Fore! With spring in the air—and with every other fun activity from a Normal American ChildhoodTM having been already co-opted for ironic enjoyment then played out—over the next week WW brings you reviews of Portland-area putt-putt courses. We're also pretty excited about Brewvana's putt-putt event next Saturday.
Oaks Amusement Park
Cost: $6 for adults, $3 for children six years and younger.
Other club amenities: The golf course is located at the longest-running amusement park in these United States of America, with rides operated by countless generations of teens and fair enthusiasts and ne'er-do-wells (including, back in the day, members of The Exploding Hearts). There are a dishwater-dull kiddie train, multi-story slides, a ferris wheel, cotton candy, carnie games, a vomitous âLooping Thunderâ roller coaster, an even worse âDiskâOâ shaker-spinner ride, bumper cars and a roller rink with a huge organ, plus a big riverfront park right next door. Oaks Park, man.
Our scorecards: Vicious upsloping around some of the golf-hole cupsâa function of too-shallow turfâled to a disappointing 20 over par. And that was the winning score in my threesome. My group, it should be said, included an eight-year-old boy who eventually took to using his club to drag the ball along the turf in the manner of a craps dealer retrieving his dice.
Overall ambiance: Surprisingly for an amusement park course, Oaks Park mini golf is deeply bucolic. Serene, even. One nearly expects a Great Blue Heron to alight from the nearby Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The course is situated on a riverfront sideline to the park, in an eminently shady bower of trees that protected us, on the day we visited, from some uncharacteristically searing Portland sun (caused, we presume, by the impending greenhouse apocalypse.) The minimalist courseâs features are likewise arboreal, consisting of a huge rock waterfall and a number of fake hollow logs, plus some fake bears and beavers and squirrels. The wind blows gently from the river, while the screams waft desultorily over from the distant Octopus ride.
Clientele: Cocky, socially challenged twelve-year old boys trying out one-liners they heard on TV; sixteen-year old stoner girls; middle-school âhang-out datesâ that slowly split off into pairs; very patient parents with small children noodling their way to 10 shots above par.
Biggest challenge: While there are a few hard-to-hit tubes and hollow logs that angle the ball into a chance at a hole-in-one, almost every tempting straight-and-narrow channel has an alternative: the broad, gently sloping path paved with middling intentions. Take the lesser way, to avoid beaning yourself in the knee with a stray rebound, because the deceptively simple-looking course is sloped and grooved imperceptibly in ways that will cause your ball to take as many unexpected turns as an ADHD toddler. Precision shots are a dream. The real challenge, however, comes from the fact that half the holes slope up toward the cup in every direction. The courseâs no-alcohol policy becomes crueler and crueler at each hole.
Pro tips: Come at those volcano-shaped, upsloped holes a little harder than it feels you need to; otherwise your ball will list drunkenly off your goal and youâll end up accidentally teaching some new vocabulary to the kids at hole 12. They may have already heard most of the words you say, but I promise: Youâll say them in combinations theyâve never even dreamed of.