The Golf Tour -- On a Small Scale
A Typical Miniature Golf Course
Sports Writer at 'The Hour'
Layout, Typical Miniature Course
This column was written for the sports pages of The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on July 9, 1999, parodying the four-part series written earlier by William F. Torpey on four area 18-hole golf courses. The Hour's Assistant Sports Editor, George Albano, wrote this entertaining piece on his adventure playing a round of miniature golf with his two sons at Cove Marina near Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. I reproduce it here with his permission -- and for your entertainment.
By George Albano, Assistant Sports Editor, The Hour newspaper, Norwalk
If you are a regular reader of these sports pages, then you know that for the last four Fridays I have had to share -- even sacrifice -- some column space with Bill Torpey, our esteemed copy editor on the news side who wrote a four-part series on area golf courses.
Now, I have to admit I'm not the biggest golf fan. In fact, I've only played a couple of times in my life, at least real golf. To be honest, I'm not always sure what end of the golf club to use on certain holes, and given my ability on the links, sometimes I think I could score better using the wrong end.
But I have grown to like the game a bit more the last few months. I had the pleasure of covering a few quality high school matches this spring, and just a couple of weeks ago, with a shortage of manpower, I was "forced" to cover the final round of the Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club. I have to admit I actually enjoyed it. I might actually take this game up yet.
Popular Local Course Left Out
With that in mind, it was with interest that I read Mr. Torpey's informative and enlightening series on some of our local area golf courses. My only complaint, however, is that he left out one of the most popular golf courses in town.
Of course, I'm talking about the miniature golf course at Cove Marina on Calf Pasture Beach Road, a true mainstay in this city for the last four decades -- or at least since I was a kid.
Growing up, I never could understand why there wasn't a professional tour for us miniature golf lovers. My sports writing career would have certainly been put on hold if there was.
Part Five of 'Torpey on Tour'
So with the aforementioned Mr. Torpey on vacation (no doubt playing golf somewhere) and with tongue firmly in cheek, I've taken it upon myself to write "Part Five" to his four-part series. And while the ol' Torpedo called his series "Torpey on Tour," just so there's no confusion I'm calling my one-part series "Albano on De-Tour."
Actually it should be "Albanos on De-Tour" since I took (forced?) my two sons to play a round with me Wednesday, just to get a better perspective on how adults who refuse to grow up should play a kids' game. Not only that, they both beat the short pants off of me so I put some value in their opinion when it comes to such matters.
Speaking of shorts, that's the first nice thing about miniature golf as opposed to that other game: You don't have to wear any funny, loud-colored pants or fancy shoes to play. Any attire of your choice will do. I'm sure my T-shirt depicting the Three Stooges in their golf knickers would be nearly as big a hit at a place like Shorehaven (Golf Club) as opposed to Cove Marina.
There are some obvious advantages to miniature golf. For one thing, you don't need a caddy since you use only one club which you pick out after you pay. But picking the right size club is a must (trust me on this one.)
As for playing the course itself, a few tips could help make your game more enjoyable. The first hole for example: the par-2 Tee Off is just a straight 10- to 15 yard putt. It appears to be an easy hole in one, but the key is not to hit it too hard or it will deflect off the lip and make for a longer shot for par, which happened to all three of us.
Timing Your Shot Through the Windmill
The second hole, Mole Hills, is the same distance as the first except there is a slight include about three yards down the "fairway" so a slightly harder tee shot is needed. The third hole, Wind Mill, is exactly like the first, a straight shot, except for a wind mill halfway down. You have to time the cycle of the mill just right so you can hit the ball through without hitting one of the four rotating blades. My 16-year-old son, A.J., who scored a one-stroke victory over his 14-year-old brother, aced both of these holes.
The first real tough hole is the fourth, School House. As you hit it uphill, your ball will go through one of the three slots and come out the other end. You want to go down that middle slot to end up near the hole. Go through either the right or left side and you're in big trouble.
Same with the Loop the Loop par-3 sixth hole. Hit the loop straight on and you can make this in two -- as we all did. The Lighthouse on seven is also doable in two if you hit it straight down the middle as my younger son Georgie did. Miss and hit the side of the lighthouse, as A.J. did, and you're looking at four.
Double Trouble on eight is just that -- trouble. First you have to make an uphill shot in two, and then follow the ball as it comes out onto another green below. It's a par 4, but if you make the top portion in two, you should come out pretty close to the hole below. Hit with just the right touch and it could roll right into the hole for a birdie, which A.J. scored.
Covered Bridge on nine is a little more challenging. On the Over or Under 10th hole, you can shoot to the right up an incline (like A.J. did) or to the left on a straight away (like Georgie chose to do.) They both birdied it in two. I, of course, got a bogey.
'Round the Mountain'
You have to shoot up an embankment on Round the Mountain on 11. There's even chicken wire so your ball doesn't land in the street. This can be a difficult hole, but my wife Diane, who didn't play with us this time, has aced it three times. Go figure.
Bank Shot on 12 is just that -- a bank shot which directs your ball toward the hole. The 13th hole still brings back memories for old timers like me. Once upon a time, there was a Jack in the Box in the middle with a big-headed object popping out to distract you. Years later new owners ditched the big Head and planted flowers where the head used to come out (the scorecard still refers to the hole as Flower Stand.) Now there's been a compromise. The flowers have been replaced by a big Panda's head.
The 14th, Metal Trestle Bridge, is also new and quite challenging. If you choose to go around the obstacles, there's an electrical outlet you might hit as my younger son did.
Brooklyn Bridge on 15 is another old timer's favorite, those of us who can remember the hole halfway up the bridge (now covered) and the water underneath (now filled with soil.)
The remaining three holes are pretty unforgiving -- all par 2s. It doesn't matter if you go up the middle or to the sides on the Under the Hurdle16th. And while you have to bank another shot on the Dog Leg 17th, as long as you stay away from the dog leg, you're OK.
The 18th, Grist Mill, is exactly like the first hole except for a mill halfway down. Not much of a distraction.
Even with an average crowd playing, you should get through in about an hour. And at $3 per person, it's still one of the best local entertainment outlets around. I bet even Bill Torpey would agree on that.