Allison’s Mini Golf, Geneva-on-the-Lake
This landmark along the Lake Erie shore has roots that stretch back to 1924 and bills itself as America's oldest continually operating miniature golf course.
There’s a certain nostalgia associated with mini golf: childhood birthday parties, the excitement of a whimsically difficult obstacle, the satisfaction of enjoying a hot dog or ice cream cone from a sun-bleached snack shack after the final hole.
On the corner of Lake and Golf roads in the northeast Ohio shore town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, those memories live on at the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the United States.
Allison’s Mini Golf has roots that stretch back to 1924, long before Geneva-on-the-Lake became a destination thick with restaurants, bars and shops. The course even provided a summer job to current co-owner Georgette Allison.
“I worked in the food stand,” she says.
She and her mother found seasonal work at the mini golf course for years, and Allison’s love for the town never left her. After marrying her husband, Bill, in 1956, she hooked him on the lakefront and the couple bought and managed several cottages. Then, in 1981, their daughter Kathy noticed a corner property for sale — the very mini golf course where Allison had worked. She and her husband quickly made an offer.
“It was exciting,” Allison says. “It has been the best thing we ever did.”
She jokes that Allison’s Mini Golf was her retirement plan — both she and her husband were career schoolteachers. The course (along with the T-shirt stand and snack shack) keeps the couple busy, but it has also deepened their ties with their neighbors.
“We’ve had wonderful, wonderful kids working for us,” Allison says. “Many of them stay all the way through college. They’ve become our kids.”
As far as the mini golf goes, treacherous hills, bowling pins and even a clown’s mouth are among the obstacles scattered throughout the deceptively tricky 18-hole course. But the one that really drives people crazy is No. 12, according to Allison.
“It’s right at the edge on the main walkway to the main street,” she says. “[The ball] has to go up a hill and then in a hole and then down. … People stand out there watching [you] play and laugh!”
5456 Lake Rd. E., Geneva-on-the-Lake 44041, 440/466-7922, allisonsminigolf.com