This weekend I played a round of mini-golf at Tampa Grand Prix (used to be Malibu Grand Prix). Not particularly "Florida," although there is a pirate, and not particularly historic, although it is aging.
Miniature golf is a great family activity --it's (usually) outside, it involves physical activity and strategy, it's appropriate for all ages, and it gives people a chance to talk to each other. All in all, a great fit for a place like Florida, with its tourist orientation and nice weather, right? Unfortunately, rising land values are leading developers to buy out mini golf courses. Also, the "mom-and-pop" courses face competition from some elaborate newcomers, like Disney's Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland.
In 2004, the St. Petersburg Times reported there were only about 200 mini golf courses in Florida, compared to 3,000 in 1930 ("Mini Golf Says Bye to Kitsch, Hello, Glitz"). Bayfront Golf in St. Augustine promotes itself as the oldest mini golf course in Florida (1949), but the ultimate is Panama City Beach's Goofy Golf (Agilitynut.com offers several pages of photos).
Tim Hollis is the author of a book I want to read -- Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast. In it, he writes about Goofy Golf and other tourist attractions along the Panhandle's Miracle Strip.
A remnant of a Jacksonville mini-golf course has been hitting the local news lately ("Beach Blvd. Dinosaur Gets New Life" and "Ash Properties Works with UNF to Restore T-Rex on Beach Boulevard"). Originally part of Sir Gooney Golf, this quite large roadside dinosaur was about to be taken down to make way for a shopping center, but local sentiment led the developer to refurbish the beast instead.
Some brief histories of mini golf available online:
"Miniature Golf History" (U.S. Pro Mini Golf Association)
"A Brief History of the Nature of Miniature Golf" (Miniature Golf Association US)
"Simply Putt: Mini-golf is an Art Form" (Jonathon Haeber)
Update on Mini Golf