PGN Fun Center's two adventure-themed miniature-golf courses wind through several levels of tall hedges, boulders, waterfalls, castles, and caves. Rope bridges, slopes, and stairs lead putters along each course, which eventually meet at the fun center's main playhouse. Inside, flashing lights and sirens radiate from an arcade full of ticket-spewing skill-stoppers, skee-ball games, and classic video arcade consoles. A three-tiered indoor playground provides pintsize guests with several slides, tunnels, and ball pits to explore, and the onsite kitchen fires hot dogs, pizzas, and chicken wings to keep growling stomachs quieter than a miming church mouse. PGN Fun Center also hosts two levels of hitting stations on its outdoor driving range.
Dedicated to creating a unique experience, Space Golf illuminates its indoor lunar landscape with 18 challenging putt-putt holes alive with neon day-glo paint under showers of black light. Throughout the course, golfers nudge their iridescent balls past a synthesized landscape of posed alien life forms, flying saucers, and real aliens trying to blend in. Adding to the scenery are life-size character replicas from beloved sci-fi films such as E.T. and Star Wars beside neon yellow bricks that pave the 18-hole way for explorers. Along with mini golf, Space Golf?s Alien Arcade grants players a chance to hone their hand-eye coordination to win tickets for use at the prize stand, and chefs in the Sci Fi Caf? whip up pizzas, hot dogs, and hand-dipped ice-cream cones.
At any moment, visitors to Wilderness Falls might run into the resident moose. He isn’t grazing: Maddux the Moose, the family fun center’s fuzzy mascot, spends his time playing its two 18-hole, outdoor mini-golf courses and accepting high-fives and hugs from enthusiastic guests. Maddux isn’t the only fixture that may make guests feel as though they’ve wandered into the woods¬; the two mini-golf courses are pretty rugged themselves. The Bear Course, which hosts the annual Chicago Mini-Golf Championship, leads putters past a 35-foot waterfall, into a dark cave, and across creaking wooden walkways, just like the race all of Harrison Ford’s clones run to determine which one will get to play Indiana Jones. Alternatively, the Eagle Course leads players around winding rivers and on a climb to the top of a 40-foot mountain of rock.
Of course, it’s not all roughing it. In the middle of the greens sits the tented arena that holds Wilderness Falls’ batting cages, including six baseball cages and three softball cages. An arcade lights up the indoor space with the glowing screens of video games, and party rooms hold birthday and team celebrations.
In the winter, it looks as though an alien spacecraft has touched down at Links & Tees Golf Facility. Within this futuristic structure—actually an inflatable golf dome whose three layers trap heat—PGA professionals teach lessons and golfers practice their snow-clearing swings. This impressive indoor facility—along with an outdoor driving range that boasts more than 50 hitting stations, a 10,000-square foot putting green, and a 5,000-square foot chipping green—has repeatedly landed Links & Tees among Golf Range Magazine's Top 100 Golf Practice Facilities.
After warming up at the range, golfers can take to the tees and bentgrass fairways of a nine-hole executive course, where three ponds snatch up balls and a smattering of sand bunkers tempt hungry golfers to stop and dig for clams. They can also head for Putter’s Peak, an 18-hole miniature-golf course where tiki statues line fairways, the rumble of a Lilliputian waterfall fills the air, and putters must venture into the dark depths of a cave. After either a miniature or executive round of golf, visitors can pull off the plate armor that protects against mis-aimed balls, put down their clubs, and pick up a hot dog or pizza at the 4,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Course at a Glance: * Nine-hole, par-27 course * Length of 1,709 yards * Course rating of 35.5 * Slope rating of 113 * Link to course layout
Glowing monkeys scamper toward a neon waterfall, and a knight bearing a radiant yellow lance rides past a bright orange octopus emerging from the ocean. What appears to be a time-traveling session gone awry is really the evolving environment within Putting Edge’s indoor black-lit mini-golf course, which whisks players to deep seas, Aztec jungles, and medieval times. Since opening its original location in Canada, Putting Edge has now expanded to 17 North American locations, all of which invite guests onto its challenging 18-hole courses to seek victory over opponents and the forces that keep their teeth from not glowing as brightly as they could. Elsewhere, the facility houses private party rooms, concessions, and an arcade filled with gamer favorites such as air hockey.
Several years ago, during a filming of WTTW's Wild Chicago, Novelty Golf & Games owner Craig's brother stood next to a 10-foot fiberglass chicken and lamented, “This is the world’s loneliest chicken.” Its match had recently been stolen, and every fiberglass fox in the city had a solid alibi.
Shortly after the taping, a viewer called in with a tip: he’d seen the missing hen roosting in a backyard, clearly visible from the window of the Brown Line train. Boarding the "L" himself, Craig confirmed the spotting, and soon enough, the Loneliest Chicken's counterpart was on its way back home in the bed of a pickup truck.
Thus reunited, the two chickens stand proudly today over the 36 mini-golf holes at Novelty Golf & Games, along with the full menagerie of bears, elephants, mermaids, circus seals, and dinosaurs that the course has accumulated over the years. Some of the attractions are as old as the course itself, including a 15-foot fiberglass shoe hand-built over a chicken-wire frame. While the statues are often replicated, Craig and his staff continue to design new obstacles the only way they know how, often sharing margaritas as they sketch their designs on cocktail napkins. “We change things,” they say, “but not for the sake of change.”
The course—celebrating its 65th anniversary—has always been a place of innovation. In the 1960s, Craig's mother opened an onsite restaurant and promoted the rabbit statue on the 14th hole to head doorman, earning the eatery its perennial nickname, “Bunny Hutch.” Throughout the years, the family has also acquired popular games, including four pinball machines, Dance Dance Revolution, an authentic photo booth, and a 1950s metal-stamping machine. Though they welcome each new addition, they strive to maintain the course’s classic appeal, insisting that “you can’t improve on perfection.”
On the same token, you can't just sit idly by when perfection flies the coop.