Pee Wee Golf
Playland, better known as “Pee Wee Golf” in Guerneville is one of the truly great things to do in town on a summer night. It is a true, authentic, old school pee wee golf course right out of the early fifties. It’s not to be missed if you have kids and way more fun than you would expect if you are an adult. Grab a pizza or some Mexican food in town before coming back to the camp and make a night of it. Below is a better write up of Playland than I could muster and is available in full here: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10052
From roadsideamerica.com -
Much of the surreal landscape of post-World War II miniature golf courses burst from the minds of members of the Koplin family.
Welder Bill Koplin Sr. built the Pee Wee Golf in Guerneville, California, which opened in 1948. His brother, Lee Koplin, managed the business for three years (1953-55), and apparently caught the miniature golf sculpture bug. Lee (said by his son Randy to also be a welder, who worked on the Hoover Dam) headed east, fashioning his own golf challenges -- culminating in his greatest (and much copied) work during his Goofy Golf period (1957-59), in Florida and Mississippi. Meanwhile, Bill and his son Bill Jr. continued creating their own distinct style of courses, chiefly in California -- in Alameda, Bakersfield, South Lake Tahoe, Lake Berryessa...
But Guerneville's 36-hole Pee Wee Golf is where it all started.
A bridge constructed across the Russian River into Guerneville in the last decade had a detrimental effect on a cluster of south bank amusements, siphoning tourist traffic into town. Most quickly went out of business. Play Land Amusement Park, across the street, kicked sometime after the Millennium; what remains today is Pee Wee Golf.
Pee Wee seemed destined for obliteration as well, after the old owners retired out of the area. In stepped current owner Tom Glover, who's been diligently running the historic (and fun) site with his wife, Vanessa.
There is a comic depiction of two cannibals cooking a man in a large pot, right next to a Yogi Bear head. While we stroll, Tom points out that as the river swells from Spring floods nearly every year, all 36 holes and statues go underwater. "That's the high water mark," he says, pointing to a spot halfway up the second floor of the main building. A major cresting of the Russian River on Feb. 18, 1986, put Pee Wee Golf under about 16 feet of water.
One bright spot is the media attention the deluge garners -- TV weather reporters always use Pee Wee Golf's garish purple dinosaur, Lily, as the region's visual measurement stick for high water. After the Spring waters recede, Pee Wee Golf is thoroughly scraped of mud, hosed down and cleaned. Hole No. #1 features the largest dinosaur, built in 1962, well after the original sculptures by Lee Koplin. A classic, dagger-toothed flesh-eater, Tom referred to it as a T-Rex for a long time before a visiting 5-year old child corrected him, based on the statue's number of fingers. Laughing, Tom said now he properly refers to it as an Allosaurus Rex.
Pee Wee Golf has solid family appeal, but even on the off-season we see hints of a broader clientele. Grateful Dead bears and a G.D. skull logo are painted around one hole. Tom mentions quite a bit of "evening activity," and has to chase out after-hours teenagers cavorting in the castle, or under the monkey.
Tom is working on adding a new statue to the park -- the first in years. He has the silver cylinder and nosecone of a moon rocket started, composed of raw materials donated by locals. Sounds like a good Spring project -- after the flood, of course.
Thanks to Tim Hollis, Debra Jane Selzer, and Karen Franceschi (Koplin) for some of the details on the Koplin connection.
Pee Wee Golf
Address: 16155 Drake Road, Guerneville, CA
Directions: Drake Road and Hwy. 116, River Lumber Yard, just south of bridge.
Hours: Opens after Easter. (Call to verify)
Sunday, April 11, 2010