Panama City Beach, Florida
Goofy Golf, the classic roadside attraction, has made a quiet virtue of running in place. Though plenty of low-concept mini golfs and water parks now crowd Panama City Beach, GG is content to be the one that never changes. According to the man in the gift shop, generations of families have come here to share their love of this place.
But if you've never been, it might be a little hard to find. The Johnny-Putt-latelys a few miles up the strip can't even tell you where Goofy Golf is located; mentioning the Sphinx or the Easter Island Head doesn't help. It's just lost somewhere in the newer commercial din along the strip. Then you finally spot it, practically hidden behind a fake smoldering volcano, dwarfed by swim-ware and T-shirt outlets that crowd either side.
It wasn't always thus. Built in 1959 by a man who is now dead -- Lee Koplin -- it was the only thing around, as the lush vegetation in the background of old post cards (still for sale) will attest. The golf hazards were an amusing blend of ancient monuments and space age icons, with a couple of monsters tossed in for good measure. The states of Alabama and Georgia drain directly into FL's panhandle, making Panama City Beach a distraction magnet for budget-conscious families and beer-bloated Spring Breakers.
It's easy to hose puke off the Sphinx, so GG endures. You can still climb the Easter Island head. The giant monkey, rocket ship, Buddha and purple brontosaurus have all seen better days, and the castle that used to house "Monsterland" has fallen into disrepair. But it's still a great miniature golf course, and a refreshing change from those prefab, absolutely interchangeable Pirate's Coves.
We always stop here. We play our favorite holes, walk every inch of the property to make sure nothing has really changed, and buy a pile of vintage postcards.
And like the guy at the gift shop said, "You couldn't ask for a better location."
Update - Sept. 2003: According to Tim Hollis, author of Dixie Before Disney, Lee Koplin built the first Goofy Golf in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1957-58 (later demolished, Koplin replaced it with a second one nearby that exists today as Magic Golf). The next Goofy Golfs were built in Ft. Walton and Pensacola (~1958); final evolution of the Goofy Dynasty was the attraction at Panama City Beach built in 1959.