How to Start a Mini Golf Course

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Quick Reference

Mini golf has been a popular recreational activity for people of all ages for a long time.  Almost all of us have played at some point in our lives.  If you are a mini golf lover, you could have fun and make money by opening your own mini golf course.

Business Overview

A mini golf course (also called putt-putt) provides the course and equipment for customers to play rounds of mini golf.  Some also offer other activities, such as arcade games or batting cages, as well as a snack bar.

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, the mini golf industry was $434 million as of 2021, growing 28.9% from the previous year as fewer people traveled and instead looked for fun activities close to home.  For the last 5 years, it has grown 1.9% on average per year.  According to a market research report by the National Golf Foundation, 18 million Americans played mini golf in 2018.

Industry Trends

The industry was heavily impacted by the pandemic but has rebounded in 2021.  It is expected to continue to grow due to higher levels of disposable income.  The industry is sensitive to economic fluctuations, so economic downturns result in lower revenues, however, even during recessions, activities like mini golf are still popular as budgets for expensive vacations are reduced, and family activities like mini golf are an affordable luxury.

Target Market

The target market demographics include mini golf lovers, particularly families with children and tourists.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Mini Golf Business

There are several specific skills that you will need to open a mini golf business.

  • Experience.  Experience working at a mini golf course, particularly in management, would be extremely valuable.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have at least some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • People skills. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and keep them coming back.

Mini Golf Course Startup Costs

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a mini golf course.

  • Land lease or purchase $15,000 – $100,000 +
  • Land preparation $100,000 – $150,000
  • Course preparation and décor, plus additional games and structures $150,000 – $200,000
  • Equipment and supplies $30,000 – $40,000
  • Marketing costs such as a grand opening celebration, signage, Facebook ads, or search engine optimization for your website $2,000 -$20,000

Steps to Starting a Mini Golf Course

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your mini golf course should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect mini golf course name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Related: Tips for naming a mini golf course

Step 3: Form a Legal Entity

A legal entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

You need a location that is convenient and has high traffic for visibility.  Additionally, locating a course close to other family attractions or fun centers such as batting cage, go kart track, video arcade, etc., can help generate more income.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Some cities require the licensing of places of amusement, which a mini golf course falls under.

Additionally, there may also be some general local, state, and federal registrations a mini golf course may need including a business license, liquor license, sales tax permit, and an Employer Identification Number.

Related: What licenses and permits do mini golf businesses need?

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing but getting the funding to start a mini golf course is another.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

A mini golf course will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a mini golf course include social media marketing and online advertising. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your mini golf course greater visibility online.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Insurance

A mini golf course needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.

Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.

Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

Insurance policies will vary. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hiring Employees

Mini golf course owners may need to hire employees to help run the day-to-day operations.  Make sure that you select people with appropriate experience and training.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your mini golf course business is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Mini Golf Course?

Your revenue will be highly dependent on your location and traffic visibility.  You could easily bring in revenue of $75,000 – $100,000 or more in revenue per year if you are successful.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Mini Golf Course

Running a mini golf course or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

It takes a significant amount of capital to start a mini golf course, so there will be a high level of risk and no guarantee of success.

Marketing and acquiring customers will be your biggest challenge and an ongoing expense.  You need to have a high visibility location to attract customers.  The best locations are going to be more expensive.

As most putt-putt operations are outdoors, the business is often very seasonal, and negatively affected by rain, extreme heat, and cold. Financially planning for downtimes may be important for keeping the business open.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs.  Research other mini golf courses to see what they offer and what prices they charge.

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