog leg holes.  The course is in good shape but the water features are currently dry.  This is a pretty course to play.  There are lush surroundings and it is peaceful.  It is not so relaxing once you begin the game.  

The par for this course is 39.  Forget it.  If you focus on that par number you will find yourself doing quite a bit of swearing.  This course is tough.  There are no square angles and using geometry is difficult here.  The fairways often bend making it difficult to even see the target.  Many of the actual holes are raised and/or sloped.  This is not hole-in-one territory although I have gotten lucky a few times.  "Lucky" is the key word here.  As much as I would like to take credit, "holes-in-one" are not a skill shot here, they are strictly a matter of happenstance.  

The most difficult holes are the up-hill battles.  The inclines are steep, the turf is slow and the landing is precarious.  Add super-strong wind into that mix and you have the perfect recipe for frustration.  Yesterday I made a perfect shot up one of the very steep fairways, the ball landed perfectly just a foot shy of the hole and stopped.  Seconds later the wind laughed at me and sent the ball back down to the tee.  Yes I swore.  No, there were no kids nearby.  

I played a pretty lousy game but so did my golf partner and so I managed to win by a couple of strokes.  No matter how many times you play this course it remains a challenge and therefor retains its charm.  I like a challenge.  Overall I rate this golf center very high on my list.  I would give it a B+ for the layout, location, amenities, cost and upkeep.  Adding to the charm is that it is twenty minutes from my home.  It's great to have an outstanding pair of courses as the local default location.

Here are some more photos of the center.

Fairview Golf Center
300 Waterside Drive
Elmsford, NY 10523
Phone: (914)-592-1666

Sunday, May 9, 2010


It is the second Sunday in May and throughout the country mothers are being honored and remembered.  Flowers are being sent.  Hallmark cards have been received.  Cemeteries are being visited. As I do my daily chores in taking care of my bed-bound mother I cannot  help reflecting on my own mother, the mother from my childhood.

I remember so vividly the warm, loving woman waiting in the kitchen with cookies and milk when the kids came home from school.  The mother that was always there with a kiss, an encouraging word and an "I love you".

Oh?  No.  Those memories are of black & white TV shows I grew up in front of.  Those were Harriet Nelson, Donna Reed, Shirley Partridge, Laura Petrie and Carol Brady.  That was not my mother at all.  The household of my early years more resembled Hazel.  The woman waiting in the kitchen with the cookies and juice was my nanny Kay.  The warm words, hugs, kisses and "I love you" were from my father.  The woman taking me for my first day of school was my aunt Gloria.

My mother wasn't the "warm and fuzzy" type.  She was more like Ms. Ellie from Dallas.  She was a working mom who loved her career as teacher and brought that into the home.  I do not remember my mother [Adelaide] ever really treating us as children.  We were treated in much the same way she treated her high school students, with respect and encouragement.

My mother's lack of "warm and fuzzy" is not to be mistaken for a lack of love.  There was plenty of love from  both parents and from "second mom" Aunt Gloria who lived with us.  Adelaide just was not demonstrative.  Some people are "huggers" and some are not.  She was not.  Mom was also not to be misconstrued as cold.  She just showed her love in her own way.

After my father passed away, when I was ten, my mother and I naturally grew closer.  Some of that is because I was now a precocious brat acted more like an adult than a kid.  Some is because we had both lost Pat [the demonstrative one] and need each other more.  Mostly because we liked each other. I am the youngest of three.  There are quite a few years between between me and my siblings. My brother was married.  My sister was plunged into her career and busy dating. I was home.

Something else transformative happened that summer of my tenth year.  My mother and I began to travel.  My mother was a foreign language and history teacher who, at fifty, had never been out of the United States. This was about to change.  To help fill the void left from my father's death and for diversion, a group of us went to Europe.  There were seven of us family members roaming together through England, France and Italy.

"There is no looking at a building here after seeing Italy."
fanny burney

This was an amazing experience for both of us.  One that we would repeat every summer until I was in college.  We traveled.  We explored.  She taught.  I learned.  Adelaide got to see all the places she had read about and studied and taught for so many years.  I got to learn history and culture and languages in a way that you can only get from being there.  We bonded.  

To this day I can't see an image of some foreign landmark or visit a museum or hear opera without thinking of all those trips with mom.  That was the best thing anyone could have ever done for me.  

