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.
Looking to put a new spin on a classic family activity, the minds behind Glowgolf decided to give the game a phosphorescent update. Incandescent courses place friends and family amid a tropical-fantasy golf world of neon orange, green, and violet surroundings. Players putt luminous orbs through vibrant treasure chests and glimmering windmills while negotiating tricky obstacles near walls portraying black-light-lit aquatic scenes. With more than 20 locations spread over 10 states, Glowgolf's fluorescent labyrinths challenge human players and traveling gnomes.
Swings find their sweet spots at Sugar Grove Golf Center, which grooms golf games with a driving range and lessons. Golf balls blast off of turf mats at the range before settling around targets with yardage displays. Players of all calibers can scratch bogeys off of their scorecards with private lessons or clinics. The onsite golf pro conducts prescheduled lessons until as late as 11 p.m., enabled by towering lights that surround the range and practice balls that have acquired a taste for coffee.
The kinetic whoosh of powerful swings welcomes patrons to Bogies Indoor Golf Club, which fosters year-round golf training with its professional staff, constructive lessons, and Full Swing golf simulators. Guests can defy seasonal conditions with midwinter rounds at 1 of more than 60 virtual courses, which convincingly emulate the coastal gusts of St. Andrews' Old Course, the unforgiving fairways of Pinehurst No. 2, and the displaced sunbathers of Pebble Beach. Outside the immersive realm of the course simulators, plush seating and a gallery of high-definition TVs keep patrons tethered to their cozy reality in a full-service restaurant that keeps appetites at bay.
Slice-prone swings and inconsistent putting strokes meet their demise at Green Valley Golf Range, where guests crush golf balls at an 80-station driving range and sends putts through a tricky mini-golf course. The range boasts towering lights and 20 covered, heated hitting stalls to furnish practice at night, during inclement weather, and through the eternal ice age of the future. The practice facility?which also encompasses a putting green, chipping area, and sand trap?replaces its golf balls every year, ensuring quality equipment for players' enjoyment. The practice facility also houses a virtual golf entertainment experience that allows golfers to play I-tee golf games in which they can compete on courses around the world.
A lighthouse, a pint-sized car, and other old-fashioned obstacles await players at the mini-golf course, a circuit best conquered with laser-like focus attained with the help of Green Valley's complimentary coffee. Clubbers can replenish energy stores zapped after a long day of practice or bench-pressing their driver with a soft-serve ice-cream cone, a slice of Rosati's pizza, or a hot dog, all of which are sold in the Green Valley Ice Cream Shoppe. Adult libations including beer and wine are also available while big-screen TVs broadcast the latest sporting events.
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.