In winter, the Stephen C. West Ice Arena’s outdoor rink in Breckenridge is the place to go for pirouettes, figure eights and triple axels. But when that summer sun shines, the ice melts away and is replaced by a carpet of green.
This summer marks the first year of miniature golf at the arena. Designed and constructed by the Breckenridge Recreation Department, the Putt & Play Junction features 18 holes, each with its own design, theme and hazards.
“We just decided this could be something different,” said guest service coordinator Pete LaGrange.
LaGrange and his colleagues teamed up with the Breckenridge Historical Alliance to designate themes for each hole. The front nine, titled “The Tracks,” show off the impact of railroading in the High Country. The back nine, appropriately called “The Kingdom,” represent the Breckenridge of the past, during its Wild West and mining heydays. Placards describing historical significance mark every stop, providing golfers a mini history lesson with each putt.
The following golf guide provides tips for mini-golf enthusiasts and inside information on the Putt & Play Junction course.
The person behind the club
This is a great course for mini-golf rookies looking to get their first few games under their belts. More advanced mini golfers may sail through several of the holes but will certainly find a few challenges and may want to take the opportunity to brush up on their geometry skills.
“We’re definitely trying to appeal to everyone,” said LaGrange, adding that golfers of all ages are welcome.
Frustrated golfers can take a break from the links to bounce their cares away on either of the course’s two inflatable bounce houses nearby. Younger children may wish to spend their entire time in the bounce houses, refining their gymnastic skills while their older counterparts work on their short game.
On the green
Be sure to stretch a little before the game. Nothing ruins an outing faster than a strained hamstring or a pulled bicep.
Take a few seconds to get to know your putter. Unlike regular golf, mini-golfers don’t need to decide which club to grab at each hole; rather, they need to use the putter to maximum advantage.
The first hole starts golfers off easy, with just one narrow kink between a determined golfer and a hole-in-one. Hole No. 2, named for Baker Tank — the water dispensary tank on Boreas Pass — requires at least two strokes before sinking the ball. A replica of the tank straddles the green, providing a visual challenge.
Frustrated? Hold out for No. 7, which LaGrange figures to be one of the easiest of the course, providing a straight shot through a backdrop of the Breckenridge Train Depot.
The front nine train history theme ends with hole No. 9, representing Engine 9, a late-19th-century steam engine. Just be careful not to put too much steam behind your putt and end the first nine on a good note.
Don’t let the fluctuating narrowness of No. 10 affect your concentration as you attempt a fairly straight shot, through a painted replica of the 1909 Breckenridge schoolhouse, to the cup. Most golfers can pull of an A+ on this shot.
Trouble hits you next as you approach the dreaded No. 11, representing the Tiger Assay Office at Lomax Placer Gulch. Golfers must roll the ball up a rounded metal sheet and into a gutter on a shelf, or attempt a pitch shot and hope the ball gains enough lift to reach the gutter. The “D” in “Pure Gold” on the sign is apparently the sweet spot.
While easily the most difficult, No. 11 is a high risk-reward hole, LaGrange said. “If you run it perfectly, it gives you a hole in one.”
With No. 11 behind you, feel free to relax for the rest of the back nine and enjoy the scenery. Shield your eyes from the glitter of Tom’s Baby, a nod to the 13-pound piece of crystalline gold found in 1887. Take a moment to appreciate the impressive replica of the Summit County Courthouse on No. 17.
Finally, don’t worry about spooking the wildlife on the last hole, just do your best to aim between the moose hooves and avoid the droppings — who said mini golf wasn’t hazardous?
In the end, it’s all about the entire experience — getting out on the green, learning about Breckenridge history and spending quality time with friends and family. And if mini golf puts you in the mood for more expansive play, Summit County has plenty of options.