We admit it; our love of miniature golf has more to do with erupting volcanoes and bizarre statues than with a passion for the game. But it's hard not to be drawn into playing all 54 holes at Bible Mini-Golf, if only to see how scripture can be turned into tunnels, chutes, and golf hazards.
"Some people think we're odd, some people think we're just mountains and water holes," said course manager Dennis Hyde. "If it's spreadin' the Word, we're cool with that."
Bible Mini-Golf has three 18-hole courses: Old Testament, New Testament, and biblical miracles. The first two were built by the Christopher family in 1987, the third in 1991. Each hole comes with a sign that cites its collateral Bible story or passage.
Par for the entire attraction is 119, and you'll need divine intervention to beat it. Hole 7 is purposely easy (the seventh day was God's day off), but others are more hell than heaven. "Jacob's Ladder," for example, is a long putt into a series of rising, undulating waves, with the hole somewhere at its apex. "Mount Sinai" is a heartbreaker: a long fairway leading to a steep-sided mound with the hole in a crater, a test of Samson strength rather than Christ-like finesse.
"That old volcano hole," is how Dennis described it. "You either get it in one, or you give up and take the six-stroke maximum."
Metaphysical concepts are conveyed with visual metaphors. The world's most familiar Bible verse, John 3:16, makes you putt your ball through a loop-de-loop to evoke the dizzying ascension into heaven. We originally thought that the holes "Faith" and "Hope" were named for their impossible pray-for-a-miracle angles, then realized they were designed as a big F and H.
Our favorite holes, of course, were those with the most obvious visual gags -- the ones you can identify without reading the signs. Jonah and the Whale makes you putt up the angry creature's tail and into his blowhole. The fairway for the Parting of the Red Sea dips below the surface of a crossing stream. The Burning Bush is encased within a plexiglass safety box scarred by countless ricocheting balls. "He's Alive" is probably the world's only golf hole in Jesus' tomb.
Christian rock echoes over loudspeakers, and an elaborate water system includes diminutive biblical rivers, a large waterfall on Calvary hill, and Hole 7 on the Miracles course where you have to putt into a stream to float your ball to the green.
This is one golf course where prayer dawdling at a hole won't get you dirty looks from the putters behind you.
Despite our prodding, Dennis didn't want to give away too many secrets, but he did offer a suggestion for the heart-shaped "Love" hole on the New Testament side. "Go up the left ventricle," he said. "If you can ride the rail on the left, it should bring you right to the cup."