Age Range: 5 and up
Mini-golf is a great game for bringing together family members of every age. Who doesn't love besting Dad on the loop-de-loop hole? But it doesn't have to be just a vacation-week treat. Wouldn't it be great to have your very own course to play all year round—inside or out?
This Old House’s plumbing and heating expert, Richard Trethewey, and general contractor, Tom Silva, designed a great course that you and your family can build in an afternoon. It is made up of panels that you can take apart and rearrange to make the game as easy or hard as you like. Create as many panels as you need for 1, 2, or even 18 holes. Then give everyone a putter, and they'll have a ball—literally—trying to navigate the obstacles you set for them.
Building a Miniature Golf Course: The Overview
Rich, Tom, and their crew of young builders made this mini-golf course from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), a stable wood composite material. It's smooth and easy to work with, and it makes a great flat surface for rolling a golf ball. You can find MDF in several standard sizes at the home center, so you won't need to cut it up if you design your course with these sizes in mind.
Rich and Tom covered the course with green felt and lined the golf holes with PVC pipe fittings. They came up with two great obstacles—a loop-de-loop and a ramp with redirects—to challenge even the best putters. You can add tunnels, water hazards, and ramps to your course, or just use your imagination to create different ways to enjoy hours of entertainment with your golf game.
Steps for Building a Minature Golf Course
Step 1: Lay out and cut the baluster supports
Line up the deck balusters along the edges of a sheet of MDF. Mark them to fit around the entire sheet, corner to corner and flush with the edges.
Using a miter box and backsaw, cut the balusters to length.
Tom Silva says: "Using a miter box is a great way for kids to learn how to saw properly. It controls their movements and teaches them to let the saw do the work."
Step 2: Glue the baluster supports in place
Line up the balusters next to the edges of the MDF. Squeeze several strips of wood glue onto each baluster, one baluster at a time. Leave a few inches of space between the strips of wood glue. In the spaces, put down dabs of fast-setting cyanoacrylate glue.
If you are using two-part cyanoacrylate glue, spray it with activator. Quickly turn over the baluster onto the MDF, line it up, and hold it in place while the cyanoacrylate sets. This glue acts as a clamp while the wood glue dries into a strong bond.
Step 3: Cut the hole
Measure across the MDF panel, and mark it slightly off-center, closer to one end. Using a drill/driver fitted with a 4-inch hole saw, start making a hole at this mark. Once the bit has poked through, flip the panel over and finish the cut from the other side. This will keep the MDF from splintering.
Step 4: Apply the adhesive
Place a 54x72-inch piece of felt on a worktable. Stretch it slightly, and hold it in place with spring clamps.
Place the MDF on a plastic drop cloth, away from the felt. Spray the top of the MDF with adhesive. Work in long, even strokes across the whole board. Spray the felt with adhesive as well. Let both pieces dry according to the instructions on the can.
Step 5: Stick the felt to the panel
Check the felt to make sure it's perfectly smooth. Turn the MDF over and hold it over the felt, being careful not to let the two touch. Place the panel on the center of the felt, and press it down.
Spray more adhesive around the hole and on the balusters on the bottom of the panel. Let it dry.
Step 6: Cut the felt corners
Using a framing square and utility knife, cut away the excess felt at each corner. Hold the square corner to corner with the panel, and cut 1½ inches in each direction. At those points, cut away the felt diagonally.
Step 7: Wrap the sides
Get some helpers to lend a hand. Have them pull evenly along all sides of the felt, then lift and wrap the felt over the balusters.
Step 8: Wrap the hole
Cut the felt in the hole into sections like a pizza. Pull up each wedge and wrap it tightly to cover the sides of the hole.
Step 9: Finish the hole
Using a hacksaw, cut the PVC pipe fitting into a piece about 2 inches tall. Turn the panel over and drop the fitting into the hole.
Step 10: Line the course
- Line your course with the lengths of composite baluster. These are heavy enough to stay in place, and balls bounce nicely off them. You can also adjust them to customize your holes.
- Add short angled pieces to create corner bumpers.
Step 11: Make the Rough
Cut islands out of a green welcome mat or artificial turf to form the rough. Place these patches around your course to create obstacles for your players.
Step 12: Make a loop-de-loop
- Cut the lower 3 inches off two 5-gallon buckets. Cut out the buckets' bottoms, leaving a 1-inch band. Then cut an opening through each circular piece.
- Marry the pieces to form a channel. Line up the open ends, and spread them apart to create a loop. Once the loop is adjusted, secure it with duct tape, and screw the sides to a block made of two short, angled pieces of composite baluster.
Step 13: Make a flexible ramp
- Using a drill/driver fitted with a 2¾-inch hole saw, cut a row of three holes in the center of a 12-inch square of MDF. Flip the MDF over, and glue 3¼-inch composite legs at each corner, creating a platform.
- Build the ramp by taping a flexible plastic sign to the edge of the platform. Wrap the top of the platform and the ramp in green felt, and cut out the three holes.
- Insert the elbow fittings into the bottom of the platform, twisting them in different directions. Add a bumper of composite baluster to the top of the platform.
Now you're ready for some mini-golf. Grab your putter and hit the links!