Get in the Hole

Get in the Hole: Throughout the mountains, mini golf awaits pro and amateur putters alike
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Miniature golf, putt-putt, wacky golf—whatever you call it, you can’t ignore the sticking power of such a fun and accessible little game. We have a particularly strong native connection in North Carolina: Thistle Dhu in Pinehurst, constructed in 1916, was the fi rst 18-hole miniature golf course in the world. Mini golf then quickly became a national phenomnon. By its early height, before the Depression decimated the industry in 1930, there were some 25,000 courses in the US. In the decades since, mini golf’s comeback has been a colorful one, with the game evolving into crazy-kitschy courses bedecked with the simulated waterfalls, volcanos, and windmills that we love today.

Last year, my girlfriend Claire and I set out on a quest to play every mini golf course in Western North Carolina. It seemed like a choice date idea and way to get safely out of the house during the pandemic. What we did not expect was the richness of the experience, the diversity of the courses, or the addictiveness of the game. Here’s our guide to WNC mini golf, in all its small wonder

Lakeview Putt and Play - Arden P
Resting on the banks of Lake Julian, Lakeview is one of the newest area mini golf courses and offers a seriously tough 18 holes. Ramps, trick holes, and challenging embankments line a modern course. They even claim to have the longest hole in WNC, at 100 feet. Don’t be surprised when some hazards have a watery outcome for the careless putter. Open year-round, weather permitting.

Whistle Hop Brewing Company - Fairview D
One of the most distinctive courses in the region, the brewery decided to build their own six-hole course to add to their selection of games for the whole family. Enjoy a pint while you chip your way through this home-built and slightly janky short course packed with pass-throughs, split boxes, and bridges. And did we mention that the course is free for Whistle Hop customers? Open year-round.

Chimney Rock Adventure Golf - Chimney Rock P
A part of the Broad River Inn, a historic stagecoach stop dating back to the 1890s. Grab a beer and dive into this top-notch course set directly on the banks of the river. Built in what clearly used to be a garden, the course is bedecked with some of the classiest kitsch we’ve seen—artificial deer, frogs, decorative flower pots. At $10 per game, it’s one of the pricier courses in WNC, but on the other hand, it’s also the only 18-hole course that has an onsite bar. Open year-round.

Laura E. Corn Mini Golf at Boyd Park - Hendersonville  I 
Transformed from shuffleboard courts to a mini golf course in the 1960s and named for a 35-year veteran employee, this 18-hole municipal course has some of the most challenging holes in the state. Quirky and lightly educational, the links were designed to promote WNC attractions including the Blue
Ridge Parkway, the Carl Sandburg House, and Grandfather Mountain. 2022 will mark the last year for the historic course at its current location; a new city mini golf will be constructed at Edwards Park in 2023 to make room for a new fi re station at the current spot.

Tropical Gardens Mini Golf - Asheville  I 
An Asheville institution, Tropical Gardens has loomed above Asheville’s bustling Patton Avenue for 31 years. Lavishly bedecked with curious pink flamingos, prancing zebras, towering giraffes, skulking tigers, and jubilant elephants sprawling the hillside—and what kind of tropical garden would it be without a waterfall and smoking volcano? A moderately difficult course, with manageable hazards, drop tubes, and a few pass-throughs, it’s an absolute mustplay.

Sunrise Mountain Mini Golf - Boone  I 
Attached to the Sunrise Café, a homespun breakfast and lunch joint, Sunrise’s 18 holes wind their way up and down some steep terrain, making it one of the harder courses in the region. An older course with significant wear and tear, it’s best to play with a degree of caution, as it is easy to lose a ball in the forest on these links.

Bear Creek Adventures Mini Golf and Gem Mining - Murphy P
In the midst of the stunningly beautiful mountain vistas of Cherokee County sits the elegant course of Bear Creek. Opting for less kitsch and more course, it certainly isn’t the most colorful greenway, but the way these 18 holes navigate the shifting terrain makes for formidable mountain links. Facebook: Bear Creek Adventures Mini Golf

Carpet Golf - Maggie Valley D
One of our favorite courses, Carpet Golf actually boasts two 18-hole courses with each hole designed around an array of props—old trucks, steam engines, jet airplanes, pirate ships, water wheels, and
wild stallions, to name a few. In operation since 1963 and of a clearly DIY nature, Carpet Golf proves to be simultaneously one of the most difficult and most enjoyable courses in WNC. This was, hands down, our favorite course of the roundup. A+ for kitsch appeal. Facebook: Maggie Valley Carpet Golf

Vic’s Place Mini Golf - Spruce Pine P
Founded by Kim Oberhammer in memory of her father, Victor, a professional golfer for 35 years, Vic’s Place spreads its greens beneath a canopy of shady trees. A great spot to slurp some shaved ice on a hot day and work your way through a very tricky course of water hazards, pin boxes, and split-level holes. There isn’t usually much by way of decor, but when we played in October they clearly went all out for Halloween.

Fireside Golf Range and Mini Golf - Hendersonville P
Once the only course in North Carolina on the US ProMiniGolf Association circuit, Fireside has undergone renovations during the winter season after changing ownership during the pandemic. A pristine and challenging course that leans more on its terrain changes than hazards or tricks, it’s also home to Chip & Bogie, two very friendly goats who reside around the waterfall at the center of the links and assist with maintenance. Open year-round.