David Christopher is standing on the Biblical miniature golf course he manages in Lexington, Ky., surrounded by switchbacks, water hazards and carefully-manicured trees. A leaf blower idles noisily in his hands.
My friend Joe and I have just watched Christopher walk a circuit of the crowded two-acre course, blowing leaves from the Lion's Den before making his way through Noah's Ark, past the Burning Bush and back to the path.
We've driven almost 90 miles south along I-75, through rolling Kentucky farmland and we're the first customers of the day at the Lexington Ice and Recreation Center. In other words, we have the Bible-themed golf course to ourselves. I have selected an appropriately-sized club, which is important, and a ball, which is essential, and I have my scorecard in my hand. We're ready to head out onto the course.
"We have three 18-hole courses," Christopher says. "Each of the courses represents something different Biblically. The first course is called the Old Testament, and every hole has a scripture verse that goes with it."
The first seven holes are based on the events of Genesis, says the 28-year-old managing director, with each hole representing a different event.
"Hole Six," he explains, "would be the sixth day, when He created Adam and Eve."
Each hole is given an appropriate title, posted on a marker next to every tee, along with a verse or two of Biblical scripture.
For instance: Course Three, Hole Three -- Parting of the Red Sea: "During the deliverance of the Israelites, God gave Moses the power to drive back the Red Sea into dry land with a stretch of his hand. Exodus 14:21-22."
"The toughest hole on Course One is Mount Sinai," Christopher says, "which is Hole 13. Generally, it's either a hole-in-one or you get your maximum six strokes and move on."
Mount Sinai: Course One, Hole 13. Hopeful putt-putters line up and stand in front of the four-foot-tall model Mount Sinai, squinting into the sun. One after another, they try to putt their ball up its steep green sides, attempting to hit the ball with just enough force that it drops gently over the lip of the crater at the top without running over the hole, back up over the lip and down the other side.
"Then of course," Christopher continues, "we have Course Two. That's the New Testament."
Holes on the second course include the Star of Bethlehem (par three), Saul's journey to Damascus (also par three) and faith, hope and love (pars two, three and two respectively).
Finally, there's a third course -- "the miracle course," says Christopher, "and it's based on miracles throughout the Bible."
Right now, we're standing on the winding path that snakes through the Miracle Course. Christian music drifts from the clubhouse. I point to the nearest hole, a short length of blue and red carpet, maybe 12-feet long, and ask Christopher what it represents.
"This one is Water into Wine, I think," he says. He looks again. His brow creases. "I think that's what that is. I get confused because there's Rivers to Blood too."
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In 1985, after leasing an ice rink for a few years, Tom and Sally Christopher -- David's parents -- finally bought the rink and the land next to it. Almost 20 years later, the ice rink is still there and the land next to it has become the Biblical miniature golf course.
Not long after buying the rink, Christopher says, his parents realized they needed something to compensate for the drop in business that began each April and lasted until the following September.
"They definitely needed something to offset that," he says, "and they thought -- and this perhaps is the greatest miracle of all -- 'Why not build a Biblical miniature golf course?' "
A year later, without much fanfare, the first two courses -- the New Testament and the Old Testament -- were opened to the public.
"They felt like the Lord led them to this business," Christopher says earnestly.
Three years later, the third course followed.
"I built the third one," says Dennis Hyde, the courses' general manager. "I helped design and build it. I was here every day pouring concrete. It actually took us, hard labor, probably about three months."
Surprisingly, this isn't the only Biblical miniature golf course around. There are others -- in Du Quoin, Ill., and Cave City, Ky., with another being built in Denver at the Noah's Ark Park by Pastor Tommy Moore and his wife Del. It would be difficult for any of them to be as impressive as this one.
"We've had people drive from Pittsburgh just to play," Christopher says proudly.
It's now almost 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, and the course is starting to get busy. A family of four is gathered in front of Mount Sinai, and over at Jonah and the Whale a teenager is steadying himself, trying to impress his date. An annoying little boy shouts, "Hallelujah, baby!" every time he completes a hole.
There's no point trying to deconstruct a place like this -- it's strange on so many different levels. I've been here for nearly three hours and I still don't know what it means. Neither does Joe.
But those who are so inclined -- and it helps if you are so inclined -- can come here 363 days a year to hone their putting skills and brush up on their scripture.
An hour or so later, and Joe and I are standing by the tee for the last hole: Course Three, Hole 18 -- Love in Any Language. It's a deceptive par two. The hole sits at the end of a straight shot, beneath a display case that houses a swinging globe, foreign Bibles, Barbie dolls in exotic national costumes and, inexplicably, a Ken doll dressed as an ice-skater sporting a purple cape.
Ken is very distracting.
I focus and take a deep breath -- drop my shoulders -- and swing the club.
Contact. And it looks good. ©