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Jungle Golf provides escape in the wild
December 11, 2019

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Since 1978, Jungle Golf has been providing waterfalls, elephants, zebras and giraffes as a backdrop for families to play miniature golf. All right, so the animals aren't real but the replicas are imposing enough to give that impression. For many families who visit the Beach once a year, once in a blue moon or for special occasions, visiting Jungle Golf is a tradition.

Though Jungle Golf is outside Fort Myers Beach, it is centrally located on San Carlos Boulevard two miles down from Matanzas Pass Bridge.

For many visitors, the miniature golf course is a landmark announcing to beachgoers that they are getting close.

There have been some additions to the layout over the years: lions, gorillas, snakes and other animals to make you feel like you are in the wild.

Each hole offers a different setting and challenge. For Tarzan of the Apes, Connecticut 5-year-old Brandon Rich, 5, earned one of his two hole-in-ones on the day (after a do-over of his first shot so technically not a hole-in-one) on a difficult setup.

His parents, Steve and Terri Rich were ecstatic though took some liberties with the scoring as they had a clear understanding that the game is not life or death. "It's not a PGA official event," Mr. Rich said.

"I love it. It's one of the best (courses) we've been to. Perfect weather, nicely laid out," Mrs. Rich said.

Roger Alchin came down from Ontario, Canada to visit his mother with his daughters Eden and Nadine.

"We come this week every year," Mr. Alchin said. "It's a tradition. It's our favorite course," Eden said. "I like the theme."

Jungle Golf won the Fort Myers Beach Observer Readers "Best of" award for best miniature golf this year, one of numerous awards it has won over the years.

For the past 12 years, Chris Frizzell has managed the course for a group of investors who own the property. For the most part, not much has changed operationally, he said. The three waterfalls are operated by one large pump that motors water through six-inch pipes. Another pump generates the fountain in the middle of the course. "The design of the golf course hasn't really changed," he said. The palm trees that surround the course have stood there since the course was founded.

During the busiest times around the holidays, there will be between 400 to 500 people on the course during the course of the day and night.

Miniature golf has the power to get the thumbs of youngsters away from their phones. "This is a digital age," Frizzell said. "Even if they have the device right at their fingertips you can't do this without leaving your device even for a little while."

He enjoys watching families laughing, talking and smiling together. "Even being attached to their devices in the world, they have to stop for a minute and play together.

"I think that's the reason something so unsophisticated like this survives."

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