Staying on course: some places to go if you've urge to putt

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Pick up those putters and line up those colored balls. Miniature golf season is in full swing in Ocean City.

And if there aren't enough courses to satiate that urge to putt, relax -- two more are on the way.

The well-established Old Pro chain of miniature golf courses is building an indoor course at 68th Street that will be opening in a few weeks. The underwater-theme course will be decorated with a submarine, shipwreck and a 17-foot killer whale.

Bernie Rodden, who is building an outdoor course at 57th Street, is a newcomer to the busy miniature golf scene. "It's my first crack at it," he says.

The course is scheduled to open in early July and will have a Maui theme, complete with a beach scene with surfboards, umbrellas and a shark. "The competition is very tough. We have to have something to compete with them," Mr. Rodden says.

The two new courses will bring the miniature golf count in Ocean City to 23. "It's very much oversaturated now," says City Council member James S. Hall, who is also owner of three Paradise Cove golf courses. "Eventually, the [peninsula] is going to tip over with miniature golf courses, and it's leaning now."

Part of the charm of miniature golf is that it is a leisurely game that attracts people of all ages -- from grandparents to dating teens to toddlers barely taller than the golf clubs.

"It's very popular," says Mr. Hall. "It's like the boardwalk. It's something tourists do every time they come to the beach."

The following list offers bewildered visitors, who can't decide between a chip shot in the jungle or the Old West, a guide to the various courses that stretch from Coastal Highway at the Delaware border to across the Route 50 bridge.

Viking Golf

At Route 54 and Coastal Highway, this is one of the more fanciful courses with statues and obstacles that create a different era in a fun way. Placards explain the Runic Stones as Viking markers and the Kitchen Midden inhabitants of Scandinavia among other Viking topics. There is a massive statue of a skirted Thor, swinging a mallet with gauntlets on his hands; another of Eric the Red; and a statue of the mythical Heimdall, "a watchman of the gods."

Many of the obstacles on the course reflect the Viking theme. There are oars blocking the path of the ball, a Norseman on horseback, and a replica of a Viking ship with a rustic-looking pole and mast. The one thing that spoils the Viking mood is the roar of the noisy go-cart amusement ride next door.

The multilevel course is challenging with varied obstacles and dips and curves, and also has a sophisticated landscape design.

Golf Down Under

Golf Down Under, at Route 54 and Coastal Highway, is a one-stop Australian geography lesson. There is a map of Australia, and signs throughout the course explaining the different regions of the continent such as the Nullarbor Plain, the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania.

Apart from the signs, the course only marginally reflects the Australian theme, although there are alligators, sharks, a koala bear and kangaroos. There is also a red stone replica of Ayers Rock, "the largest rock on earth."

The carefully landscaped course has tall grasses arranged in groupings likeshrubbery in addition to more traditional greenery.

Several of the holes were uphill and quite challenging, and most were interesting to play.

Fen-Tiki

The tropical themed course, at 146th Street and Coastal Highway, is spread over a broad area and has a large waterfall with wooden footbridges over babbling brooks. At the center is a pond with a sunken fishing boat and two ducks, who may have been uninvited guests.

Shells are arranged under palm trees, and there are exotic plants and lush green grass. Another pond has a sunken canoe. Several of the holes have bumps and ridges to make them challenging. For the weary, there are plenty of benches scattered throughout the course.

Old Pro

There are three courses here at Old Pro, at 137th Street and Coastal Highway: pirate, safari and Polynesian.

The pirate course seems to have one of the strongest themes and the most animated figures of any of the Ocean City miniature golf courses. There is a treasure chest; a snarling pirate with a peg leg that slowly spins around; a "Bloody Dagger Tavern," with a door that opens and closes to obstruct the ball; and mysterious hands pushing a woman's head out of an upper window. (If timed right, the open door will knock the ball into the hole.)

There is also Bluebeard's cave and a coffin with a skull dangling inside that has a lid that opens and closes. It takes good timing to get the ball inside the coffin.

Three holes are played on the deck of a bright red ship called the Barracuda. One ball must be rolled off a narrow gangplank. Another hole has a revolving drunken pirate with a rum barrel as an obstacle.

The safari course isn't as interesting as the pirate course, but it has a panther looking into a tree, a revolving gorilla, another gorilla on top of a mountain and a family of elephants. The obstacles aren't particularly interesting, but there is a lion in a cage with a gate that opens and closes and a revolving hunter wearing camouflage gear with two beasts at his feet.

The Polynesian course has the most challenging holes, including a wooden totem pole and a surfer on a tilting board. Another hole has two canoeists using paddles that create an obstruction. And, of course, there are many opportunities to drop the ball into pools of water. The course is decorated with skulls mounted on poles, totem poles and pink birds.

Gold Rush Territory

At Gold Rush Territory, 125th Street and Coastal Highway, you'll quickly get in the western mood by paying for your golf game at the National City Bank. The course is decorated with footbridges over ponds with tall grasses.

