With About a Month Left to the Summer Season, Date Opportunities Aplenty

By DAVID BIGGY | Aug 02, 2017
Courtesy of: Hartland Miniature Golf & Arcade It’s true that a first date at a miniature golf course may lead to marital bliss. But if you really want to wow a potential bride, try making that first date a day-long tour of all eight mini-golf courses on Long Beach Island while you still have some time left to the summer season.

During the past 30 years at Hartland Miniature Golf & Arcade in Ship Bottom, David Hartman has seen plenty of couples on dates – far too many to keep count, in fact. But sometime during the third week of May 2013, he realized just how important a round of mini-golf can be to a couple.

“I got a call from a bride and groom who wanted to come by on their wedding day and get some pictures on the course,” he said. “One of their key memories was their first time here together early on in their courtship, and they wanted to bring their whole wedding party here for pictures. That’s how important Hartland was to them, and I thought it was awesome. To play a part in a couple’s courtship is really neat.”

Of course, when you’re talking about the eight miniature golf courses on Long Beach Island, the number of first dates that occur during a summer may reach well into the hundreds. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if many couples found out a thing or two about each other during that first mini-golf game.

“You probably can find out, pretty quick, some character qualities when you play mini-golf together,” Hartman said. “Sportsmanship, patience, chivalry – half of the first shots end up on the cement wall, and those balls have to be brought out the length of a scorecard. Is the guy going to help the girl with that? But who knows? Maybe some ladies might be offended by that. Or if you snap a club over your knee out of frustration, that may not go over too well. And if the first date is all about the competition you’re having, there may not be a second date.”

Obviously, those first dates aren’t the only dates occurring.

“A lot of couples who are older have been coming here for decades,” Hartman said, “so mini-golf isn’t just for first dates. We see a lot of dads and daughters, moms and sons, sweet old couples who have been married for a really long time. To play a role in a couple’s summer, in whatever way that might be, is really great.”

Without question, playing a round of mini-golf is a far better option for a date than heading out on a kayak in the bay to watch the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s wrecking crew dismantle the old Causeway Bridge. (Please, guys, don’t even try that one for a date with your girlfriend or wife!) But come on. A single-course, mini-golf date is kind of generic. Why not go for something a bit more creative? Like a day-long, miniature-golf-course tour? Sure, it might cost over a hundred bucks, but what a cool way to spend a day. And doing so wouldn’t be difficult.

For starters, begin the tour either in Surf City or Beach Haven and ride the free shuttle north or south on the Boulevard. Along the way, play a round at all the courses – a few of which are near to each other, so you can walk and have some talk time as well – and get a bite to eat at some point.

In addition to Hartland, located at the corner of 28th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, you can have fun (and don’t forget to get a selfie if you carry a cell phone) at these other fantastic courses: Sandbar Golf, 10th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, and Island Golf, Sixth Street and the Boulevard, both in Surf City; Flamingo Golf, Fifth Street and the Boulevard, and The Sand Trap, 23rd Street and the Boulevard, in Ship Bottom; Mr. Tee’s Shark Island, 18 West 18th Street, North Beach Haven; and Mr. Tee’s Victorian Gardens, 101 South Bay Ave., and Settler’s Mill Adventure Golf, Taylor and South Bay avenues, in Beach Haven.

When you’re done playing – probably a solid 10 hours later, at least – get back on the shuttle and head back to your original parking space.

If you really don’t want to spend more than a hundred bucks for a date day, we’ve come up with some other, less-expensive and creative ways to spend time together during the remaining 4½ weeks of the summer season (yep, that’s all that’s left). Maybe you’d want to try a few of these:

National Lighthouse Day Date – It’s coming up very soon – Monday, Aug. 7, in fact – but National Lighthouse Day is a perfect opportunity to visit Barnegat Lighthouse and do a little extra while you’re there. Arrive in the afternoon, visit the interpretive center and learn a few things about the history of Old Barney, then take a short walk out to the beach area next to the lighthouse, where it’s become a trend to utilize the plethora of rocks to write a message of some sort.

