We hear it all the time: “There’s nothing to do around here.”
Some people complain on social media – others do something about it.
Mike and Michelle Hout, of Cambridge, took a long-time dream and decided to make it happen – to build a miniature golf course and entertainment center in Cambridge.
“We looked at what this community could use,” Mike said. “There’s nothing for the kids. They don’t want to go sit in a movie – they want to do things outdoors. We said, ‘What can we do that’s going to help the youth of the community? What can we do to help the seniors at the same time?’”
Miniature golf was a no-brainer for Hout.
“This has always been a little dream of mine,” he said. “I grew up next to Goony Golf in Spring Lake Park. I’d ride my bike and spend time there constantly.”
When he saw a nearly 2-acre lot come up for sale last August on the west side of Opportunity Boulevard just north of Cambridge Mixed Martial Arts, he made his move. He showed it to his wife and told her his plans.
“I thought she’d blow me off, but she said, ‘Do it. Really. Do it.’”
The plan is to create a miniature golf course, water attraction, volleyball court, indoor arcade, party room and concession stand in the first phase of development.
The hole story
To kick off the project, Hout and his wife spent hours online looking for ideas for interesting golf holes, other attractions and companies that specialized in mini golf courses.
They found an Illinois company called Entertainment Concepts that offered the couple “a multitude of holes to pick from.” They chose the kind they liked and the company designed a course around those holes.
Hout’s desire was to include some challenging water holes, but he found that his other desire for a wheelchair- and walker-accessible course prohibited it.
“It’s easier to have the accessibility without water,” he said. “We hope to add on in the future, but this is what we’re going to start with.”
You won’t find any windmills or clown faces at K & A Mini Golf – named for the Houts’ sons Keith, age 12, and Austin, 10 – another decision based on the desire for handicap accessibility. But Hout says if the demand is there in the future, they could redesign holes with those “putt-putt golf” features while still maintaining its handicap accessibility.
The course’s 18 holes will be created out of concrete and covered in four different kinds of carpet that simulate the challenges of a real course.
“There will be greens and roughs,” Hout said. “There will be water carpet painted blue. There’s a sand carpet. There are obstacles. ... We have tiered holes, so it’s not just flat.”
He explained how most concrete companies don’t want to take on the challenge of grading the holes, so it was difficult to find one that would.
“The tolerances are so tight – they have to be dead on,” Hout said about the concrete work. “You have to have the swales and the dips and things like that to make the holes work, to make it challenging.”
More than golf
The project calls for the remodel of an existing building on the lot into the course clubhouse that will handle check-in and offer a concession stand with an outward-facing service window.
“We’re not going to compete with local restaurants,” Hout said. “We’ll have hot dogs, nachos, pizza, a couple ice cream snacks.”
The concessions are for players or those utilizing the party room on the east side of the building. Packages will be available that include rounds of golf and snacks for 10 people and time on the sand volleyball court if desired. Families can also bring in their own party food, according to Hout.
In addition to the volleyball court, there’s space outside for “Water Wars” – two boxes people stand in and slingshot water balloons back and forth at each other, with a blast of water at the end.
An arcade in the building will offer six to eight games – throwback games if Hout can find them.
“My kids tear me apart in their video games,” he said, “so we want to go back and get some Centipede or Galaga or something. Then I can have a chance.”
Hout is open to adding features as funds permit. He’d consider batting cages, remote control cars or a splash pad. He’d love to branch out into a water park with a lazy river and water slides.
What if he had a million dollars for the project? Hout covers his mouth and laughs.
“I’d love to put a Ferris wheel in,” he said. “I think it’d be so cool at night just to light up the sky ... giving it a carnival atmosphere.”
A family business
Work has already started on remodeling the clubhouse and putting in infrastructure. Hout hopes to be open for business by July 1.
The course will be open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily May through October, with all that subject to change as he sees how the public responds.
“If there’s a line at the door at 10 in the morning, we’ll adjust our hours,” he said. “If we get people that are coming at quarter to 10 at night, we’ll stay open to 10:30, 11:00 then. We’ll adjust.”
He plans to manage the business on-site once it’s open, with a spot for his wife and a friend or two. They plan to hire high school or college youth for the 10 or fewer seasonal jobs.
One thing he’ll never hire is a bartender.
“This is for families,” Hout said. “I don’t want someone to wreck it for someone else because alcohol is involved. ... This is going to be a clean, safe environment.”
He plans to install security cameras throughout the property for the safety of patrons and his own liability. He’s also willing to hire a security guard if needed, but said his prior Navy experience might come in handy.
“If we see there are issues with people,” Hout said, “I have no problem throwing them out.”
A place for everyone
Although security is a necessary evil, the goal is to provide a safe, drug-free, fun environment for families to thrive in.
“That’s one thing we want to do is overall fun,” he said, “just smiles, smiles, smiles. Anybody – no matter how bad their day is, no matter what’s going on – can came over and have a good time and forget about it for an hour.”
Helping people forget their difficulties is one of the reasons Hout is adamant about accessibility. He said inspiration for the project came from the wheelchair-bound son of a man who coached his sons in baseball. When it came to baseball, the boy couldn’t compete with the other kids.
“But something like this – even if he couldn’t quite swing the club, at least he can be there and be included,” Hout said. “Maybe somebody can help him swing that club, include him. ... I don’t want anyone feeling like they don’t belong here.”
Watch for a future Facebook page under “K & A Mini Golf.” Until then, questions can be directed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.