Putts Around

Hot spots for summertime fun, the Valley’s mini-golf courses offer challenging — and wacky — entertainment


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Although the concept of golf on a miniature scale dates to the mid-19th century, most of the accoutrements of modern mini-golf — windmills, clown’s mouths, castle keeps, giant statues of Paul Bunyan, and so forth — were developed in the late ’30s by Joseph and Robert Taylor of Binghamton, right here in upstate New York. It’s no wonder, then, that the Hudson Valley is home to so many fine mini-golf courses. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.

Kelder’s Farm & Homegrown Mini-Golf

(also known as Gnome on the Grange)

“We’ve got the coolest mini-golf,” says Maria Reidelbach, the owner of Gnome on the Grange. And if “cool” is defined as “wildly original,” she just might be right. The 10-hole course is laid out within a farm, which is also the source of its theme. The putting surfaces are surrounded by edible plants, 50-some-odd varieties of fruits, vegetables, and grains that players are encouraged to taste. For the less horticulturally minded, the tasting garden is annotated with facts and lore about the various plants. There is also a spectacular view of Rondout Valley and the pick-your-own farm below.

Then there is the eponymous gnome, the world’s largest (“we have a Guinness World Record to prove it”) that surveys the proceedings like some Santa’s elf on steroids. This, too, befits the theme. Reidelbach, who cowrote a book on mini-golf, knows full well that one of the principal decorations of the country’s first mini-golf course (Freida Carter’s in Chattanooga, Tenn., circa 1928) was a slew of garden gnomes. Her course has other traditional-yet-innovative hazards: a tractor tire loop-de-loop, a hollow log. “It draws on the history of mini-golf,” she explains.

Highlight: Lover’s Bench, a quiet, shady, intimate spot removed from the games, where daters can repose. “Mini-golf is a game of romance as well as fun,” Reidelbach says. “It’s a good place to court.”

What’s New: The Grain Gang, a large-scale, anthropomorphic assembly of 13 grains — “everything from amaranth to wheat” — that is sort of the granular equivalent of the California Raisins. This summer, there will be a contest to name them.


Next hole: GloPutt Mini Golf in Blauvet


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