At about 6 p.m., get in line at the lighthouse’s door for the free “night” climb – which begins at 7 p.m., but the line grows really fast before climbing begins – and once you’ve trekked the 217 steps up to the top, get that selfie, maybe with your message in the sand below somehow in view, and then head back down to ground level. Finish off the evening by getting aboard the Miss Barnegat Light, located at 18th Street and Bayview Avenue, for its “moonlight” cruise, which costs $12 per person. To get on board, you just show up – no advance tickets required. You will want to arrive at the dock by at least 8 p.m. and the cruise, which will pass the lighthouse (another selfie opportunity), ends at about 10 p.m.

Run a (Dog Day) Race Together – Every year, the High Point Volunteer Fire Co. in Harvey Cedars hosts the Dog Day Road Race as a fundraiser, and this year’s race is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 20. Now, this may not be a first-date opportunity, but it’s absolutely great for couples who have been together for at least a few months, and especially moms/sons and dads/daughters. Yes, it helps if you enjoy running, because this is a 5-mile run through Harvey Cedars on a typically warm and humid day. You’re going to get sweaty, even if you walk the course. But it’s a good time and beneficial to the ongoing effort to fund the fire department and its equipment. The cost is $25 per person if you register by Aug. 18, or $30 per person when signing up during the pre-race registration from 2 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 19. Race-day registration, which begins at 7 a.m., is $35 per person. The firehouse’s siren sends off the runners and walkers at 9:30 a.m., and since you’d be doing the race as a date, finish it together. For more information, visit hpvfc.com.

Clean Up a Beach and Help the Earth – For those who are environmentalists or just enjoy helping the community in some small way, schedule a few hours out of a day and visit any one of the many beaches on Long Beach Island and help clean it up. This can be a first date or a 1,673rd date, and it’s probably a better idea to enlist the help of some other couples for a triple or quadruple date – the more the merrier, and the quicker you can cover more sand as you rid the beach of some trash.

Now, of course, you probably can show up at any beach and start picking up garbage (make sure you have a beach badge for that particular beach, if it’s between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.), but the best way to go about conducting a beach cleanup is to first contact Alliance for a Living Ocean, which keeps a database on beach cleanups and can offer the best advice on what to do and how to do it. According to the ALO website, “A beach cleanup can happen on any beach at anytime. We are more than happy to host your group for a beach cleanup year-round here on LBI. We can supply the necessary tools to make for a meaningful volunteer and educational experience.” Visit livingocean.org for information or contact ALO to schedule a cleanup by email at livingoceanalo@gmail.com or by phone at 609-494-7800.

Create Your Dream Castle – OK, admittedly, this one may not be too much of an original idea, but the beach is always a great place to be, no matter the time of year (except during a hurricane or powerful nor’easter – that’s not recommended at all). But since it is the summer season here on LBI – remember, you only have about another month left – building a sand castle is just one of those cool things to do. Now, for you first-daters, this may be just as simple as doing something together for a few hours. Gather some buckets or other containers you can use to create a simple castle. You can even bring lunch with you (make sure you clean up afterward, please).

But for those couples who have been dating awhile and may even have a long future together, this could be the chance to dream a little. Why not design your sand castle into the shape of a house you might like to have together someday? Yes, it may take some planning on your part – ranch or Cape Cod, front porch or backyard patio, or both, single level or multiple – but this could be a great exercise in exploring each other’s personal tastes and compromising on some things, if necessary. As for actually building that sand castle according to the specs of your desired home, that’s probably going to take a little ingenuity, skill and patience, not to mention a good location on the beach where the tide isn’t going to hinder your operation. If you’ve never built a sand castle before, check out some YouTube videos on best practices and tips from the pros (of course, there are pro sand-castle artists out there!), and get ready to build that dream castle.

Have Fun and Let Us Know

Remember, Long Beach Island and summertime offer plenty of opportunities for enjoyment. But if you happen to make a date of any of the ideas from this list and have a phone, get that selfie, post it to Twitter or Facebook and tag The SandPaper – @TheSandPaperLBI or The SandPaper on Facebook. No, you don’t have to do that, but it’s always cool to know when our readers see something in The SandPaper and share it with the world.

But, whatever you do, just have fun doing it and make some memories. Enjoy the rest of the summer season.

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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