Miniature golf’s popularity peaked in the 1950s when the idea of fantastic landscaping and crazy contraptions – hello, spinning windmill blades – hit artificial turf. The tradition of windmills and castle moats continues at Golfland, Scandia, Boomers and similar entertainment centres.
RELATED: The Bay Area’s Best Mini Golf Course Is Also The Smallest
But new types of putt putt courses have surfaced in recent years, showcasing an explosion of creativity with elaborate themed holes – a Chinatown dragon, for example, or a Jules Vernes-style submarine – or attractions that change seemingly overnight. There are pubs with mini golf, and there are putting courses with booze. There are even putt putt pop-ups.
Here are a few to try in the Bay Area.
This Potter-esque pop-up recently opened in San Francisco for a year-long residency with a series of holes inspired by a certain boy wizard. The holes are complete with potions, cauldrons, floating candles and a certain very large spider. Magical libations too. Open Wednesday through Sunday ($18, by reservation only) at SVN West, 10 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco; https://explorehidden.com.
As San Francisco’s only outdoor miniature golf course tells the story of California’s “Boom and Bust,” you’ll wind your way through a Barbary Coast Saloon, a gold rush graveyard, the 1906 earthquake and more. The 10,000 square foot course even features a Chinatown-inspired dragon. Stagecoach Greens ($10-$16, reservations required) is usually open 4-9 p.m. Monday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday at 1379 Fourth St. in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood; www.stagecoachgreens.com.
Inferior Miniature Golf
This mini golf course brings San Francisco indoors with holes inspired by Bay Area landmarks. You can loop around the Golden Gate Bridge, putt on Alcatraz Island, and send your golf ball around the curves of Lombard Street. Subpar is originally from Alameda, but Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco has been the home base since 2019. The course ($12 per person) is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday at 900 North Point St. Reservations recommended, especially Fridays and weekends; www.subparminigolf.com.
This charming, hand-built outdoor miniature golf course in downtown Walnut Creek offers not-too-difficult, ever-changing action—its owner is constantly building new holes to add to the collection or swap out. Putters Putt Putt ($10) is open 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekends at 1275 S. California Blvd. at Walnut Creek; puttersputtputt.com.
This 14-hole indoor course, plus a restaurant and bar, features creative and elaborate decor and special effects, from Captain Nemo’s Nautilus to a mist-crowned Sutro Tower. Urban Putt ($10-$14) opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon on weekends with adult-only hours after 8 p.m. Find it at 1096 S. Van Ness Ave. in the Mission district of San Francisco. Reservations recommended; www.urbanputt.com.
This Sacramento-based restaurant, pub and mini-golf resort is heading to Bay Street Emeryville and Cityline Center in Sunnyvale this fall. Expect a menu of Mexican-style street food, craft beers and local wines to enhance the indoor putt-putt action. Keep an eye on progress at www.tipsyputt.com.
The Bay Area offers nearly endless options for outdoor adventures, tasty bites, and unexpected day trips. We’ve created a Bay Area Bucket List project that asks our readers to help us find the best activities to cover in the Bay Area.
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