Franchisee successfully operating Mini Golf Courses designed and built by AGS at municipal parks and shopping malls
Renovating, operating and renting mini golf courses has been good business for Rodney Knight, an entrepreneurial franchise owner of Wheel Fun Rentals in Minnesota. Although Wheel Fun Rentals is known around the county for renting family bikes (surreys), kayaks, pedal boats, paddle boards and more, Knight has branched out with mini golf – operating courses through his rentals franchise for municipal parks using the Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) Modular Advantage Mini Golf system and operating his own mini golf courses at shopping malls using the Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) MiniLinks™.
When Richfield, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis) knew it was time to renovate the 18-hole miniature golf concrete course Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) had designed and built at their Veterans Memorial Park in the mid-1990s, they didn’t have the funds to do it. “They were going to tear it down and make a dog park out of it, but they didn’t want to,” says Rodney Knight, franchise owner of Wheel Fun Rentals in Minnesota.
According to Knight, the Minneapolis Parks Director suggested the City of Richfield talk to Wheel Fun Rentals, but Wheel Fun Rentals had no experience operating a mini golf business. “So we said, ‘can we just run it for a year and see what we can do with it?’ We liked it and the numbers looked like they could work out. And so we basically gave the course a facelift. Then two years ago we did a complete renovation of the place with AGS. It’s been 10 or 12 years since we’ve been operating that one.”
The Richfield mini golf course was renovated using the AGS Modular Advantage Mini Golf system. This system uses patented interlocking, permeable panels to provide the look and feel of a concrete course with faster installation and less maintenance, saving the owner money compared to a concrete-built course. “…The Richfield course was basically built on wetland,” says Knight. “It was always shifting and in the winter it would freeze. So you’d get there in spring and the ground had fluctuated. So we needed something that was a little bit flexible.
“We also noticed a lot of the guests in the parks are concerned about the watershed and how it impacts the environment. So the Modular Advantage allows for a lot better drainage and is a lot more environmentally friendly.
“We operate another mini golf course in Como Park in St. Paul – right outside the zoo entrance. That was one where the contract with the prior people came up… and the city put it up for RFP and we won the RFP. We started with an 18-hole course two years ago which was real old and small… AGS re-turfed the original 18-hole concrete course in Como Park and was able to use the new carpet they use on their Modular Advantage courses that greatly improved play and the customer experience…This year we added nine new holes with AGS. So it’s actually a 27-hole course, nine of which are now handicap accessible.”
While the old 18-hole course was a concrete built course, the new nine holes were designed and built using the AGS Modular Advantage system.
“It was real easy to work with Adventure Golf & Sports” says Knight. “… Good communication. And they had good ideas. They designed nice courses!
“AGS designs are very much with the times. They’re contemporary. They design some holes to be challenging, yet they’re not too difficult where people get real frustrated with them…And it’s good for all ages.”
The eco-friendliness of the Modular Advantage system also appeals to Knight. “We do get questions a lot in the park about the decisions we make and how the products we use impact the environment.
“When taking over old courses that were challenged, a lot of the reviews were negative on the condition of the courses. Now we don’t get any negative reviews about the quality of the courses. The positive comments and the numbers we get from the courses has increased. We hear good things from customers consistently.”
Outside of his franchise business, Knight has also purchased and installed mini golf courses in shopping centres. For these courses, he uses AGS MiniLinks. MiniLinks appealed to Knight because “They were mobile. I could move them. They took up a small footprint and I could install them myself.
“We have six- or nine-hole MiniLinks courses installed in each mall; two malls in the twin cities (Minneapolis / St. Paul – the Rosedale Center and Southfield Center), one in St. Cloud, one in Rochester, MN and one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota… They are situated inside, right in a main hallway of each mall.
“We see a lot of dads with kids playing mini golf at the malls. I think it’s allowing part of the family to shop while the rest of the family spends some time having some fun and probably staying out of mom’s hair.”
Why is the mini golf business so attractive and profitable in malls? Knight says it is, “An all-ages activity. Low staffing costs. Low impact – and that’s appealing because a lot of our customers are grandparents bringing their grandkids.”
“We’ve admired Rodney Knight’s ability to align himself with municipal parks and Bowlero bowling centers to operate mini-golf courses as well as operate our MiniLinks courses in shopping centre,” says Scott Lundmark, AGS president. “We’ve been pleased to service him with everything from turf replacements, course renovations, portable / modular products as well as design and new builds of mini golf courses. He’s quite the entrepreneur!”
Between his Wheel Fun Rentals franchise and his personally owned mini golf courses in shopping malls, Knight reflects, “We definitely have been aggressive for growth and ideas.”
Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) is a global leader in the design and installation of fun, interactive, cost-effective entertainment attractions like Miniature Golf, Pickleball, Shuffleboard, Bocce Ball, Croquet & other recreational courts, as well as 360GOLF introduced with Holovis at IAAPA this year (gamified high-tech mini golf that can be operated as an arcade redemption style game or as mini golf). Besides traditional concrete-poured permanent installations, AGS has long term experience installing interlocking panel system versions, like the Modular Advantage Mini Golf system, for a variety of outdoor applications, such as retail centres, family entertainment centres, amusement parks, hotels and resorts, as well as on rooftops and cruise ship decks.