Friday, July 15, 2016

The Economics of Mini-Golf

I love mini-golf.  Come summertime, getting as many rounds in at as many different courses as possible is high on my to-do list.  My enthusiasm is shared: More than 130 million people of all ages play mini-golf each year, and annual industry revenues are in excess of $1 billion.  In 2012, the US ProMiniGolf Association estimated there to be 5,000 mini-golf courses nationwide.
On a recent trip to the North Shore, which of course included 36 holes of mini-golf, I got to thinking about the business of mini-golf: How much does it cost to develop a course?  Is it even profitable (especially in cold-weather states)?  

Although there is relatively little information available on the start-up costs of a mini-golf course, the website of Miniature Golf Construction Co, LLC, based out of Neenah, Wisconsin, provides in-depth pricing plans ranging anywhere from $115,000 to $450,000 – excluding land, buildings, parking lot, landscaping, and irrigation.  On the low end, you get an 18-hole, professionally designed and constructed course with sidewalks.  On the high end, you get the 18-hole course, plus large and complex water features, elevation changes of up to 15 feet, lighting and electricity, and approximately $100,000 worth of “elaborate theming.”  

According to Harris Miniature Golf Courses Inc., a company that has designed and built more than 800 mini-golf courses worldwide in over 50 years, it turns out that, yes, mini-golf stands out from many other amusement-type attractions, such as rock climbing, go-cart racing, and paintball, in terms of profit margins, return on investment, and overall market appeal.  Mini-golf attracts customers of all ages, has low overhead, with just one or two staff members needed at a time, has low equipment costs (i.e., score cards, pencils, balls, and putters), has a lower liability exposure than most other amusement-type attractions, has high profit margins, and on average, returns an initial investment in about 18 months.  Harris’s website has a helpful calculator tool for estimating annual course revenues.  By way of example, for a course that is open 120 days a year, charges $7.50 per round, with a maximum of 80 rounds per hour (which admittedly seems high, but is supposedly well within reach), and has 25% capacity during the daytime and 50% at nighttime, annual revenues are estimated to be $333,000.  Not bad.

But enough about the business of mini-golf.  What if you just want to get out and play this summer?  Aside from traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Miniature Golf Capital of the World (duly named for the 50 courses that line a 20-mile stretch of highway), here are some of my local favorites: 

  • The The Links at Dred Scott, Bloomington – This is an immaculately maintained, beautifully landscaped course full of water features and varying elevations.  
  • Centennial Lakes, Edina – The bent-grass putting greens – similar in feel to an actual golf course – and long holes are a true challenge, but the scenery is great.  There’s no lighted play for evenings, though, so you have to wrap up by sunset.
  • Goony Golf, Spring Lake Park – With three 18-hole courses, Goony Golf is undoubtedly the best value.  Two of the three courses are filled with, well, goony characters, and the third is a challenging course with elevation changes and water hazards sure to frustrate even the most experienced of players.
  • Can Can Wonderland, St. Paul – Scheduled to open later this summer, Can Can Wonderland will be an 18-hole, artist-designed indoor mini-golf course featuring other attractions and amusements.  
And if you are willing to leave the borders of Minnesota, some of my very favorite courses are in Wisconsin Dells and Door County, Wisconsin.  Happy mini-golfing!


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  3. we are in the early phases of building a WW2 themed mni golf course and a ww2 museum in South part of Austin, TX good read, thanks total project with land is about $1.35M