Business Monday: Tee up for a round under the cosmic neon glow at Black Light Mini Golf Hilo
February 5, 2024, 1:00 AM HST
Games are par for the course at Gam3Escape in downtown Hilo.
So after owner Marsha Chose and her crew tossed around several ideas for what to do with about 3,600 square feet of extra space they had to use after moving into the store’s new larger location on Shipman Street, they decided to create something fun and playful.
Now, nearly 4 months after teeing off with their plan, the Big Island’s newest and only indoor miniature golf course is open to play through.
Black Light Mini Golf Hilo opened to the public Feb. 1 and features an 18-hole Putt-Putt course under a cosmic neon glow.
The holes are interlocked — a kind of throwback to Tetris — and each is inspired by a different game or activity, from chess, checkers, dominoes and dice to Scrabble, Battleship, Jenga, Candy Land and more.
There’s also a Super Mario Bros. hole, complete with a piranha plant, gold coins, Princess Peach, Bowser and plenty of green pipes to explore, and golfers can hit their balls through Mr. Potato Head’s legs for a straight shot to the cup at another hole.
“We tried to make it so that people would be like, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t seen that game in a while,'” said Chose, adding they’re familiar classic games for everyone.
Other obstacles include everyone’s favorite mini golf challenge the loop-de-loop and a wavy green modeled after skateboard ramps.
The entire course, which was built by Gam3Escape employee Drew Iverson and detailed by Chose with the help of her sister and mother, glows as neon paint and other adornments shine bright under the black lights above, adding to the fun and enhancing the experience.
The putters are even neon colors.
Taking feedback from people who they let test drive the course as it was being constructed and playing each hole multiple times themselves during the building process, Chose and her team know they have something the entire community could enjoy.
“It’s just a casual, fun thing to do and just have a good time,” Chose said, adding it’s a hole-in-one for any family. “Hilo needs more things for families and kids to do, honestly. That’s why we did it.”
Keiki already love the course. She said two 4-year-olds were among the about 20 people who were at its soft opening Jan. 28 and they had a blast.
Adults can also expect to have a good time, whether they come to play during a team-building activity for their office or employer or simply have dinner downtown and decide to come in and play a round with friends afterward.
They designed the course so grown-ups can have fun but it’s not so difficult that a toddler can’t play too, and some holes are deceptively challenging to play.
The Super Mario green has two routes to get to the hole, with one having a raised lip around it that can be a pain. Or, golfers can try their hand at putting their ball past or through an obstacle.
The black light, while it makes everything glow to the delight of golfers, can also make seeing some aspects of a hole more difficult, adding to the challenge.
Most are the standard par 3, with two longer holes at par 4 and no. 18 a par 1, making it a par 54 course. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour on average to play through.
Jaiya James was one of the first to play the course on opening day, celebrating her sixth birthday with her mom Angela Michael and several family friends, most of whom live in Hawaiian Paradise Park. It was the first time Jaiya had ever played mini golf and it had been 20-some years since her mom had hit the tiny links.
“It’s super fun,” said Michael. “We were excited to come and check something out that was different, for sure, and get us out of the house.”
One of the most rewarding parts of opening the new mini golf course for Chose is not just that it’s another entertainment option for Hilo but it is unplugged. It’s a way to put your electronic devices away and interact with each other.
“Observing people playing, that’s what we notice,” she said. “Laughing together, talking, and you don’t see that enough anymore.”
Jon Davis, one of the family friends playing a round to celebrate Jaiya’s birthday, said the new mini golf course is great.
“It’s fun, it’s challenging. It’s kid-friendly, it’s not too frustrating,” said Davis.
Chose said the course will change as modifications are made and holes are updated occasionally, just to keep things fresh. There also are plans to host tournaments on Thursdays with silly elements like having to use your putter like a pool cue to hit the ball. They might also offer a best ball play choice.
She said to stay tuned to see what changes in the future as they continue to build out.
Davis is excited to see where the course goes from here, adding that it’s important to support local businesses. He wants to see the new mini golf course thrive and encouraged everyone to come out to play.
“You can’t grow it if the people don’t come,” he said. “These local businesses get ignored in the sense that you can buy anything anywhere you want online, but you can’t go anywhere and play black light miniature golf. So this is a blessing for the town.”
Black Light Mini Golf Hilo is open 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Adults can play 18 holes for $12, keiki from 5 to 7 years old get a round for $10 and kids 4 and younger are $5. If you decide to play a second round, you get it at half price. There also are special discounts for groups and other offers available.
For more information, stop by the course at 57 Shipman St. during regular hours or call Gam3Escape at 808-498-4095. You can also follow the course on Instagram.