When it was determined that we’d be doing a regional golf-themed issue in the beginning of May, Tim and I had dreams of cruising from course to expertly groomed course, behind the wheel of a golf cart with clubs and coolers in tow.
As it turns out, the company actually wanted us to get some work done and therefore wasn’t too keen on writing us a blank check to go play 18 at every course within an hour of here.
But, as always, we found a loophole – mini golf.
As its name implies, mini golf is just a miniature version of real golf – mini clubs, mini courses and, most importantly, mini prices. This is the part the company liked the most.
Oddly enough, Concord, which is home to two full-size golf courses, features a whopping zero mini-golf courses – not even an indoor rig at Steeplegate Mall. Luckily, most of the surrounding towns have plenty to offer for the putters-only crowd.
The first step was determining where to play. We tried the course at Legends Golf in Hooksett when we did our Field Trip issue to that town, so that one was off the list. Laconia has a couple courses, but that seemed like an excessive drive for a round of Insider mini golf. Chuckster’s in Chichester is home to “the world’s longest mini golf hole” and is only a few minutes from our office, but we went there a few years ago. Finally we decided we would check out the latest installation of Chuckster’s, this one in Hooksett.
The Hooksett location, not even a year old, is a departure from the Chichester one in that this one is mini golf only. There is no batting cage, no climbing wall, no go karts and no aerial adventure. Chuckster’s Hooksett is for those who are extremely serious about top-notch mini golf. And, not to be outdone by its older siblings (there’s also a Chuckster’s in Vestal, N.Y., wherever that is), the Hooksett location also boasts a world’s longest hole – tied with the Chichester and Vestal locations, of course, at 201 feet from tee to hole.
We knew that the combination of it being a pretty new course and having not only the world’s longest hole, but also the world’s shortest, hardest and easiest holes, would make this the perfect arena for our Insider Challenge.
Chuckster’s Hooksett has two separate 18-hole courses with separate admission fees, though a discount is available if you want to play both courses ($9.50 for either course by itself or $16 to play both). The Fire Tower Course is the one that features the 201-footer, a hole that requires climbing the stairs of a mock fire tower (don’t take the “Down Only” staircase like Tim tried to). The other course, the Cave Course, stays on the ground the whole time and is ADA-compliant (the Fire Tower Course is not). Naturally, we chose the Fire Tower Course for its incredibly long 13th hole.
We started by warming up on some of the novelty holes that aren’t part of either course – the holes Chuckster’s claims are the world’s shortest, easiest and hardest. While we’re skeptical that Chuckster’s actually checked with every course in the world, we played along and tried them out.
The shortest hole wasn’t all that short for something that claims to be a world record (even if only in jest) – probably about 3 feet of straight, level green. The easiest hole was the same thing only with a cavity surrounding the hole, making it nearly impossible not to sink the putt. The hardest hole was definitely tough – there’s a stone perimeter surrounding the hole, requiring a ridiculous bounce off the rounded back wall to even have a shot at going in. I tried to chip the ball over the wall, but I ended up launching it about 20 feet down the course and into some landscaping.
Once that was out of the way, it was on to the real course – and the Insider Challenge.
Things got off to a rather unremarkable start – Tim parred the first hole while I bogeyed on the first. On the second, I had a putt that went from a higher platform to a lower, with the ball just inches from the wall. I declared that if I sank the putt it would have been the shot of the day – so naturally I shanked it but still saved par.
On the fifth, things started to get interesting. I placed a soft putt down the right side of the green, following the break perfectly. The ball hugged the corners of the course without ever making contact, then got a good bounce at a 90-degree opening leading downhill to the hole. Sure enough, it swirled in for the day’s first hole in one. Tim countered with a bogey on this par-3 hole, putting me out front with a 3-stroke lead through five.
That’s when things started to change.
Two holes later I took my first of many water hazard penalties after a tough ricochet off a side wall led my ball into the fountain. I took a double bogey on the seventh while Tim merely bogeyed it.
Three holes later, I was reaching for the fishing net again – which, thankfully, there are plenty of at this course. This is where the game really swung. After taking my penalty for going in the water again, I ended up with a bogey 5 on hole 10 while Tim sunk a birdie – this was a rare par 4.
Holes 11 and 12 were each parred by both of us, but then it was on to the main attraction – the world’s longest mini golf hole.
Quick aside – according to Chuckster’s website, there have been several courses that have tried to lay claim to the title of “world’s longest mini golf hole,” but these places have created holes so long that it’s physically impossible to get a hole in one, making it more of a gimmick than anything else. Some places have long holes that aren’t part of the actual course, and one is even a par 14. At the Chuckster’s locations, it’s supposedly possible to hit a hole in one at all of their “world’s longest” holes, so this is supposed to be the legit record-holder.
The 13th hole begins atop a fire tower, with about a 10-foot straight putt (much longer than we expected) leading to a hole that drops down about 20 feet to a ramp, starting the ball on its long journey to the hole hundreds of feet away. Tim went first, needing two shots to get out of the fire tower – so much for the hole in one. Once it went down, we ran to the edge of the tower to follow the ball. It rolled about 15 feet before hitting a center divider, ultimately getting pinned against it. My shot was pretty much the same – two strokes to get out of the tower, then got stuck against the center divider.
Tim’s next shot got him down the long, windy fairway and within a couple feet of the hole. He would tap in for bogey while I needed two putts for a double. By the way – for being the world’s longest mini golf hole, par 3 is pretty ambitious, especially considering this course does feature a par-4 hole.
From here, it was all over for me. Of the next five holes, I carded a bogey or worse on four of them, including two doubles. Once again, I was spending more time in the water than Michael Phelps, and without any hardware to show for it. Meanwhile, Tim played an impressively clean game, with no penalties of any kind.
At the end of the day, Tim shot a 52 (7 over par) while I carded a 57 (12 over). A whiner would say it all came down to those water hazards, but I’m secure enough to admit that I was just outplayed by a better player on this day.
Perhaps a rematch is in the cards?