A round of mini golf is part skill, part luck, and all fun. And kids are natural pros, which makes it the perfect activity for a 7-year-old's birthday party.
With a little planning and some ordinary items found around the house and garage, it's easy to transform your backyard into a one-of-a-kind putt-putt course (with no damage to the lawn). Use the ideas on these pages for the layout and obstacles, or have a ball coming up with designs of your own. Our course is nine holes, but a shorter one might suit a younger child, or a smaller yard, to a tee. For smooth playing, mow the lawn very short, and be sure to give the course a test run beforehand. Serve some golf-inspired goodies, and you'll have a swinging party that's sure to be above par.
Tools and Materials
Any supplies not on hand can be found at discount and home-improvement stores.
Baking sheet and play sand: Makes a fine sand trap
Two-by-fours: Erect barriers for runaway balls with painted two-by-fours.
Cardboard: Used is the foundation for the gopher and windmill
Acrylic paint and Mylar pinwheels: To dress up gopher and windmill (You can also even out a bumpy lawn or make a ramp to a hole by placing cardboard under the turf.)
Electrical tape: To create trimmings, like the flags on the croquet wickets
Colorful golf balls and kid-size clubs: Available online, they double as party favors
Golf tees: Get plenty, and use some to secure the turf edges
A xylophone: This instrument forms part of an obstacle.
Artificial turf: We used 200 square feet of this turf for the greens, and simply cut out rounds for the "holes."
Plaid fabric and dowel: To make flags, photocopy plaid fabric, cut out, tape to a dowel, and affix a number sticker.
Backyard Nine-Hole Course How-To
We laid out the greens (all artificial turf). Click here for printable version; they are each between 5 and 10 feet long.
No place like gnome: A wily creature tries his best to block a shot.
Picnic area: The table is both an obstacle and a spot to wait for a turn -- just keep feet clear of balls in play!
Sand trap: In a piece of artificial turf, cut a rectangle slightly smaller than a rimmed baking sheet. Fill pan with sand; position rectangle over it.
Waterfall: It's not exactly a water hazard, but a sprinkler will leave the turf nice and slippery.
Perfect pitch: Golfers can hammer out a tune as they try for the hole (a roll of tape) up a ramp to a xylophone set between two angled two-by-fours.
Sitting pretty: Two folding chairs form a tunnel and provide another comfy spot for a break.
Pinwheel windmill: To make, cut an arch in two sides of a cardboard box and trim the edges with electrical tape. Insert plastic pinwheels into the top of box. Secure handles underneath with duct tape. Affix more pinwheels to the front with tape.
Ruff!: It takes nerves of steel to tap a ball straight through the croquet wickets -- they're embellished with electrical-tape flags -- and into the doghouse.
Gopher the gold: A cardboard gopher greets players at the final challenge. He's taped to a box with a hole cut out of the bottom for catching golf balls.
What to Serve
In addition to the tee cake (recipe below), an array of malted milk balls, popcorn balls, and doughnut holes in metal buckets round out a lunch of club sandwiches (wrapped in plaid paper sleeves)