The Taylor brothers would be proud.
New York mini golf developers Joseph and Robert Taylor are credited with the zany idea of placing windmills, wishing wells, and other elaborate obstacles into their courses. Who knew the trend they started in 1938 would evolve to such extremes?
Thanks to the brothers’ Taylor, today’s mini golf courses are one part Pebble Beach and nine parts Disney – with creative obstacles that not only make it more challenging to sink the ball in the cup but also draw families with children who revel in the theme-park settings.
It’s enough to make you smile at muffing a 2-foot “gimme.”
Yarmouth residents and visitors are lucky enough to have four flamboyant mini golf courses in town, each with its own assortment of ostentatious obstacles – from life-sized jungle animals to a half-sunken pirate’s galleon to Captain Ahab and the elusive white whale. But the icing on the kitschy cake has got to be the giant steam-spewing skull with light-up eye sockets just a couple miles west of the Bass River Bridge.
SKULL ISLAND AT BASS RIVER SPORTS WORLD
Skull Island Adventure Golf wasn’t always a maze of waterfalls, mountains, and palm trees.
When owner Lou Nickinello and his father Tony opened 60 years ago in 1961, it was essentially a flat course with traditional sculptures. The holes were challenging, Nickinello said, but it wasn’t nearly the attraction that it is today.
Nickinello hired Castle Golf and spent two years renovating and expanding the old facility to create an elaborate Swiss Family Robinson-themed minigolf adventure park – complete with 18 challenging holes.
Today Skull Island is a 38,000 square-foot-marvel, with 20 waterfalls, 25 fountains, a haunted treasure cave, and a towering treehouse. Nearly a quarter-acre of the course’s surface area is covered in water.
Every hole has a water obstacle, and all 18 holes are challenging. But the hardest hole might be No. 3, which runs uphill, Nickinello said. If you don’t hit it just right, the ball comes rolling back down.
When the redesigned Skull Island first opened, not everyone was a fan of the giant namesake statue, Nickinello said. But today, the skull is a Route 28 landmark. It’s a familiar meeting place and a setting for parties, functions, and charity events. It hosted this summer’s Yarmouth Pirate Festival and it marks the starting area for the town’s world-famous St. Patrick’s Parade. Wedding parties pull up in their limos so people can get out and take pictures with the iconic skull, Nickinello said.
If you want more than a 90-minute round of minigolf, Skull Island Sports World is ready to accommodate. The sprawling complex at 934 Main St. (Route 28) in South Yarmouth also features a driving range, batting cages, a go-kart track, and an indoor arcade. That means you can practice your long game or your short game, while the kids ride go-karts or play in the arcade.
Skull Island’s season runs from April 1 through the end of September. Find more information on prices, birthday parties, special events, and hours by calling 508-398-6070 or visiting skullislandcapecod.com.
WILD ANIMAL LAGOON
Can’t make it to the zoo this summer? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – with 18 holes of challenging mini golf to boot.
Wild Animal Lagoon, 62 Main Street (Route 28), West Yarmouth, offers the chance to putt your way past elephants, a mountain gorilla, a white-horned rhinoceros, and other exotic beasts – all while listening to the roar of cascading waterfalls.
The course features bank shots and boulders to make the putting more interesting, along with watering holes where jungle-themed statues hang out. Think of a bellowing hippopotamus and sunbathing crocodile. By the way, have you ever tried to sink a putt while standing next to a giraffe and fighting the shadow of a crashed airplane? Here’s your chance.
Call 508-790-1662 or visit https://www.wildanimallagoon.com/ for prices, a coupon, and more information.
PUTTER’S PARADISE MINI-GOLF
Maybe you’re a Cape Cod traditionalist, who prefers lighthouses, sea captains, and spouting whales for mini golf statuaries. If so, head straight to Putter’s Paradise, 119, Main St. (Route 28) in West Yarmouth.
The 18-hole course features concrete statues of a stern-looking Captain Ahab holding a harpoon in search of the elusive white whale – which just happens to be spouting water in the nearby lagoon. There’s also a concrete lighthouse, lobsterman, and squirming pink octopus clutching a putter, all created by local artist T.J. Neil.
After your round of minigolf, you can pick up an ice cream cone, smoothie, frozen yogurt, or sundae made with Gifford’s ice cream from Skowhegan, Maine. And what could be cooler than that?
Call 508-771-7394 or visit puttersparadise.net for more information.
PIRATE’S COVE ADVENTURE GOLF
You’ll find more cascading waterfalls – along with caves, skulls (albeit considerably smaller than the big one at Skull Island), and a model pirate ship – at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, 728 Main St., (Route 28) in South Yarmouth. Pirate’s Cove is one of more than two dozen pirate-themed minigolf courses in a chain that stretches from Florida to New Hampshire and Arkansas to South Dakota.
The Yarmouth Pirate’s Cove features two 18-hole courses – the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Course, which is handicap accessible. (There’s also a special rate for those who want to play all 36 holes.)
Pirate’s Cove is usually open into October, but this year the attraction will close Sept. 12 for renovations before opening again in the spring of 2022, according to the company’s website.
Call 508-394-6200 or visit piratescove.net/locations/massachusetts/south-yarmouth/ for more information.
Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.