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Putt-Putt Plus: Washington’s Best Mini-Golf Courses

Mini-golf can be big-time fun—and nobody knows the area’s courses like architect Dwight McNeill. Here are his favorite places to channel his inner Phil Mickelson and try for that hole in one.

Mini-golf enthusiast McNeill thinks everyone should play Woody’s Perils once. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

On July 4, the National Building Museum (401 F St., NW; 202-272-2448) unveiled an indoor mini-golf course, open through Labor Day. The 12 holes are tributes to the world of design—one features a labyrinth. It’s $5 a round, $3 with museum admission. There are other fun and offbeat courses in the area, and Dwight McNeill, an architect at Morris-Day (neither he nor his firm participated in the Building Museum project), has played almost every one. He grew up in North Carolina, and his aunt owned a course at Carolina Beach. A few years ago, looking for a nostalgic way to celebrate his birthday, he got back into mini-golf.

Classic Fun
Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway
“This course, built in 1965, is so quirky,” McNeill says. “It’s got a windmill, a Washington Monument, a man-eating Christmas tree—it looks like that anyway.” (For the record, it’s a singing Christmas tree but is broken.) “The course is a bit rundown, but the bones are intact and it plays well. A 19th hole claims to be the longest mini-golf hole in the US—all downhill.” Monday through Saturday before 6, unlimited play for $4.50; evenings, Sundays, and holidays, $6.50 a game. 8445 Old Columbia Rd., Laurel; 301-725-0888.

Made in the Shade
The Magic Putting Place
Not just one old-school course but two. The Windmill Course features, naturally, a windmill; the Magic Castle course has a turreted castle and shady trees that, says McNeill, “make this course, with a busy intersection on two sides and a parking lot on another, feel like an urban oasis.” General admission $4 to $5 depending on day and time. 8902 Mathis Ave., Manassas; 703-257-7888.

Kitschiest Course
Woody’s Perils of the Lost Jungle
The area’s most unusual mini-golf, this course features a gorilla crashing out of a bush, a venom-spitting snake, and monkeys swinging in the trees. “It’s like putt-putt meets Disney,” McNeill says. The line can be long, especially at night (it’s open until 10 in summer), the pace can be slow, and most holes are easy par-twos. Still, McNeill says, “It’s a course you’ve got to do one time at least.” Adults $10, children ages 3 to 12 $9, seniors $9.50. 11801 Leesburg Pike, Herndon; 703-430-8337.

Best Surprise
Upton Hill Regional Park
This county course is one of McNeill’s favorites. “It’s a very playable course, and it’s fun,” says McNeill, who especially loves the waterfalls—when they’re working. “For the most part, it’s well maintained. The most memorable hole is one that’s a long downhill—you can’t see where your ball is going when you putt it. So you’re surprised.” Adults $6, seniors and children ages 12 and under $5. 6060 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-534-3437.

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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    Just to let you know, the water is flowing, the crepe myrtles are blooming, and best of all, there's NEW CARPET at the Upton Hill course in Arlington! SUBLIME!

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