In a sport where the aim is to shoot as low a score as possible, one golf venue in North Wales is shooting lower than anywhere else on the planet.
Fasten your mining helmet and plunge 152 meters (498 feet) below ground into a disused cavern at Llechwedd slate mine, home of the world’s deepest underground mini-golf course.
Opened in 1846, the quarry boomed during the Industrial Revolution, when a 17,000-strong workforce extracted half a million tons of the gray rock per year to export across the globe.
Today, only above-ground quarrying endures, but the site remains a hive of activity. Run by outdoor adventure activity company Zip World, the quarry has transformed into a thrill-seeker’s paradise.
Forget a golf buggy, players must board Europe’s steepest cable railway to reach the first hole, plummeting a distance just shy of Pebble Beach’s par-three 17th (160 meters) into the depths.
No need for flashlights though. Neon lighting floods the cavern walls, bathing the four-floor course in a rainbow glow. Lack of warmth is more of a consideration than lack of vision, with subterranean temperatures dipping to seven degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).
Golfers must navigate a range of old mining tools and equipment scattered as obstacles across the 18 holes before an explosive finish. After the final putt into a miniature mineshaft, golfers push a detonation lever, triggering a pulsing light show that mimics the controlled explosions miners would have once used to blow the rock and find slate.
Opened in July 2022, it’s not the world’s only below-ground golf experience, but it is comfortably the deepest. Ahlgrim Acres in Illinois boasts a nine-hole course some 20 feet below ground, its relatively modest depth offset by the uniqueness of what sits above it: a fully operational funeral home.
Diving closer to Llechwedd’s record is the Turda Salt Mine in Romania, which stages a six-hole mini-golf venue 120 meters (394 feet) into the Transylvanian soil. Also on offer there is a 180-seat amphitheater, two bowling lanes, a sports field, and even a boat ride on a mine lake.
But the Llechwedd mines offer more than just mini-golf.
Those looking to bounce back from a poor round can do so emphatically at Bounce Below, a 930-meter trampoline complex suspended on a net 55 meters above the floor in a cavern twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Slides and ramps connect the net’s three tiers to create a springy snakes and ladders experience, with mesh walls in place to prevent erratic bouncers from tumbling into the abyss.
An underground traversal course – with 13 zip lines, rope bridges, and tightropes – gives thrill seekers a more nerve-wracking experience, while those wishing to learn more about the history of the mine can embark on a guided tour.
The excursion sheds light on the production of slate and another unlikely export – cheese. Developed by Welsh co-operative South Caernarfon Creameries, the cheddar cheese is sent 152 meters (500 feet) down into the mine to mature for three months before being packaged and sold.
Back above ground, adventurers can take on Titan, Europe’s first multiple-zip line that allows up to four racers to compete in a flight over the quarry and surrounding mountains, soaring over a 746 meter (2,450 feet) drop at speeds of up to 114 kilometers (70 miles per hour) per hour.