Putt-Putting to NeverNeverland

"Capt. Day Trips" shares his favorite Texas Mini-Golf hot spots

After gently striking the bright orange ball, it immediately gains a life of its own, ricocheting off the low concrete walls, and becomes airborne as it hits the raised portion of the carpeted putting green, only to land in the grass outside of the narrow confines of the course. At least it didn't roll back to the starting point.

Miniature golf is one game that all ages and skill levels can enjoy. Not to be taken too seriously, it is entertaining without being too competitive. It's an activity that is equally popular on dates as it is for family outings.

This summer, why don't you aim your putter at one of these wee Texas courses?

Peter Pan Mini-Golf The two 18-hole courses features unique and unusual hazards like a wild bunny, a concrete skull, and a dinosaur which have been entertaining Austinites for more than 50 years. The sign out front announces birthdays while rock music serves as background noise to the golfers more interested in scoring with a date than on the scorecard. From the hilltop course, the intersection of Barton Springs and South Lamar seem miles and decades away. Open daily during the summer, 10am-midnight. 1207 Barton Springs Rd., 472-1033.

Putt-Putt Golf & Games The three pro-style 18-hole courses are well-maintained and challenging. The focus here is on the skill of a bank shot and the right spin to the ball. In North Austin for more than 33 years, the familiar Putt-Putt sign that was once on the outskirts of town is now nearly lost in the neon jungle of Burnet Road. Summer: Monday-Thursday, 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday, 10am-midnight, and Sunday, noon-10pm. 6700 Burnet Rd., 454-8644.

Kiddie Acres Amusement Park & Miniature Golf Voted "Best Throwback to a Simpler Time" in the Chronicle's 2001 "Best of Austin," this course has seen better times, but is still challenging. The park's main feature is the rides for the under-10 set. Open Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, noon-7pm, and Friday-Saturday, noon-9pm. 4800 Howard Ln., 255-4130. www.kiddieacres.citysearch.com

The Dugout Pfamily Pfun Center of Pflugerville This single 18-hole course is fun, not to mention picturesque, with a fountain and a waterfall surrounded by a rocky desert motif. The center also has batting cages, an arcade, and a small snack bar. Open Monday-Thursday, 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday, 10am-midnight, and Sunday, noon-10pm. 1006 Old Austin-Hutto Rd., 989-7386.

Putt-Putt Golf & Games With two 18-hole courses, each catering to different skill levels (start on St. Andrew's and work your way up to Augusta), this course is light on the bells & whistles but heavy on the challenges. The center also has a large arcade, Go Karts, and laser tag. Open Sunday-Thursday, 10am-10pm, Friday, 10am-midnight, and Saturday, 10am-midnight. 301 Chisholm Trail, Round Rock, 255-3866.

The Gulch at Granbury When bigger is better and you have to have the World's Largest 18-hole miniature golf course, then this is the place. The course follows a man-made creek with waterfalls and cascading ponds. There also is a large arcade, rides (including bumper cars), and a large picnic area. Admission to the park is free, with each attraction priced individually. Open seven days a week, June-August. Summer hours: 10am-10pm on weekdays, 10am-11pm Friday-Saturday, and noon-10pm on Sunday. 5100 W. U.S. 377, Granbury, 817/579-0003.

Wonderland Located within Amarillo's Thompson Park, this is a full-feature amusement park that grew out of a Kiddie Land from the 1950s. The park has a pretty cool miniature golf course with lots of fun obstacles. Summer: June-Sept. 2, Saturday-Sunday, 1-10pm and weeknights 7-10:30pm. 2601 Dumas Dr., Amarillo, 800/383-4712. www.wonderlandpark.com

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