You know that scene in The Sandlot where it’s just too damn hot to play baseball, and they have to skip their favorite activity to seek refuge from the heat? That’s been the past week here in Brooklyn, where even your summer-addicted Brokelyn staff needed a respite from the punishing heat that comes with our usual summer trifecta of outdoor drinking, beach bumming and outdoor drinking while beach bumming. In these situations you usually turn to a movie theater with its industrial air conditioning but the cinemas are currently offering up late-summer dreck along the lines of Suicide Squad and Hillary’s America. So yesterday, while enjoying a day off from work, me and some friends tried instead a new kid in town, the first of its kind really: mini-golf, specifically Shipwrecked, the first indoor mini golf course in Brooklyn.
Mini golf is all about nostalgia — the boardwalk nights where you dad showed you how to hold a club, the camp field trips where you had to fish the ball out of the water hazard over and over again, the birthday parties where you spent $10 trying to beat the Simpsons arcade game. In this brutal heat burn of a summer, when we’re suffering from a heatstroke of temperatures and a daily onslaught of hot wind out of Donald Trump’s mouth, it’s also a form of cheesy escapism.
Brooklyn doesn’t offer much in the way of mini golf (the one in the backyard of Bushwick Country Club baaaarely counts), so Shipwrecked opened a few months ago to fill a huge hole in the summer fun market. It’s not a particularly unique or challenging course, but what it lacks in windmills and obstacles it makes up for in production values – there are several “interactive” (read: coin-operated) features that spit steam and talk to you with dialogue awkwardly crammed with pop culture references and digs at the G train. It’s all wrapped around a narrative where you’re rescuing a pirate’s lost treasure, but it ends with a surprisingly sweet reminder that (spoiler!) Brooklyn was the treasure all along. Consider this a Brokelyn Letter of Recommendation for a place worth a few bucks for a place to escape the heat, and appreciate the endless treasure that is Brooklyn.
The course, located on the second floor of a building near the end of Court St. in Red Hook, is the brainchild of two people who had experience working in theater, and the whole course includes reclaimed elements from various productions they worked on (according to the signs), including some talking tiki faces.
The course cost $15 to play, plus an extra $5 for the interactive action tokens you can use at five spots throughout the game. The first is a ghost pirate who gives you a long set up about his ship being wrecked and so forth. He shoehorns in a joke about the G train and how he’d rather be a zombie than a ghost (“Would anyone buy an album from Rob Ghost?” he asks. Topical!).
The whole thing is pure groan-inducing dad joke humor, and I kinda loved it. It is hard to deny there is something wholesome about cringing through bad but harmless jokes in the dead of summer, smacking balls around with some good buddies with no hope or expectation of any grander purpose. It’s the milkshake of summer activities, the no-fuss ballpark hot dog of time wasters, the Harry Potter re-read of avoiding the heat.
The worst joke was a reference, from a recorded voice of a ship captain, to a coordinate at “Kanye’s baby longitude;” the best joke was probably the name of the volcano you had to play through: Skullcano Island, which sounds like something out of Venture Brothers. This above Dr. Zizmor spoof gave us a chuckle too.
As a born and bred Jersey shore kid (who also spent a summer in Ocean City, Md.), I’ve been to my share of mini golf courses: pirate themed, dinosaur themed, Mars-themed and one generic one on the roof of Casino Pier that still holds a special place in my heart. The playing of mini golf is inextricably tied into summer memories, but since this one is indoors, you can keep it in mind if you’re looking to get a hit of that seasonal nostalgia in the winter too.
Shipwrecked is a bit of a mess narrative wise, and I was left with ALOT of questions about the fate of the ship’s crew and how “Brooklyn” apparently fit inside a volcano at the bottom of the ocean, but this ain’t the Man Booker Prize here, and the whole thing still made more sense than Batman V Superman. It’s hard to not smile though when in the end you break through to the few final holes and find out that the treasure beyond riches you’ve been promised was Brooklyn all along, laid out in front of you in resplendent gold paint.
We live in a trash city made ever more oppressive by this claustrophobic summer heat, a constant influx of new residents and tourists, and a cost of living that is enough to make you pack up and take to the high seas like so many future mini golf ghost pirates. Then every now and then you remember that the city is huge, the pockets of wonder are endlessly discoverable, and sometimes you need to skip work on a Monday to enjoy some of them.
“Sometimes you don’t need to look far to find treasure,” the ghost pirate says as you enter the final hole. “Most times you can find it right outside your door.” Guys, I could cry with emotion. Wait no that’s just sweat.
Shipwrecked is located at 621 Court St. in Red Hook; admission is $15.