Dinner parties can be dire social obligations; they can also be the source of inspirational initiatives. Blend together an accomplished craftsman, an intriguing suggestion and a pinch of time and you get the recipe that on a given evening planted the seed of what might be Anguilla’s most original commercial enterprise and what might soon become the island’s most popular hobby: professional miniature golf. Play A Round is a family-oriented entertainment venue located behind Rendezvous Bay which borrows the American concept of miniature golfing and implements it with a comprehensive yet consciously local approach.
As Luke Thomas, proprietor and developer of the project, stands on the franchise stamped concrete that serves as walkway through the professional-standard course, he fills the gaps that remain between his finalized vision and the actual construction site in front of us: a large lagoon; a stream that constitutes a tricky skip shot on hole four; an illuminated fountain that sends the water back to the pump to feed the lagoon; floodlights that surround the place to assure perfect visibility at night; and of course the bright green astro-turf dominating the surface, inviting you for a game.
The plan for the future is as ambitious as the project itself. With brochures to be distributed everywhere in the island Luke pretends to market his playground to the local population as emphatically as he expects to tack the fluctuating tourists. Hotel children’s nights, local leagues, regular competitions, parents days all are part of a serious master plan to get everybody involved. “The idea” says Luke, while he juggles phone calls, voices instructions to his thirty-man work crew and tries to conduct an interview “is that you come, spend one or two hours here and have a good time”. For that purpose the par 43, 196 yards course is challenging enough for older players to feel motivated, long enough to make you spend at least 45 minutes going through it, and fitted with plenty of alternative distractions for those who do not feel like putting: bumper boats, inflatable rock climbing and an inflatable obstacle course for the little ones; the rescued hull of Saga Boy, kindly donated by Sir Emile Gumbs, turned into an outdoor refreshment parlor for the older ones.
But the impact produced by seventeen years in Anguilla merits more tribute in Luke’s most defiant undertaking to date than merely the inclusion of a mythical sail boat as part of the attractions featured in his park. Hence the educational aspect of Play A Round: on the one hand, indigenous plants grown on the spot and tagged with their local and scientific names; on the other, a brief account of the history of Anguilla from the Arawak settlement to Jeremiah Gumbs’ speech at the UN after the revolution, each of which will become the specific theme of one of twelve tiki huts spread around the place.
After several interruptions, Luke apologizes for losing his train of thought. “In the end” he says with a wry smile on his face “I’ll either be very rich or very poor”, then he releases a sudden, compact guffaw. He knows, after all, he won’t be all that poor. I, on the other hand, realize he has already derived more joy out of this venture than money can buy. And the fun is just about to start.