Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: We're in the swing

Rachel Grunwell brings you the lowdown on a new way to exercise.

Rachel Grunwell plays mini golf with her sons Finn (L) and Lachlan at Treasure Island. Photo / Michael Craig
Rachel Grunwell plays mini golf with her sons Finn (L) and Lachlan at Treasure Island. Photo / Michael Craig

Mini Golf

What is it? Using a putter to hit a golf ball across artificial green carpet and into a hole. There is a series of holes and the player who takes the least number of shots wins.

What's needed? Putters, balls, score cards and pencils, and they are all provided on site.

The experience: It's the school holidays, yet again, and there are heaps of things our family likes to do during these weeks. A favourite is to soak up the sun on the beaches, or walk on the west coast, or head to the Bay of Plenty to see family.

But taking the kids to activities like mini golf can also be a treat.

I keep the outing a secret from the kids, but Zach, 8, demands to know "where exactly are we going?" When I insist "it's a surprise", he bargains to know the letter that begins with the place, so I say M so he and Lachie, 6, can enjoy a guessing game along the way. Their Dad teases "maybe we're going to Mars, or the moon", but Zach remarks, "get real".

When we pull up at Treasure Island Adventure Golf, near Auckland Airport, the kids are excited. There's a pirate theme here, too, which in our household is code for cool.

We all get putters that come up to hip-height, balls and even 2-year-old Finn gets a teeny putter and a bright orange ball. He watches his brothers softly putt their balls and copies them. We all cheer him on, even though the ball is going in the opposite way it's meant to head, of course. But he looks utterly chuffed with himself and I marvel over this little pirate's co-ordination.

We putt our way around the 18-hole course - past haunted treasure caves, fast-flowing waterfalls and over a giant pirate ship, complete with shark-infested waters below and birds squawking overhead. Throughout the course we hear pirate tales via speakers, and music is heard above the traffic from the nearby motorway.

There are tests along the way including artificial obstacles like ramps, tunnels and a fake graveyard to dodge. There's also some testing of sportsmanship. "No cheating!' I say, and I'm not talking to the kids. The husband retorts, "I'm not - the wind moved the ball." However, no one can argue over Zach's shot on the 16th hole - he's the only one in the family to get a hole in one. He obviously doesn't take after his Mum.

After an hour, our balls disappear down the last hole and the husband takes the winner's title. Just. I suggest the wind may have helped.

We all had fun practising some ball skills, improving hand/eye co-ordination and learning tactics to nail shots - speed control, and the angle of shots seemed to be key.

We also practised a few other sporting skills, like taking turns gracefully, being a good sport about losing or having a sucky shot, and that you have to play fair, which means no sneaky moves.

How much? Adults $12, school kids $10 or a family pass for $38 (two adults and two kids, or one adult and three kids).

Worth it? Good family fun - anyone from 2 years old to 90 can do this and there's good wheelchair access too. After playing, I looked up mini-golf themes on the internet and found courses overseas with giant dinosaurs, planes, buses, on rooftops or that glow in the dark. Awesome.

Try it: Treasure Island Adventure Golf, Tom Pearce Drive, Auckland Airport, ph (09) 275 7531, www.adventuregolf.co.nz

Rating: 9/10

- Herald on Sunday

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