Whispering Pines Miniature Golf in Rochester, NY is the oldest operating mini golf course in the United States. It’s also a really fun course to play!
by Chris Clemens
The origin of mini golf isn’t perfectly documented, so researching the game isn’t easy. Some of the first mentions of anything even resembling the game are from 1912 in England. It wasn’t long before the golf variation made its way here to the States. It was North Carolina that created the first commercial, mass-produced course.
During the following decades the mini golf became a mainstay in the traditions of the American family. To keep up with the demand courses popped up everywhere.
The Great Depression meant an economic stress put on nearly every household budget. That meant recreational activities like mini golf fell out of favor for the average consumer. As a result, all of the courses built during that pre-Depression era closed up and are gone forever.
Actually, all of them closed except one.
Whispering Pines Is Built
The Papas brothers bought the course in the 90’s after building the Parkside Diner on the adjoining property. But originally Whispering Pines was designed and first opened for business in 1930.
Though Whispering Pines was not the first Mini Golf Course in the U.S., it’s the only one from that pre-Depression mini-golf boom era that is still operational.
Its status as the oldest-operating Mini Golf Course in the country has earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. While we were visiting I got a chance to speak to a family member and was told that the Papas really had a passion for continuing such a great part of history. It wasn’t just a business for them, but they really enjoyed being able to serve the community by maintaining such a nostalgic favorite.
Mini Golfing At Whispering Pines
For this adventure I brought my friend Heather McKay of McKay’s Photography.
We started at Parkside to fuel up with a great brunch. Then we walked over and played a round with a couple GoPro cameras in tow.
The 18-hole course was renovated in 2012 but still has the original obstacles. They have a fossil rock that the architects purchased from out West and the ever-popular mini-golf classic lighthouse. Multi-level greens connected with tubes add to the fun and possibly my favorite of all–a green that’s only accessed from a raised tee-box. On this one the player has to clear a lengthy ‘out of bounds’ patch of real grass by commanding a heck of a swing. This hole makes things feel less miniature.
Big thanks to the Papas family for helping to maintain such a fun and unique piece of Upstate New York history! Whispering Pines is definitely a spot that everyone should stop at least once!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens