Whitemarsh Valley’s ballroom transforms into tropical mini golf course
Nothing can stop the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club membership from getting its (miniature) golf fix.
While the snow has been melting outside its windows, Whitemarsh’s ballroom has been warming golf games inside. The club said “Aloha!” to an indoor miniature golf course this offseason, taking advantage of the large, idle space.
The masterminds behind the ingenious indoor track: Facilities Manager Kevin Kilgore and Executive Chef Drew Smalbach.
“First off, Kevin dreamed the design up and constructed the entire thing himself. Chef Drew had the vision for decorating and had the vision for the theme and decorations. It was an amazing collaborative effort between them,” said Head Golf Professional David Pagett. “The ballroom was obviously not being used much due to COVID, so we decided to run with the idea while the weather was still warming up.”
It’s fair to say this isn’t your ordinary mini golf course. Instead, it’s more of a vacation. The tropical theme of “Luau Mini Golf” was added to help out with winter blues. Island-centric features include large Aztec statues, faux palm trees and a tropical bird pool. Add that to your classic bank shots and ramp adventures, and you’ve got quite the mini golf experience.
“We thought the tropical theme seemed to be the best association with warm weather, and we wanted to give the membership the sense they were not inside the ballroom. We wanted to give them a sense of travel, adventure and discovery, all during a time many didn’t feel comfortable traveling due to COVID-19. So, we brought the tropics to them to give members that ‘get away’ feel,” said Smalbach.
Opening Day was Feb. 20, and the last day to traverse the temporary track is March 21. Tee sheets fill up quickly due to mandatary reservations (which are hosted on ForeTees), allowing for social distancing. The club says it also offers meals before or after rounds, which has made the experience even more immersive.
“It’s been nice seeing families, with or without their kids, coming out to the club, getting lunch or dinner and then playing a quick 18 holes,” said Pagett, 42, of Oreland, Pa.
The hand-built course has been a test for members of all ages and skill levels. Each hole offers a completely unique layout – and tropical design.
“The course itself is a mix of putt-putt and bumper pool. It is certainly beyond outrageous. But it also features true putts that you would see out on our golf course,” said Smalbach, 46, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa. “We’re very proud of [the finished product.] Our team is incredible, and we will only get stronger.”
Although this week marks the last few days of the course’s temporary existence, plans are already being penciled in for next offseason. Where will Whitemarsh Valley members mini golf — or ballroom travel — next?
“The cool thing is, we’ll hopefully be able to build on this next year,“ said Pagett. “The way the course was deigned, we will be able to switch up the hole designs and things like that, so it will be fresh. We think the membership really enjoyed it, and the teamwork Kevin, Drew and the rest of the club showed to get it done was great.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.