4999 Gulf Blvd
St. Petersburg Beach, FL 33706
$5.00 per game
Founded in 1967, Polynesian Putter is a classic 18-hole course located in St. Pete Beach. The self proclaimed “Home of the Tiki” can be found attached to the friendly-staffed Sea Palms Hotel, where the massive monolithic deity confronts all that come to visit the tropical garden course. Just steps from St. Pete Beach, this is a perfect old-Florida vacation activity. Though we’re not certain of the provenance of these particular figures, the snake and moai statues are recurring themes in Lee Koplin’s Goofy Golf chain, the course that shaped American mini-golf from the 1950s until the 1970s.
While Polynesian Putter’s course is fairly basic in terms of its overall design, it is affordable and clean with a moderate challenge factor. The cleanliness of the course and its overall condition were the first things we noticed when we visited. All of the holes, with the exception of hole 8 had obviously been re-carpeted and bordered with new masonry. Hole 8 looks like it belongs at Grand Prix, or a third-world country, but since it was the only one in such condition, it did not affect our overall rating of the course. In fact, it was a nice counterpoint to show what condition the facility could have been in.
The obstacles were commonplace and occasionally cute: the typical humps and rocks were sometimes augmented with bird baths, garden bunnies, and owl statues. All of the E-ticket statuary faces the street, of course, to draw in potential fun-seekers – a snarling tiger, crumbling man-eating snake, and Easter Island moai. For the most part, the themed statues do not contribute to or affect game play, though Hole 4 requires you to shoot through the giant “stone” head which is quite a challenge at night.
The game play was neither spectacular nor underwhelming. Polynesian Putter has no fancy tricks up its sleeve; what you see is what you get at this establishment, and though rather typical, it’s a moderately challenging course. We were puzzled by hole 6, the mysterious two-hole snake green. We didn’t really know what was going on with that, but if you like to Choose Your Own Adventure, this hole will be your favorite. There are two difficult steep hills where you are certain to either underestimate or overcompensate on your swing. Overall, however, we averaged several strokes over par, which is par for us.
If you have no idea how to play mini-golf, there are convenient rules printed on the score cards and where you pick up your putter. Watch out for the mosquito-breeding cesspool at the back of the course – spend your time goofing off at the front of the property and run through the back half quickly to avoid being called dinner. Playing during the day might make you more focused on the shabby appearance of the scenery, but at night call it a vintage patina that can’t be beat.