A putt above Manitoba couple reopens Grand Beach mini-golf course with retro feel
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/07/2021 (514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
To this day, Brett Chestley still remembers the old Grand Beach holding a kind of magic.
As a boy spending summers at his family’s cabin, the area was full of little adventures for Chestley: after a day at the beach, he and his sisters would hop on their bikes and pedal to the arcade, or the quaint Grand Putt mini-golf course.
First built in 1978, the mini-putt patch was a family-run Grand Beach institution — one of several popular activities around the town. In 2007, the land was sold to a developer who wanted to build a small hotel on the site. But the hotel never materialized, and for 13 years the site languished, choked by weeds and crumbling concrete.
It didn’t look very good. To longtime cabin-goers and residents, it served as a sad reminder of the once-beloved businesses that had shuttered, where kids like Chestley once frolicked. So in recent years, every time he drove past the site with his family, he would remark on what a fun place it had once been.
Five years ago, on one of these drives, Chestley turned to his wife, Karen Chestley, and blurted out an idea: maybe they should look into buying the mini-putt and bringing it back to its quaint and colourful former glory.
“At first she just kind of rolled her eyes,” the 39-year-old says, then laughs. “I do a lot of things that she rolls her eyes at. But eventually, if it’s important to me, she tends to see the excitement and comes along for the ride. And every year for the last five years, I said the same thing: we should buy that.”
Last year, the pieces finally fell into place. With most summer activities paused during COVID-19 and the family spending more time at the cabin, Karen suggested they at least find out how much it would cost to buy it; within weeks, they’d reached a deal to purchase the site.
Now, after a year’s worth of hard work and a whole lot of love from friends and community, the new Pete’s Grand Putt is officially open. The course held its grand opening on July 1, welcoming locals and visitors back to a spot that, for so long, was a source of so much delight.
It stands, in a way, as a love letter both to and from the Grand Beach community, packed with personal touches. Its namesake Pete is not a person, but an inflatable flamingo that once made a popular appearance at a Grand Beach party; the obstacles are rich with local references, many of them made by the Chestley’s friends.
There is a merry-go-round obstacle in tribute to Chestley’s grandfather, who once ran a full-sized version. Artist James Culleton made a three-metre tall pink flamingo sculpture out of golf balls and putters, while a shop teacher at a local school made a miniature replica of the old Moonlight Special train to Grand Beach.
The centerpiece obstacle is a celebration of the Highway 59 drive to the area, complete with an exact likeness of the Grand Beach sign, made by artist Kal Barteski, and a scaled-down version of South Beach Casino and Resort. There aren’t any fancy machines or animatronics: it’s quaint and a little retro. Just how they wanted.
The community has embraced the mini-putt’s return. “I grew up putting at the old one and SOOOOO excited my kids can enjoy what I did!” one cabingoer wrote, on Instagram. And even before the place opened, nearly every vehicle that drove past, Chestley says, paused to honk and wave and share their support.
“It’s tearjerking,” he says. “When I drive by and I see it done, when I used to see nothing but weeds, I’m really proud of myself, my wife, our friends. We get messages. We get texts. We get calls, people saying they could not be happier. When we hear those things, it gets us so fired up. It’s so exciting.”
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.