There are a lot of good reasons to travel, but few are as unusual as Dan Caprera’s. The intrepid adventurer is currently on a journey around the USA, visiting a mini golf course in every state and sharing his reviews of the ultimate “roadside distraction”.
Dan is a 23-year-old from Colorado who told Lonely Planet that “like everyone who goes on a 2-month long road trip of America, I’m recently and unbelievably, unbelievably, unemployed”. Naturally, he chose the incredibly ambitious task of not only driving around the country, but reviewing mini golf courses in each state along the way.
While his trip is mostly spent in the car and on the green, Dan says that up until this point, the most driving he had done was “about 2000 hours in Mario Kart Wii”. Luckily he has a bit more real-life experience when it comes to mini golf.
Dan left on 16 June and has already hit 34 different courses in 31 different states. He’s aiming to finish up in mid-August, when he’s got a flight to Hawaii to hit one of the more hard-to-reach courses. But when it comes to Alaska, he has “foolishly” decided to drive there.
The inspiration for his travels is to see the country in a way he might not have otherwise. But, really, “at the end of the day, it’s all about the mini golf” – and the evidence is found in his detailed online reviews.
When writing a review, Dan asks himself questions like how’s the upkeep of the course? Does it make good use of the state’s “local environment”? Does it have anything unique about it? “Just the hard-hitting questions that any self-respecting self-proclaimed professional mini golf reviewer would ask”, he says.
His love of mini golf is entwined with a love of American pop culture. Courses around the US often reflect the state they are in, as Dan has played mini golf in the corn fields of Iowa and on schooners in Maine. Others go straight for bizarre themes and high levels of kitsch.
Dan’s reviews look at both the cultural and technical aspects of the course, at times he labels the holes either too challenging or simplistic, and pays specific attention to levels of water damage. A review of a Viking-themed course in Delaware is given praise for unique holes, a good theme and informative signposts about Vikings and Viking lore. It loses point however, for graffiti on sign posts and moderate upkeep.
When it comes to selecting a course in each state, Dan’s system is anything but arbitrary. He spends about two to three hours researching courses for each state before picking one out. Some were chosen for reasons other than being simply “the best”, like the Thistle Dhu in North Carolina, which is America’s first mini-golf course and was created in 1916.
After 30 courses, Dan mentions one standout – Connecticut’s Matterhorn Mini Golf, which is an entirely Swiss-themed course in Canton, CT. Dan says they played yodelling and polka music all night, “the Tolberone portion of the course smelled like chocolate”, and they had glued tennis racquets around a hole to celebrate Roger Federer.
As for the road trip portion of his travels, Dan says he’s seen big state and small states, rich and poor states, red and blue states, but no matter where he’s gone “kids ran wild through the course while frazzled parents tried to keep up; octogenarians gabbed with their friends; high school students went on awkward first dates. And no matter where I was, if there was a large group in front of me, they would always stop and politely, kindly say ‘here, why don’t you play through?’ ”
Follow Dan’s adventures on his website.