It had been many years since I had visited the mini golf course at Wanneroo Botanic Gardens, and unfortunately, age had not improved my golfing skills. However I was pleased to find out that the second 18-hole course of mini golf (actually billiards golf with a slightly different set of rules) had been completed, and the gardens were as stunning as ever (yep, you can get married here).
The Wanneroo Botanic Gardens and mini golf have been a highlight of many Perth kids' holidays since the early 1980s. Over the past thirty years, the gardens have grown from a sandy dessert to a lush garden with ponds, lakes, hidden gazebos and rolling lawns all set over five acres. Apart from the awesomeness that is mini-golf, one of the nicest things about the botanic gardens, is that it was, and still is, a family run operation.
The main 18 hole course of mini golf, winds through the bulk of the gardens, starting simply, and ending with more challenging holes. There are no turning windmills, flashing lights or water hazards that you might see in the American type of mini golf, but each hole presents its own challenges without being too difficult for the youngest players (kids get their own mini golf clubs).
The newer billiards golf course located in one corner of the park, is more densely packed and each hole is smaller. The rules are different too, with the ball needing to hit the metal side before sinking, or else extra points must be added to your score. There are also sometimes two holes to choose from, with the hole you sink your ball into affecting your score. Here's a hint: make sure you use the correct side of the scorecard you receive as you arrive – it makes more sense to be reading the rules for the game you are actually playing.
Mini golf is a game for all ages, although entry prices start from four years of age. I took my seven year old who was quite happy to have a bash at the ball (I think my four year old would have lost patience early on), and the groups in front of us including 80 year old grannies plus a large contingent of teenagers on holiday from school.
School holidays as you would expect, are a very busy time for the gardens. We arrived at 10am and had at least a five minute wait at each hole. As we were leaving at noon, there were easily 20 or more people waiting at the first hole.
Mini golf etiquette has that larger or slower groups should allow smaller or faster groups to play through. As such, the group of six in front of us were happy for my daughter and I to play through. However, when there are long waits at each hole, don't expect to be allowed to play through, as it will only increase wait times for everyone else.
There are many beautiful hidden gardens around the golf course, plus a number of water features, streams and lakes. None are fenced off, so keep an eye on little people who like to wander but cannot swim. Allow extra time before or after you play to explore the gardens. If you're lucky, you might meet the resident free-ranging roosters. Luckily they appeared at a fortunate time, and distracted the people waiting behind me from my appalling form on the putting green. I ended up kicking it in with my foot (the ball, not the rooster).
There are a number of ponds and streams to explore
The website says to allow an hour and a half for a game of mini golf plus another 30-45 minutes for the billiard golf. We played our round in less than an hour, but during busy times, you can easily expect to add an extra half hour of waiting. Luckily it's a lovely place to sit and wait. Most – but not all – holes have benches to sit on while waiting.
Bring sunscreen and hat in summer, and don't wear your fancy shoes in winter as the courses soak up water like a sponge and can ruin your shoes. There are toilets on the grounds, and most of the gardens are wheelchair accessible.
Best of all, on Thursday through to Sundays there is night golf, with the course open til 9.30pm (subject to weather) with the last tee off at 8pm. Lighting in the trees and along the course make a stunning course even more spectacular.