Golfland debuted its first putt-putt green in 1953 and has since expanded to seven locations across California and Arizona. Each location features one to three 18-hole courses, replete with colorful castles, windmills, and fountains. After navigating the obstacle-filled fairways, guests can try their hands at an array of arcade games, whether felling foes in fighting games, stocking up on tickets to win prizes, or following the spellbinding plotline of a pinball game. At the San Jose location, visitors can cool off in the warmer months with a trip down parallel outdoor waterslides.
Blackbeard's Family Entertainment transports visitors to magical and faraway places. One mini-golf landscape mimics the Wild West with realistic hotel and saloon storefronts, whereas another simulates pirate life, and a third brings storybooks to life with castles, moats, and sand traps filled with porridge.
It's easy to believe you're actually on a roller coaster as you sit in the virtual Cyber Coaster or that you're in a 1980s European discotheque while you sneak through the smoky, music-filled twists and turns of the XTreme laser-tag arena. To take a mock tropical vacation, head for the water slides or an adventure course that resembles a jungle rope bridge. Cap'n Kids' Rideland whisks away youngsters to a realm where gravity is irrelevant, and the go-kart tracks blur adults' everyday stresses into a whirlwind of speed.
At Boomers! Livermore, thrill-seeking families and fun-enabling friends can attack any of five available attractions. Recreationists can wile away the hours at the helm of purring go-karts, scaled-down kiddie go-karts, and bumper boats or explore the vehicle-free joys housed inside the laser-tag arena, game room, and the game room's prize-redemption center. Unlimited-pass holders can also putt the golf course, which like all the best horses, marshmallows, and spy equipment, is miniature.
The verdant fairways of Stevinson Ranch meander through the San Joaquin Valley, where rolling farmsteads dotted with natural wetlands serve both as hazards and scenic backdrops. Inspired by Scottish links-style courses, the club's Savannah Course boasts open fairways that invite players to launch booming tee shots without fear of striking trees or the feral caddies who inhabit them. Though wide fairways may prove welcoming, golfers are tested throughout the course by sharp doglegs and smooth, quick greens closely guarded by sand traps, water hazards, and thick swaying grasses. Rounds conclude on the challenging 18th hole, which requires a tee shot played diagonally across a long lake that rewards players who hug the shore while punishing those who come up short with a one-stroke penalty and a humbling supplication to the inhabitants of the pond.
Nestled above the Northern California fog line, the pair of rustic valley courses at Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club challenge players with 36 championship-caliber holes amid breathtaking views of surrounding vineyards, hills, and canyons. The Ranch Course's rolling terrain, typified by the challenging 12th hole, tests golfers’ nerves with oak-lined fairways, ball-gobbling creeks, and roving herds of wild golf carts. The masterfully engineered Legends Course hearkens back to the refined play of old-school golf, and, along with the Space Needle, was co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen. Along the trek to 18, sphere-slingers revel in each fairway’s long, wide-open landing strips, putt over the demanding small greens, and take cover from club-snatching ospreys in the course’s numerous deep bunkers. Although twosomes may quibble over which course to play, a cart rental keeps them from arguing over traversing the course by foot or the traditional method of riding atop a Scottish sheep.
At age 6, when most little boys are obsessed with their toy trucks and plastic dinosaurs, Ken Miller was interested in playthings with steel shafts and the ability to send a ball soaring over the grass. Young Miller’s passion for golf didn’t wane as he grew older: after making a splash on the junior golf scene, he attended Fresno State University on a golf scholarship and toured competitively before retiring to teach. But after 10 years of working for someone else, Miller was ready to realize his own dream: a family-friendly range that satisfied even the pickiest golfer. So, with his kids and wife in tow, Miller spent a year sculpting 19 acres of land into what is now McHenry Golf Center.
Today, the practice facility—which was named one of the Top 100 Ranges in America in 2009 by Golf Range—presents players with an all-grass driving range whose lighting makes it possible to play with balls that are afraid of the dark. After landing shots on the range’s seven target greens, which taunt them from 50 to 250 yards away, golfers can work on their short game at an 11,000-square-foot putting green, then head over to a practice green guarded by five circular and kidney-bean-shaped bunkers. If they want help with their chipping technique or sand play, they can take lessons with Miller and other PGA pros. Golfers can refuel with fare from the center’s snack bar after a lesson or independent practice.
While creating McHenry Golf Center, Ken Miller designed a pro shop to meet the needs of both casual and dedicated golfers, whether they carry a standard coin purse or suitcases filled with golden golf balls. Customers can get an expert fitting before picking their clubs, thanks to the center's TaylorMade SelectFit System and Ping Advanced Fitting System. For putters and woods that need attention, Golfsmith Clubmakers–trained Jim Tocco awaits at the repair center, where he fixes grips and shafts, working quickly enough to offer next-day service.