This past weekend's reopening of the iconic Cool Crest Mini Golf on Fredericksburg Road has focused attention on the continuing success of miniature golf courses and the strength of the off beat entertainment venue.
While miniature golf sounds like something out of the days of drive in movies and black and white TV, unlike other entertainments from the 1930s to 1950s, miniature golf is thriving in the Age of the Internet. In fact, a miniature golf trade publication says mini golf was one of the very few types of entertainment to thrive during the recent recession.
There's a reason for that, says Beverly Hendricks, who runs thirty year old Embassy Mini Golf on the city's north side.
"Everybody can do it," she said. "From your two year olds to your 99 year olds, everybody can get out there on the miniature golf course and have a wonderful time."
Cool Crest is believed to be the first miniature golf course in the country. It opened in 1929, and closed in 2008, reopening with a classic look on Sunday.
Hendricks says there is nothing 'edgy' or 'extreme' about mini golf, and that what people like about it.
"We specialize in what we do, which is provide a sparkling clean atmosphere with good clean family fun."
She says mini golf is very popular among small children, it remains a good 'date night' attraction for teenagers, especially for younger teenagers with worried parents, and is popular among seniors as well.
She points out that a round of mini golf 'costs less than a movie' and takes about an hour to play, which is also a boost in today's busy world.
To add to the experience, Hendricks even pipes in 1950s style music.
Rich Lahey, who owns miniature golf courses in Florida, was quoted in a trade publication as saying the rate of return on mini golf remains high, and, thanks largely to the fact that it doesn't take up a very large land 'footprint' investors are opening new mini golf courses.
"Miniature golf operators have actually done better in a bad economy," Lahey said. "People are looking for a less expensive recreation."
Hendricks says word of mouth, and word of Internet, continues to expose new customers to mini golf.
"I had one woman who came in here because her daughter called her from the bathroom," she said. "She said, 'you won't believe how clean these bathrooms are,." That's the kind of image we try to present."