Mini golf to open in heart of Dupont Circle, in former location of Front Page, Buffalo Billiards

The Dupont Circle Swingers is described as “a 1920s English golf clubhouse.” (Courtesy Swingers)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Swingers mini golf (Part 1)

Get ready for putting, boozing and entertainment in the heart of Dupont Circle.

The London-based mini golf venue Swingers is opening its first U.S. location.

“My business partner and I had this idea for a venue where you could go and play mini golf, or as us Brits call it ‘crazy golf,'” CEO Matt Grech-Smith told WTOP. “Crazy golf is the adult form of mini golf, so we’ve taken the classic activity but we’ve added classic cocktails and delicious gourmet street food. We had this idea to do an all-in-one venue and theme it like an English country golf club.”

The venture started as a pop-up in late 2014 in London.

“We found this leaky, old warehouse space in East London,” Grech-Smith said. “Everyone was like, ‘I would totally come and play crazy golf if you’re gonna bring me cocktails and you bring me a delicious burger afterwards.’ Our website crashed [and] knew we had a good concept on our hands, so we opened our first permanent location in London in the financial district in mid-2016.”

The launched a second location in London’s shopping district.

“We really wanted to expand to the U.S. because for this concept, there’s universal appeal,” Grech-Smith said. “We think Americans, in particular Washingtonians, are going to love it. So we’re coming to Dupont Circle in June of this year, hopefully. We are headed to New York either the end of this year or beginning of next year, but D.C. is the first place we’re opening on U.S. soil.”

The D.C. venue is located in the former location of The Front Page and Buffalo Billiards.

“You’ll come in on the ground level through the bar, then you’ll head down into the basement,” Grech-Smith said. “We’ve got about 20,000 square feet of space, so it’s pretty expansive. … We came in when the landlord was looking for new tenants and we are now in the space.”

What does the interior design look like?

“The D.C. site is looking amazing,” Grech-Smith said. “The bar is called the Clock Tower Bar, named after a big clock tower about 25-feet tall. That stands right in the stairwell, so you’ve got the top of the clock while you’re drinking your cocktails, then as you head down the stairs into the main venue, you’ll see the bottom with a big, swinging pendulum that’s one of the golf holes.”

Indeed, the clock pendulum is the final obstacle of a nine-hole golf course.

“We’ve got two, nine-hole crazy golf courses covered in plants, flowers and trees,” Grech-Smith said. “To play one round of a nine-hole course, it’ll take you 30 to 40 minutes. … You’ve got to navitgate all the tricks and obstacles: spinning wheels, clock towers, turbines. … On the ninth hole you spin our prize wheel, and if you get a hole in one, you get whatever you spun on the wheel.”

The food menu is provided by KNEAD Hospitality + Design, including Lil’ Succotash, tu Taco, KNEADZA Pizza and Mah-Ze-Dahr. Drinks are available from four different bars in the space.

“Drinking is encouraged on the course,” Grech-Smith said. “We think it helps people play just a little bit better if they’ve had a couple of cocktails and they’re starting to relax.”

In the end, it’s a unique way to spend a night out.

“It’s a hook for your day or night out,” Grech-Smith said. “We have a saying at Swingers: there’s no social awkwardness. Maybe you’re on a date or you’re out with work colleagues and there’s no awkwardness when you’ve got an activity like this to play. You’re focused on the activity, you have some fun, the conversation doesn’t run dry. … Competition makes a fun social experience.”

Tickets are available now online.

“We’re following all CDC guidelines, but we’re hoping to get open in June,” Grech-Smith said. “This is the perfect way to reconnect with friends after what’s been a very long 12-plus months.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Swingers mini golf (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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