Now our roles are reversed.  I'm the "mother" taking care of her.  I talk to her about current affairs.  I reminisce and remind her of those trips we shared and sights we saw.  I throw in some French and Italian phrases.  I do it all in hopes that somewhere deep inside it conjures a memory for her.  She smiles and we laugh and not a day goes by that I don't tell her that I love her.  

Mothers come in all flavors.  I think the most difficult thing for children [of any age] to accept is that parents are human with faults and flaws.  We don't have TV parents.  No matter what, mom is always mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I was recently asked to make desserts for an old friend's fiftieth birthday party.  I knew it was going to be an outdoor event and I knew I wanted it to be a festive dish.  I thought I would make a nice red velvet layer cake and so I baked the cake.  While the cake was in the oven I decided to change the plan and turn the cake into a trifle.

Trifle always looks great, it is easy to transport and serve and usually a crowd pleaser.  Trifle traditionally has a few key ingredients which can be combined in different flavors and embellished.  This recipe is the concoction I came up with.

Red Velvet Black Forest Trifle

1 prepared red velvet cake
2 large containers of frozen whipped topping [thawed]
1 can cherry pie filling
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup Kilhua 
1/2 cup chocolate syrup

Tear cooled cake into pieces. Place a handful of cake pieces in the bottom of a 4 quart bowl.  Drizzle 1/2 of the Kilhua over the cake.  Spread 1/3 can of cherries.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup chocolate chunks.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup.  Spread 1/2 container whipped topping.  Repeat for three layers finishing with whipped topping for the final layer.  Refrigerate.

"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt! "
lucy van pelt

Monday, May 3, 2010


A series for Summer 
[weather permitting]

I'm going to make a confession: I have a Peter Pan complex.  That's right, I don't want to grow up.  As soon as there is a hint of warmth in the air and the sun is shining, my inner child wants to shed this fifty year old body and play.  My thoughts immediately turn to beaches, salty air, candy apples, shorts and amusement parks.  But more than anything I think "mini golf".  I know that regionally some people refer to it as "putt putt" but to me it will always be mini golf.  

My earliest memories of my fascination with the game [game, not sport] are from Cape May, New Jersey.  My family vacationed in that charming Victorian seaside resort.  There is a boardwalk along Beach Avenue with a convention hall, a few stores, Morrow's Nut House, and two arcades.  That's all good but across the street from the boardwalk is the real attraction.  Nestled among the restaurants and surfer shops are two mini golf courses a couple of blocks apart.  One glance from the boards and your eyes are drawn to the giant guardians of the courses.  The ten foot tall bunny, the windmill, the huge [but happy] polar bear are all there calling out to me.  This has remained mostly unchanged.

I was a lucky kid.  I had one particular uncle, Artie, who indulged my curiosity for those bigger-than-life brightly painted characters and crossed Beach Avenue with me and introduced me to mini golf.  Artie wasn't known for his patience but with me and mini golf he had endless patience.  He taught me the fundamentals of the game without bogging me down.  He let me play and experiment and experience for myself with only hints as to what might make me better at the getting that shiny bright ball all the way [maybe 8 feet] down the green carpet, under the creature or up the loop-de-loop, and into the hole!  

I was hooked.  There would never be another summer without a visit to Cape May but more importantly there would never be another summer without mini golf.  For a brief period of my childhood there was a mini golf course one town over from my hometown.  It wasn't as grand as any of those from the New Jersey shore but it was local and it had a frozen custard stand attached as a bonus.  Summer nights of mini golf and lemon ice are about as good as it gets for distraction from the real world. It was a sad Autumn when the custard stand and beloved mini golf course were demolished and replaced with car lot.  

The warm weather has arrived and has once again worked its charm.  My mini golf playmate Carol and I have already begun hitting the local courses.  Over the past couple of years a round of mini golf has become a Sunday ritual.  We usually stay within an hour radius from home and that encompasses quite a few courses for us to choose from.  The courses vary from the kiddy courses with their big characters, reminiscent of those very first courses I played, to the austere, carpeted no-nonsense courses which lull adults into thinking they're more akin to "real" golf.  

My goal for "Monday Mini Golf" is to give reviews and photos of the courses we play along with anecdotes and obligatory rants on the subject of parents not disciplining their misbehaving, screaming children.  

"To live will be a great adventure."
j.m.barrie [peter pan]