Iconic mini golf gets a major makeover

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By Hugh Boag

It has entertained generations of children for nearly 60 years. But now the iconic mini golf on Brodick shorefront has been torn up – to be replaced by a brand new course.

It was June 1960 when the course and the Mini Cafe were first created and opened for business and it has remained open, under three owners, continuously for the next 58 years – until last Sunday.

First thing on Monday Armitage Groundworks moved in and fenced off the site with the diggers this week demolishing  the remaining 15 holes of the old concrete course – which had remained largely as they were laid all those years ago

It will be replaced by an 18-hole artificial grass course which owner Alastair Bilsland says will be ‘truly all weather’.  The work is expected to take around six weeks with the new course opening in time for the school summer holidays.

Much of the work involves complete new drainage for site which Alastair admits has been a persistent problem in the past, but which will be eradicated by the extensive new works. The only part of the course being kept is the Forth Rail Bridge which was built for Alastair by Ian Monteith of Kiscadale Engineering in Whiting Bay around 15 years ago, but it will be feature in a new hole. Three holes were previous sacrificed for the mini go-carts, previous sited on, what is now, the Little Rock terrace.

Because it is essentially a repair job, the work did not require planning permission or building warrant approval.

Alastair who has taken inspiration for the new course from attractions in New Zealand, which he visits regularly to see family, and Canada. One hole will feature a map of Arran. The course is being built by Allan Macleod, and Alastair said Brodick surveyor Dave Campbell had been really helpful with the design.

‘I am really delighted to see this work finally going ahead, it has  been a long time in the planning. One of the last players on the old course was my grandson Nicol, who may be only seven but is fantastic at mini golf. I plan to have him over as my guest of honour at the opening,’ Alastair told the Banner.

The original course was the brainchild of the Dawes, a family of architects from Kilmarnock. The mini golf and glass fronted cafe were quite an attraction to the shorefront in Brodick on what had just been a marshy plot between two hotels.

At the time there were only two course of its kind in Britain, the other being in Newquay in Cornwall and the Dawes are said to have planned a series of them up west coast of Scotland, but this did not materialise.

The opening was reported at the time in an edition of The Weekly Scotsman, a publication which closed in 1967, who reported: ‘The mini golf course is a fantastic network of tarmac strips (the playing stretches) set among rockeries flower beds and lawns. Players will find themselves putting through connecting pipes, up ramps, over a water hazard and even for a foot-wide rustic bridge.

‘With the course is a cafe which has seating accommodation for 80 people – 30 inside and the rest on a terrace at tables with continental umbrellas.’

The Dawes family  ran the course for seven years when it was taken over by the Lawrence family, also from Ayrshire, who ran it for three years before selling it to Alastair in 1970. ‘A lot of people think I built it, but it was very much the brainchild of the Dawes family,’ he said.

‘I will be delighted to see the new course completed and believe it will offer a greater challenge to golfers young and old than the previous course,’ he added.

Nice shot. Digger takes the last shot at the hill hole. 01_B18mini01

A last look at the old course before work began. 01_B19mini02

The Mini Cafe as it once looked. 01_B19mini03