Caramel Cow lets out a deep, low “mooo” every time a player hits a ball into her mouth on a bonus hole at White Farms Ice Cream’s new miniature golf course in Ipswich.
Hannah Clapp and Jessica Flowers, 10-year-old friends from town, each took a few mulligans before celebrating victory with hand slaps and free ice cream cones.
“I love the cow,” said Deb Clapp, Hannah’s mother, who took the girls for their first visit to the course. “It’s very lifelike. It’s a fun touch.”
Caramel Cow — named for a popular White Farms flavor — is the newest player in a lineup of colorful characters and whacky holes on miniature golf courses north of Boston.
The orange dinosaur — a true giant of the game — has guarded the sixth hole at Route 1 Miniature Golf in Saugus since arriving on a flatbed truck from South Boston in 1960.
The Green Monster hole at Hago Harrington’s Miniature Golf in Stoneham has all the trappings of a swing-and-a-miss. The two-tier hole on the 12th green has a replica of the vaunted left field wall at Fenway Park, the Citgo sign, the scoreboard, and even a Giant Glass ad.
Pink and green prehistoric creatures loom large at Jurassic Mini Golf courses in Billerica and Salisbury. The windmill, lighthouse, and grist mill are staples at Golfland USA in North Andover, which opened more than 50 years ago.
“The course is vintage,” said Frank Stamos, owner of Jimmy’s Pizza Bar, which reopened the course last year after it briefly closed. “It’s a fun, simple course that I don’t plan on changing.”
But these classic courses have slowly vanished from the mini golf landscape, replaced by splashier courses with waterfalls and caves, elaborate plantings, and longer holes.
“You can’t even buy some of the things we have here,” said Diana Fay, whose family has owned Route 1 Miniature Golf since 1958. “All the new courses have hills and valleys and so forth.
“You have to paint them almost every year,” Fay said, pausing to inspect the yawning hippo near the seventh hole. “He’s lost a tooth. . . . There’s always ongoing repairs.”
“Our course is a landmark,” said Lynn Strazzere, the owner of Hago Harrington’s, a mainstay on Stoneham’s Main Street since 1948. “But you really don't see many courses anymore with these kind of obstacles.”
White Farms’ course draws on the natural elements of its rural setting on Route 133. Water traps, rocks, and logs are its natural hazards. Long, sloping greens aim to test skill more than luck.
“This is a competitive course,” said Rob Bouley, the White Farms owner, who said he invested a “few hundred thousand dollars” on the custom-built course. “I wanted to make it something that people would keep coming back to play . . . where they want to try to score better and better.”
When Tiki Island Mini Golf opened two years ago in Tewksbury, the course was designed with exotic elements such as palm trees, thatched umbrellas, and a cave waterfall.
“We didn’t want an old-school design,” said Stephen Russo, one of the owners. “We wanted something different, and a little more challenging.”
Paradise Family Golf in Middleton — which has a 35-foot-high tree hole and a river that carries a ball downstream — also chose an exotic theme when the course opened eight years ago just off Route 114.
“It’s very tropical,” said Anne Hourihan, who owns the course with her husband, Mark. “Some people say its a little harder than your average mini-golf course.”
Golf Country has two 18-hole courses next to Richardson’s Ice Cream on Route 114 in Middleton. The two courses draw upon the bucolic setting, with running rivers, a stone bridge, large flower beds, and shady trees.
“We sort of think of our courses as more like a walk in the park,” said Rick Nekoroski,an owner of Golf Country, which also operates another course on Route 1 north in Saugus. “They’re highly landscaped. People like the brooks and running water, not only to see it, but to hear it.”
Drew Orcutt of East Boston said he likes “the mature look” of the Middleton course. “You really feel like you’re putting on an actual golf course,” said Orcutt, 32, who grew up in Peabody.
At White Farms in Ipswich, Clark Cook, who lives in town, likes the course’s all-natural appeal.
“It’s a very peaceful setting,” said Cook, 25, pausing during a recent round. “Without all the big structures, it’s more golf-oriented.”
But Caramel Cow may be the most challenging. The happy Holstein’s head is mounted on the side of a red barn. A recording of a mooing cow plays every time the ball lands in her mouth.
“I wanted it to be lifelike in its look and sound,” said Bouley, a Rowley resident who has owned White Farms for 15 years. “Everyone loves it.”
Only time will tell if Caramel Cow finds the same loyal following as the orange dinosaur in Saugus or the Green Monster in Stoneham.
“My wife and I used to come here when we were dating back in ’85,” said Rob Smith, 46, of Malden, during a night round with his wife and four children, ages 7 to 16, at Route 1 Miniature Golf in Saugus.
“It’s a tradition that I like to share with the kids. It gets them outdoors and away from their iPods.”
Joel Hanley, 14, of Arlington is a fan of the Green Monster.
“It’s a little bit harder than the others because you have to hit it uphill and into a hole before you reach the green,” said Hanley, during a round with his pal, Zach Tullochi, also 14.
The sports-themed holes were the only changes Strazzere made to the course when she bought it three years ago. Since creating the Red Sox hole, the course hosts annual tournament to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.
The Bruins hole honors Hago Harrington, a left-winger for the Bruins in the late 1920s who built the course.
“We thought about completely redoing the course, “ Strazzere said. “But once we got started, people would walk right up to us and say, ‘Oh, please. Keep it as it is.’ ”
Some places to putt around
Jurassic Mini Golf
44 Nashua Road (Route 4)
Monster Mini Golf (indoor)
Route 1 south
(Big Lots plaza)
Cedarland Family Fun Center
888 Boston Road
(off Route 125)
White Farms Miniature Golf
326 High St.
Jay Gee’s Ice Cream & Family Fun Center
602 Lowell St.
160 S. Main St. (Route 114, next to Richardson’s)
Paradise Family Golf
25 Lonergan Road (off Route 114)
1591 Osgood St. (Route 125)
Castle Creek Adventure Land
100-114 Swampscott Road
187 Fort Ave.
Captain’s Corner Mini Golf
75 Main St.
Jurassic Mini Golf
167 Main St. (Junction I-95 and Route 110)
Route 1 Miniature Golf
1575 Broadway (Route 1 south)
(Route 1 north,
behind Fuddrucker’s plaza)
Hago Harrington’s Miniature Golf
160 Main St.
Tiki Island Mini Golf
Merrimack Valley Pavilion
2087 Main St. (Route 38)
Max’s Country Golf
383 Middlesex Road (Route 3A)
400 Littleton Road