Peter Pan Thrives in Neverland

Alondra Aguirre, Staffer

Kneeling and dressed up in a green Lost Boy jersey, a sculpture of Peter Pan looks down on a mini golf course in downtown Austin. This year, the Austin landmark Peter Pan Mini Golf is turning 75 years old.


Peter Pan Mini Golf consists of 18 golf courses with different sculptures ranging from giant green dinosaurs to star-studded turtles. For the past years, residents of Austin have come to enjoy the wonders of the golf course. Peter Pan Mini Golf was founded in 1948. According to Co-Owner Margaret Dismukes Massas, her dad and uncles founded the course and have passed it down since then.


“The business was started by my dad and his brothers [Glenn, Jack, and Clifford Dismukes] in 1948.” Massas said. “The game of mini golf was gaining popularity in the 40s and the brothers decided to give it a go. It has always been kept in the family all these years. I am one of four Dismukes family members that share ownership in Peter Pan.” 


According to junior Jace Castleberry, the family-run business has been a place he has visited ever since he was a child. Castleberry enjoys the unique nature of the mini golf course.


“It’s surrounded by stores and is downtown, so I think I enjoyed it for both the vibe and because it’s a fun place to play mini golf,” Castleberry said. “I also [enjoyed it] because all of the different courses are made of sculptures, so playing through that is more fun as opposed to just your average regular golf course.”


The sculptures are one of the things that make Peter Pan Mini Golf a fun place, according to Castleberry. Massas said that when Peter Pan Mini Golf first started, her dad sculpted all the sculptures himself. 


“It looked different in 1948 than it does now,” Massass said. “A lot of the sculptures were added over the years. My dad Glenn Dismukes sculpted all the originals including Peter Pan, the T Rex, the pirate, the pig, the rabbit, and many more, but he passed away in 1998.”


According to junior Malcolm Obianwu, people from Austin have grown up with experiences at the golf course throughout their years. Peter Pan Mini Golf has been a reliant activity for the people of Austin starting from a young age and still being something people can do as they grow older.


“I had a few experiences, probably early growing up, maybe seven, or eight years old, me and my family would go there,” Obianwu said. “Every once in a while like a holiday thing. Birthdays and stuff like that. It’s these special cases where we’d go there … but growing up, every once in a while I still go there.” 


Similar to Obianwu, junior Advika Sharma feels that Peter Pan continues to be a part of Austin, as it grows with people. Despite the child-like nature of the place, Sharma said that as kids grow older they continue to enjoy the wonders of the golf course. 


“I think it’s because it doesn’t have an age limit, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still enjoy it,” Sharma said. “There’s still stuff for you to do there, and it’s so age-friendly for little kids as well, but it doesn’t get old as you grow older. It doesn’t get boring or anything like that, so people will still keep coming back to it. And also [it’s] just this little place for people in Austin to go. It’s not really like a tourist spot, I feel like it’s a cute little nook for people to hang out.”


Massas agreed with Sharma’s belief that people enjoy going back to Peter Pan because of its uniqueness. Peter Pan Mini Golf is important to the residents of Austin, according to Massas, and keeping it authentic is what keeps attracting people.


“We think the business has lasted because we don’t change,” Massas said. “People love coming back and making memories, year after year. We keep things simple and inexpensive and laid back and people love that. We believe Austinites love the nostalgia and [the] ties to ‘old’ Austin.” 


According to Obianwu, as years have gone by since Peter Pan was established in Austin, it has started integrating into the Austin community and becoming part of the city. Peter Pan Mini Golf’s importance has continued to grow and has become a symbol of Austin, according to Obianwu.


“As it’s here longer and longer, it will become a more stable part of Austin,” Obianwu said. “So, I would argue that it’s gotten stronger in the community as the years went by, and I think it will continue to stand apart, as long as people keep going. It’s a staple of Austin, something that when people come to visit here, they wish to go there. I think it symbolizes Austin…something that makes it unique from other cities.”


Castleberry agreed that Peter Pan Mini Golf is a core part of Austin culture.Despite Austin growing and changing, the mini golf course has remained a constant part of the city’s history, according to Castleberry.


“The main reason why it’s still here after all of the real estate craze, after all of the remodeling, after all of the downtown expansion, the reason why it’s still a successful business, and it’s still here is because it’s an integral part of Austin’s culture,” Castleberry said.