The Beachcomber

Top 18 Miniature Golf Holes on Long Beach Island Are Fun and Challenging

By DAVID BIGGY | Jul 13, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy The 15th hole at Mr. Tee’s Shark Island Mini Golf might be a short-distance hole, but it’s a challenging one, and it has a cool backdrop of colorful surfboards.

Summertime and miniature golf are a perfect match. And with 10 courses at eight locations on Long Beach Island, there’s no shortage of challenging options for both the serious and casual golfer. But for those who keep score, the difference between enjoying success or becoming a frustrated mess relies, in part, by the amount of times a hole-in-one can be achieved. The object of the game is to have the lowest score possible, after all.

Still, the challenges presented on each course are many, and most miniature golf holes are not designed to be easy, even when they appear to be. So what makes a great miniature golf hole? Kirk VanKeuren, the owner of Flamingo Golf in Ship Bottom, has an answer.

“A good hole is one that you can look at and understand what to do, and actually be able to take a shot to make that happen,” he said. “I’ve never liked the ones that you walk up to and say, ‘No matter what I do, I’m just shooting for my second shot.’ I want some control over whether I have a chance for a hole-in-one.”

David Hartman, owner of Ship Bottom’s Hartland Golf & Arcade, has a similar viewpoint.

“A good miniature golf hole isn’t too easy,” he said. “But you should be able to see what the object is, be able to discern a path to the hole-in-one, and when you shoot the ball according to that path you should be able to achieve your goal. My least favorite hole is the one where I just feel like I have to hit it down there somewhere and hope it gets near the hole for a two-putt.”

Scott Pace, who along with his sister, Karen, owns the Mr. Tee’s courses in Beach Haven, had only one criterion when measuring a good hole.

“I’m a golfer, so I like a challenge,” he said. “Other than that, it doesn’t matter. I don’t see a difference from one hole to the next.”

Selecting which are the best holes on the Island isn’t a simple task. Nonetheless, that’s what we sought to do. With so many options – 180 to be precise – a checklist was needed to come up with our own “dream course.”

To us, aesthetics and the general look of a hole are important, especially if the obstacles or backdrop are somewhat creative. Playability – that is, whether you can hit the ball cleanly through the fairway and the bounces off obstacles or barriers are true – also matters. The third and most important criterion is the challenge for a hole-in-one, without being impossible.

No doubt,most mini-golfers who play will have their own version of what makes up a great hole and which are the best 18 among the different courses on Long Beach Island. Here are ours, in no particular order:

Flamingo Golf, Hole 15 – The challenge of putting your ball uphill into one of two openings under a big windmill, while its blades turn and temporarily block those openings every few seconds, makes timing and the right touch imperative. One of the two openings leads to a directional ramp straight to a hole-in-one. The other forces you to putt again.

Hartland Golf, Hole 13 – A tricky hole to figure out at first glance. Putt the ball into any of four openings and a tube that runs underneath the approach delivers it to the green behind you, where you find out whether you hit the ball into the correct opening – either for a hole-in-one or a potential two-putt. Getting to the opening right behind the reverse arrowhead in the center of the approach is the key.

Island Golf, Hole 16 – A huge spider mama and her babies guard this hole, and your play toward a possible hole-in-one requires a straight putt down the center of the approach and impeccable timing. The little spider creeping down from the web parked above the hole is quicker than you think.

Mr. Tee’s Victorian Gardens, Hole 11 – Love the gazebo with the hanging potted plants, along with the clean, uphill approach leading toward a simple obstacle – a pair of half-circle brick barriers surrounding the hole. A putt straight up the center of the approach may yield a hole-in-one, but even a slight miss to the right offers a bank shot off the back of the brick barrier.

Mr. Tee’s Shark Island, Hole 15 – The four colorful surfboards as the backdrop give this hole a truly beachy feel. And while the short distance between approach and hole looks like an easy hole-in-one, don’t take it for granted. You first have to putt up a 10 percent incline, which creates a big drop to the green and not always a true bounce directly to the hole. Too much power on the first shot means you’re putting again.

The Sand Trap, Hole 2 – Another hole that looks easy when you step up to the approach, since the hole is centered on the other side of the straightaway. But distance and the little white windmill churning its blades through your path toward a possible hole-in-one create the challenge, and even a seemingly straight shot isn’t a guarantee. When trying to time the opening before a windmill blade closes it off tends to make a golfer drift left a bit.

Sandbar Golf, Hole 9 – Definitely one of the more beautiful holes of any played on the Island, particularly because it has the most realistic version of Barnegat Lighthouse as its backdrop. Beyond that, this hole is a serious challenge, with multiple paths toward a possible hole-in-one – either over a narrow greenway over a stream that opens up to a ramp leading to the green, or by delivering the ball straight into the stream and letting its current send the ball to the green.

