Tag Archives: Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf

Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf

Ever since my recent trip to The Links at Dred Scott, I’ve had a renewed interest in miniature golf.  Yeah, yeah, such a thing is mostly for kids, but when designed right, it’s a fun test of skill and creative thinking.  When designed wrong, or rather, when not really designed at all, the activity becomes annoyingly arbitrary.  Unfortunately, most courses tend to be exercises in arbitrariness, as course “designers” tend to think that it’s good enough to just add random bumps and objects.  The best courses make you have to figure out how to get the ball to the hole through skillful aim and/or planning on how to use the objects and hills to change the course of the ball.

The Links at Dred Scott only slightly fulfilled this requirement, and because of its lack, and simply because of being reminded of how much fun mini-golf can be, I’ve found myself hankering to try out some other courses.  This desire was so strong that last week I almost tried to persuade my wife to try out the course at the Mall of America, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, while we were there, even despite the astronomical $9 per person.  Luckily, my wife made a really good point: it was such a nice day, so why would we spend it at an inside course when we could try out an outdoor course?

And so we found ourselves trying out Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf at 6335 Portland Avenue South, Richfield, MN 55423.  Some of my main complaints about The Links at Dred Scott was it utter openness, its lack of atmosphere, and its arbitrary design.  Adventure Gardens corrects almost all of these flaws.  The course is located in a city park, but is off to the side mostly surrounded by trees.  That in itself is a big plus, as it creates a feeling of walking through the woods (even if the surrounding area was completely open fields).  Additionally, the water features are actually interesting, albeit sparse.  It does have a “waterfall” type feature, as well as a running “stream” and a few pools of water.  While not exactly brilliantly designed, it did add to the experience so that it wasn’t just mini-golf, it was a summer afternoon stroll.

The course itself is generally good.  Some thought has been put into creating holes for which you had to think about how to hit the ball, so that you use hills, walls, and objects to bounce the ball to the hole.  And while there was a reasonable amount of water features, the holes did not have any issue with moisture, as The Links at Dred Scott did.

However, while the holes did offer some creative thought, a lot more planning could have gone into it.  Most of the holes are extremely short, and what seemed mildly clever and interesting at the beginning becomes a bit tiring by the later holes when the same devices are used over and over again.  Additionally, even if you do hit a clever shot, you’re unlikely to gain much on a person simply hitting the ball straight.  There’s really not enough strategy or skill required for the course.

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The main question is whether or not I’d return.  It’s hard to say.  The normal price for a round is about $7.  We had a 2-for-1 coupon making it far more reasonable.  Given the very short time it takes to finish a round, that the holes become uninteresting with more exposure, and because the atmosphere wears a bit thin because of the surrounding open fields, it’s hard to rationalize $14 for two people. 

The course is undoubtedly better than The Links at Dred Scott, so if it’s a choice between the two, definitely go with Adventure Gardens.  Additionally, because of the better water features and design, kids will probably have more fun with Adventure Gardens.

Next up, Moose Mountain… maybe.  Again, it is the Mall of America… and $9 per person.


The Links at Dred Scott and Other Miniature Golf

I can’t exactly call myself a miniature golf aficionado, but I probably have more interest in the game than your average adult.  I used to love going to our local mini-golf course as a kid (now-closed), and I especially enjoyed the numerous miniature golf courses whenever my family went to the Wisconsin Dells.  It’s a silly game, but it does require some skill if the course is made right.

With the exception of the Valleyfair Adventure Golf, I haven’t played in years.  My wife and I rectified this situation this weekend by visiting the course we live by, and have lived by for almost three years now, for the first time.  The unfortunately named The Links at Dred Scott.

