Staying on course: some places to go if you've urge to putt

May 30, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

Pick up those putters and line up those colored balls. Miniature golf season is in full swing in Ocean City.

And if there aren't enough courses to satiate that urge to putt, relax -- two more are on the way.

The well-established Old Pro chain of miniature golf courses is building an indoor course at 68th Street that will be opening in a few weeks. The underwater-theme course will be decorated with a submarine, shipwreck and a 17-foot killer whale.

Bernie Rodden, who is building an outdoor course at 57th Street, is a newcomer to the busy miniature golf scene. "It's my first crack at it," he says.

The course is scheduled to open in early July and will have a Maui theme, complete with a beach scene with surfboards, umbrellas and a shark. "The competition is very tough. We have to have something to compete with them," Mr. Rodden says.

The two new courses will bring the miniature golf count in Ocean City to 23. "It's very much oversaturated now," says City Council member James S. Hall, who is also owner of three Paradise Cove golf courses. "Eventually, the [peninsula] is going to tip over with miniature golf courses, and it's leaning now."

Part of the charm of miniature golf is that it is a leisurely game that attracts people of all ages -- from grandparents to dating teens to toddlers barely taller than the golf clubs.

"It's very popular," says Mr. Hall. "It's like the boardwalk. It's something tourists do every time they come to the beach."

The following list offers bewildered visitors, who can't decide between a chip shot in the jungle or the Old West, a guide to the various courses that stretch from Coastal Highway at the Delaware border to across the Route 50 bridge.

Viking Golf

At Route 54 and Coastal Highway, this is one of the more fanciful courses with statues and obstacles that create a different era in a fun way. Placards explain the Runic Stones as Viking markers and the Kitchen Midden inhabitants of Scandinavia among other Viking topics. There is a massive statue of a skirted Thor, swinging a mallet with gauntlets on his hands; another of Eric the Red; and a statue of the mythical Heimdall, "a watchman of the gods."

Many of the obstacles on the course reflect the Viking theme. There are oars blocking the path of the ball, a Norseman on horseback, and a replica of a Viking ship with a rustic-looking pole and mast. The one thing that spoils the Viking mood is the roar of the noisy go-cart amusement ride next door.

The multilevel course is challenging with varied obstacles and dips and curves, and also has a sophisticated landscape design.

Golf Down Under

Golf Down Under, at Route 54 and Coastal Highway, is a one-stop Australian geography lesson. There is a map of Australia, and signs throughout the course explaining the different regions of the continent such as the Nullarbor Plain, the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania.

Apart from the signs, the course only marginally reflects the Australian theme, although there are alligators, sharks, a koala bear and kangaroos. There is also a red stone replica of Ayers Rock, "the largest rock on earth."

The carefully landscaped course has tall grasses arranged in groupings likeshrubbery in addition to more traditional greenery.

Several of the holes were uphill and quite challenging, and most were interesting to play.

Fen-Tiki

The tropical themed course, at 146th Street and Coastal Highway, is spread over a broad area and has a large waterfall with wooden footbridges over babbling brooks. At the center is a pond with a sunken fishing boat and two ducks, who may have been uninvited guests.

Shells are arranged under palm trees, and there are exotic plants and lush green grass. Another pond has a sunken canoe. Several of the holes have bumps and ridges to make them challenging. For the weary, there are plenty of benches scattered throughout the course.

Old Pro

There are three courses here at Old Pro, at 137th Street and Coastal Highway: pirate, safari and Polynesian.

The pirate course seems to have one of the strongest themes and the most animated figures of any of the Ocean City miniature golf courses. There is a treasure chest; a snarling pirate with a peg leg that slowly spins around; a "Bloody Dagger Tavern," with a door that opens and closes to obstruct the ball; and mysterious hands pushing a woman's head out of an upper window. (If timed right, the open door will knock the ball into the hole.)

There is also Bluebeard's cave and a coffin with a skull dangling inside that has a lid that opens and closes. It takes good timing to get the ball inside the coffin.

Three holes are played on the deck of a bright red ship called the Barracuda. One ball must be rolled off a narrow gangplank. Another hole has a revolving drunken pirate with a rum barrel as an obstacle.

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