Welcome to the explanation of our ratings system...

Each rating is done on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest....
Difficulty: Ironically, the difficulty criteria is the most difficult to rate.  This is because there are a few factors that come into play when trying to look at how hard a course is.  The first is that each player has his/her own mini-golf skill level as well as strengths and weaknesses.  This means that the score a player gets may or may not be indicative of the difficulty of a course.  Second, major design flaws can end up making a course much more difficult to play than it should be.  Finally, there is the true design of the course.  In other words, if all other aspects of the game were perfect, how hard or easy would this course be to play.   Therefore, rating difficulty becomes quite a challenge.  You will find that there are some instances where we will rate a course as very hard, but then have to give an in depth explanation about how every hole has a six-inch dip at the end of it or something to that effect.  As you look at this category rating, try to remember that we do our best to explain any course defects or strengths as far as difficulty goes in the main body of our ratings.  Basically, a "1" means you have a decent shot of getting a hole-in-one on a majority of the holes and most likely will come in well under par.  A "10" means that you'll have to have some great shots to get anywhere close to a hole-in-one and unless you've perfected your game, expect to be over.

Creativity: Creativity relates to the individual holes.  The questions we ask ourselves here are "Have we seen this type of hole before?" and "How interesting is the design of the hole?"  If we have seen the holes designs on many courses, then they obviously aren't unique and creative.  If it does happen to be a different design, we must then determine if the new design uses objects and slopes in creative ways, or if it is boring and plain.  Local color also adds to this section as well as the atmosphere criteria in that we like to see the use of local landmarks in interesting ways.  A theme also helps to boost this section if a majority of the holes align with the overall theme of the course.
Atmosphere:  Overall, atmosphere is the general rating of the course in totality.  Atmosphere is your basic "How nice does the course look?", "How is the upkeep of the holes?", "What is the theme of the course and does the course reflect the theme?" or "How nice are the people who run the course?".   Courses get higher points for well-swept carpets, friendly and helpful staff, holes that aren't falling apart, and landscaping that makes proper use of bushes, trees, etc.  Points are deducted if obstacles are falling apart, the course has debris all over it and the landscaping involves bushes with thorns.  Price also has an occasional effect on the score if it seems as if the course is priced too high for the condition of the holes.  In that case it makes you wonder where the money is going if it isn't going to the upkeep of the course.  Also a lower price for a course that is very good can have a positive impact on the score.  It's also the most important rating of the three.  In our minds, you can have a wonderfully creative course that's difficult to play, but if it's run down and the people are mean and you don't have any fun while playing it, then why spend the money?  On the other hand, if you have a beautiful course where everyone is friendly and everything is clean, you don't care as much if the course is unoriginal or easy.  You'll still have a good time out there and feel that it was worth the money you shelled out.
To help you understand some of our ratings, here are some of our pet peeves and some of our favorite things on a miniature golf course.

Pet Peeves
1) Metal cups in the holes: They provide no leeway for the skilled or amateur putter as even great putts can go sliding by.  They may rank as the thing we hate to see the most on a course.

2) Raised tee-mats:  In general we don't use the tee mats but many people do.  It's impossible to get a good shot off ones that are raised above the carpet because they'll always bounce on their way off.

3) Rubber putters:  Again, we generally don't use course putters, but a lot of people do.  They don't give any feel to the putt and they tend to drag on the carpets.

4) Stagnant water:  It just looks disgusting and breeds bugs.

5) Flags in the holes:  While they may look good, they can ruin a good putt.

Favorite Things
1) Carpets, bricks and obstacles that are maintained: They just make the course look better and provide for better play.

2) Proper landscaping:  It's nice not to have to putt out of a bush and to have space between the holes.

3) Local color: Using the history and attractions of an area shows creativity and is fun.

4) Something to do while waiting:  Sign posts with interesting facts or local cover gives you something to do while in a crowd.

5) Anything out of the ordinary:  Everyone has played miniature golf before and if you own a course chances are you've played a lot.  Use that knowledge to make a course that isn't cookie cutter!