It’s a sport that requires strategy, patience, mental fortitude, and an ever-gentle touch. It’s one of Cape Cod’s most popular and traditional summer activities, one that can either boost budding relationships or break apart families during their vacations. It’s called mini golf.
Each of the five miniature golf courses on the Outer Cape has its own unique theme and design. One is in Orleans, on the Eastham line; three courses are in Eastham; one is in Wellfleet. None is in Truro and Provincetown. The northernmost towns are certainly underrepresented; if some mini golf architect were interested — and a buildable space were available — a course that traverses the dunes in Provincetown might be a fun idea.
The mini golf course at the Wellfleet Drive-in, which has been around since 1961, has a retro theme; unfortunately, it’s closed for maintenance until 2021. That leaves four courses for the tour I took this past weekend.
Cape Escape Adventure Golf
15 Canal Road, Orleans
Turn right onto Canal Road just after exiting the Orleans rotary to Route 6A and you can’t miss the windmill at Cape Escape Adventure Golf. This course is a water hazard waiting to happen. Numerous holes border a giant pool in the middle of the course that has a mean-looking shark, hungry for golf balls.
The greens are steady, with most holes having some sort of hill or bump to travel through. It’s a standard course. There aren’t any real obstacles to putt through other than a few rocks strategically placed here and there. Hole 5 sends players through a cave, which may be an eyesight obstacle for some.
Hole 18 challenges the putter either to send the ball straight through some whitewater rapids or to try and finesse the ball around them, past a few boulders, and down the hill toward the hole. It’s a decision fraught with dangers; I suggest taking the easy way down the rapids.
Poit’s Lighthouse Mini-Golf
5270 State Highway, Eastham
This course is about as simple as it gets. Not much variation between holes, not many hills, and no obstacles. It’s a good course for beginners.
The greens are a bit slower here, so make sure to get a firm putt, especially when the ball is close to the hole — there are small lips around each hole that make it difficult to tap in. Hole 13 has an especially big hill surrounding the hole. Hit it straight at just the right speed, and it’s a hole in one every time.
There’s not much else to say. A lighthouse with a small waterfall underneath it stands at the top of the course, but at no point does the water come into the field of play. Experienced putters should look elsewhere.
Gift Barn Mini Golf
4180A State Highway, Eastham
The course is frenzy of farm animals — the beasts seem to have escaped from the Red Barn Pizza next door and made a home on the backyard course. This makes for both an enjoyable and slightly challenging play.
The greens are steady, and putters must do their best not to let the animals and other farm objects distract them.
This course has the most obstacles of the four on the list. Players must putt through a large bunny, a tractor, a chicken coop, and more. A hole with a steep hill requires a very light touch; another hole, with a loop de loop, takes some effort from putters to get the ball through it.
If you can make it to Hole 18, there is a clown awaiting you. Hit it straight into his mouth and you may be rewarded with a free round of golf.
Arnold’s Mini Golf
3580 State Highway, Eastham
Stepping into the mini golf course at Arnold’s puts players in a wooded oasis. These holes are pretty challenging. The course is filled with natural obstacles, such as rocks, tunnels, waterways, and tree gardens. Hills and curves lie on pretty much every hole, forcing players to choose between different directions to putt toward. It’s a true thinkers’ course.
Hole 11 is the longest, where putters must decide to either hit their ball through a long tunnel or weave the ball through a pathway bordered by rocks. Oh, and when you reach the small waterfall, do not touch Sam Bellamy’s treasure chest.
The course features some Eastham history, with models of such local landmarks as the Captain Penniman House adorning a few of the holes.
This is probably the most challenging course of them all. Hole 18 is similar to Cape Escape’s, making putters choose between whitewater rapids or threading the needle down a path bordered by rocks.