18 Holes and a Pirate Treasure Hunt
Posted June 30, 2018 12:49 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK — Two couples walked through a sparse block of Brooklyn and entered a squat, brick building marked with the words “Statewide Oil & Heating Co., Inc.”
After riding an elevator to the second floor, they ambled through a series of mood-lit rooms, each painted to evoke a different theme: under-the-sea, the jungle, even the borough of Brooklyn — the centerpiece of which was a 30-foot-long, rhinestone-bedazzled mural of the Coney Island boardwalk, complete with a Freak Show booth.
For Natalie Kbariti, 21, this was an impressive double date.
“You’re not just playing regular mini-golf and that’s it — it’s creative and interactive,” said Kbariti, who learned of Shipwrecked Miniature Golf on Yelp.
Despite its unusual setting (and a lack of windmills), Shipwrecked, which opened in April 2016, checks many of the mini-golf boxes. There are 18 holes, frozen treats (Dippin’ Dots) and merch ($2 pirate rubber duckies, $3 pirate figurines). There are kids, large families and buzzed 20-somethings clutching “Ship Sippers,” pirate-ship-topped plastic beer flutes, which are required for those who want to take beers on the course (they cost $2 on top of the $6 beers).
In December 2014, the 11,000-square-foot space on Craigslist caught the attention of Ryan Powers, 42, and Chris Schneider, 41.
“In college, we thought it’d be fun to mix miniature golf and theater — our two loves,” said Powers. “But in order to do it the way we wanted, we needed to control the environment.”
The two met while studying theater at Youngstown State University in Ohio and remained close after moving to New York and working on Broadway — Powers in audio design, Schneider in props. After quitting their jobs, they began to pursue their shared vision, studying building codes and zoning regulations while searching for just the right location. After successfully acquiring a lease on the industrial space, they built, sourced or refurbished most of Shipwrecked themselves, and excavated all 18 holes from a foreclosed mini-golf course in Maryland before carting them north on a manual-transmission flatbed truck. (It took six trips.)
Now, lights, props and ambient sounds, installed with a theatrical sensibility, update the timeworn mini-golf trope of pirates. A freewheeling treasure-hunt story line, developed with the help of comedian Harrison Greenbaum, blares on speakers at token-activated checkpoints throughout the course and includes quips about the G Train, YouTube cat videos and President Donald Trump’s border wall.
“That was written before he was elected,” Powers said. “When he became president, we were like, ‘Shoot, do we need to take out the joke?’ But no one’s ever said anything to us.”
Powers and Schneider do, however, receive calls from mothers inquiring whether there’s quiet space to talk (yes) or photos of scantily clad women (no). Indeed, Shipwrecked is listed on Mikomos.com, a recommendations site for Orthodox Jewish shidduchim, or matchmaking dates.
For Simone Dorestant, 45, deciding where to go with 20 kids and 10 adults for her son’s seventh birthday in early June was a no-brainer.
“When we don’t want to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s or a park, we come to Shipwrecked,” Dorestant said. “Besides,” she added, “you can’t find street parking like that anywhere else in Brooklyn.”
Dorestant isn’t the only repeat fan. On Kbariti’s second visit to Shipwrecked, at the 18th hole — a replica New York City subway car complete with ads for the ubiquitous dermatologist Dr. Zizmor — her boyfriend, Eli, knelt before her. Hanging overhead was a handwritten sign: “I finally got the balls to ask: Will you marry me?”
For a couple who had met on a Brooklyn-bound B Train, it was the perfect place to get engaged.