Ophelia Bunuel stands at the putting green of the Riviera Country Club’s signature hole, No. 13, and prepares her swing. She hopes for a hole-in-one.
So does her mother Yvette Bunuel, who stands at her side and offers assistance. The golf club is almost as tall as Ophelia. After all, she’s just 3 years old and both mom and daughter are all smiles as they enjoy their outing.
Happily, there isn’t a line of angry adult members breathing down Ophelia’s neck or complaining about little kids on the course.
That’s because this isn’t the real Riviera No. 13 but a charming re-creation and part of the Coral Gables Museum’s new mini-golf exhibit, which plays off actual golf spots and landmarks in the city. The exhibit opened July 5 and will be open for play through September.
At the exhibit, there’s the Ole Biltmore No. 7 and its bridge traversing the Coral Gables Waterway—yes, you can walk across it as you would at the real course—and the recently restored Alhambra Water Tower sits here, too, with the golf hole just outside its center.
Other holes include a re-creation of the city’s seasonal Farmer’s Market with green frogs climbing bales of hay to get to the market. Golf pro Tracy Kerdyk, daughter of the Gables former mayor, the late Bill Kerdyk, designed a course, sponsored by her city commissioner-brother’s realty firm. Kerdyk’s vision comes complete with sand traps shaped like feet.
“She really did her research,” says museum director Christine Rupp.
At The Swamp, a massive blue University of Florida gator looms large over Sebastian, the University of Miami’s comparatively tiny stuffed mascot. Here, you putt into the gator’s yawning maw and hope the ball winds its way to the hole near the creature’s tail. This hole took Adriana Alvarez, 10, five strokes to clear. “Some of them are so complicated,” the fifth-grader said, eager to try again.
Wish You Were Here, meantime, is a collection of oversized postcards of Gables landmarks like the Venetian Pool.
On that one, a hole-in-one is nearly impossible, laughs Rupp. The cards block easy access to the hole.
But dozens of people are trying. Some are lured to the museum’s three-month, playable miniature golf exhibit to stoke memories of an activity that has largely disappeared from the South Florida landscape.
Then there are youngsters like Ophelia and her brother Augustin, 1, who are far too young to have any memories of the game, which, like traditional golf, has clubs, holes and traps and, in some cases, a full 18-hole course. The objective is the same—to sink your ball in the hole using as few strokes as possible.
“I love local history stuff, so this is great,” said the senior Augustin Bunuel as he guided his year-old son at the Gables Water Tower hole.
“My husband saw this mini-golf thing and thought it would be fun for the kids,” Yvette Bunuel said. “They incorporate art history around the museum so you are learning while you are doing [the mini- golf] so this is reinforcing the history, especially for the kids, so it’s beautiful.”
For Juan Manuel, 10, it’s a way to get a feel for the traditional game.
“I think it’s really nice and kind of cool that people can have a replica of all the golf courses and test it out and see if they like it,” says Juan, a fifth-grader at George Washington Carver Middle School in Coral Gables.