Mini Golf Deserves a Spot in Your Soft Exercise Routine

Fitness

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At almost 30 years old, there are a few rules in life that I try to stick to: 1) don’t forget to take your makeup off before bed 2) stay hydrated and 3) always say yes to mini golf. The first two I slip up on every now and then, but the last one is non-negotiable.

Mini golf has been a rather validating part of my life since about the first grade. As an not-athletically inclined kid with mobility issues and little desire to sweat or run, mini golf offered an accessibility into sport that soccer or basketball did not.

While my friends all found entertainment in running up and down a court or field, I was busy plotting my next attempt at the 18th hole on Pirate Island, a local putt-putt not far from our home in central Jersey.

By about the fifth grade, I’d gotten pretty good at it too, often beating my parents and friends by several strokes. But it wasn’t just the competitive aspect that attracted me to the game. It was also the ambiance and themes — just kitschy enough, boasting bright hues of primary colors in both the decor and gear — that encouraged a sense of play and lightheartedness to the secretly tactical sport.

Plus, socializing was encouraged and as I got older, the game became as much about the conversation as it was about winning. As a group of us leisurely walked the 18 holes, we often paused for laughter and inside jokes while waiting for the group ahead of us to finish their round. By the time we’d completed all the holes, not only did we get a good walk in, but we’d also discussed life updates, breakups, our summer plans, and what treat we’d inevitably be getting after we finished the game (Italian ices were a go-to).

The benefits extend to the physical and mental, as well. Mini golf offers a low-impact form of exercise that requires both balance and coordination, as well as mental stamina, combining strategy and precision. Today, mini golf remains one of my favorite sports. In the era of soft workouts and cozy cardio, mini golf leans deeply into the slow and mild. It encourages a pace not often afforded to us in everyday life — where you’re in no rush to get anywhere and the biggest stressor is getting your ball up a turf-covered hill. No one is counting you in as you sweat brutally over a reformer machine or shouting “one more rep” as you prep to hit the next upper-body station.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for those exercises, too. There’s just something comforting and competitively rewarding about a leisurely game of mini golf, where winning doesn’t require you to push your body to great heights, but the sense of achievement is still the same.

Today’s indoor putt–putts, such as Swingers, have also stepped it up, adultifying the game with tricked-out courses, craft beverages, and gourmet street food. It’s the same mini golf I fell in love with, the one that welcomes all levels of athletes, but now I get to play with a G+T in hand. Name another sport that can compete . . . I’ll wait.

Alexis Jones is the senior health and fitness editor at PS. Her areas of expertise include women’s health and fitness, mental health, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, and chronic conditions. Prior to joining PS, she was the senior editor at Health magazine. Her other bylines can be found at Women’s Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and more.

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