Monday, January 31, 2011

Fortune Cookie Prophecy Part 2: The Surf Cincinnati Abandoned Miniature Golf Classic

- The "City of Destiny" that now occupies the site of what once was Surf Cincinnati.

The prophecy of a "delightful journey" laid out by the fortune cookie in Part 1 had so far come true when Gozer and I explored the remains of forgotten Lancaster Street earlier in the day. However, we weren't done yet, so would the fortune hold up? So far the day had been good, but there was still urban exploring to be done as the USS Rio Grande weaved in and out of slower traffic on I-75. The sun was steadily fading as we made a pit stop at my parent's house, where my golf clubs spend the winter. I was going to need two of them as the Star Trek nicknamed car rushed up a hill and began sliding across an icy parking lot that overlooked what had once been Surf Cincinnati. I knew that the former waterpark I swam at many times as a kid and explored in the early days of my urban exploration photography had been demolished, but this was the first time I had really seen the change. In place of a waterpark that once entertained thousands and became an abandoned playground for myself - was a church:

In case you missed the update last year, I documented what Surf Cincinnati had been. It was a waterpark. I have a lot of memories of going there back when it was still open. Eventually it was closed and left to sit quietly in a Scooby-Doo ghost town kind of way. It was the first abandoned location that I really visited and documented through photography. It was one of my favorite places to shoot and explore from when I got into all of this in 2006, right up until I heard it was demolished in 2009. In case you haven't seen the update I featured on QC/D about it, here's a link. I knew the demolition had been coming, but it was kind of surreal seeing how the whole landscape had changed.

- Circa 2006 aerial photograph showing the full size of Surf Cincinnati. [Image from Bing Maps]

- Circa 2009 aerial photograph from the same viewpoint. [Image from Bing Maps]

I have nothing against anyone's faith or any type of religion (except Scientology, that shit is a scam Tom Cruise) and I realize that a place of communal worship may be a better use for land than a decaying, abandoned amusement park. However, I couldn't believe how ugly this church that I was staring at across the parking lot was. Maybe it's because I grew up going to beautiful St. Ann's in Hamilton, Ohio or had grown to appreciate the kind of ecclesiastical architecture that I had learned about in art history classes. Maybe I just missed the hours I had spent photographing an abandoned place that I had a personal connection to. Regardless, I felt that you could slap a "Wal-Mart" logo on the front entrance and replace the crosses with that smiling "rollback" face and call it a day if you ever needed a new "supercenter" in the area.

- Remains of the Surf Cincinnati go-kart course.

The church and its massive parking lot's construction hadn't taken all of Surf Cincinnati with it though. Of the few things remaining, the go-kart track (seen above) was one of them. The pool for the bumper boats was there as well and also what we had come for: the miniature golf course.

This picture taken from Surf Cincinnati's former website (last updated in 1997) shows what all three attractions had looked like when they were open:

On this particular day, Gozer and I had come to play in the first ever "Surf Cincinnati Miniature Golf Classic," at least the first since the park was abandoned. You might be wondering why we decided to play when the temperature was freezing and the ground was covered in snow. Two reasons:
  1. I first had the idea over the summer, but my time was pretty well occupied.
  2. I am horrified of snakes. A mini-golf course devoid of human life and overgrown with standing water and vegetation seemed like perfect snake territory. At least when it's cold, I didn't run the risk of having to putt around some slithering vermin.

- A collapsed plastic sign marks where "The Chip Shot" golf course originally began.

A lot of people think my time in life revolves around work, photography, abandoned buildings, the internet, beer and the Reds. This is not entirely true, there's a few other priorities sprinkled in here and there and when I get some free time, I actually do enjoy playing Golf. I'm actually so good that I once convinced some executives at Titliest to sponsor me with my own brand of QC/D golf balls cleverly designed to look like they had been marked with a Sharpie marker.

- QC/D custom golf balls by Titliest.

Now, miniature golf (or "putt-putt" as some call it) has always been a good place to take someone on a date, but when your girlfriend likes exploring abandoned places as much as you do, abandoned miniature golf makes a great date. We had the balls and two old putters of mine (no way was I going to scratch up my Ben Hogan putter here), but the greens were covered in snow.

With no shovels available and running out of daylight, we quickly used our feet to brush off as much snow as possible. It wasn't the most effective tactic, but it worked...kind of.

We lined up on the "first hole," which was really just the first hole we could find that didn't require a machete to walk through, and agreed it would be a "par 2 (meaning: it should only take you two tries to make it in the hole)."

- Lining up my putter for the shot. Photo by Gozer.

After a few practice swings, I smacked my ball across the snow covered, water saturated fairway towards the hole.

Gozer followed up my first shot with one of her own, banking her ball off the brick pavers that lined that hole. Her shot was mere inches from being a hole-in-one.

I lined up and took my next shot like Maverick firing at Jester below the hard deck, sinking the ball into the hole for a par. Gozer followed it up with a par of her own, tying the game.

We moved on to find another hole. The wooden posts that had once held up the course lights were now rotting and supporting shards of broken glass. This isn't a course you can play once the sun goes down.

With daylight running out and a winner yet to be determined, we used our feet to hastily clear off another green. The only problem was that we couldn't find the physical hole. It must've been covered under the mountains of dead leaves and brush. Instead, we just made a circle in the snow and agreed that your ball had to be within the circle lines to be considered "in the hole."

We also agreed that this hole, which had once been hole 15, would be a par 3. It featured a new obstacle - a rock face overlooking a tiny pond that you had to clear.

Gozer took the first shot, clearing the pond and landing safely on the other side, but still quite far from the hole.

- Gozer lines up here shot on "hole 2" which was once "hole 15."

I lined up my shot and hit the ball. I cleared the obstacle and watched my ball bounce up the sides and stop about an inch away from being in "the hole." Gozer needed three more strokes before she finished the hole - I only needed one.

- The winner: Gordon Bombay.

The final score:
Gordon - 4 (1 under Par)
Gozer - 6 (1 over Par)

In golf, the person with the lowest score wins - in this case, me. What was my trophy? A one-of-a-kind historical artifact - an original Surf Cincinnati "Chip Shot Golf Course" ball found amongst the brush.

All in all, looking back on the day, the fortune cookie prophecy from Part 1 had come true. That day had indeed been a "delightful journey." Maybe you should take your fortune cookie more seriously the next time you get Chinese takeout?

Over the years, several of QC/D's urban exploration stories have focused on abandoned amusement parks: View all of the stories

Update | Oct. 18, 2017
  • Went back to Surf Cincinnati in 2013 and 2016 to see if anything was left. There's still some remnants.


  1. Awesome stuff!! I know when I visited here in late summer, the putt putt course was chock a block with vegatation everywhere so I didn't even bother thrying to plow thru it. I don't believe in ghosts, but I swear when I was looking around back there by the race track et. al, I could feel some sort of something.

  2. I am SO in on the next tourney! lol that is awesomely epic