Lots Of Discoveries Putting Around

The author just missed a hole-in-one on No. 14. Jayna E. McClaran photos

The author just missed a hole-in-one on No. 14. Jayna E. McClaran photos

I don’t know what took me so long.

I’ve seen this attraction evolve from its infancy, passing by it for years but never thinking it was meant for me to enter its grounds. This was for visitors, I thought, some crackpot business idea or just a county zoning condition that needed to be met for a development project.

But Kauai Mini Golf course recently started calling to me as it appears to have endured Kauai’s challenging business, community and political environment. Its entry now offers a welcoming sense of arrival, and its established flora and fauna now rustle confidently in Kilauea’s breezes. It’s time we check it out with my visiting college-aged daughter. The mature natural beauty alone is alluring enough, but will it also meet the challenge of being fun and exciting?

Golf putters and fluorescent balls in hand, we enter the historical-cultural-botanical 18-hole course. My daughter whisks past the rules sign, excited to begin the game and start snapping away for her own pictorial documentary. I make a gallant effort to read the rules though not too seriously, assuming that we will figure out the game along the way…especially the parts about water traps and balls going out of bounds.

The first hole, on cue, provides signage that welcomes the visitor to Kauai’s history, something I probably learned at Kapaa High School but never cared about — because what did it have to do with my exciting, brilliant career that is to follow after leaving this godforsaken rock? Here again, I skim through the verbiage, too anxious to get the ball rolling.

A couple holes ahead of us, there is only one group, albeit a large one: four adults, a young girl and a perhaps a baby in a stroller. At some point, it could cause a time lag between holes. I focus on the putter, the ball and the hole while utilizing some skills like bending my knees and keeping my arms stiff. Something like that. After a few unsuccessful putts, though, I just loosen up, take a guess and hit the ball in the general direction of the hole.

‘Pregnant sugarcane’ is one of many botanical surprises at the course

‘Pregnant sugarcane’ is one of many botanical surprises at the course

After a few crazy volleying sessions with rock obstacles and tunnels, we goofballs are laughing hysterically.

And as the greens’ tricky hills and dales give our balls a mind of their own, we find ourselves oohing, ahhng and yaying. Then unexpectedly, a ball falls into a water trap. Uh oh, what are we supposed to do now? It’s flowing downstream! Wasn’t there something about water traps on the sign? We frantically search for the net and finally retrieve the ball. Much later, we also realize that we weren’t taking points off for going out of bounds or water traps so now our scoring is flawed. Oh, well, looks like we just made up our own rules.

Soon we find ourselves right on the tail of the group in front of us. But thankfully, it gives us a chance to slow down, digest more of the signage explaining Hawaiian culture and history, visually meditate on the small zen gardens, smell the white ginger and tiare gardenia in full bloom, and notice the unusual red hibiscus, the odd-looking bulbous stalk of red sugar cane and the tiny-leafed monastery bamboo, among the array of native, indigenous and endemic plants, to be all inclusive, though I admit I still pain over mastering their differences.

It is only at the 18th hole where there is an actual wait of all of two minutes, and we soon finish off the course within an hour. Food and refreshments await at the snack bar, boutique selling unique botanical and historical accessories offers souvenirs.

How delightfully conspired of an experience: historical, cultural, natural, beautiful, fun and exciting! Instead of just passing by this attraction again, I’m glad I finally stopped by to receive the adventure that had been awaiting.