3. Adventure Falls
, 10:30 a.m.
After winning the first two games with orange balls, Moskowitz switches to yellow. "I'll be able to see the ball better in caves," he explains. The cave on 15 has an unadvertised water hazard—a poor putt will dump your ball into a puddle. This tricky par-2 must be played billiards-style: The ball that caroms farthest has the best chance of reaching the hole. Diliberto's brown ball banks off a couple of rails and stops on the soggy carpet about three feet from the cup. Moskowitz's yellow ball follows a similar route and sidles up to Diliberto's. The air is damp and fusty. I wonder if a Neanderthal swung the first club in a cave like this—not at a ball but at another Neanderthal.
My red ball flies down the fairway with the force of a sledgehammer break. It hits the other two, and all three go spinning off like planets. Red lands in the hole; yellow and brown, the drink. I get an ace; my opponents, 4s.
4. Harbor Light
, 11:31 a.m.
"The key to winning at miniature golf is pencils," says Moskowitz after I blow a one-stroke lead by triple-bogeying. "I've won every time the scorecard pencil had the course name inscribed on it."
I check. He's right. The runty yellow pencil I got at Adventure Falls is the only anonymous one in the bunch.
5. Buccaneer Bay
, 12:30 p.m.
The cashier gives us a choice. "You can play either the Fast or the West Isles." she says. "Your East Isles has your international speed carpet and your cave. Your West Isles is a little more aggressive, and you go over waterfalls."
We side with aggression, which is fine with Moskowitz, who is eyeing his watch. "We averaged 49.3 minutes on the last three courses," he frets. "Let's play this one as fast as we can." We buzz through the holes, shouting our scores to Moskowitz across the empty West Isles linkscape like revved-up country auctioneers: "Three!" "Two!" "Four!" "Two!" "Did I hear four?" "Five."
Twelve minutes after teeing off we reach the 18th hole. We're all tied at 43. Diliberto and Moskowitz take the conservative approach and sink their second shots. I try for the game-winning ace. My pink Pinnacle lips the cup, hits the backstop and rebounds over a lump in the fairway. That's as close to the cup as I get. The lump proves as impassable as Annapurna, and I take a mandatory 5.