Miniature golf design for tomorrow - part 2

Guest article by Peter F. Olesen, P.E.

If you missed part 1 of Peter's article, you can read it by clicking here.

Last month we looked at golf course design considerations for a typical 18-hole course. However, all sites (and budgets) aren't created equal. This month, we dig into Peter's recommendations for 36- and 9-hole courses, indoor golf, prefabricated courses, and miniature golf in a tourist market.

36-hole multiple course configurations - yes or no?

Many people who want to have 36-hole layouts often looking to differentiate themselves from nearby competitors. Although this may have merit from a marketing standpoint, it is important to recognize the reality of gaining sufficient revenue to make both courses profitable. Failure to have a sufficient market to adequately benefit from the added 18 holes has caused more than one facility to fail.

If your market isn't large enough to justify another 18 holes, there may be other steps you can take to enhance your facility. It may be adding a WaterWars unit, adding a small bounce unit or some other unique attraction that the competition doesn't have. Sometimes it may involve changing your food or snack service. Try to give better service and find ways to make your place more attractive.

Unique 36-hole course design

If you have a market sufficient to support 36 holes of mini golf, we suggest developing a course design that permits four different 18-hole course configurations for league play and to increase interest among repeat customers. This design can also better utilize water elements and waterfalls.

Indoor miniature golf courses

Many people have thought that the construction of indoor miniature golf courses was the best way to extend their season during the winter months. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be true, as many failed indoor courses can attest to. People want to play outdoors. Even in the very warm states, where daytime play is often very uncomfortable, outdoor miniature golf has reigned supreme. People will still play miniature golf after the sun goes down, and the temperatures are high.

We've found, however, that indoor miniature golf can sustain itself in facilities that do a high-volume birthday party business. Under this format, the miniature golf play is part of the package. These courses are typically 9-hole configurations targeted toward younger players and therefore can be constructed more economically on a more limited floor space.

The variety of black light miniature golf and “Glo-Golf courses now being installed around the country indicates that novelty approaches are being taken to replace the largely unsuccessful conventional indoor golf facilities and offer the possibility of expanding the indoor market slightly. Whether there will be a long-term impact generated by black light golf remains to be seen.

Double header and piggy-back designs

(copyrighted 18-hole play – 9-hole layouts).

Our firm has developed 9-hole “Double Header” and “Piggy Back” course designs which allow 18-holes of golf to be played on a 9-hole fairway through the creation of two separate tee locations for each fairway and a course design that circles the players through a second 9-hole pattern resulting in different play on the second 9-holes.

These designs work equally well for indoor or outdoor locations where space and budget are both critical elements. We have developed layouts for indoor installation with four-foot elevation changes, waterfalls and streams while still being ADA compliant for the entire course.

Nine-hole courses

Nine-hole course are occasionally requested for sites with lower attendance potential or for sites with severe space restrictions. Some nine-hole courses are equipped with multiple holes and dual flags to create the 18-hole experience the second time around. This would result in a slight cost savings over the “double header” concept described above, but the fairway play would be identical except for the final putt.

Pre-fabricated courses

There are several firms offering pre-fabricated miniature golf courses for extremely small areas and small budgets. There are also pre-fabricated courses that cost as much as conventional courses.

Their advantages are in their flexibility in moving or rearranging as well as cost. For locations where the space isn't available year around, the pre-fabricated units offer an ideal solution.

Disadvantages include the pre-fab look, rather simplistic play and low par values. When making your design choices, there are many elements to consider prior to finalizing your decision such as your target market, how much space is available, how will it impact on your overall financial picture in terms of cost and revenue and what visual impact will it have on the remainder of your facility.

Tourism generated markets

Developing a facility in a tourist market is far different than establishing a facility in a local market. Tourist markets have large volumes of non-repeat visitors. This means that the location and visual attraction of the facility is of primary importance.

Most tourism areas also have competing facility and attractions. Therefore, the choice of theming and the magnitude of the physical appearance all enter into the equation that produces the best draw among competitors. It is important to create an image that is attractive, striking and unique at the same time. Under these circumstances, the pendulum changes from play to wow factor.

We feel that a course in a tourism market can still benefit from the inclusion of ADA elements. Properly marketed, these elements can be used to attract families including seniors and others with arthritis or other slightly debilitating physical problems, parents with strollers and disabled individuals.

Copyright 2019 Entertainment Concepts, Inc.

Peter is president of Entertainment Concepts, Inc. (formerly Peter F. Olesen and Associates, Inc.). He is a licensed professional engineer in several states. He founded the firm in 1984 and in the ensuing years has been responsible for the development of more than 500 separate family entertainment industry projects Peter's projects have spanned initial concepts, feasibility studies, assistance in developing business plans, final design and preparation of contract plans and specifications, construction layout and related services for both new projects and existing facility renovations and modifications. Peter can be reached via his website or at or 847.561-7013.