The Goofy Golf miniature golf course has always been one of the best bargains in entertainment since it opened on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach in 1958.
That bargain will get even better Saturdaywhen Goofy Golf invites residents to "Bob Fleskes Day."
From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., visitors can play free at Goofy Golf in honor of longtime course owner, Robert "Bob" Fleskes, who passed away Aug. 17 at the age of 88.
Fleskes purchased the course from his father-in-law, James "Jimmy" Hayes, in 1972. For about 40 years, Fleskes was a fixture at the course, either working in the booth or maintaining the grounds.
"Dad loved Goofy Golf," said his daughter, Selena Rogers. "It was his baby. He took so much pride in it and he kept it immaculate. He painted, he laid carpet, he trimmed the trees and he mowed the grass."
Rogers and her two siblings started helping at the course when they were in middle school, and that's where they learned their work ethic, she said. But, Rogers notes that it wasn't all work and no play.
"Dad loved people, he was always upbeat and positive and I think a lot of people in the community have great memories of him and enjoyed being around him," Rogers said.
Indeed, for many, Fleskes was the face of Goofy Golf, and it was clear the course was more than just a job for him.
"He always kept the prices really low," Rogers said. "He said 'I wanted to keep my prices low so that families can have a place to go and have a good time where it doesn't cost so much.'"
Goofy Golf has stayed mostly the same (expect for the demise of Hammy)
Fleskes also didn't believe in messing with a good thing.
Goofy Golf remains largely the same from when Jimmy Hayes first built the course with his son, Buddy, in the late 1950s.
Hayes and his son used chicken wire and concrete to build the animals that still dot the course today.
One notable exception was the iconic green dinosaur, named Hammy, that sat in front of the course next to Eglin Parkway. Goofy Golf lost its most iconic animal in 2003 when a truck rumbling down Eglin Parkway caused the statue's rusting legs to collapse.
Hammy's spot sat vacant for several years before local developer Jay Odom stepped up and commissioned a new dinosaur statue to replace Hammy, just in time for the course's 50th anniversary in 2008.
'I hope to see it open forever'
Fleskes retired in 2011 and sold Goofy Golf to longtime course employee Chris Clements, who began working there as a young teenager around 1997. Clements started with mowing the grass, and eventually took on more and more responsibilities.
"He (Bob) showed me everything to do," Clements said. "I'd go and paint, I'd fix things, I put new grips on clubs. He was showing me how to do these things so once he left I wouldn't have a problem."
Clements recalls playing Goofy Golf as a toddler and having a meltdown because he didn't hit the ball into the snake's mouth on hole No. 18, which earns the golfer a free pass. Now as an adult, Clements wants to make sure Goofy Golf is around for future generations to enjoy.
"I hope to see it open forever," Clements said. "Because I would love to take my grandkids, my great-grand kids, to play when I'm 70 or 80 years old."
The travel website roadsideamerica.com lists Goofy Golf as the oldest surviving Goofy Golf course. While that fact might be difficult to verify, what isn't in doubt is that Goofy Golf has stood the test of time, while retaining all of its charm and kitschy character.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Goofy Golf in Fort Walton Beach offers free golf to honor Bob Fleskes