Miniature golf is normally an outdoor activity where families and friends spend 18 holes tracking their swing count and maybe grab ice cream or a hot dog as a snack. Puttshack, which opened at Oakbrook Center on Nov. 3, has transformed the experience into a day or night out for kids and adults.
“People are definitely looking for an activity that is more upscale where they have something to do, not just going to a bar or restaurant,” said Puttshack chief marketing officer Susan Walmesley. “We’re seeing a lot of date nights, a lot of families that are getting back out and being with people that they are really close to.”
Vegan crispy popcorn cauliflower is one of the inventive menu items available at the new Puttshack in Oak Brook. – Courtesy of Puttshack
Decked out with neon lights and retro gaming memorabilia, the newest Puttshack features a central bar area with TVs showing sports, plus a small bar that serves as a private party room. Two nine-hole mini-golf courses are located on each side of the venue. And each hole has a small table so you can bring one of their dramatic and delicious cocktails with you, such as the Porn Star Martini, a sweet blend of vanilla vodka and passion fruit liqueur topped with smoke before being served, or the creamy espresso martini topped with chocolate bitters.
Puttshack has three locations in London and opened its first U.S. location in Atlanta in April. Oak Brook was meant to be its U.S. debut because the company’s global headquarters is in Chicago and CEO Joe Vrankin lives in Naperville, but plans changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Puttshack’s Spiced Pineapple Mezcal Margarita is served with a Jalapeño Hellfire Popsicle and a candied pineapple wafer. – Courtesy of Puttshack by signing up you agree to our terms of service
“Now we’ve got somewhere close by we can spend a lot of time in and play around with things,” said Walmesley, who lives in Evanston. “We can put a lot of these in the Chicago market as well. We’re hoping to have more soon.”
One of the unique aspects of Puttshack’s mini golf is that instead of players tracking the strokes themselves, a player’s score is automatically monitored through a chip built into the ball. The score is then displayed on the screens as a player moves between holes. Each hole has a different theme, mostly based on games like pool and Connect 4. Another difference: Mini golfers are actually playing for a high score, earning bonus points for making a hole-in-one or completing other objectives, like connecting with a moving target duck. The system means it’s easier to catch up from behind than a traditional mini-golf game and adds a little whimsy to the competition.
At Puttshack in Oak Brook, mini-golf players are actually playing for a high score, so the game is more forgiving. – Courtesy of Puttshack
“Mini golf is something that everyone has played at some point,” Walmesley said. “It’s very accessible.”
And at least two courses at every venue are ADA compliant. The franchise’s focus on inclusivity also extends to the menu.
“We’re trying to cater to so many different tastes,” Walmesley said. “Our purpose is to be a place that anyone can come and enjoy. We’ve got a lot of people who are not drinking alcohol, we have a lot of people that are following plant-based diets, gluten-free diets, and we try to make sure we have something for everyone.”
Dine on shareables like the Korean barbecue pork bao buns at the new Puttshack in Oak Brook. – Courtesy of Puttshack
The menu offers a wide variety of shareable dishes such as vegan crispy popcorn cauliflower served with mint coconut yogurt and popcorn dusted with beetroot, lamb skewers drizzled with peri-peri and served atop cucumber pico de gallo, and Korean barbecue pork bao buns topped with fennel and radishes tossed in a champagne vinaigrette. Almost everything is made in-house in Puttshack’s open kitchen, and the care shows in the robust flavor combinations and strong versions of kid-friendly staples like chicken fingers and fries and pepperoni pizza.
“It’s a global mix of street food-inspired flavors,” said Puttshack director of food and beverage, North America, Mark Boyton. “We didn’t want sliders; we wanted something really different. It’s probably not what you expect.”
Puttshack’s Smoking Negroni — made with Bombay London Dry Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth — is served in a smoke-filled wooden chest. – Courtesy of Puttshack
Along with mocktails that are popular with kids and those who don’t drink, Puttshack offers a large selection of premium spirits and complex cocktails, like a mezcal margarita served with a hot pepper Popsicle that makes the drink spicier as it melts. All Puttshack venues have some local dishes, and in Oak Brook you’ll find the Hot Italian, a pepperoni and Italian sausage pizza topped with giardiniera, and the Malört Reviver, a spin on a Corpse Reviver that substitutes Malört for absinthe. While you can grab a drink at any time, if you want a more grown-up experience, come after 8 p.m. when the venue is 21 and older.
“A lot of people want to be in a place where there’s not really any kids around after a certain time,” Walmesley said. “Even people like me, as a parent, sometimes I want to go someplace that’s a little more adult-focused.”
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1828 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, puttshack.com/
Prices: $12 a game for those 13 and older and $8 a game for kids 12 and younger. Weekday bonus offer: Second game is 50% off from open to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Age policy: The venue is 21 and older only after 8 p.m.
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Other suburban entertainment venues
2575 Pratum Ave., Hoffman Estates, (847) 645-1111, and 28248 Diehl Road, Warrenville, (630) 393-9400, mainevent.com/
Play laser tag, pool and arcade games, climb a gravity ropes course and dine on burgers and loaded queso with chips and sip on Shirley temples and other cocktails.
7 Oakbrook Center Mall, Oak Brook, (630) 575-8744, and 100 W. Higgins Road, South Barrington, (847) 844-9300, pinstripes.com/
Try bowling and bocce ball and dine on an Italian-American menu of wood-fired pizza, gelato, local beers and cocktails. Plus, there’s live music featuring local artists from 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
2050 Progress Parkway, Schaumburg, (847) 656-2122, and 3211 Odyssey Court, Naperville, (630) 596-1000, topgolf.com/us/
Work on your golf swing at the outdoor hitting bays that are heated in the cooler weather, hang out around the rooftop fire pit and watch sports while enjoying a classic cocktail and shareables including wings and barbecue brisket flatbread.
3103 Odyssey Court, Naperville, (630) 932-4800; 285 Center Drive, Vernon Hills, (847) 918-0800; and 1825 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, (773) 486-7777, whirlyball.com/
Play the signature bumper car-based game, go bowling and snack on pizza, wings and sliders paired with an extensive selection of craft beers and cocktails. Vernon Hills also has billiards and bowling, while Naperville offers laser tag, bowling and hyper bowling.