Let me just start out by saying: Miniature golf is awesome.
If you’re five.
When you’re pushing 40, hate crowds, came clothed for cooler weather AND have a truly terrible short game — miniature golf kind of sucks.
However. If you MUST get out for a local game of putt-putt, Peter Pan Mini-Golf is the place to go. An Austin institution, the giant statue of the Lost Boy from Neverland has been staring down passersby from its elevated position on the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar since the early 1900s or something.*
(Honestly, it really doesn’t look much like Peter, does it? It kind of reminds me of my high school BFF’s creepy older cousin Ben, but with a slight underbite and some kind of palsy. Somehow, though, that discrepancy just adds to its charm. This IS the ATX, after all.)
I remember attending birthday parties and play dates at Peter Pan when I was a kid, and it seemed like the natural order of things to bring my son here to enjoy it, too. So, on a sunny January afternoon, Partner-in-Crime Jen and I took the kids for a rousing round of putt putt.
First surprise suckage: CASH ONLY. If I’d done my homework before showing up, or if I wasn’t one of those assholes who just never have cash in general, this would have been a non-issue. But I didn’t, and I am, so it was. Luckily, my ever-responsible Partner-in-Crime came prepared and footed the bill, ignoring my wimpy promises to pay her back at some vague future date. And it should be noted that the prices were very reasonable. 6 bucks for an 18-hole round ($4 for kids 5 and under) is totally do-able, even for the Eternally Broke like me.
Surprise suckage #2: It was BEYOND crowded. Granted, we went late on a Saturday afternoon — prime time for birthday parties and family outings, and on a beautiful day, no less. We were practically BEGGING to wait in long lines. I can’t hold it against Peter Pan that it’s so popular everyone wants to go there on a sunny day. But still, the long waits were a downer, especially when we found ourselves stuck behind a gaggle of pre-teen girls who were cute but <pot-kettle> hopelessly inept at putt-putt </end pot-kettle>. There was a LOT of standing around, waiting. Not really a high-energy kind of sport, this one.
Third surprise of suckitude: It was hot. Too hot. The park is elevated from the street (which technically makes it closer to the sun, you know) and the courses proper offer no real shade. Even though it was the middle of January and a fairly cool Austin day (high 60s/low 70s) – boy, was that sun beating down on us. Of course, it didn’t help that I’d planned for more shady happenings, so I was in jeans and a sweater. (SWEAT being the operative part of that word.)
Surprise Number 4: I totally suck at putt-putt. I mean, like, REALLY REALLY A LOT. I couldn’t have made a hole-in-one if my ball had been a pit bull and that hole had been filled with bacon. Even the shitty pre-teens were laughing at me. And as much as I wish I didn’t care, the competitive jackass inside me wanted blood. So, okay, I *might* have cheated. A *little* bit. Maybe. I’m not admitting anything.
The four-year-old, playing better golf than me without cheating at all.
(You cannot see my ball here. Because I probably sliced it to another hole or something.)
(Slicing is a golf term, right? Isn’t that a thing?)
Huh. Upon review, I’m realizing that all of my complaints stem from my own personal failings as a human. Huh.
Well, anyway. Here’s the good stuff:
1. Both courses are really bright and diverse, with everything from creepy bunnies to dead animal skulls to castles and T-Rexes and turtles. You can see that a real sense of artistry went into all of this, and the bizarrity of it all fits beautifully into the wonderful weirdness of Austin.
2. The one benefit of long waits is the people watching, and Peter Pan does not disappoint. FABULOUS people watching. A great diversity of people frequent this place – putt putt seems to be a universally beloved sport (which, ??)– so there’s a LOT to see, from all walks of life. This carries a lot of weight with me.
3. I know this is a popular spot for the under-25 late-night-boozing crowd and I get it, I totally get it. I’m actually a little shocked I never found myself on a bender here, back in the olden golden days before I became somebody’s mom and In-Bed-By-10 Syndrome kicked in. Somehow, I missed this gem of an experience, but if you’re a college kid looking for some new, ridiculous way to be drunk and stupid, Peter Pan fits the bill nicely. Translation for In-Bed-By-10 Moms Like Me: Keep the kiddos away after dusk, unless you want to be trampled by drunk and stupid twenty-somethings. Not that you’re out then, anyway.
Most importantly, the kids had a great time. Granted, they were a bit hot and bothered and did get annoyed by the long wait occasionally — but Jen and I are blessed with incredibly sweet, smart kids** and the bright colors and climb-upness of all the newly renovated obstacles kept them (mostly) entertained between putts.
So go forth and putt-putt, y’all. Just be sure to bring cash and dress for the weather. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.
* Date estimated.
** Biased statement, yes, but fuck it.