Miniature golf played for fun? Are you nuts?

July 16, 1998|By KEVIN COWHERD

IT WAS A spectacular July evening, and since it had been a while since I'd had my brains bashed in during any sort of athletic competition, I took my wife and the 7-year-old to play miniature golf.

From the moment you pick up the requisite Thumbelina putter and garish neon-orange ball and make your way to the first tee, one thing's clear: you're in the kid's house now.

A lot of it has to do with the mental approach to the game, which in an adult's case is often neurotic.

An adult will stand there agonizing over each shot, lining it up just so, plumb-bobbing, calculating angle of attack, speed of the ball, resistance of Astroturf, etc.

I see adults do everything but call in the cup coordinates to a Global Positioning System satellite over Maui.

The kid, on the other hand, steps right up and smacks the ball without a thought, and it rockets smartly past the roaring, Windex-blue waterfall and cuts straight through the prehistoric cave and bypasses the gaping jaws of the saber-toothed tiger or whatever and lands two inches from the cup.

At this, the kid smiles beatifically and runs happily after his ball, as if this is the way he'd planned it all along.

Meanwhile, you (I'm talking about the dopey adult here) go through all your pre-swing, Geometry 101 calculations and hit the ball and ... the stupid ball travels maybe 10 feet.

It caroms wildly off the stegosaurus' tail, skulls the caveman wielding his huge stone ax and rolls weakly down the incline until it ends up back at your feet.

Glancing up, you see the kid looking at you with, well, not a smirk exactly, but a look somewhere between amusement and pity.

Now multiply this by 18 holes and you have some idea of the hell a parent deals with here.

Oh, it's a humbling game, all right. You have no idea.

Anyway, I got off to a rocky start on the first four holes, due to a combination of factors that can best be summed up this way: I stink at this game.

By the fourth hole, requiring a long, snaking putt around a boulder the size of Kilimanjaro, I was three strokes down.

At this point, clearly, it was time to switch strategies if I had any hope of winning. And the only new strategy I could think of was: It's time to cheat.

Working heavily in my favor: I was carrying the scorecard. My wife doesn't like to keep score and most kids don't like to, either, on account of it's too boring and keeps them from what they enjoy most, which is swinging the putter as if it's a 7-iron and coming dangerously close to the heads of their brother or sister.

But if you're in charge of the scorecard, you can put down a 2 instead of a 3 here, a 3 instead of a 4 there, and pretty soon you're right back in the game.

Making up three strokes, that's a piece of cake when you're the guy with the pencil.

But my wife has seen this act too many times, and pretty soon she was watching my score-keeping like a hawk.

So that was the end of that strategy.

That's the thing about my wife: she can be so annoying to play with.

In the first place, she has an even personality, which you hate to see in a person.

If she makes a shot, she laughs.

If she misses a shot, she laughs.

Whenever someone else makes a shot, she cheers.

I know, I know -- what kind of attitude is that?! But that's the way she is.

Oh, I've talked to her. I've talked to her 'til I'm blue in the face.

"Look, we're not out here to have fun, OK?" I told her on the 10th hole, which she and the kid parred while I sent my second putt screaming in the direction of New Jersey.

But she just laughed at that, too.

Finally you just throw up your hands and say: "Fine, whatever. Let's just get through this."

Actually, we did have a good time, except for the fact that the 7-year-old was waxing us both pretty good.

Little kids, they're unbelievable.

They have no fear of a comeback 2-foot putt by the side of a cliff where, if you tap the ball too hard, it ends up in a stream guarded by a ferocious Tyranosaurus rex.

Me, I'm a basket case. Maybe I should take up another game.

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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