A new mini golf course opens with an enlightening twist at Dubai’s Wafi Mall
Whoever said golfing was a boring sport clearly never tried playing it in the dark. Tee & Putt, Dubai’s first glow-in-the-dark mini golf course, allows families and friends to gather around and watch each other manage through difficult courses all in the cool, chromatic glow of UV lighting.
Opened and designed by Inexco Group’s co-partner, Rashi Panjabi, Tee & Putt offers an interesting take on the well-known sport that’s not only attractively unconventional, but also inviting. Those who hear of the idea, likely want to see what all the fuss is about, and fortunately, at CID we took the time to check out the golf course for ourselves.
Mini golf courses are common in the United States, where Panjabi spent more than a few years studying. And with the idea of returning to Dubai, she imagined the activity would be quite popular for the region.
“Basically I was in the U.S. for eight years, even though I grew up in Dubai. My parents used to come and visit me and we would go to this nice mini golf place next to college. My dad is a golfer, and I grew up playing golf. And my mom really enjoyed the sport even though she doesn’t play golf. It was something we could do as a family,” Panjabi began explaining.
She continues: “So I missed it since we don’t really have it here. We have a few mini golf places in Dubai, but not up to the U.S. standard.”
Upon her return to Dubai, Panjabi had been considering opening a mini golf course, though in 2004, she decided to once again move back to the U.S. to complete her MBA in Chicago. She had used this time to prepare and finalise her plans for what would soon become Tee & Putt.
Panjabi says: “I did my research from 2004 till 2007 because I didn’t want to start something and then have to leave, so I waited until I finished my studies. We made the idea, fabricated it and brought it here in 2007. And then I started working in the Inexco Group with my dad as a partner and did my [work] experience, worked around for two years and got my feel for the market.
“I felt that doing an outdoor mini golf course would be good in Dubai, but it could also be really risky because of the weather…you might not get traffic all year around. And with the expenses, I thought it made more sense to do it indoors.”
The location of Wafi Mall seemed to have chosen Panjabi’s project, rather than the other way around. Having thrown the idea out there to a few contacts, the mall had informed her that they had the perfect indoor space for the mini golf course.
“Wafi was really cooperative. They said they were renovating the area and that it had a [929m2] space that would be nice for mini golf. Then I looked at it and fell in love with it. So everything just fell into place,” explains Panjabi.
The concept behind Tee & Putt didn’t originally include glow in the dark features, Panjabi informs. But after considering a number of ways to really make this mini golf course stand out, the direction towards glow in the dark took route.
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Panjabi says: “You know how in Dubai, everything needs to be a little bit unique, different and exciting? So, we thought let’s make it glow in the dark. It’s indoors and we needed to give it something extra. People who have played mini golf haven’t exactly played mini golf in the dark, it’s not just for kids—adults love it too.
It’s always fun. It’s just a very fun place to come to if you’re stressed from work…some people even call it disco golf.”
Upon entering the new mini golf course, players are intrigued by a full obstacle course designed to evoke outer space. Each playing platform, made from concrete, brick and carpet, is raised from the ground. The brick, painted with special fluorescent paint from the U.S., vibrantly glows under the UV lighting fixed in the ceiling.
Accompanying the colourful platforms is a space theme. Panjabi explains: “Because it was glow in the dark, we thought the best theme–and I felt there had to be a theme because I didn’t want it to be plain—is space. You could do a lot with space. So we put lunar rocks and obstacles with fault lines.”
For outdoor mini golf courses, the common obstacle for players is water holes, and since Tee & Putt is indoors, Panjabi had to get creative and come up with a few unique ways to challenge golfers. Such challenges include the lunar rocks, made from cement and rock, which also glow in the dark, and fault lines that signify disguised drops in the platform.
Surrounding the golf course and completing the interior design are the painted walls and complimentary structures including the astronaut and the space ship, which signifies the abduction zone.
Panjabi explains: “Then we have the astronaut, which adds more fun to it. We also have aliens and a space ship for the ‘abduction’ zone. If it’s indoors, you can’t use water, or these common materials, so we used lunar rocks as traps.
The lunar rock trap is where a ball goes into a centre of rocks, and it’s just to make it more challenging. It’s not easy for an adult who might even be a pro golfer to get far. It’s fun for the kids and can be quite challenging for the adults.”
The walls, painted by local artist Von, consist of imagery perhaps from another world. Covered in visuals including green mountains and planets, the walls add to the illusion of being in a world far away from Dubai. “On the left side we had a painter paint everything and he did a really nice job. He physically painted everything on the two walls,” Panjabi further describes.
Additionally, the entire back wall of the mini golf course consists of floor-to-ceiling LED panels, which contribute to the spacey feel by adding a starry look.
Towards the back of the mini golf club, is a party room where people can throw private get-togethers. Though the party room follows a fairly standard design, it can be turned into a dance club with the use of a glittering disco ball.
“I designed everything, and I told people in the U.S. what I wanted. They fabricated it and then they shipped it. I was involved in all of the designing and managed what paintings I wanted. I organised how the course should be and how I wanted everything, because I had a vision and it was my project from the start. It’s good that it’s finally come alive, it’s what I wanted and it’s better than what I expected. I’m quite happy with the turn out,” concludes Panjabi.