Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Miniature golf course still in the swing of things after 60 years

October 30, 2005

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— Hole number 8 at Cool Crest Garden Golf can be tricky.

It's a par 3, which means that an expert miniature golfer would require three strokes to get the ball in the hole.

Dorothy Whitsell is poised and ready with her golf club in hand. She carefully swings the club and hits the ball.

Bam! It slams right into a moving windmill and rolls back to where it began.

Four children standing near the hole break up with laughter.

"Take another turn, it's OK," said 11-year-old Avery Whitsell, Whitsell's grandson.

She smiles and takes another shot. This time she is successful and the ball zooms right on through the windmill.

The electric windmill was built in 1945 by Irvine Patterson, one of the pioneers in miniature golf. It has stood the test of time along with the game.

After losing three miniature golf parks during the Depression, Patterson built his first course in St. Joseph with family savings of $600.

In 1947, his daughter, Jan, and son-in-law, Guy Saxton, decided to start a golf course of their own and bought farmland on the outskirts of town. It became Cool Crest Garden Golf.

The story of how the course developed and has stayed popular after 60 years is as fascinating as the game. So for the past five years, Saxton has worked on putting together the pictures and story for a book, which she unveiled recently for the park's 60th anniversary celebration.

The park is full of visitors of all ages.

A group of 12 children from Country Kids Daycare in Savannah are lined up outside the ticket window, debating over what color of ball they want to use.

Darby Meehon, manager and grandson of Guy Saxton, calls them to attention before they descend on the course. He holds one of the golf clubs they'll use.

"This big rubber part down here," he explained, "it never, ever goes above your knees."

Meanwhile, Whitsell and the children are trying another tricky hole.

"My husband and I have been coming here since we dated, and we've been married 51 years," she said

Auburn Dunlap, age 10, has just hit a hole in one, and now Avery becomes inspired to do the same. He swings, and misses. The second swing takes the ball to the hole.

"A hole in two!" he shouted while jumping in the air.

"This is something he (Irvine Patterson) always dreamed of, a clean place for the family." Saxton said. "For 60 years we've had no alcohol. Some people believe you can't be in business for 60 years with no alcohol."

Judging from the thousands of visitors each year to Cool Crest, some people would be wrong.

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