According to Mark Twain, golf serves little more than to spoil a good walk. Perhaps this cantankerous wit would have felt differently had he lived a century later and played the miniature variety of this sport, which requires little walking and even less athleticism. Is there any better way to pass a late-summer afternoon?
Ah, but which course? There are no fewer than six within 15 miles of downtown Seattle. Herewith we offer Strokes, Weakest Link, and Rating for each: 1 ball = kids' stuff; 2 balls = big boy fun; 3 balls = I am Tiger Woods).
Fun Forest Amusement Park (Seattle Center, 728-1585). Centrally located, the Fun Forest allows you to putt your way through assorted regional landmarks. Strokes: We love hole No. 3, where a building labeled as Microsoft mysteriously blocks your ball with a glass door. Weakest Link: Only nine holes, and the indoor location detracts from sunny-day usage. Rating: 1 ball.
Interbay Golf Center (2501 15th W., 285-2200). Part of the extensive Interbay Golf Complex just south of Ballard, this course offers 18 scenic and challenging holes, but little in the way of the allimportant kitsch. Strokes: "Take an extra golf ball in case you get rowdy and hit one into the water," laughed the course's friendly staff. Weakest Link: Or maybe those words were a warning, as the various water obstacles may not have been cleaned since GW took office. Rating: 2 balls.
Skyway Park Bowl (11819 Renton Ave. S., Renton, 772-1220). As if to confirm our dearest images of Renton, Skyway mixes bowling, pinball, casino games, and minigolf in a 24-hour indoor fun center. Strokes: The low ceilings and fluorescent lighting are a perfect match for the retro-tiki, buried-treasure theme of this course. Weakest Link: The joke gets a little tedious by the back nine. Rating: 2 balls.
Rainbow Run Putting Course (10402 Willows Rd. N.E., Redmond, 425-882-1200). What camp is to Renton, cash is to Redmond. Few dollars were apparently spared in building this monstrosity. Strokes: Hole No. 5 (Cavern Falls) rates as a full-scale multimedia experience, as the noise of a growling bear blares from hidden speakers. Elsewhere, discreet ground-level fans simulate adverse wind conditions. Weakest Link: Is this sprawling expanse really what the Founding Fathers intended when they created minigolf? Rating: 3 balls.
Bullwinkle's Family Food & Fun (7300 Fun Center Way, Tukwila, 425-228-7300). As you can guess from its address, this squeaky-clean facility provides everything from go-carts to batting cages to dining, plus two 18-hole minigolf courses. Strokes: Here, you'll find the area's best selection of random multilevel structures for you to blast your shot into and then watch as the ball trickles toward the hole from some remote chute. Weakest Link: Visitors must negotiate an automated machine to receive a ball—how many summer jobs did they eliminate by inventing this device? Rating: 3 balls.
Funtasia Family Fun Park (7212 220th St. S.W., Edmonds, 425-774-4263). Funtasia sports almost as many distractions as Bullwinkle's, except that all of them were new about 25 years ago. Strokes: Great variety, as the front nine holes sit indoors and boast an Aztec theme, while you venture outside for the pirate scenario of the back nine. Weakest Link: Even for the athletically ungifted, Funtasia offers few challenges. Rating: 1 ball.