Monster Mini Golf

Trying to rally after a lethargic morning, we ventured out on New Year’s Day to Monster Mini Golf in Columbia, MD. Located in the Columbia East Market Place shopping center at the intersection of Rt. 175 and Rt. 1, Monster Mini Golf is easily accessible off of I-95. We snacked at Jerry’s Subs and Pizza in the same shopping center before trying out our putt-putt prowess. If we hadn’t caffeinated ourselves earlier in the morning, we could’ve made use of the Starbucks nearby.

Monster Mini Golf opened two months ago and is, in a word, fantastic. Our group was comprised of two families – four adults and four kids ranging in age from 3.5 to 8 years – and given our New Year’s sleep deprivation, we didn’t have much patience for a mediocre outing. Monster Mini Golf totally delivered!

Located in a huge space divided into two areas (golf course and arcade), Monster Mini Golf is an entirely glow-in-the-dark experience from the moment you walk through the doors. We headed straight to the golf reception desk, where a helpful staff member wearing a glowing white lab coat took our payment. Prices range from $6.50 to $7.50 based on height. Our 3.5-year-old would have golfed for free if he had been about 1 inch shorter.

As we finished paying, another friendly lab-coat-wearing staff member appeared and handed out golf clubs. The youngest in our crowd received a plastic club with a large club head, and the older children used child-sized metal putters. Next, we chose from an array of colored glowing golf balls stacked neatly in a rack dispenser. We grabbed a neon-green score card, a glow-in-the-dark pencil and set out for the first hole.

The walls surrounding the eighteen-hole indoor course are magnificently decorated with fluorescent murals depicting ghoulish creatures ranging from funny to bizarre. Detailed-but-harmless monster statues stand throughout the course, which winds its way around the room. Demarcated by marbleized neon walls about 6 inches high, each hole on the course is essentially level and contains typical putt-putt obstacles enhanced with glow-in-the-dark monster flair. For example, a slowly spinning fan of swords serves as the “windmill” obstacle, and coffins and gravestones form barricades along the greens. Some holes involve ramps, mouse hole openings, sand traps made of shag carpet and other challenges.

One of our favorite treats was the Wheel-of-Fortune-type spinner on Hole #2, which instructs each player to try an extra challenge on that hole. One of us was told to hit the ball with his eyes closed, another was directed to swing the club behind her back, and the 5-year-old in our midst enjoyed “bowling” her golf ball with her hand rather than putting it with her club. A steady breeze blows across the cup on several holes, providing an unexpected last-minute challenge. On Hole #17, an array of faux sewer caps form a maze of lily-pad-like obstacles, and on the 18th hole you must hit the ball into a huge clown’s mouth by sending it up a ramp formed by the clown’s tongue (all of which, of course, glows in the dark).

The course offered an appealing degree of challenge without becoming frustrating. The intricate decor kept players entertained while waiting for their turn, and the low walls and platforms provided ample space to stand and watch without blocking a player’s path. The grownups agreed that by far the best aspect of Monster Mini Golf was the outstanding background music comprised of eclectic hits such as “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc, several tunes by ABBA, the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden”, music by the Bee Gees and Billy Joel, and the “Three’s Company” theme song. We found ourselves dancing and singing any time we weren’t hitting a golf ball! The only negative feature of the course is the life-sized animated Frankenstein figure that periodically rises off his table and bangs loudly in monstrous rage.

Three of the children in our group found the noise so distressing that they covered their ears every time Frankie came to life. We’re hoping a written suggestion to the owners will prompt them to lower the intensity of Frankie’s intermittent tantrums. Update 1/7/11: after a call to the owners, they responded positively about potentially toning down the noise from Frankenstein.

When our golfing experience came to an end, we spent a few minutes enjoying the arcade games. The adults honed their skills on Guitar Hero, while our younger members earned tickets on skee ball and similar offerings. (Note that at least one of the available games involved guns, but we were able to direct our kids to the many other options.) Almost all of the arcade games are operated by scanning a special “credit card” which is easily purchased via a machine that takes cash or credit. (The grownups appreciated not having to manage handfuls of tokens and coins!) Tickets earned on the arcade games are fed into a machine which prints out a receipt totaling your winnings.

Prizes are neatly organized in a glass display case and a staff member – in a lab coat, of course – distributes the prizes selected by each child. Despite the inevitable decision-making delays among our kids, we found the entire process to be surprisingly efficient and painless.

In terms of additional facilities, Monster Golf offers party rooms that are compellingly decorated with red velvet curtains, large tables and chairs such as you’d find in a castle, a mock fireplace and various monster/skeleton decor. The entire establishment seemed very clean and well-kept. We noted staff members dutifully sweeping the carpet (black light is unforgiving!), and one adult in our group reported that the restrooms were impeccable.

When I tucked my six-year-old in bed that night, his final comment was, “Mom, I really LOVED that Monster Golf place today. When can we go back?” It will definitely be soon!

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