During a round of golf in this region, it’s not uncommon for players to see the occasional alligator sunning itself on the banks of a fairway pond. The same, however, cannot be said for miniature-golf courses, unless you’re playing at Congo River Golf, where the civilized sinking of putts coexists with the visceral carnage of live-alligator feedings. More than 25 alligators wait for patrons to feed them morsels of gator food in an exhibit beside the course. Though the course offers no chance for an encounter with the ancient, scaly species, it enchants players with waterfalls, safari-themed artifacts, and towering rock faces. In addition, Congo River Golf encompasses an indoor arcade and a gemstone-mining station, where guests dig through dirt for fossils, arrowheads, and Neanderthal’s kindergarten time capsules.
Captain Bligh's Landing takes putters and dimpled orbs careening through a labyrinthine circuit of pirate-themed, contoured turf holes. Lively palms tower over the course's stone edifice, welcoming patrons to a pastiche of nautical artifacts and pirate lore, where putt-putt prodigies sink testy two-putts against a backdrop of a wooden ship, misting waterfalls, and caves teeming with buried treasures of the most popular colors of mini-golf balls. The course's 18 green corridors feature subtle slopes and strategically placed holes, which conspire to form breaks more difficult to read than a sentient rock playing poker. Patrons can put a competitive twist on date night with two-person packages, or swindle their two favorite children out of their allowance with high-stakes family competitions.
A round of miniature golf on Ace’s tropical-themed course, complete with waterfalls, streams, ponds, and lush Floridian vegetation, fills afternoons with fairway fun for friends and family (children ages four to 10 are admitted for $4.99, and kids under four get free admission). PGA pros and sand-trap stragglers will enjoy the upscale practice range, with covered swinging areas to protect golfers from weather, as well as stadium lighting for nighttime play and elaborate Field of Dreams fantasies. For harder hitting, baseball batters and softball sluggers step into batting cages, where professional pitching machines can vary speeds from lightning-bolt throws to lackadaisical lobs.
Saturn 5’s intergalactic theme seeps into every corner of its 20,000-square-foot fun center, which encompasses an 18-hole mini-golf course illuminated by black lights, a laser-tag arena, a 400-square-foot bouncy obstacle course, an arcade with more than 70 games, and a billiards room. The indoor mini-golf course takes after its fresh-air counterparts with diminutive greens and obstacles, but it replaces the sun with black lights that illuminate holes lined in green, red, and blue. A rainbow of hues also embellishes the behemoth bounce house, where kids careen down slides and scramble around cushy pillars to get to meshed-in areas for jumping.
At the arcade, the perimeter of an air-hockey table glows a space-age green, and retro pinball machines exude a vintage air akin to the black-and-white makeup worn by ‘50s-era TV stars. In the billiards room, a 40-inch TV and an 80-inch projection screen are emblazoned with the day's games, which can be watched atop bar stools with snacks, beer, and wine from the concession bar.
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
Featuring more than 6,000 yards of immaculately manicured landscapes, The Claw at USF is a par-71 course that challenges club clenchers with narrow fairways lined by towering trunks of oak, cypress, and pine. The USF men's golf team and USF women's golf team call The Claw home, sharing it bunk-bed style with a population of alligators, deer, and spoonbills. Prepare for your 18 holes of terrain domination by taking to the grass-tee driving range ($5 for small bucket) or navigate your clubs to the putting and chipping green, where you can practice your precision stroke and pendulum swing.