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Putt Putt

Putt Putt
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
Putt Putt
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

We met family last week at The Putt Shack, an upscale, tech- infused, indoor mini golf venue in Atlanta. “I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun,” I said, as we walked from the Velvet Taco restaurant to the indoor putt putt place. “They’ve taken the old game of putt putt — the one we all loved when we were kids — and added food, flashy lights, and alcohol. They’ve modernized an old time favorite.”

A twenty-something guy at the counter handed each of us a putter, a ball, and gave us the basics of the game.

“I gave each of you a ball,” he said, “Those balls have microchips in them that will track your putts for each hole, so there’s no need to keep score. That’s done for you. Read the instructions at the front of each hole and make a plan. Some holes have ‘gimmicks’ and shortcuts, while others have bonus shots and hazards [that will take points away from you]. Unlike the old putt putt, you want a high score, and your score isn’t simply based on the number of putts. You’ll understand after you play a few holes.”

And with that, my husband stepped up to the first hole and put his ball in the black tee circle. Immediately, a big screen monitor in front of us flashed on and said, “Good luck, Gene! Put it in the hole.”

Gene is a golfer, so I thought he’d have an advantage, but he didn’t. He beat us on the first hole, but when we got to the second hole, we encountered a trivia hole. There were two tunnels: one tunnel had the word “True” over it, and the other tunnel had the word “False” over it. The big screen monitor flashed and asked Gene a trivia question: True or false? Abraham Lincoln was a licensed bartender.

We conferred. None of us had ever heard that Honest Abe was a bartender, so Gene putted his ball through the “False” tunnel. Well, guess what? It’s true, and so Gene was penalized for missing the trivia question, even though he sunk the shot in two putts. He was irritated, to put it mildly!

On other holes, we putted around moving objects and avoided hazard holes. We putted up ramps and tried fancy ricochet shots. At the end of 18 holes, we were all laughing and remembering the old putt putt golf courses of our childhood.

“Remember playing putt putt in Gatlinburg in the summers?” my husband asked his sister.

As for me, I remembered the colorful mini golf course on the south side of Macon. My parents took us there a few times after dark. I remember the clink of the colored ball as it connected with the putter; the themepark feel of the course; the mazes of some holes; the moving windmill of another; and the loop-de-loops that tested the steady-handedness of each of us.

The Putt Shack’s modernized game whispers to the child within us and invites us to come out and play again and revisit those easy summers of long ago, when we didn’t have a care in the world. It’s still a game that democratizes skill — where the young can truly compete with their elders — but most of all, it’s a symbol of life’s playful journey, with its highs and lows. Balls rolling around everywhere, and some even bouncing off the course. Every putt is a stroke of hope and progress. But in the end, the only way we can finish the game is together.

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