Monday, September 04, 2017

Tiki tour: Tiki Putt

So my vacation this year took me to the Pacific Northwest, where I explored some of the many tiki-themed offerings that region of the country holds. I've already shared my experience with Portland's superb Hale Pele and Seattle's somewhat disappointing Very Taki Tiki Bar. Now I've got something you won't believe. Heck, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself: The Tiki Putt.

I know tiki's undergoing a major revival around the country, but even so, the fact that tiki putt-putt exists in the modern era is something of a mind-blower. And it's black light tiki putt-putt, which ups the wow factor by 37 percent, or something. I mean, they had tiki bowling alleys back in the 1950s, so why not? But the question remains--is it any good?

Tiki putt's located in Greshman, Oregon, right outside Portland. It was a bit of a drive, and it wasn't super-high on my must-see list, but we had a free morning and the kids were antsy for entertainment. They were pretty excited when we arrived at the strip mall where Tiki Putt is housed. They're connoisseur of putt-putt, after a fashion. The costs were kinda pricey, so The Wife and myself didn't partake. The kids did, though, and they burned through the course a couple of times in short order. There's a big climbing playscape that looks right out of a 1990s McDonald's playland, but that's an additional fee. There's an overpriced arcade as well, but the games will eat your quarters at no extra change. The concessions are your typical, overpriced fare for this kind of place staffed by disinterested teenagers.

But what about the golf course? Was that any good? There were positives and negatives. The black light was put to extensive use, and the effect was more than a little trippy. There were several holes that were pretty creative. One fountain/jungle/swamp thing had multiple hidden ways to reach the hole, which was nifty. And the volcano had a large, rotating "lava tube" you played through, which is just about as nuts as it sounds. I liked the big, magenta Moai that greeted you at the first hole. And every 30 minutes or so the volcano "erupted," which meant rumbling played over the P.A. system, lights flickered on the volcano and fog puffed out from the sides. Yes, it was not terribly theatrical, but I liked the nod to old-school tiki bars and restaurants that including fake thunder storms and volcanic eruptions in their design aesthetic.

Beyond that, however, there's not much else. The tiki designs are garish, the type often derided as "clown tiki" but really, in a black light putt-putt setting anything else would be counterproductive. The biggest thing that struck me was how flat the entire course was. I know this was probably put together on a tight budget, but the best putt-putt courses have changing elevations and incorporate the vertical dimension into the challenge. Not here. Other than a few speed bump-type obstacles, the course was laid out perfectly flat. This reminded me all the more that the "entertainment center" was likely occupying the space that once housed a grocery store or something similar. For all the effort put into the designs on the wall, there simply wasn't a lot of creativity put into the golf course itself. It's like they used up everything they had on the lava tube and called it a day. And I have to say, paying for each attraction separately was annoying, particularly since the place didn't have that much to offer.

Overall, it's a place worth exploring once for the novelty of it. But there are much better putt-putt courses out there and there's not enough entertainment offered to justify a return visit. I'm glad I went, but I won't be going back.

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