October 20, 2021

Area mini golf courses putting along

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Matthew Lester, right, helps Xander Patass putt a golf ball Saturday at Shipwreck Amusement Center in Cortlandville. Mini golf courses are rebounding after losing most of their prime customer time to the coronavirus.

Groups of people filled the outdoor mini-golf course Saturday at Shipwreck Amusement Center in Cortlandville.

In one of them, Matthew Lester of Buffalo helped his girlfriend’s son, Xander Patass, gently swing a putter to hit a ball down the synthetic green.

“We’re having a great time,” Lester said. “The weather is really nice. It was nice to get Central New York where it opens up a little bit more.”

A usual summertime activity, mini-golf courses in the county felt the harsh economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic in having to close when their season was about to get started in the spring.

For Barbara Leach, the co-owner of Shipwreck Amusement Center with her husband, Greg Leach, that meant about three months from the middle of March to the middle of June.

“It was tough because we still had a mortgage to pay but everybody was doing it, so we understood,” she said.

When Shipwreck got the OK to open under Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plans, the center phased in its reopenings of its attractions. First, the ice cream stand and indoor golf course opened and then the outside golf course.

Protocols — including spacing groups one hole apart from each other and frequent sanitization of putters and balls — have been implemented.

But since its reopening, people have been coming, Barbara Leach said.

“I can’t say it’s as good as other years, yet,” she said. “The money is important but it’s more the fact of seeing the joy and happiness of people getting out again and doing something.”

She has been surprised with the people coming to play mini-golf, including women playing to celebrate bridal showers and couples from around the state coming for their anniversaries.

“I think people just want something different,” she said.

Patricia Duff, owner of Cincinnatus’s Duff’s Dairy Treats and its adjoining mini-golf course, said the course has picked up traction following its closure, also in March, as people have wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the courses in Cortlandville.

“People actually like this more because we’re out in the country,” she said.

While people were upset it couldn’t open earlier than Phase 4, Duff said the course could safely accommodate about two groups at once, depending on their size.

“It’s a little bit of normal life with people being able to spend time with their family,” she said.

“It’s good fun,” said Lester Skinner of McDonough, who was golfing with his 8-year-old daughter, Laila, at Shipwreck. “It’s nice to get out and do something.”

Skinner said he had been to Shipwreck Amusement Center before, but only for the indoor mini-golf course before Saturday. With that, he said he was enjoying the outdoor course.

He also liked that mini-golf courses were open even though few other entertainment venues are.

“It’s cool because it gives the kids something to do,” he said. “They can still go out and have fun and it’s the same with adults. It’s nice because you can keep your distance, but enjoy yourself.”