Giant Miniature, Part II

Miniature golf is a fun business. But even a fun business must have sound business management practices to be successful.

One of the most critical decisions for anyone considering the miniature golf business is the design of the course.

A well-designed course will be interesting to play and produce repeat business year after year. A poorly designed course is just the opposite. It quickly becomes boring or frustrating to players, and the repeat business drops off drastically.


The design of the holes, more than any other factor, can mean the difference between success and failure.

Undulations, banking, the size of the greens, the position of the cups, and the intermixing of easier holes with more difficult holes prevent backup on the courses.

On a well-designed course a player is rewarded for a good putt without being overly penalized for a poor putt. If you hit the putt correctly it will go in the cup.

If you hit it poorly it may take two or three putts to get it in the cup, but you are not out of play or holding up the group behind you.

The park district reviewed several contractors before deciding on a golf course builder. Harris Miniature Golf from New Jersey was chosen for several reasons: the company guaranteed construction to be completed within six to eight weeks and its construction methods were very appealing to us.

We wanted the course to have several water features, including spray fountains, waterfalls and running streams.

Streams and waterfalls add a clean, refreshing atmosphere to the course. They separate the holes, but they also make play more interesting.

On a well-designed course, streams come into play on almost every hole they flow past. Landscaping adds natural beauty to the course and at the same time produces a very effective buffer between holes. The designer accomplished this.

There are two waterfalls with long trailing streams and three spray water fountains.

The walk-through waterfall caves are made from a material called gunnite, a form of concrete where they actually mix dry portland cement/sand mix with water and spray the concrete onto a steel cage structure.

Over 500 yards of concrete were used to form the caves and streams alone. The workers then hand-carve contours and gouge out a form that resembles actual caves and rocks.

Most courses in the area are “themed” and do not have the same natural look as ours. Courses with a particular theme often do well in resort areas, where competition is everywhere and repeat play from regular customers is not their primary goal.

Resort courses have a new crop of players each week and theming helps draw attention to their course. Natural landscaping has almost universal appeal, particularly if the course is kept clean.

When it’s time to give the course a new look, it’s much less expensive to spend a few hundred dollars on new flowers or perennials than it is to spend thousands of dollars on a new dinosaur.

Landscaping also has the advantage of looking better every year as it grows. Many miniature golf course companies sell courses that have a railroad, volcano, or a mining theme, which was something we wanted to stay away from. These courses have their place, but the image of kids putting through a clown’s face or windmill was not appealing to our board or the neighbors who have a view of the course.


In the meantime the district was already filling out paperwork for the permit processes for the Village of Glen Ellyn. The Village of Glen Ellyn requires proposed developments go before the architectural and planning commissions for approval.

After the initial visit to the board the master plan was well liked, there was a unanimous vote to proceed. This was one hurdle down with one to go, the architectural commission. The initial visit to the architectural commission was fairly positive for the design. The overall design was accepted with a few changes to the building materials and landscaping.

We went back to the architects and asked them to re-design a few areas of the building/landscaping to comply with the commission’s requests. The return trip back to the village for final approval was very good, and another unanimous decision to proceed.

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