Start a miniature golf course by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your miniature golf course. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a miniature golf course?
The costs of opening a mini-golf business vary, but typically run up $500,000. One professional group estimates that it will cost between $15,000 to $30,000 to put a deposit on the land lease, and a further $100,000 to $140,000 to make all of the necessary improvements to the land itself. Providing the necessary decorations and moving elements of the course itself, as well as interior decorations, furniture, and arcade games, can add an additional $200,000. You will also need to pay between $7,500 and $15,000 for architectural plans and between $2,000 to $4,000 for insurance deposits. Basic equipment (including office computers supplies, computers, ticket machines, etc.) will be between $8,000 and $10,000, with the point of sale system costing up to an additional $7,500. To stock up on golf balls, clubs, and redemption prizes for games may cost up to $15,000, and legal and accounting fees may be as high as $4,000. Finally, you may require up to $9,000 to order eye-catching signage and up to $12,000 to advertise your grand opening.
What are the ongoing expenses for a miniature golf course?
The good news is that after the initial expenses to open a course, the ongoing expenses are relatively minor. Some of the costs will vary by business location and size, but utilities should be about $1,500 a month, and insurance about $500. Fresh supplies can run about $400 a month, while rent may be upwards of $6,000. Beyond that, your main concern will be paying the wage for your workers (typically $4,000 or so a month for a manager, and an appropriate hourly rate for other employees).
Who is the target market?
In general, your best clients will be families. This is because the parents will help to control the behavior of children (which will not be true of all your teenage customers), and larger families provide more cash at a time than smaller groups of customers. And they help create lifelong business for you as the children who enjoy the experience will enjoy coming back as they get older and eventually bring their own children.
How does a miniature golf course make money?
A mini-golf business simply charges customers a set fee in order for the customers to play on the course.
How much can you charge customers?
The exact cost may vary by region, but it is typical to charge customers about $5 to $7 to play 18 holes. This pricing makes your business a very competitive alternative to the increasingly pricey activities going out to movies, restaurants, etc.
How much profit can a miniature golf course make?
The exact amount of profit your business makes greatly depends on the region as well as what the local entertainment competition is. However, the relatively low ongoing expenses means that a steady stream of customers can easily make you over $100,000 a year, and some mini golf course owners report being able to pay off their initial investment within the first few years of opening this business.
How can you make your business more profitable?
In order to maximize profitability, be sure to have an advertising presence in logical areas for potential customers, including schools, churches, and local entertainment centers. Try to stay open as many days as possible—major holidays often prove to be big business for mini-golf courses, as people have time off from work and school and are happy to come out and play. Finally, be sure to have a social media presence that heavily features pictures of actual customers and their testimonials, as this will establish the legitimacy of your business within the community.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your miniature golf course is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, and it's easy enough to form by yourself, or check out the top business formation services.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a mini-golf business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
If you plan to sell food at your establishment, you will need licensing from a local health department. All establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspection can be found here.
Certificate of Occupancy
Miniature Golf Courses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a rink location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a mini golf course.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a rink:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your golf course will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
In order to play music in a public setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP and BMI.
Learn more about music licensing requirements and how to obtain a blanket license here: https://ucomm.wsu.edu/music-copyright/
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a miniature golf course
For your initial advertising rush, it's good to do a mixture of television, radio, newspaper, and online advertising. This helps you become established within the community. Over time, though, online advertising via social media and your website will be easy and virtually free, and it provides a natural venue with which to engage younger customers.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to attract and retain customers is to encourage customers to have birthday parties and other events at your course. You can also have special days and times with certain promotions (such as bringing in four friends and getting a free game, or lower prices past a certain hour) in order to encourage more customers. Finally, within your budget, try to add interactive arcade games and other experiences that customers cannot easily have at home. This is one of the reasons that things like pinball, skeeball, and unconventional games like Dance Dance Revolution retain their popularity—customers cannot replicate these experiences easily at home.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Miniature Golf Course In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This job is definitely for someone who is enthusiastic about mini-golf. This helps you to not only enjoy your job but to facilitate minor repairs and maintenance of the course as needed. The job is also best for a “people person,” as you will be dealing with individuals and groups of very different ages, personalities, and temperament, and it takes a special skill to deal with everyone courteously and professionally.
What happens during a typical day at a miniature golf course?
The daily activities for a mini-golf business are pretty simple. You will be talking to customers, taking their payment, providing them with equipment, and explaining any particular regulations for your course. Other time will be spent fixing and maintaining the course, ordering additional equipment when needed, and networking with other local businesses to help promote yourself. If you end up investing more and adding features such as arcade games, your daily activities may include the maintenance and repair of those machines as well.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful miniature golf course?
Prior experience working at a mini-golf business or other type of recreational center can be helpful to in starting this business. Similarly, being part of a network of other youth recreational venues in the area can help you in advertising and establishing your business. Finally, a formal education in a field such as business can help ensure that your early investments pay off.
What is the growth potential for a miniature golf course?
The exact growth potential of a mini-golf business varies by area. Nationally, businesses that focus purely on mini-golf have experienced a decline in recent years; however, businesses that have diversified their offerings by including features such as a video arcade typically do quite well, and the affordability of this as an entertainment option remains highly attractive to local residents in many cities.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a miniature golf course?
Make sure that you prominently advertise your business as a fun place for families and friends to throw birthday parties and other special events. Similarly, you may want to court local businesses and corporations to see if they would like to have any fun events at your location. Within your budget, make sure the decorations of the course itself are very dynamic and engaging—this will be the kind of thing prospective customers see from the road, so it needs to be good!
How and when to build a team
The nature of this job means that you will need staff from the very beginning, as it is difficult to manage the entire course, help out customers playing, and to process new customers as they arrive. Beyond that, you will typically expand your team in reaction to increased business, increased operating hours, or increased services offered.