In June 2018, a new miniature golf course officially opened for business at Three Bears Resort, a year-round family waterpark resort in Warrens, Wis.
Called the Bear Trax Mini Golf Course, the new course features 18 golf holes, half of which are ADA-compliant.
“We were looking to add a family amenity that appeals to all ages. In this outdoor location, we had a skatepark that [needed] attention, but had a very narrow demographic market. We needed a broader reach and decided on building our guests an 18-hole miniature golf course,” said Eric Lund, owner of S&L Hospitality, a property management company in Wisconsin that manages Three Bears Resort. “The budget for everything, including course, ponds, streams, sound, lighting and theming, was $300,000.”
The course has “some fun signature holes,” he said. “We have a Cranberry bog, a 16-foot bear standing over 9 feet tall. We have bears feeding on fish in the creek and other playful wildlife animals to greet you along the course.”
The mini golf course was built onto a concrete slab that used to be the old skatepark.
“It’s roughly 20,000 square feet,” Lund said. Elevations were changed “by using crushed stone and concrete to vary the topography. It’s 18 holes and a par 47. It’s very family-friendly and fun for all ages.”
Scott Lundmark, president of Adventure Golf Services in Traverse City, Mich., the company that created the mini golf course, said Three Bears “wanted an outdoor concrete golf course, but the space they had was on an existing skateboard park area with different plateaus.”
So, the decision was made to replace the skate park with something that would bring a better return on investment.
“We were one of the only firms to roll up our sleeves and [create] a concrete miniature golf course on top of [existing] concrete,” Lundmark said.
“[You have to] take a risk and it required certain methods of construction to pull it off,” he said, adding that his company is known for creating custom design courses. “It was really using different design and construction techniques and elements to pull the project off.”
Nick Borjanovic,project coordinator for the concrete division at Adventure Golf Services, explained that the existing skatepark was underutilized and had liability issues.
“They abandoned it a while back and they came to us looking for a mini golf design to fit in there. Because of budgetary concerns, we were using a lot of that existing concrete slab surface as golf holes,” he said, adding that turf was glued down onto the existing concrete. And, some of the existing slab was cut out to make a pocket for the addition of new concrete.
“Their budgetary concerns were [the] cost of removing and disposing of that concrete slab. Competitors [had] turned them down … [they didn’t want to take a] risk building on the slab,” he added.
What are the risks?
One of the risks is that it’s not all necessarily one piece. “You have control joints [control joints are placed in concrete slabs to control random cracking],” Borjanovic said. And, because the course is located in a frost/freeze environment in North Central Wisconsin, one of the challenges was water or moisture getting into the gaps.
So, the question was, “How do you put in a product and yet build in enough flexibility … and keep it a nice smooth surface?” Getting the new concrete and the old to mesh together was key.
“It’s always a difficult process in frost/freeze environments. In Florida, it’s not a huge deal. But, we had to integrate old concrete into new concrete so it wouldn’t get forced apart by any of the moisture or water getting in, old or new,” he said.
“The finished product ended up being nice. And [the] client was extremely satisfied,” Borjanovic said, adding that a portion of the golf course (at least nine holes) needed to be accessible for people with disabilities.
“There are different clients out there, and the staff at that facility was very hands-on and interactive with us. They had the perfect amount of helping out and taking on responsibilities,” he said. “Staff and management were very instrumental and had a very good work ethic.”
The course now is open to the public, and guests get 50 percent off of their green fees.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Lund said. “Families are saying this is a course for years to come they will play with their kids. Grandparents are now saying we can do this activity with our grandkids and before could never skate with them at this park. The course is located next to our outdoor waterpark and provides for a great escape and amenity to complement the waterpark.”