Putt-putt, drink-drink

At Agoraphilia, Glen Whitman wonders why bowling is more popular for dates than mini golf. The obvious answer is that bowling alleys serve alcohol, but that just brings up another question: why don’t mini golf courses have bars? I like his answer:

Drunken players tend to take longer to finish, thereby delaying other customers. In a bowling alley, this effect is very limited – you usually only get ten frames, you only get two shots per frame, and you can only delay people whose games have not yet begun. But in a mini golf course, slow play can affect every player behind you on the course. And while there is allegedly some limitation on the number of swings (6 swings max, I believe), players sometimes flout this rule, and in any case 6 swings can take twice as long as 3 (the usual par).

With most inter-customer externalities, the natural solution is to “tax” the players who create it. This could be accomplished by simply charging more per drink. But if the required tax is especially large – as it might be in this case, given how many other players are affected by any one player’s slowness – then the total price could be higher than most players are willing to pay. And with few enough buyers, it’s just not worthwhile to incur the fixed costs of setting up bars, acquiring liquor licenses, and so on. Boozehounds will just have to wait ’til the nineteenth hole.

I suspect another factor is that bowling alleys have broader appeal. Families can bring kids to bowl while not interacting much with drunken revelers in lanes nearby, whereas on the mini golf course there will be lots of interaction between holes. Bowling alleys can also bring in business on slower nights with league competition, something that I haven’t seen with mini golf. Though given the sudden rise of adult kickball leagues, this could happen.

Anyway, the real point of this post is to mention that by next summer DC hipsters will be able to enjoy their mini golf, drinks, and acute sense of irony all under one roof. That’s when the H Street Country Club is due to open:

According to [developer Joe] Englert, H Street Country Club will be replete with “a lot of wood benches that resemble a locker room” and “a lot of plaid.” The food will be all-American, no-frills “picnic” fare, and the holes will be littered with D.C. memorabilia celebrating go-go greats and bands like Fugazi. “The Positive Force hole is really amazing,” he raves, adding that his eight-year-old daughter has been one of the course’s chief designers.

The article also mentions that city regulations are, unsurprisingly, one obstacle to the venture:

The only question is whether Englert will need a special set of permits to make his mini-golf dreams a reality. For example, says attorney Michael Fonseca, Englert might have to get a mechanical amusement license, which, “in the old days,” regulated video games and pinball machines. In D.C., everything from Pac Man to pool tables warrants a special license, he says.

Fred Moosally, general counsel for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, says there’s no precedent for establishments serving up booze and golf balls. “We don’t have any miniature golf bars,” he says.


2 thoughts on “Putt-putt, drink-drink”

  1. What’s also interesting about the bowling versus golf debate is that mini-golfers are paying for a fixed quantity of items (holes), but not usually a fixed quantity of time. That is to say, one might spend 1 hour or 6 hours playing 18 holes of mini golf, and the cost is the same to the golfer. Mini golf courses have a vested interest in getting you out the door so that other people can play.

    During weekend bowling, many alleys charge by the hour, not by the game. Thus, drinkers at a bowling alley are only inconveniencing themselves economically. If you pay for a whole hour, and only bowl 6 frames, that’s your own damn fault.

    Drinking-and-mini-golfing sounds fun, though . . .

  2. The mini-golf course I usually went to as a kid had a “bar.” Putt-Putt Golf & Games, in Tampa. All they served was beer, but you could get pitchers and all. I don’t think I ever played there any time late enough that the students of the nearby University Of South Florida would have been there partying, but looking back, that was a unique place.

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