When you hear the the term “Mini Golf”, you’ll doubtless conjure images of windmills, dinosaurs, brightly-coloured balls and amusement-park-themed structures. Over the years, the game—also commonly referred to as putt-putt—has become synonymous with kids’ parties, cheeky first dates or even the occasional Bucks’ night frivolity…with any truly “serious” golfer generally choosing to give these facilities a wide berth.
But that is all beginning to change.
Over the last few years, the Mini Golf industry has been undergoing a renaissance of sorts. The once low-quality (and often worn-out) fake grass is being replaced by high-quality, true-rolling synthetic turf that actually plays like real golf course grass. Windmills and dinosaurs, meanwhile, are giving way to more strategic (and real-golf-like) obstacles like bunkers, rough, swales and dog-legs.
Indeed, the game is “growing up” and becoming more of a “miniature” version of the actual game of golf. It is thus earning more respect among serious golfers.
One business that has been on the leading edge of this transformation is GreenSpace Management.
Founded by golf industry veteran Peter Vlahandreas (a long-time administrator and former GM of a prominent Melbourne Sandbelt club), GreenSpace Management identified and capitalised on a gap/need in the market, notably attracting young players to the game, while also giving clubs and courses a much-needed boost in potential revenue.
“The Golf Industry has been hearing the same messages for years about time, family and barriers to entry, so I decided to do something about it,” Vlahandreas explains.
Thus was born GreenSpace’s SHANX product, a miniature golf course that is designed to play like a real golf course. Unlike traditional mini-golf, The SHANX course is a professionally-designed, scaled-down version of a full-size golf course, designed to be played with the same rules as golf, while also introducing a new generation of golfers to the game.
“SHANX is a unique golf-based product that breaks these barriers down and immediately changes the demographic and revenue structures of clubs and facilities. It also provides diversified revenue opportunities for clubs/facilities who are struggling to make ends meet through ‘traditional’ revenues streams (like Green Fees and Memberships, etc),” Vlahandreas adds.
With golf currently enjoying a “boom” in numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic, more clubs and courses are intent on attracting “new” golfers to their facilities. An obstacle for many clubs, however, is creating a suitable “pathway” for these beginners to follow.
SHANX solves that problem by providing a family-friendly, fun and easy way to be introduced to the actual game of golf—including how to navigate a hole (i.e. course management, rules, etc)—without all the distractions of a putt-putt facility. Best of all, a round at a SHANX facility can be played relatively quickly, thus eliminating the “time-poor” factor as a barrier of entry.
It also provides a significant point of difference for any club.
The Links Shell Cove, in the NSW Shellharbour region, was the first golf club in Australia to launch a SHANX mini-golf layout, which opened to the public last month. This stunning, 18-hole course has two hole locations on each green, effectively creating two different courses: the “Links” course (for beginners and kids), and the “SHANX” course (to test the best of golfers.)
“The new mini golf facility will provide the community with a unique recreational experience to further enhance the Links reputation as a vibrant community space for friends and families of all ages,” says Cr Marianne Saliba, Mayor of Shellharbour City Council.
Designing and building a professional-quality miniature golf course of this level is no easy feat. Luckily, as “Australia’s only turnkey mini golf course company”, SHANX is designed and built entirely by the GreenSpace team, so quality is maintained throughout every aspect of the process.
“Our obsession to be the best means we push the boundaries in every possible aspect to deliver a truly outstanding product on the ground,” Vlahandreas says. “We want your SHANX mini golf course to succeed as much as you do.”
Partnering with clients allows GreenSpace to help realise each facility’s unique potential and ensure its long-term success. And their dedication to quality and success is valued by their clients.
“SHANX have created a truly unique course for us at the Links Shell Cove which naturally fits into our landscape; like it’s always been there,” says Robby Stephenson, General Manager, Links Shell Cove.
“Our confidence in their ability to deliver an outstanding on the ground result made the decision to be a SHANX-branded facility very easy for us.”
Drawing upon the team’s combined 80 years’ experience within the global golf industry, GreenSpace Management’s services stretch from initial feasibility studies, site selection, design, construction through to operations, management and branding. In addition, SHANX comes with a suite of merchandise and branding collateral to assist clients with revenue uplift opportunities.
“SHANX didn’t just design and build the best mini golf course in the country for us, they also provided us with an enormous suite of pre-open operational assistance to ensure that when we opened the gates, we had everything under control,” Stephenson says.
When given the proper support by decision-makers, a SHANX facility can also represent more than just a simple revenue stream for a course or club.
“Our SHANX mini-golf facility is the latest part of our vision to make the Links and Tavern the community hub for the Shellharbour residents,” Stephenson adds. “I’m proud that, together, the relevant stakeholders and decision-makers here have been committed to attracting 100 percent of the community to this facility, which will result in an endless number of benefits being realised, from wide-ranging community support, increased asset value, healthier residents, increased patronage and an overall stronger community.”
These sorts of benefits are also set to be realised at the soon-to-be-completed SHANX @ Regency Park in South Australia.
“The City of Port Adelaide Enfield is thrilled to be working alongside GreenSpace Management to bring something new and exciting to Regency Park Community Golf Course, that both the golfing community and the local community will love,” says City of Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor, Claire Boan.
It’s clear that the game of Mini Golf is growing up. And with facilities like SHANX leading the way into the future, it would seem like the forward-thinking clubs and courses that embrace these types of pathways and revenue generators —clubs like Links Shell Cove and Regency Park—will be well-positioned to thrive. Indeed, years from now, as the next generation of golfers—the future Greg Normans, Adam Scotts and Jason Days—look back on how they were drawn to golf, it is all but a certainty that many of them will cite facilities like SHANX as the entryway to their success.
“There is nothing like SHANX in the southern hemisphere,” Vlahandreas notes. “We truly love what we have created; it’s the future of mini golf.” For more information, contact GreenSpace Management: www.greenspacemanagement.com.au. m: +61 402 189 819. e: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.shanxminigolf.com.au
(Story originally appeared in Inside Golf)