Where’s the windmill? Not even a clown’s mouth?

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

Miniature Golf at East Potomac Park:  fun for the whole family?  Not quite.

Simply put, the course isn’t fun.  It lacks a colorful and entertaining design and the holes are incredibly challenging for most adult players, let alone for children.

Built in 1930 and billed as the oldest running miniature golf course in the United States, the East Potomac course is not your typical amusement facility.  When most people think of miniature golf, they no doubt imagine colored carpeting, funny designs and fun playing conditions.  This course features none of those typical attributes.

The holes are all lined with bland, poorly conditioned green carpeting, giving the course a dreary feel.  The carpets have obviously not been replaced in a long time, considering the many little nicks and faded appearance.

As a result of the years of wear, every hole is extremely challenging.  Many of the holes seem to roll faster than the greens at Augusta National.  And most of the cups are placed just in front of little hills or slopes, so when if your ball barely trickles past the hole, it usually rolls five or more feet past the cup.

If the conditions are tough and irritating to an adult, it’s difficult to imagine little kids enjoying themselves (unless you’re raising a golf prodigy, in which case your kid will have better touch on the greens than Tiger Woods).

Even worse is the course design.  On the one hand, it probably closely resembles the original design, which adds to its historical value.

But parents and kids today rightfully expect a clown’s mouth, a windmill, or at the very least, a volcano hole.  Instead, many of the holes are bland, straight-ahead or winding shots that require players to guide the ball toward or away from curbs.                                The rest of the holes do have some elevation changes, where players hit toward a hole with a pipe, leading to other greens.  Holes like these are typical of any miniature golf course, but usually these holes with pipes are covered by a house or windmill.  At the East Potomac course, the holes are visible, without any sort of covering or decoration.

The front nine of the course is much more challenging than the back nine, mostly because the holes on the front tend to have shorter pars.  Also, the carpeting on the first nine holes is horrible, so the ball will roll about every direction except into the cup.  The unfair conditions are not as pronounced on the back nine – plus the bigger pars allow you more shots to get that little colored ball into the cup.

Unfortunately, this course is really the only family miniature golf course in Washington, and the only one in the surrounding areas that is Metrorail accessible, though you will need to take a long, but scenic 20 minute trek from the Smithsonian stop.

If you’re looking for a birthday venue for your youngster, you’ll be better off skipping the Miniature Golf at East Potomac Park experience.  The course is insanely difficult without offering any of the appealing visual elements of normal miniature golf facilities (there isn’t even an arcade, decent food shack or indoor seating).

If you happen to be a teenager or adult trying to hone your putt-putt skills to make it as a professional miniature golfer, then this might just be the perfect place for you.  Since you probably aren’t in that miniscule minority, you’re better off skipping this place.  Find a mini-putt game online instead.

One thought on “Where’s the windmill? Not even a clown’s mouth?

  1. Bob says:

    I love the course and wish I had an opportunity to play it!

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