And so, just before Thanksgiving, we play hooky, hopping a plane and landing in Myrtle Beach, which bills itself as the Miniature Golf Capital of the World. Most of the Lilliputt-putting in Vanna White's hometown lies along the Grand Strand, a strip of hermit-crab emporiums and gift shops whose names—the Curious Mermaid, the Gay Dolphin—sound like nautically themed porn films. The same goes for Three-Ball Charlie, the oddity my pal Steve Rushin advised us to peep at in the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. Rushin had shown me some old propaganda that claimed Three-Ball could "insert a tennis ball, a cue ball and a golf ball side by side in his mouth and whistle at the same time."
Believing it not, we buy a map of Myrtle Beach and cruise the Strand. Sadly, a half-dozen courses are closed for the season, and another half-dozen are closed, period. Wacky Golf is now an abandoned lot choked with weeds and whiskey bottles. Only a concrete teepee remains. I look within and see a homeless man cloaked in AstroTurf, beating his head against the wall.
"What was in there?" Daisy asks.
"A real wacky man."
We move on to Dragon's Lair Fantasy Golf, a course laid out on the parapets of an ersatz castle. The head of a huge fire-belching dragon emerges every twenty minutes or so, and the scorecard reads: SHOULD THY BALL GO OUT OF BOUNDS, GIVE THYSELF A ONE-STROKE PENALTY.
"Dost thou understandeth the rules?" I ask Daisy.
"Verily," she says, putting on a wry face. "Let's pretend we're in a fairy tale, and the courses are enchanted, and we're on a quest."
"Okay, but what quest?"
"To play every course, of course."
On the final hole, with Daisy down four strokes, she strikes her salmon ball with a mighty swing and lo! It hops off the rails, boomerangs off a boulder, skips over the sidewalk and rolls noisily across the parking lot toward Kings Highway. Daisy bids me fetch the ball, and verily I do.
"One-stroke penalty," I say.
"Practice swing," she says, and raising the club yet again, smites the ball. And lo! It passes through many windings and trickles into the cup for an ace. I follow. Six times my ball climbs a hillock. Six times it rolls back. Daisy rejoices. "I win by one!" she roars from the ramparts. And I am left to bellow my complaints to senseless stones.