There is a hole at the top of the waterfall, and the course has Indian tepees and a cemetery for departed cowboys. There is also an adjoining pond for bumper boats.

Old Pro

There are two courses here at Old Pro, 68th Street and Coastal Highway: a dinosaur course and the indoor underwater course, which hasn't opened yet.

The outdoor dinosaur course has a cave man with a club in the direct path of the hole and rock formations to create obstacles for the ball. Many of the holes have dips and curves to make it more difficult. There are also shaded benches throughout the course, which is carefully landscaped.

Maui Miniature Golf

When it opens in July, the course at 57th Street and Coastal Highway will have a tropical island theme with waterways, rocks

and beaches.

Paradise Cove

The course, at 51st Street and Coastal Highway, is situated around a large pond with a stone waterfall at the far end. The SS Minnow is shipwrecked in the pond and there is an alligator poised to attack.

Decorated with lawn grass, palm trees and green plants, it is a gentle curving course without tough obstacles.

Paradise Cove

This course, at 41st Street and Coastal Highway, looks like its sister course on 51st Street with the water, green grass and palm trees. There is also a large stone waterfall and a fountain in the middle of the pond.

The first hole has a steep incline to make it challenging, and several of the holes have subtle dips and hills that keep the ball rolling in unexpected directions.

Jolly Roger Treasure and Jungle Golf

Players enter Treasure Golf, 30th Street and Coastal Highway, through the large pirate ship in the parking lot. The holes are spread over a large area and there is a waterfall created out of an interesting rock formation. Ramps carry players over some of the other Jolly Roger amusement rides.

Jungle Golf has a large pond with an elephant and a pink flamingo wading in it. The top of the 17th hole is a great place to view the amusement park and has a place to sit under a thatched-roof hut.

Old Pro Castle and Circus Golf

Castle Golf, Robin Drive (28th Street) and Philadelphia Avenue, is a fanciful course with a large castle filled with guards in full rTC armor. There is even a maiden waving a pink hankie from one of the castle turrets. Some of the course is played around the castle moat and then inside the castle among the encased warriors.

It is dramatic to play golf in the midst of a castle under siege. There is even a torture gallows at one hole, which is "the cheater's reward."

Outside, one hole sits behind the gravestones of "The Blind Knight, Sir Lost His Lance, King Ding A Ling and The Mean Queen."

Although not as dramatic as the castle course, the circus course has more difficult obstacles. There are several animated figures such as a clown, seal and monkeys. At one hole, the ball must be aimed through a cannon and there is a revolving bear tamer.

Old Pro Polynesian Golf

An older and compact course decorated with totem poles and skulls mounted on sticks, it is one of the more challenging courses to play. Located at 23rd Street and Philadelphia Avenue, the course has a narrow arched bridge to shoot the ball across, and it is difficult to keep the ball from landing in the water below. Each of the Old Pro courses has an Old Pro golfer, but this one is dressed in a loincloth.

Paradise Cove

This is a well-maintained course at Kingfish Street (18th Street) and Philadelphia Avenue, with lush green grass, palm trees and a tall stone waterfall. The central pond and flowering plants are the main attractions with holes that bend in various shapes.

Sunburst Golf

Sunburst, 16th Street and Philadelphia Avenue, is one of the older courses in town. One hole is on the deck of a small sailboat, and there is a house and a lighthouse. It is carefully landscaped with plenty of green plants.

The charming course is more challenging than it appears with dips, inclines and narrow slots to shoot the ball through.

Bamboo Miniature Golf

The course at Third Street and Philadelphia Avenue has just opened for the season, and owner Peggy Miles says there will be hand-carved totem poles, a statue of Cleopatra, a dinosaur, pink elephant, camels, zebras, whales, frogs and an octopus. The course is decorated with bamboo and green shrubbery and has plenty of hills and turns to challenge golfers.

Ice Land Golf

Ice Land Golf, Somerset Street and Philadelphia Avenue, has large, white icebergs, but not much else. It is a stark course with little adornment. Almost all of the holes are flat with few obstacles or interesting variations.

Trimper's Old Towne Golf

Decorated as an English garden with tidy shrubs and ivy and other green vines, this small, uphill course is probably the most challenging in Ocean City. At the course, at Baltimore Avenue and Division Street, a good number of the holes are shot uphill. Holes No. 11 and 15 are particularly difficult.

The only thing to spoil the English garden mood is the thumping music from the Himalaya ride and the screams emanating from the roller coaster at the amusement park across the street.

Baja Safari Golf

Baja, at Routes 50 and 611, next to the White Marlin Plaza, is a large course that is landscaped with grass, palm trees and flowering plants. There are zebras, hippos and a gorilla. The course has a lot of swirls, dips and hills to make it challenging. There is also a small waterfall with a pavilion at the top.

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