There exists a sport that has almost no potential for failure, occupies a decent amount of time and successful participants can typically entertain a cool one while they play; it is miniature golf. I used to play miniature golf any chance I could because, I too, enjoy the occasional cold one and even though I am horrible on a standard golf course, I putt like thunder in a blizzard.
I’ve heard there once existed a miniature golf course at the Evergreen Eating Emporium when it was called the T-N-T. Crookston had a little course behind the Dairy Queen but I believe that no longer exists. Thief River Falls, Minnesota has long needed a golf course for those of us who do not wish to appear in the newspaper, with our golf buddies watching intently from the background, as we putt for par. We now have it; it is called the “Falls Stay and Play” miniature golf course adjacent to the Petro Pumper truck stop.
Falls Stay and Play co-joins Petro Pumper with its neighboring campground. Pat and Nancy Gerszewski (I never know how to spell that name so I just keep adding consonants until it looks right) built Petro Pumper in 1994 and have continued to re-build right up through the current golf course. Lisa and I stopped by to view the course last Sunday and the Gerszewski’s were hosting family and friends prior to the grand opening. Pat invited us to play but we were just there to look-and there is much at which to look.
I would call Falls Stay and Play a, “Wisconsin Dells” type of miniature course. It has many different levels and four separate water features. In an homage to its hometown, which is where the Red Lake river and Thief River join, the course has two waterways which which become an integral part of the course. It is so peaceful and lovely that your “mad puttin’ skills” may be eclipsed by the simple beauty of water and the natural urge for humans to ascend and descend. Hole number six even plays into the river as the ball floats downstream to a grate which catches the ball and puts it back into play. The course favorite is the figure eight/over and under which I imagine is a test for the most serious miniature golfer (a contradiction in terms.)
Pat Gerszewski told me construction began with some dirt work in the Fall of 2010. Ernest construction began June 1st and consisted of approximately 180 yards of concrete and eight tractor-trailer loads of paver and retaining wall block. A consultant from Wyoming was hired to construct each hole and set elevations, after which it was mostly local back labor and steel which completed the construction. I asked Pat how many man-hours were invested in this project which I gather was similar to asking how many stars are in the sky (yeah-a lot.) Centuries from now, archaeologists will find the ruins of this course and wonder how we primitive humans could have built such a mammoth structure-they’ll probably suggest we were aided by beings from another planet.
Falls Stay and Play reminds of those great, eye-catching, signs in front of truck stops-which works out because it is right beside a truck stop. It started when Pat wanted a simple water feature to catch the attention of travelers and then grew exponentially from that point. It also serves to make the campground into more of a destination instead of just somewhere to sleep. Gerszewski has plans for even more features which may include a golf-cart track with quiet, electric cars so campers can enjoy the serene surroundings.
The course is handicapped accessible and has senior discounts. All are welcome and at only $7 for adults and $5 for kids, all can afford it-and all are welcome. Here is a phone number if you need it, 218-681-3546.