Settler's Mill Adventure Golf (falls course), Hole 14 – Looks are deceiving here. When stepping up to the approach, it seems there’s a straight shot to the hole. However, that straight shot has to be angled in to the right a bit, between a pair of brick wall barriers, and then the ball has to go up an ever-so-slight incline right before the hole. The waterfall behind the green offers beauty and even a mild distraction.

Flamingo Golf, Hole 10 – An interesting little hole at the center of the course, you have to shoot up the ramp under a lattice – which doesn’t yield a clear view of the opening you’re shooting for – and into a covered bridge, and that’s not as easy as you may think when stepping up to the approach. However, hit the ball just right and a directional ramp at the back end of the bridge sends your ball straight to the hole.

Hartland Golf, Hole 12 – The wishing well absolutely makes this hole inviting. And when you get to the approach, it’s plainly clear how to get a hole-in-one – you have to deliver the ball into the well’s bucket hanging in the middle of it. The problem is the approach has a fairly steep grade upward, and it’s an immediate uphill shot, and it’s easy to whack the ball too hard or not hit it hard enough.

Island Golf, Hole 5 – Definitely some Island style with the tiki dude in place as the go-between from approach to green. Of course, the challenge for this hole is to first strike the ball up the ramp and into the tiki guy’s mouth, and the margin for success is only about 5 inches wide. Hit the ball with just enough power and within that margin, and a directional ramp leads to the hole-in-one.

Mr. Tee’s Pirate’s Bay, Hole 7 – Given the pirating history of the Island, this hole is simply an appropriately stylish one, complete with a skull atop an overhang three-quarters of the way down the fairway. But don’t think a straight shot to the hole is too easy here – there’s a speed bump in the way, and scoring the hole-in-one requires not only a straight putt, but the right touch to get over the hump.

Mr. Tee’s Shark Island, Hole 19 – You can’t help but smile when approaching this hole, just because it’s not often you see an angry dog sitting atop his doghouse on a golf course. As for playing the hole, the doghouse doesn’t offer a clear view of the hole on the other side of it, so even a straight shot may turn out to have been not-so-straight once your ball rolls down the lengthy fairway.

The Sand Trap, Hole 16 – Another beautiful hole, which ends at the green inside a gazebo with potted hanging plants, but getting to that green and a possible hole-in-one first requires shooting the ball under a small waterfall and around a left-bending ramp. The challenge is that it’s difficult to know exactly where to send the ball onto that ramp so that it gets to a hole that’s not visible from the approach. Still, it can be done.

Sandbar Golf, Hole 18 – Skee-ball and clams ... not much more says “Jersey Shore” than those two things, and they provide the decorative beauty at the end of this course. It’s a nice finishing touch. As for scoring a hole-in-one (and a free game), you have hit the ball just right, with enough power and good direction, to get to the green holes on the Skee-ball board. Cool stuff.

Settler’s Mill Adventure Golf (cave course), Hole 9 – With the water rushing down the fall off to the right of the approach, this hole appears difficult at the outset, mainly because the hole is off to the side of a right bend in the fairway, which is on a downgrade. However, the log in the middle of the fairway provides the target needed to score the hole-in-one – hit the ball with just enough power to get into the log’s opening and the one-putt is a real possibility.

Flamingo Golf, Hole 7 – A nicely laid out hole, it provides multiple challenges when trying to score the hole-in-one. The trick is to deliver the ball up a ramp and into a slight depression on the fairway, which leads to a bunch of holes – one of which leads to a directional shoot that sends the ball toward the hole. Interestingly, the fairway holes are covered by a wooden walkway connecting to a replica of Barnegat Lighthouse.

Mr. Tee’s Shark Island, Hole 4 – At the approach, you’re greeted by a pair of tikis decorating the front of a grass-roofed overhang. And then you have to take the challenge of trying to score a hole-in-one – requiring a shot uphill to the top of a down-sloping fairway, which leads to a short green and the hole smack-dab in the middle of it. Banking the ball off the back board at the top of the ramp slows the ball down a bit, so that it doesn’t have too much speed going down the hill.

The courses, from north to south:

Sandbar Golf, 10th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City

Island Golf, 603 Long Beach Blvd., Surf City

Flamingo Golf, Fifth Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom

The Sand Trap, 23rd Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom

Hartland Golf & Arcade, 28th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom

Mr. Tee’s Shark Island, West 18th Street, North Beach Haven

Settler’s Mill Adventure Golf, Taylor and Bay avenues, Beach Haven

Mr. Tee’s Putt & Play, 101 South Bay Ave., Beach Haven

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