Puttering Around

Taking a swing at Portland's putt-putt courses.

Miniature golf is still wholesome. Unlike kickball, dodgeball, roller skating or pinball, it’s still mostly played sober, fueled by ice cream and the sweaty palms of teenage romance. Among the fondly remembered activities of a well-spent American childhood, it remains one of the few not yet frequently combined with tall boys and ironic costuming.

Well, until this weekend. Brewvana, a beer-centric tour service that shuttles craft-beer lovers between Portland's bars and breweries, hosts a nine-hole tournament with stops at places like Laurelwood, Fifth Quadrant, Beer Mongers and Bazi Bierbrasserie.

We got a head start by playing through seven area miniature-golf courses. Following is an abbreviated version of our course notes, posted in full here.

Oaks Amusement Park

7805 SE Oaks Park Way, 233-5777. Noon-7 pm Saturday and Sunday through June 14. $6 adults. No alcohol.

The longest-running amusement park in these United States of America, Oaks Park features rides and games operated by countless generations of local teens and fair enthusiasts and ne'er-do-wells (including, back in the day, members of the Exploding Hearts). There are dishwater-dull kiddie train rides, multistory slides, a Ferris wheel, cotton candy, carnie games, a vomitous "Looping Thunder" roller coaster, bumper cars and a roller rink with a huge organ, plus a big riverfront park right next door.

Surprisingly, Oaks Park mini golf is deeply bucolic. The course is situated on a riverfront sideline to the park, in an eminently shady bower of trees. The minimalist course's features are likewise arboreal, consisting of a huge rock waterfall and a number of fake hollow logs, plus some fake bears, beavers and squirrels. The wind blows gently from the river, while the screams waft desultorily from the distant Octopus ride. The most serious challenge comes from the fact that half the holes slope up toward the cup in every direction.  MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Eagle Landing

10220 SE Causey Ave., Happy Valley, 698-7888. 9 am-dusk daily. $8 for 18 holes, $11 for 36 holes. Alcohol available.

If a typical putt-putt course has the vibe of a chili-dog stand, Eagle Landing is more of a Cheesecake Factory. Located out in the hills of Clackistan, it features well-planted beds and tasteful copper-styled plaques numbering each hole. The entire complex, which also features full-sized golf and a par-3 course, is surrounded by condos and McMansions.

As we pull up, two teens in polo shirts drive up, one in an SUV, the other in a midsize family sedan. In the little hut where you pay the greens fee and buy drinks and snacks, a dad complains that he wants to finish the course quickly so he can go play a round on the big course while mom and the kids shop at the nearby mall. 

The course is surrounded by well-tended flower beds and burbling water features. It's as tasteful as anything made of artificial turf can be. It's also fairly straightforward. Watch out for the slippery green on hole 11, where we had to fish three balls from the water feature. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Tualatin Island Greens

20400 SW Cipole Road, Tualatin, 691-8400. 8 am-10 pm daily. $5 for 18 holes. Alcohol available.

The name Tualatin probably means "sluggish" or "lazy" in a Native American language, and that's a vibe channeled at Island Greens. In a sea of office parks and oversized shopping centers, this is an island of serene respite, however contrived. Each hole is modeled after one at a famous course, including Carmel Valley and Pebble Beach. Don't ask me how accurate they are—I've never golfed on a real course—but Island Greens abounds with calming greenery and mostly well-pruned bushes, though watch out for the blackberries.

The crowd is mostly suburban families, with a few uber-competitive power couples scattered throughout. Beware of the abundant water features: Between the babbling brooks, mini-waterfalls and marshy areas (cattails! goldfish! frogs!), you're bound to end up wading for your ball at some point. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Safari Sam's

16260 SW Langer Dr., Sherwood, 925-8000. $5 for 18 holes. No alcohol.

Imagine yourself in a cartoon jungle that glows in the dark. This is exactly what Safari Sam's feels like. The building is hidden behind a Target in the suburbs of Sherwood, and aimed squarely at the 12-and-under crowd. 

Empty save for another two-person group, the jungle-themed golf course is lit by black lights and dotted with palm trees, a volcano and jungle-animal obstacles. Giant crates reading "DANGER!" sometimes emanated sounds of a snarling animal, mixing awkwardly with an old Justin Bieber song playing on the sound system. The 18-hole course is easy but provides some fun obstacles. The most challenging part was getting our eyes to adjust to uncomfortable glowing neon. KAITIE TODD.

Sunset Golf Center

16251 SW Jenkins Road, Beaverton, 626-2244. 9 am-10 pm daily. $5.50 adults. Alcohol available.

Beaverton's only putt-putt course is a small, 18-holer tacked on to a covered driving range and pro shop. It was surprisingly dead on a recent Saturday night, the lack of screaming youth as refreshing as the warm weather. A 10-foot Statue of Liberty towers at the course entrance, casting a shadow over the miniature baby-blue windmill, tumbledown bridges and other ramshackle obstacles that rest amid the rolling hills of worn carpeting and brightly colored bricks outlining the green.

The holes are short, makeable in one or two shots if you're moderately skilled. Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and Deschutes Mirror Pond bottles line the sunflower-yellow trash cans haphazardly placed throughout the course, emphasizing the fact that everyone who can drink here does. The crowd is a cordial mix of father-son outings, bickering families—I, too, saw the kid with the bowl cut cheat twice—and tween daters. BRANDON WIDDER.

Wilsonville Family Fun Center

29111 SW Town Center Loop W, Wilsonville. $7.25 for 18 holes. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. No alcohol.

Outside of a headache-inducing arcade and family restaurant sits go-kart tracks, bumper boats, batting cages and this miniature golf course. On a nice summer evening, the water on the course and under the bumper boats carries a cool breeze throughout the grounds. The course is Western-themed and Frodo-sized, the perfect backyard for a couple of cowboy-obsessed 8-year-olds. For some inexplicable reason, totem poles line either side of the first hole, but the rest of the course features a miniature general store, hotel and mill in between caves, fountains and bridges over a rushing creek. The biggest challenge is keeping up the pace on this surprisingly busy course. On a recent Wednesday night, when the fee is half off, five groups were stacked up at the last hole. KAITIE TODD.

Glowing Greens

509 SW Taylor St., 222-5554. Noon-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-midnight Friday and Saturday. $9.50 for 18 holes, plus $1.50 for 3-D glasses. No alcohol.

Located in the basement of the downtown Hilton, Glowing Greens is Portland's only ghost-pirate-themed, glow-in-the-dark, 3-D, indoor miniature golf course. 

Looking like a Pirates of the Carribean-themed prom after the punch has been spiked, the course—often laden with soda-sipping teenagers on first dates—is a DayGlo hallucination of garish pinks and greens and blues and oranges vomited over midpriced haunted-house decorations. Naturally, the golf is secondary to the fact that such a place exists at all. The holes are simple even by putt-putt standards: The only "challenges" are the animatronic skeleton pirates that suddenly buzz to life in an effort to startle you as you swing.

Well, that, and the fact that you have to try getting through all 18 holes without the benefit of booze. At least the optional 3-D glasses will blur your vision, though that's all they really do. MATTHEW SINGER. 

Correction 9 am, May 15: An earlier version of this story referred to "miscreants and stoners" working at Oaks Park. This is not factually supportable. WW regrets the error.

GO: Brewvana's first Putt Putt Drink 9-Hole Mini Golf Tourney is Saturday, May 18. Noon-6 pm. $55. Reservations at 729-6804 or experiencebrewvana.com.

WWeek 2015

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