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Fore! Subpar Miniature Golf is Back

Alameda sequel site set to open this week.

Prepare to tee off, Alameda. Subpar Miniature Golf is back in town. It’s bigger, better, and on the cusp of its much anticipated opening. Golfers will soon be able to putt their way through 18 holes (technically 19) themed to familiar local landmarks, starting with the Caldecott Tunnel and ending with an actual VW Bug called “Berkeley Beetle.”

Alameda Post - Subpar Mini Golf front desk under construction
The front desk will soon welcome golfers. Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Subpar Miniature Golf is back

Subpar Marketing Director John Sanchez invited Alameda Post to preview its newly-greened course at 1600 Park Street in anticipation of its soft opening later this week. He shared, “If our permits are granted on Wednesday, the doors will open as soon as Thursday.”

Now, a lot has happened since Subpar first opened at its original location in 2012. So, before we get to the photos we took of the new space, we’ll briefly catch you up on the last 10 years.



Overcoming obstacles

Alameda Post - Steph Curry and James Corden play indoor golf
Steph Curry and James Corden ham it up at the original Subpar location in 2017. Photo CBS.

To start, Subpar was put in the spotlight when basketball legend Stephen Curry played a round of mini golf on its course with “Late Late Show” host James Corden. The viral segment, which also has Curry and Corden singing Disney songs in a car, has racked up over 12.7M views. That was spring of 2017.

By the end of that year, the lease at the original Alameda location was coming to an end and could only be extended another year. Owner and Founder Mike Taft attempted to relocate his business to South Shore Center but was inexplicably blocked from getting a lease there by another tenant, Ross Dress for Less. The incident was a disappointment for Taft and his team, and it caused a big upset in the community. Subpar’s original Park Street location closed on November 20, 2018, with no new site in the works.

In the same two-year timeframe, officials at Ghirardelli Square got in contact with Taft about bringing an indoor course to the San Francisco tourist destination, which he did. That course is going strong in the square’s Lower Plaza.

A town favorite returns

Alameda Post - arcade games
Subpar will feature arcade games in addition to the new mini golf course. Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Now, luckily for us, Taft and his team never forgot where Subpar got its roots, even when the pandemic paused his search for a new location on the island. When Walgreens left the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Park Street, a huge space—and opportunity—opened up. Taft eventually took over the former drugstore at 1600 Park Street, and announced on Facebook that a new Subpar Mini Golf would be built in its place. That was January of this year.

Subpar’s new indoor space is over 16,000 square feet, twice the size of its original location. Plus, it has an adjacent parking lot with 52 dedicated spaces. The previous spot, which opened on a different block of Park Street in August of 2012, only had metered street parking.

The original course had a Bay Area theme, Ghirardelli Square’s course has a San Francisco one, and the new one is themed to Alameda County. Yes, they’ve included holes specific to the city of Alameda.

Better than ever

Alameda Post - pinball machines and other arcade games
Guests can play pinball and Pac-Man during their visit. Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

As you’ll see in the photos, the new course is high on concept, with details to delight visitors of all ages. There is nothing “subpar” about this place. Everything is top notch. This is a carefully designed space that took lessons from its past. For instance, embedded glow-in-the-dark elements and LED lights were included at the design level, unlike before. This time, there’s a kitchen that will serve food, plus beer and wine.

The long wait was worth it. This is the indoor miniature golf course, party venue, and arcade amusement center our island city deserves. And don’t worry, Alameda Subpar Miniature Golf will be around for a good long time. It’s under a 16-year lease.

Get a sneak peek of your new family-friendly mecca

Your East Bay mini golf journey starts at the Caldecott Tunnel.

Alameda Post - a mini golf hole with arched tunnels
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

As you weave your way through the course, you’ll come to Chabot Space & Science Center’s observatory. The top opens up, and a light show is planned!

Alameda Post - a mini golf hole that looks like the domed top of the Chabot Space Science Center
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

The “tectonic time bomb” known as the Hayward Fault Line is next.

Alameda Post - an uneven terrain for golf hole #4 at Subpar Miniature Golf
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

This scaled Altamont Pass wind turbine is a carryover from the original location.

Alameda Post - a wind turbine at a mini golf hole
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Taft and his team jokingly call this the “Disco Pillar,” but really it’s a depiction of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory fusion reactor.

Alameda Post - a golf hole under construction with a reflective metal structure
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

The Sunol Water Temple, with all 12 of its Corinthian columns, is next. The real Roman-inspired temple is where three local water sources converge, providing half of San Francisco’s supply.

Alameda Post - a model of a temple with columns at Subpar Miniature Golf
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Subpar’s temple imagines a famous yellow submarine propelling through that water supply.

Alameda Post - a painted swirl of water and a yellow submarine
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Oakland Zoo is represented with a majestic elephant.

Alameda Post - a large, realistic statue of an elephant observes the golf holes
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Players can send their golf balls up — and watch them come down — a scaled-down roller coaster complete with a loop-de-loop, an homage to Alameda’s long-gone Neptune Beach.

Alameda Post - a recreation of an old wooden roller coaster
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

This course includes Subpar’s most-requested feature, the USS Hornet and its flight deck.

Alameda Post - a mini golf hole that looks like the smooth top of a flight deck of a ship
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Time to leave the Alameda section through the Posey Tube.

Alameda Post - a recreation of the Posey Tube at Subpar Miniature Golf
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Fairyland’s Big Shoe is the perfect shape to putt through.

Alameda Post - a statue of a shoe with a roof to look like a house
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

And it will be part of the bigger Lake Merritt feature.

Alameda Post - a miniature golf whole with blue material to look like Lake Merritt
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

If you’re at Lake Merritt, it’s not far to downtown Oakland with its tall office buildings and the Tribune Tower.

Alameda Post - a replica of dowtown Oakland including tall skyscrapers
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

And what depiction of Oakland is complete without its port?

Alameda Post - a replica of the port of Oakland including a big container crane
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

The Oakland Tree hole is quite a design feat. It’s 27 stacked layers and glows in different colors at night.

Alameda Post - golfers must hit their ball through a 3D version of the Oakland Tree logo
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Cal alumni will be happy to see the UC Berkeley California Memorial Stadium represented.

Alameda Post - a replica of a stadium at Subpar Miniature Golf
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Hole #18 is a real throwback!

Alameda Post - a painted VW beetle
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

But wait, there’s one more. If you can get a hole in one at #19, you get a free game. But that’s not all. Local artists will get the chance to have a sculptural work of theirs placed here. Ian Fabre and Michael Favagrossa got the inaugural spot with their piece titled “Sapling.”

Alameda Post- another mini golf hole at Subpar Miniature Golf
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

In addition to the 19-hole miniature golf course, Subpar Miniature Golf sports an arcade with lots of options including a dance game, pinball machines, and a laser maze.

Alameda Post - arcade games including a dance game
Photo Rusty Blazenhoff.

Rusty Blazenhoff is a recovering East Coaster who still finds delight in what our great island has to offer. Contact her at [email protected]. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Rusty-Blazenhoff/.

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