Prior to my car accident, I was a decent recreational golfer. Now a triple amputee and power wheelchair user, I likely won’t fulfill my dream of teeing it up at Augusta National, but I can still dominate the miniature golf course in a game of putt-putt — that is, after a bit more practice!
Many of America’s miniature golf courses offer only limited accessibility — stairs leading to holes atop waterfalls and volcanoes really slow my roll. But not all mini golf courses are so intricate, and St. Louis Union Station Mini Golf offers 18 holes of wheelchair-friendly miniature golf. The course opened in October 2019 and I played my first round there last year — it was my first time picking up a golf club in nearly a decade, so pardon me if I don’t share my score. 😉
ADA Requirements for Mini Golf Courses
You might be surprised to know that there are detailed accessibility requirements for miniature golf courses included in the Americans with Disabilities Act. 18-hole mini golf courses are only required to make half of their holes accessible, subject to certain conditions, but at St. Louis Union Station I was able to play all 18.
I’ll do a deeper dive into these requirements in a future article, but for now, here’s a summary of the primary ADA design standards for miniature golf courses:
- At least 50 percent of the holes on a miniature golf course must be accessible, with accessible holes being arranged consecutively. One break is permitted in the sequence of accessible holes, so long as the last hole on the course is accessible.
- Accessible routes may be either on the plating surface or adjacent it. No place on the playing surface where a ball might come to rest can be more than 36 inches away from the accessible route. If a curb encircles the playing surface and the accessible route is on the playing surface, a lowered entry/exit point of 32 inches wide must be provided, with a maximum 1 inch curb height.
- The teeing area must be at least 48 by 60 inches, to allow a wheelchair user space to set up the first shot.
Additional information on ADA requirements for mini golf courses is available from the U.S. Access Board.
Wheelchair Access at St. Louis Union Station Mini Golf
I visited the mini golf course to have fun. I didn’t turn up with a tape measure in hand to assess every angle. That said, I found the course to be remarkably accessible — I didn’t have difficulty accessing the playing surface, nor was my ball ever out of reach. There were a few tough shots to be sure, but the course is definitely wheelchair-friendly!
The entrance to the starting area of each hole was level with the sidewalk that snakes through the course. Space was sufficient to place my ball and take a solid swing from the seat of my power wheelchair.
A ball grabber at the end of the golf club allowed me to retrieve my ball from the hole without having to lean forward. It’s a simple accessibility solution that makes putt-putt golf more accessible to people of all ages and ability levels, wheelchair users included.
After playing the hole, I could move to the next teeing area via a designated accessible exit with a lowered curb. The thoughtful design of the course and arrangement of holes made for an accessible experience and a really good time!
Admission Fees and Location
The St. Louis Union Station Mini Golf Course is right where you’d expect it to be, at the historic Union Station in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The golf course and other activities at Union Station, including a Ferris wheel and the St. Louis Aquarium, are just steps from the Union Station light rail stop. It’s easy to use the wheelchair accessible public transportation in St. Louis, and I recommend you travel to Union Station via the light rail for the convenience and as a way to avoid downtown parking fees.
The cost of admission is $10 per person plus tax — tickets can be purchased at the mini golf course or via the St. Louis Union Station website.
Mini golf is a fun, family-friendly activity that should be open and accessible to all. St. Louis Union Station hit a hole-in-one with its wheelchair accessible miniature golf course, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there. Visitors can enjoy a full afternoon of thrills at other Union Station attractions, including the St. Louis Aquarium, St. Louis Wheel, a carousel and more.