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How to Start a Mini Golf Course

How to Start a Mini Golf Course

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.

Mini Golf Industry

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.

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 miniature 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.

Checklist for Starting a Mini Golf Course

If you’re thinking about starting your own putt putt golf course, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.

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.

Related: How to write a business plan

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 business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the 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.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a mini golf course, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC
 

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Step 4: Select your Location

You need a location that is convenient and has high traffic for visibility.  Additionally, locating a miniature golf course close to other family attractions or fun centers such as batting cages, go-kart track, video arcades, etc., can help generate more visibility to the right audience, which should translate to 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 typically 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. 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.

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 small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
 
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your 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

Every business is going to need a logo. Make a professional logo in no time with the free logo makers from BrandCrowd and Canva.

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a mini golf course. A few of these include:
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.

The cost to insure a mini golf course will vary depending on several factors. 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: Hire 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 the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost to start a mini golf course?

Here are some of the typical costs you will face when you open a mini golf course.
– Land lease or purchase $15,000-$100,000 +
– Land preparation $100,00-$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

How much money can you make with 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.

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.

Are there grants to start a mini golf course?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a mini golf course. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

What is the NAICS code for a mini golf course?

The NAICS code for a mini golf course is 713990.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours

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