A new miniature golf course has opened in Murphys, providing hours of fun and one-of-a-kind entertainment for all ages. 

The course features nine holes, each with a different creative theme, and three repeating “spinners” to add variety to the game. The whimsical course was dreamt up by builder, landscape architect, and master DIY’er Matthew Iannarelli and his wife, Jennifer. The couple previously owned the Barrel of Monkeez Family Entertainment Center, which was located at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp.

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Three different spinners, designed by Iannarelli, offer variety and even more fun to the course.

Now, the duo is providing families with new entertainment in the form of brightly-colored golf balls and a variety of obstacles to master on the unique course. Each hole is designed to reflect part of Calaveras County’s rich history and culture.  

A portion of proceeds from Murphys Mini Golf goes back into the community, like Murphys School of Music and various charitable organizations. 

Some unique features on the course include a solar powered “gold mine” water feature, a replica mining cart with genuine rails donated from a friend’s private mine in the area, rocks donated from the Calaveras Gem and Mineral Society, wine barrels and agricultural motifs, and of course, frogs. 

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The area’s mining history is recognized with tools, a replica ore cart, and real mine tracks donated from a local property.

The mini golf course had a soft opening on Jan. 1 but is planning a grand opening in the spring. Iannarelli plans to have several more features added in the coming months, including a solar powered walk-through “rain frame” that doubles as a splash pad in the summer, custom-built by Paul Kezis with MetalCrafters, who created several other decorations at the site, including large sasquatch cut-outs, ore carts, and a pump trolley. 

Iannarelli is also working with the local Miwok tribe to create an educational display and build a traditional ummuucha, or cedar bark-covered tipi. He also is working on creating a realistic-looking cave for one of the holes, as well as a Plinko game to add to a windmill on the course, a maze to go on top of “Painted Rock Mountain,” and a custom train to add to the first hole. Undoubtedly, more additions will come, as Iannarelli seems to enjoy designing and building his impressive creations as much as others enjoy playing on them.

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Golfers enjoy unique displays that pay tribute to Calaveras County's heritage.

Iannarelli says they have already had 300 thrill-seeking visitors since the golf course debuted in the beginning of January. Two such visitors, Wendy and Ivan, arrived at the course on a Saturday morning, excited to check it out. The couple were visiting the area for the first time from San Francisco and happened to notice the mini golf course.

Ivan, who was thrilled to discover the brand new course, said he isn’t as much a fan of mini golf as he is of seeing people’s “passion projects.” The couple played the course, discovering many unique attributes, like a spinning wheel with shortened spokes, which Ivan’s ball passed through on a first try. Wendy, however, wasn’t so lucky.

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The miniature golf course features a variety of challenges for any skill level.

As the couple made their way through the course, a family and older couple arrived to check out the course as well.

The course is on a self-pay “honor system,” with a kiosk to deposit a $7 fee for unlimited play. Payment can also be made by payment apps listed on the kiosk. While Iannarelli is there at least once every day, the course is designed so that no attendant is needed. There is a phone number on the kiosk in case of any problems, and also security cameras on site. Iannarelli doesn’t think theft will be a problem, as neighboring businesses and community members have been keeping an eye on things for him when he’s at home in Angels Camp, or at his other job, bartending at V Bistro in downtown Murphys. 

The Iannarellis have received resounding support from the community, with friends donating items such as logs, railroad ties, and real animal skulls for a faux “river of skulls.” Spence Ranch Feed & Supply in Angels Camp donated a barn-style chicken coop for a “tribute to farming and 4-H” that Iannarelli has filled with fun surprises.

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Matt Iannarelli designed the course using his knowledge of building and landscape design to create a one-of-a-kind attraction.

The course has what Iannarelli calls “eye candy” throughout, like the metal animal cutouts made by Amanda Hernandez with A-Fab Creations, which keep visitors entertained while waiting for their turn or just hanging out. There is also a scavenger hunt to add another layer of excitement, making use of the many unique builds, custom art, and vintage items Iannarelli has “rescued” and repurposed, like the addition of a large frog sculpture that used to sit in front of Angels Camp Food Market.

Murphys Mini Golf is located at 265 Tom Bell Rd, in the Taylor Shopping Plaza alongside El Dorado Savings Bank, Murphys School of Music, and the Murphys Thrift store. Follow the business on Facebook for more information @murphysminiaturegolf.

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The Iannarellis wanted to create a family-friendly environment at their fun, new attraction. 

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Marie-Elena studied creative writing, art, and photography at University of Nebraska at Omaha, graduating with a BA in Studio Art -Visual Media. She moved to California from Nebraska in 2019 and is happy to call Calaveras County her home.

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