Before I get into this course, let me explain what I look for in a mini-golf course.  First, throw all of the novelty courses out.  Novelty courses consist of flat greens with large statues, windmills and such blocking the way.  These are courses of the kitsch variety.  My favorite type of course, on the other hand, is one that has many elevation changes, corners, and obstacles, but is reasonable enough so that such challenges are not arbitrary.  While I enjoy a few bumps here and there, I much prefer a fairly dramatic change in elevation in a lot of the holes.  As such, I suppose I am not much of a putt-putt fan, but rather a fan of course with imagination.

To truly stand-out as a miniature golf course, it has to have the above elements, but it also has to have an interesting ambiance.  Most often this is achieved through caves, dramatic changes in elevation from the first to last hole, and most importantly, fairly large waterfalls.

One of the courses I remember fondly from my youth, and perhaps my favorite of all time, is Timber Falls Adventure Golf in the Wisconsin Dells.  Timber Falls mixed in the above elements very well, giving the whole course a logging-type atmosphere, complete with large waterfalls and trees.  On top of that, the holes were rather creative.

Another decent course in that area is Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf (apparently all mini-golf has to be “Adventure Golf”?).  It started out well enough, with waterfalls, large hills, changes in elevation, but once they started to add many more 18-holes, all creativity fell out the window, and they ended up creating holes that were essentially only straight, with a few rocks in the middle. 

And so we come to Dred Scott, which suffers from some of the main problems as Pirate’s Cove, and even more.  To begin with, it’s really not a bad course.  In fact, it’s pretty above-average (which honestly says more about the state of mini-golf courses than it does the quality of Dred Scott).  However, it also isn’t all that good.

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The main problem with Dred Scott is that it just isn’t creative at all.  Instead of having to navigate hills and corners, the holes consist of random bumps and tiny-hills as obstacles.  Almost every single hole is straight, and there’s rarely a change in elevation.  Additionally, the course commits the great sin of relying on raising the hole up a little in order to create further “challenge” in putting the ball in.  It wouldn’t be so bad in a couple holes, but a good half of them rely almost solely on this to create challenge.  They might as well be putting greens with random bumps.

There’s also really not all that much ambience at The Links at Dred Scott.  It’s a straightforward presentation, with a few fountains to add to the experience (they call them “waterfalls,” but I reserve that term for more than just water falling a foot from one small pool to another, where it’s recycled back to the top).  Unfortunately, the fountains also somehow soak the greens, which makes judging the friction very difficult. 

It sounds like I hated the experience, but again, it’s really not that bad of a course.  It’s just rather unimaginative, and there’s no additional ambience to make it more interesting.  Kids would probably have no complaints, but your average adult might just be bored by the repetition.  The cost was $6.00, which is a bit much for less than an hour of entertainment, but still better than a lot of courses.

For a better course that’s not too far away from Dred Scott, I’d suggest the aforementioned Valleyfair Adventure Golf.  It attempts, and for the most part, succeeds in creating an interesting atmosphere, full of caves, waterfalls, and interesting holes.  Although, be warned, the last time I went, two years ago, the course seemed to be falling into disrepair.  Hopefully they’ve fixed the issue, as it was one of the better courses around.

Also nearby is the golf course at the Mall of America.  When the Mall of America originally opened, it had a miniature golf course near one of the food courts.  The attempt at mini-golf wasn’t all that bad, as they tried to create an outdoor atmosphere where most of the mall was blocked from view, but the greens had more friction than shag carpeting.  Eventually, it closed, and was replaced by a number of exceedingly commercial attractions.  Luckily, those have closed, and there is now a new miniature golf course in its place: Moose Mountain… (say it with me)… Adventure Golf.  It looks similar to the old course, but hopefully without the excessive friction.  I doubt I’ll ever bother with it, it’s in the Mall of America after all and costs and astounding $8.95 per adult, but it might be a reasonable course, even if lacking in atmosphere.


June 29, 2008 Update:
I just returned from trying out Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf in Richfield.  While not a great course, it is a few steps up from The Links at Dred Scott.  If you have a choice between either, try out Adventure Gardens.  I will post a full-ish review in the next few days.

July 4, 2008 Update:
The full-ish review is now available.