It strikes only rarely, emerging from hibernation and sneaking up on sly paws to catch me unawares...the compulsion to play mini-golf. In an otherwise normal world, I have no interest in regular golf and while I can appreciate that it takes some skill to play well, I'm in the "not sure if golf is a really a sport, sort of like NASCAR" camp.
However, every now and then, I'm struck by the urge to pick up a putter and an oddly colored, well-worn golf ball and try to navigate astroturf-covered challenges flanked by windmills and fiberglass alligators and riddled with tunnels of PVC piping. I mean, how can you not enjoy mini-golf? No one is any good at it, it's designed to be a source of amusement, not of true competition, and if you don't have anyone behind you, you can always pick your golf ball up and see what happens when you putt it down some other alley or tube.
When I was a kid, I played occasionally at the mini-golf course by the Wellfleet Drive-in on Cape Cod but really got hooked when I visited my grandmother in Farmington, CT, and played at the course there. It certainly wasn't as dynamic and challenging as new courses now – mostly just rises and dips, a few concrete obstructions, a windmill, a miniature barn with doors that opened and closed at regular intervals – but it was a blast to play as a kid. The 19th hole is the mini-golf equivalent of Skee Ball and 35 years after I started playing there, I've still never managed to get my golf ball into the center hole to win the free game.
The mini-golf beast appeared again a few weeks ago in Bar Harbor. After a day of exploring Acadia National Park, we needed a break so after getting cleaned up, we braved the light clouds of mosquitos and accepted the challenge of Pirate's Cove. The three young guys smoking behind us notwithstanding, we had a blast. It was cheesy, yes, and if you're planning to have snacks or a hot dog there, don't bother (they don't have food), but it was creative, fun, and a nice break from the scenic splendor of Acadia.
(By the way, if you are in Bar Harbor, playing golf at Pirate's Cove, and want a quick, easy and affordable bite to eat, allow me to recommend Pepper's Pizza a bit farther along the road into Bar Harbor. It's a joint but the food and service are great. Enjoy!)
While we paid for two rounds (there's the classic course and also Blackbeard's Challenge), we elected to break for dinner after only playing the classic. Once again, I failed to win a free game. As luck we would have it, we never did make it back for the second round but instead handed off our game tokens to Duane and Kelly, a couple we met our final morning at the B&B. Wouldn't you know it...Duane e-mailed after they returned from their vacation to report that they'd had a great time and won that #$%^& free game! Well, I'm glad someone did.