Thinking of Starting a Mini-Golf Business? Here’s How Much It Is Going to Cost You

Of all the businesses one can own, a mini-golf business is one of the most fun and profitable. While many other fads have come and gone over the years, mini-golf has remained a notable industry for over 100 years. It is estimated that every year over 130 million people play mini-golf, generating a total annual revenue of over $1 billion for course owners.

Mini-golf is a lucrative business because it has great potential for growth and staying power. Those who are thinking of starting a mini-golf business are bound to have questions such as: what is the cost of building a mini-golf course? How do you go about building a mini-golf course and starting your own mini-golf business? Luckily, we are here to help you answer those difficult questions. This guide will give you all the basic info you need to start building your own mini-golf business.

Cost of Building a Mini-Golf Course

First things first, let’s talk about costs. When it comes to businesses, startup and operation costs are the very first things people should figure out. Mini-golf courses typically have relatively high-start up costs but are also relatively easy to turn out a profit. The reason why is that mini-golf is virtually recession proof.

The average 18-hole game costs about 5$ so it’s one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. You also are going to have to shell out not only for the course itself, but things like food stands, arcade games, and any other forms of entertainment you want to have.

Startup Costs for Mini-Golf Course

On average, startup costs for developing a mini-golf course run about $150,000-$250,000. For larger courses, startup costs may run up to $500,000. The biggest variable in start-up costs is the price of the land, which can differ drastically depending on the state. In more rural areas, you may be able to find more land for a cheap while in denser urban areas land prices may be much higher.

Luckily, it only takes about three-fourths of an acre to hold a full sized 18-hole mini-golf course. The higher price for land in denser urban areas is made up for by the fact that such locations typically have more potential customers.

Along with buying the land, there are also costs for developing the course itself. This figure can vary greatly depending on what kind, of course, you want to build. Fanciful courses with big windmills, castles and the like are generally more expensive to construct so they will have a bigger overhead. More toned down and natural courses tend to cost less to develop. It is also always possible to buy a previously existing mini-golf course and modify it instead of building one from scratch.

In general, startup costs for a mini-golf course include costs for:

  • Property
  • Permits
  • Labor and materials
  • Design costs
  • Plumbing/drainage/electricity
  • Carpet and roughs for courses
  • Obstacles (rocks, castles, windmills, clowns, etc)
  • Sidewalks
  • Balls and putters
  • Storage

For example, a possible design plan for a budget of $150,000 might look like:

  • Required property
  • 18-holes
  • Excavation
  • Electricity
  • Golf materials (balls, putters, flags, etc)

If you want to make a larger golf course, then you will have to shell out more money. Most common courses are 18-holes but many places offer more than one 18-hole course or a single large 36-hole course.

Operation Costs for a Mini-Golf Course

Despite the rather high startup costs, maintaining a mini-golf course is relatively cheap. The main thing that will cost you (besides employees) is the maintenance and upkeep of the course itself. The larger and more extravagant your course, the more it will take for upkeep.

Upkeep for the more extravagantly constructed mini-golf courses includes keeping the obstacles and structure painted and cleaned. If your course is more natural-focused then maintenance will involve trimming plants and maintaining landscapes.  Overall, maintenance costs for running a mini-golf course can vary but mostly fall in the $40,000-$70,000 range annually.

Now let’s talk about revenue. How much can you expect to actually make from a mini-golf course? Mini-golf courses tend to be very steady money makers in part because it appeals to all ages and is normally pretty cheap to play. The average mini-golf game in California, for example, costs about 7 dollars per person. Let’s say your full capacity is 18 holes with 4 players for each hole. If you are running at full capacity for 12 hour days, that comes out to 7x72x12 = $6,480 a day from admission alone, not including any extra spent on food and other sources of entertainment.

Obviously, no mini-golf course can operate at full capacity all the time for 12 hour days. However, even operating at 20% capacity of the above figures will still net over $1,000 a day in revenue. At 6 days a week of operation, that comes out to over $300,000 in annual revenue.

Even with lower turnout rates, you could still easily turn a profit of $100,000 a year. Many mini-golf course owners report paying off their initial investment within the first few years of operation. The best part is that mini-golf is a very cheap form of recreation so it is basically recession proof.

One more important thing that will determine profitability is how often the gold course gets used during the on season. Mini-golf typically has an on season during the warmer spring and summer months and an offseason during the fall and winter.

Zooming in even further, mini-golf attendance shows clear peaks and valleys during each individual week, typically being higher during evenings and weekends and slower during weekdays. These peaks and valleys should not matter too much though as we have just seen, even if your course is operating at just 20% utilization, you can still turn a tidy profit during the fiscal year.

How to Build a Mini-Golf Course

What steps do you need to take to start building a mini-golf course? Well, the very first thing you need to do before you start building is finding suitable land to build on. The location that you choose is quite possibly the biggest factor that will determine how many customers you get.

To find the best location you need to research the population/demographics of the area and see if any similar businesses are nearby. You should pick a location that is easily visible and gets a high amount of traffic during afternoons, evenings, and weekends.

A quality mini-golf course means quality materials and construction. Specifically, the exact landscaping of your course will require meticulous planning. Certain features that must be landscaped include streams, elevation changes, slopes, and drainage channels. While it is entirely possible to build a course yourself, it requires a lot of labor and expert know how.

So, unless you have extensive personal experience in landscaping and contracting, it is recommended to hire a team of experts to help build your course. Landscaping crews can handle everything from drafting plans to actually putting the course together.

A well-constructed mini-golf course should be able to handle thousands of players every week and be resistant to bad weather.  

Some examples of features and costs to take into account when building a course include:

  • Water systems like streams, ponds, pumps, and drainage ditches. Water hazards are a popular addition to mini-golf courses.
  • Elevation changes. A flat course is a boring course, some dips and dives add to the experience. Elevation changes can dramatically alter costs.
  • Themes and structures. Depending on how extravagant you want your course to be, building structures to match the theme may cost the most of your building budget.
  • Lighting. Lighting sets the mood of the course. On simple option is to just use floodlights on poles but many would prefer a more organic lighting setup that highlights key features and structures of your course.
  • Other structures such as restaurants, plaza, food court, and other activities.

Luckily, there are many companies that specialize in mini-golf course construction. These companies leverage the expertise of their landscaping crews with an eye for thematic design to make your vision an 18-hole reality.

Relevant Issue: 18-holes or 36-holes?

Traditional mini-golf courses usually consist of one 18-hole course. However, having two 18-hole courses can be key to gaining repeat business and driving profits up. Having 2-18 hole courses give customers more variety and reduce crowding and lines, which is good for keeping customers around. Of course, building 2 18-hole courses will cost much more than just a single course so you will need to plan your startup budget accordingly.

Should You Start a Mini-Golf Business?

Operating a mini-golf business is an extremely fun and very profitable enterprise. Compared to a traditional golf-course, mini-golf offers cheaper startup and operation costs, as well as more consistent and varied clientele. 

One of the greatest challenges of running a traditional golf course is its management. Your green has to be in pristine condition. And given the more exquisite tastes of its clientele, you’d need experts in food & beverage, agronomy, the list goes on.

However, the basic tenets of customer satisfaction still apply. Having a guiding philosophy for your business is key. It will be the shining north star for all your team members to follow. Here’s one for inspiration:  “Hampton Golf’s Operations Team is dedicated to growing the club’s bottom line through first-rate golfing experiences for our members and guests.” — Golf Course Management Company

If you are an entrepreneurial person who is looking for a fun style or work that has a great ROI, then running a mini-golf course may be for you.

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