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THE GOODS | CYBURBIA

Web Pickings Subpar for Mini-Golfers

May 27, 1997|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I love miniature golf. I am not ashamed.

The tackier and more gimmicky the course, the better as far as I am concerned. Bring on the windmills, castles and laughing mechanical clowns who seem to mock my attempts to be the Tiger Woods of mini-golf.

Most of my friends do not understand, so I went in search of digital friends--the kind you find on the Internet's World Wide Web. After all, one of the Web's best attributes is its ability to seek out virtual communities of people devoted to an endeavor, no matter how obscure.

I came up with hundreds of hits when I entered "miniature golf" into one of the search engines. With very rare exceptions, however, those hits referred to mentions of courses that are a part of recreational parks.

One of those parks happened to be Disney World, where there are two 18-hole courses, both on themes from the animated classic "Fantasia." The "greens fees" are an outrageous $9.

A miniature golf course on the Web more in tune with my somewhat skewed view of the world can be found on the "Roadside America" site, http://www.roadsideamerica.com. The site, based on a book that pinpoints offbeat tourist attractions, includes "Ahlgrim Acres," a mini-golf course in the basement of a funeral home near Chicago. The obstacles include headstones and coffins. The course is open to the public as long as there is not a funeral in progress. I could find only one site on the Web that attempted to offer a critical guide to miniature golf courses. "Castle & Windmill," as the site is called, was created by the Chinn family of Bothell, Wash.

It all started when Raleigh Chinn II was visiting his brother in San Jose. "Raleigh commented that a vacation wouldn't be a vacation without a round of miniature golf," the site says, but his unenlightened brother didn't know anything about the courses in the area.

Right then and there, Raleigh decided to establish a Web site that provided a list of courses in the Western U.S. He would also critique them.

With the help of relatives, Raleigh sought out the best and the mediocre. He gave four flags, his highest rating, to the Scandia Family Fun Center of Suisun City, near San Francisco. He gave only two to Jules Miniature Golf in Clearlake, Calif.

So far, Raleigh has not given out his worst rating--one flag. Perhaps that's because, like me, he believes no miniature golf course could be all bad.

You can help Raleigh. He has not been able to visit the vast majority of mini-golf courses in the West and so encourages others to submit reviews to his site, http://www.halcyon.com/raleighc/mini-golf.

For those who can't stand the wait between visits to a local course, a new CD-ROM has been issued by the Sierra company; "3-D Ultra Mini-Golf" has an appropriately tacky title, but alas, this CD-ROM is not much fun. It's technically accomplished, but the course is uninteresting, and the sound effects and animations are annoying.

Maybe it's not the fault of the creators of this CD-ROM. Maybe miniature golf is something that has to be experienced in real life. I popped the CD-ROM out of the computer and replaced it with a digital atlas. I'm looking for directions to Suisun City.

* Cyburbia's e-mail address is david.colker@latimes.com.

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