What do you do to complement a four-story outdoor Aerial Adventure Tower with 110 unique elements ranging from an easy sky-bound walk to full-fledged daredevil obstacles? For Ryze Adventure Park in Maryland Heights, Missouri (a north suburb of St. Louis), the answer was to have Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) design and install an 18-hole ADA compliant Modular Advantage® miniature golf course.
“There’s just so many things about miniature golf that we love and it fits what we do,” said Greg Hoffman, owner of Ryze Adventure Park. “We’re here to help people build relationships and enjoy each other’s company outside in a safe environment. Miniature golf also creates a ‘look.’ The golf course is pretty and it creates kind of a barrier around the tower and sets it off. It worked out in so many ways. …Customer reaction has been great!”
Having previously owned an indoor family entertainment center for 11 years that included a miniature golf course, Hoffman said, “We found out that, other than laser tag, it was our number two attraction consistently over the years. And it was such a good attraction because when families came, it was something they could all do together. We had laser tag, but most parents didn’t want to play laser tag with a bunch of kids. Miniature golf was a nice thing where multi-generation families could have fun together. It’s relational. It’s relaxing. It’s competitive.
“There’s two thoughts, you know, some people just think they’re coming to a miniature golf course for the fantasy of looking at all the cool stuff and landscaping and carrying a putter around is just an excuse to wander around and look at everything. And then there’s the other school of thought that it’s a game and should be challenging and fun and it requires skill and strategy. So we fit more into that ‘challenging game’ school of thinking.
“We call it a championship golf course,” said Hoffman, “because it’s more like real putting. We want to appeal to adults and golfers.”
Hoffman’s process of selecting a design/build miniature golf company began at the annual IAAPA trade show. “Most of the decent miniature golf course builders show up at IAAPA so we had known who most of them were. I had been talking with AGS because I wanted something unique and I knew they were responsive. They’ve been around a long time. I know they’re respected by the competitors.
“I’ve done so much research and looked at so many courses. There are a lot of companies out there that can build a good golf course but they may not be very interesting courses. It’s the same old thing that you see everywhere.
“…When I talked with AGS, I said ‘Hey, I want kind of a PopStroke® concept but I don’t need to spend millions of dollars on it. It doesn’t need to use a million square feet of turf because that gets expensive. So we kind of did a hybrid between a traditional mini golf course and what PopStroke is without the palm trees.
“… What I didn’t want to do was pour concrete. I did not want to pour 50 to 100 yards of concrete in here and have something that was that permanent.”
Unlike concrete built courses, AGS uses flexible, permeable, patented panels with their Modular Advantage system to create the look and feel of concrete without the disadvantages of concrete.
After approving course drawings from AGS, Hoffman said “My excavator had the property pretty well shovel ready. It was all excavated and flat, basically dirt and some gravel. But they (AGS) came in and dumped gravel and then some fine minus into the general hole shapes, and then they compact that so that it’s water permeable. Then they put the modular panels over the top of that, put the turf over it and then they put sand over the top of the turf and infill all of the turf with sand. Sand is what holds the holes down and it literally putts like a real putting surface. And they’re able to create some unique shapes of the holes.
“Where we were locating the course, I knew it would be difficult getting cement mixers in and out of the property,” said Hoffman. “So construction-wise I think it made sense. I like the way it (Modular Advantage) looks. And the other thing is we’re in St. Louis, so we have an insane amount of freeze and thaws and outdoor concrete courses here just end up cracking and heaving and creating all kinds of other problems that are weather related around here. And lastly, I didn’t want something that permanent on my property. So if in five or 10 or 15 years we decide ‘hey, we don’t want this here or we want to do a different type of golf course,’ we don’t have 18 gigantic slabs of concrete that have to be jack-hammered and hauled out of here. (With Modular Advantage) you just rip the carpet up, stack up the panels and re-grade the property. The benefits outweigh the negatives of building a concrete course.
“You know, I’ve been to miniature golf courses like in Florida that, after heavy rain, there are lakes, pools, and puddles all over them. We can get an unlimited amount of rain here and there’s never standing water on our golf holes. The rain just goes through the turf, through the sand, then it just percolates down through the panel into the compacted gravel that’s underneath and then into the ground. We’ve gotten tons of rain with our course here and it’s never been a problem.
