Some of the holiest places in the area are not necessarily churches.
There are dozens of miniature-golf courses lying around eastern and central Massachusetts, and the season is upon us. Although the courses are smaller, the challenge is as big as links golf — with none of that tedious walking and club-toting.
The hole size is the universal 4.25 inches, and the 1.6-ounce dimpled spheroids meet the same general specs — rolling the same, albeit in myriad colors.
Other than that, each course has its own personality, theme and challenges, as well as ancillary activities unique to each spot.
Nationwide, there are more than 5,000 establishments, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Pro Minigolf Association, with more than 130 million playing every year. Also known as a "cheap date," mini-golf has been around in one form or another for more than century, booming in popularity in the mid-'50s. Locally, there are dozens to choose from and likely there is one within 30 minutes of your home no matter where you live. Heck, they even played golf on the moon.
The courses and time commitment are short. So, too, is the season, so get rolling.
Jay Gee's, Methuen
The mighty Merrimack River hooks around this multiacre sprawl in Methuen. Alongside the safari-themed putting course is a massive arcade, alive with the click-clack and clangs of video games.
Detached from the mostly flat mini-golf course are batting cages, bumper boats and a nostalgic ice-cream stand.
And because every golfer needs a good slice, Jay Gee's now serves beach-style pizza in the dining room.
At 602 Lowell St., Jay Gee's is easily accessible from Lowell, Lawrence and two major interstate highways.
Ice cream is also one of the draws at the 400 Littleton Road in Westford, which puts the "par" in party.
Kimball Farm Mini Golf is a local seasonal favorite where the only thing miniature is the golf. The ice-cream sundaes are enormous, and the place itself is vast. A zipline is a unique attraction to add to your visit. And there is also a 9-hole, par-3 course alongside a driving range, so after you get your putting practice, you can break out the woods and irons.
This course is great for people who want to hang out with other swingers. The adjoining driving range and batting cages augment the wonderfully landscaped putt-putt course.
The family-owned business at 449 Whalom Road, Lunenburg, is located in a quiet residential area — and, for the sentimental, a few hundred yards from the old Whalom Park amusement.
Affectionately referred to by owner Mark Testa as having a "Flintstone theme" — "because of all the rocks along the greens" — the course is more condensed in terms of length and area than others. It's the same 18 holes as its competitors, but in a more intimately arranged pattern that includes exotic plants and primitive stone sculptures. Like in "The Flintstones."
At 640 North Main St., Mason's is unique in that it also features a bowling alley — you can shoot eagles and turkeys on the same day. With 24 lanes, 18 holes and five pool tables, this place is really on a roll.
Mason's offers more of a traditional layout and is a throwback to the simpler days of mini-golf.
Max's Country Club, Tyngsboro
Sometimes driving in the water is not so bad.
Max's Mini-Golf in Tyngsboro has bumper boats — for driving in the water— as an added feature to the popular golf spot. The water-themed course even features four-legged live lawn mowers, also known as goats.
There is a barn, caves and a number of cascading waterfalls scattered about the visually stunning and lengthy course at 383 Middlesex Road. There is also a driving range, batting cages and an ice-cream shop for after-game cool-down.
Merrimack Valley Pavilion, Tewksbury
MVP is a jungle in the suburbs. The tiki theme extends beyond the putting green onto the rope-climb and the 6,600-square-foot laser-tag arena. Shoot a round then shoot your friends with laser guns.
Approach this green, at 2087 Main St., from either Interstate 93 or 495,
"This place is great," said Brian Sams of North Andover. "It's a nice thing for the whole family to do. Then we go to the laser tag inside."
Sams points out an important element of miniature golf — that there is no gender or size advantage for the players. A little finesse, a soft touch, a good eye and, of course, a little luck are far more important in putt-putting than is a strong body.
Following a brief closure, the Sterling mini-golf course received a mulligan and has reopened.
Carved out of the forest at 124 Leominster Road, Mulligan's has undulating greens to navigate and a country setting for picnics along its tree-lined acreage.