Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Parking Lot Putting Greens

- Abandoned mini golf holes in Hamilton, OH. Ronny Salerno.

Amongst the blacktop, a small sea of green.

- Entrance. Ronny Salerno.

In Hamilton, OH just off of Route 4, there's a massive parking lot. There's a Big Lots, a Chinese buffet, and a tax office converted from a former Dairy Queen. In that sea of asphalt, the weeds cracking through all gravitate towards an island. Like a mirage - among the blacktop of an aging shopping center - there's a miniature golf course.

- The course. Ronny Salerno.

It was probably an odd location to play mini golf, just randomly in this massive parking lot under wilting metal structures that contained fluorescent lights. A ticket booth guards each entrance, each one representing 18 holes for a combined total of 36 on two courses.

- Ticket booth. Ronny Salerno.

The astroturf is gone, so are the windmills - if there were any, I don't really remember. I grew up in nearby Fairfield, but never played this course. Whenever you drove by, there always seemed to be a steady stream of people engaged in competition.

- Ticket booth. Cameron Knight.

Today, it's still an island. Resting out in that parking lot, you could still play miniature golf if you wanted to save the $5 of not playing somewhere that's still in business. You'd just have to improvise - bring your own putter, play on the concrete and deal with the people staring at you and wondering why you're walking around in there.

- The field of competition. Cameron Knight.

This particular course was once "Putt-Putt Golf and Games," part of a national chain that has a trademark on the name "Putt-Putt." Like "bandaid," putt-putt has become a generalized term in the American lexicon when speaking about miniature golf. Apparently, the company had been building courses all across the states since 1954 and still exists today, just not at this particular parking lot.

- Holes. Ronny Salerno.

Mini golf has always been popular. What started as putting competition courses in the early 20th century became a form of pop culture entertainment at the onset of the Depression. Windmills and other goofy obstacles dotted the miniature landscape. The hobby escalated quickly throughout the years and today there's even serious competitions held across the nation.

It makes sense, despite it supposedly being a fun form of entertainment for the whole family, I've only know mini golf to be one of the fiercest forms of competition known to man. It's frustrating, challenging and God help you if you lose. What seems easy is actually an exercise in futility unless you cheat. I typically only play once a year, when my friend Willie gets a bunch of "friends" together to play. The last time we played, I took home a medal, but I'll be honest I cheated a majority of the time even just skipping a bunch of the holes and writing down "1" for my score.

Sorry Bryan, but you suck and I couldn't let you have it.

- Entrance. Cameron Knight.

Admit it, mini golf brings out the worst in people. Which is why it always surprised me that this activity was so common for people on dates. Why would you want to take someone you like to a place where you feel the need to destroy them in a match of skill? Say what you want, but as you read this you know it in your heart that when you play, you must win. No one is immune to the addiction of going to miniature war with a golf ball as your weapon while you navigate the astro-turf battlefield. But when you're too young to legally drink and there's nothing to do in the suburbs after 10 PM, what else are you gonna do?

- The courses were separated by a steel fence. Ronny Salerno.

Bucking this conventional wisdom, I've never really taken a date to play mini golf. However...

- A mini golf date as seen in the film "Good Burger," an excellent example of modern cinema and miniature golf in American dating culture. time in high school in an effort to impress a girl, I built a makeshift miniature golf course in my backyard even going so far as to mow the lawn at different heights to create "greens." She came over and played, we're still friends, but if my grandmother is reading this: Nana, this is probably why I'm not married.

- Obstacles. Ronny Salerno.

Nevertheless while my mini-golf memories detail embarrassing teenage romance and a competitive strategy that lacks integrity, I'm sure it's different for other people. In that parking lot in Hamilton, there's not just an abandoned "putt-putt," but memories. Memories for people who had their first date, who spent time with their kids, who worked their first job and so forth.

- Nature rising up. Ronny Salerno.

Nevertheless, I'm still fucking awesome at mini-golf...

- Perfection. Cameron Knight.

...even if I only play at abandoned courses.

- An island across from Big Lot's. Ronny Salerno


  1. This hasn't even been closed for all that long. My wife and I would go there on little dates when we first became a couple. I think it shut down about a year and a half ago. I drive by it every day, and's being taken back.

  2. Fantastic post!


  3. That Big Lots has since moved down Route 4 to Fairfield, next door to Goodwill. The previous poster is right, this hasn't been closed down all that long and I recall a just a few years ago seeing people milling about on there. Always thought it was a really strange location for a mini-golf course, my friends and I always used to call it "ghetto golf".

  4. One of your funnier posts...loved it!

  5. It closed at the end of the 2011 season.

  6. I used to play that course somewhat regularly with my father and brother about 25 years ago! Those photos are great, I remember how you had to play each one of those holes... oddly enough they were all Par 2. I seem to remember if you made a hole-in-one on the last hole during a certain time, you'd win a free two-liter of Coke. No windmills though!

    Thanks for the great post and the walk down memory lane!