CLOSE
Original image

The 15 Best Miniature Golf Courses

Original image

I have always been terrible at miniature golf because I have a bad habit of hitting way too hard. When I was really young, I even smacked my dad in the forehead with a club as he bent over behind me to tell me to swing softer. Despite my absolute lack of putting skill, I love the game. And I’m not the only one; the sport is so popular that it has even earned its own holiday, today, September 21. In celebration of National Miniature Golf Day, let’s take a look at the best mini golf courses in America.


Image courtesy of Flickr user popofafatticus.

Roller Coaster Golf?

The best-known wacky golf course, and arguably the most unique course in the world, is Illinois’ Par-King. The course started out as a distraction for the families of golfers on the next door driving range and quickly took on a life of its own with such strange attractions as a Sears Tower, a moving clown and a roller coaster for your ball, as seen in the video below:

While you don't hear as much about Colorado's Lilli Putt Miniature Golf, it actually has an even more impressive ball contraption than Par-King's. Check out the video of this crazy ball coaster:

The Nation’s Oldest Course


Image courtesy of Flickr user M.V. Jantzen.

If Rube-Goldberg-machines-turned roller coasters aren’t your thing and you prefer your courses free of distractions, try the Mini Golf Course at East Potomac. It is one of three main contenders for the title of oldest miniature golf courses in the country and its recognition on the National Register for Historic Places gives it more credibility than the competition. Opened in 1930, the course is fairly simple, but it’s nice to know that you’re retracing the sport’s roots as you walk through this piece of living history.

It’s a Pirate’s Course For Me


Pirate's Cove image courtesy of Flickr user Vcalzone.

Yo Ho Ho and a bundle of clubs. If you’re already considering what to do for next year’s Talk Like A Pirate Day, consider some golfing adventures on the high seas at Pirate Island in New Jersey, the Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf parks located throughout the country or Maryland’s Jolly Roger. Pirate Island offers 18 riveting holes that include things like talking pirates, waterfalls, caves and pirate ships. The Pirate’s Cove Adventure parks offer similar attractions (sans animatronic pirates) and bills itself as “the original adventure golf” park. The Jolly Roger is a full amusement park that happens to offer miniature golf along with go-karts, roller coasters and bumper cars. Interestingly, although the whole park is pirate themed, the first course in the park only featured jungle décor and the pirate-themed course wasn’t added until recently.

Mayday! Mayday!

If you like tropical islands, but hate resident pirates, perhaps you should head to Mayday Golf in Myrtle Beach, where the storyline involves an airplane crash on an island that just happens to have a miniature golf course…because the first thing that you should worry about after a plane crash is playing mini golf, not starting a fire, signaling for help or searching for food or water.

Cosmic Golfing


Glowing Greens image courtesy of Flickr user stumptownpanda.

If you’ve ever gone cosmic bowling, you know just how awesome a black light and some fluorescent paint can make an otherwise ordinary game. That’s the theory behind Putting Edge Fun Center, Putz and Glo and Glowing Greens, a few of the many golfing arenas organized around black light-reactive golfing. Putting Edge has locations scattered throughout America and Canada and features a variety of themes and challenges at each location. At Putz and Glo in South Dakota, you can not only enjoy glow-in-the-dark golfing with a rock and roll theme, but you can also partake in a trippy maze and gemstone panning. Oregon’s Glowing Greens is not only black light responsive, but it also features 3D elements that can only be viewed with special glasses. No word on how the glasses affect game play, but supposedly the back nine holes of the eighteen hole course are too spooky for small children, so plan your games accordingly.

The Case of the Haunted Green

If the scary theme of Glowing Greens sounds good to you, but you’re in Illinois instead of Oregon, consider visiting Haunted Trails, which features horror movie favorites including mummies, ghosts, vampires and more.

When you want something truly creepy though, head to Ahlgrim’s Acres, a mini golf course located in the basement of an Illinois funeral home. You get a free round of golf with every funeral package, which is even more disturbing when you consider the macabre theme of the course that features mausoleums, cemeteries and a guillotine.

Pray Before You Stroke


Image courtesy of The  Putting Penguin.

Depending on how clear your conscience is, the biblically-themed courses at Kentucky’s Lexington Ice Center may prove to be even more terrifying than any of the morbid courses above. There are three courses, broken up by Old Testament, New Testament and miracles. If you aren’t too big into the bible, you still may want to stop by, though—The Travel Channel has rated this as one of the best mini golf destinations in America.

Worldly Travel Experiences


Image courtesy of Flickr user Matt.Ohara.

While traveling the course of biblical stories can be fun, it hardly compares to the magic of a trip around the world. For this mind-enriching experience, head over to New York’s Around The World in 18 Holes. Each hole represents a different nation, including France, China and the good ol’ US of A. This course was also rated as one of the top in the nation by The Travel Channel, so it’s a great option for those looking for a cheap way to travel the world.

Looking for A Challenge?

Speaking of courses that are worth a vacation, if you are an avid miniature golfer, TopGolf may just be the best option for you. The company owns six courses, three in the UK and three in the US, each of which are exceptionally challenging. The mini golf courses are best described as “extreme,” as they feature many water hazards, sand traps and other obstacles to test your skills. Personally, this is one green I’d never consider visiting. I lose my ball enough on a regular course, I certainly don’t need to try my hand at a course designed to challenge the pros.

It seems almost every city has at least one mini golf course, so many of you are sure to have stories and tips. What’s your favorite course and do you have any funny mini golfing stories worth mentioning?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Opening Ceremony
fun
arrow
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES