The Isle of Wight is well equipped with minigolf courses (see our children's days out guide for a list). If I was more entrepreneurial I'd organise a tour so that middle-aged men could stay in posh hotels, wear Pringle jumpers and then see who was best at hitting a pink golf ball up a ramp. ITV4 might even televise it.
We recently tried out two of the Island's courses at Rylstone Gardens and Shanklin Seafront. To add to the challenge I decided to carry a baby in a sling whilst I played. I've never seen pro golfers do this but it does create an excellent excuse if you don't win.
First up was Rylstone Gardens which has proper Isle of Wight cutesy charm. I'd stick it in that category of those old fashioned Isle of Wight attractions which appear to be a hobby which got out of hand (there's a random collection of chimney pots at Blackgang Chine which also has this feeling about it).
The 18 holes at Rylstone Gardens resemble the kind of thing my grandad used to build in his shed for the amusement of his grandchildren (and his own amusement I'm sure). He was a dentist and I once asked where a piece of his antique dentistry equipment had gone. He pointed to a wooden dolls house he was building and told me he had needed the wood.
At Rylstone Gardens, bits of drainpipe have been repurposed for golfing amusement, signs are carefully handwritten. The whole thing feels wonderfully homemade and it's well maintained with lovingly grown flowers and vegetables adding to the feeling that you have wandered into someone's back garden.
It's pretty cheap too, with a family of four costing £10 when we visited. There's also a cafe for non golfers who prefer pudding to putting.
For the record, Mrs Guru won by one point thanks to an appalling 11 shot final hole on my part. Daughter one won in the under 18s category.
A couple of days later we were on a gloomy Shanklin Seafront trying out the new Jurassic Bay minigolf.
This one is very much at the other end of the minigolf market with an impressive course which has clearly cost thousands to put together. There are Blackgang Chine-style fibreglass dinosaurs, roaring noises and a green pond in the middle. It's a big visual upgrade from the course which was previously on the site.
Of course you pay a premium for the location and the roaring dinosaurs with an adult ticket costing £6.50 when we visited - almost twice as much as Rylstone Gardens.
Personally I like minigolf holes which involve tricky curves, ramps and tunnels. Some of the holes were a bit simple for my liking but they went down well with the four year old and the holes certainly got more interesting as we went along. The one with a water feature was a nice touch along with the one which looked like a section of a Nascar racetrack.
On this occasion I was victorious over Mrs Guru, though I suspect she may have let me have this one for the sake of a pleasant journey home. She was carrying two bags and a scorecard and whilst I could have offered to help, I wasn't sure my ego could take another defeat.
Daughter one was once again victorious as the only competitor in the under 18s category, thanks largely to her croquet style of putting and occasional requests to move the ball closer to the hole.
So which did we prefer? On balance I'd say Jurassic Bay, just because of all the small details and because like most manboys, I love dinosaurs. For value for money though I'd certainly say Rylstone Gardens is worth a go. If you time it right you can listen to a brass band tooting away on a Sunday afternoon whilst you putt in the sunshine.
2020 update: After writing this blog I discovered that the golf course at Rylstone Gardens previously lived elsewhere on the Isle of Wight and features in the film That'll Be The Day starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. See our tour of Isle of Wight TV and Film locations for more info.
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