“And that’s the other thing with a concrete course – water doesn’t pass through it. When the turf or the carpeting on a traditional concrete course gets wet, it just sits there and water deteriorates the backer of the turf. Whereas here, the water passes through it and there’s actually holes in the backer of the turf as well, so there’s nothing to stop the water from just seeping through it and going where it wants to go.
“The other nice thing is, if it ever needs turf replacement, we can just peel it up and lay new turf down over the panels.”
According to Hoffman, the Adventure Golf & Sports miniature golf design includes many contours and breaks. “There was some natural fall to our property so some of the holes play down a gentle slope and several of them play uphill. But even for the holes that were built on flat ground, AGS created contour with the way they laid the base of the holes.
“The contour and the breaks in our course right now are really deceiving. Some of the breaks you can’t even see. The nice thing about that is people play the course repeatedly. There’s always a challenge. They can always get better at playing this course, unlike some courses where you can obviously see what you need to do. But here there is some sneaky stuff that people can’t see and they really enjoy it. We have a hole that has a hidden break and I can take 15 balls and hit balls at that cup and I have yet to figure it out. It drives me nuts!
“It’s really got some cool skill requirements that people who play it often will be able to develop and figure it out and shave some strokes off their score.
“There are sand traps and some pretty unique holes. There are some where you can choose to hit your ball through a wooden trough and take a shortcut to the cup. But if you miss that, then you’re backing up to take another shot. So there is some decision-making opportunities on the course about how you play any given hole. It’s pretty neat. And I’ve even seen groups playing where they stipulate ‘okay no one can use the shortcut and use the trough. Everyone’s got to play the break and hit it up the bend and bring it down and play the break.’ It doesn’t have any gimmicky themed obstacles, but there are some challenges on this course!
“It is fun. People love it!
“The other thing you’ll see on our course is that there is a bunch of limestone boulders all over it. We sit right next to a quarry and the property had a pile of limestone boulders on it that was covered up with weeds and you really couldn’t tell what it was. As they (AGS) started to build the course, we asked ‘Can you incorporate some of these boulders into the course?’ So if you look at the course, it has these nice limestone boulders on it and they create seating throughout the entire course. It created a really unique look.
“We wove our miniature golf course in some of the remaining space around our tower and it creates a little bit of a landscaping effect around the tower. We didn’t have to worry about mowing the grass and keeping the weeds down because now we have a beautiful golf course that basically surrounds three sides of our climbing tower.
“It worked out really well because we had to time it. …We had to get all the way around the tower with a crane to do the assembly and construction of the tower. So we timed it so Adventure Golf got here and started building golf holes that were further away from the tower. And then as the tower was being completed, they started moving in closer to the base of the tower. It was a little bit tedious and AGS was really cooperative of staying out of the way of the tower manufacturer. But they worked together pretty good and planned ahead a couple of days… The last holes they completed were the ones right around the base of the tower. But it was great getting all that construction done at one time because I couldn’t imagine building the tower and then dealing with the disruption of coming in and building the golf course at a later date.
“I don’t think I could have built a better course for the money than I did with AGS,” said Hoffman. “They listen to the customer and build a course that’s closest to the customer’s desires within their budget as I think anybody possible could. …They may not be the right answer for every potential client but they’re certainly worthy of anybody talking with them.”
Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) is a global leader in the design and installation of fun, interactive, cost-effective entertainment attractions like Miniature Golf, Pickleball, Shuffleboard, Bocce Ball, Croquet and other recreational courts, as well as 360GOLF (gamified high-tech mini golf that can be operated as an arcade redemption style game or as mini golf). Besides traditional concrete-poured permanent installations, AGS has long term experience installing interlocking panel system versions, like the Modular Advantage® Mini Golf system and Bunkers & Bumps™ for a variety of outdoor applications, such as retail centers, family entertainment centers, amusement parks, hotels and resorts, as well as on rooftops and cruise ship decks.
For more information about custom designed miniature golf courses from AGS as well as pre-made portable systems that can be used in a variety of situations, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (231) 922-8166 or visit www.AGSGolfandSports.com.