When Newtown Social Club announced it would be closing its doors earlier this year to make way for a new mini golf bar, run by the people who own Strike Bowling, there was uproar. Locals were understandably upset with the loss of yet another live music venue and boozer, but as the owners (who still own the real estate in Sydney) explained the former model wasn’t sustainable. So, we were keen to find out how they’d transformed the South King Street pub before its official opening on Thursday July 6.
Outside remains fairly familiar but each mini golf hole is listed on the light box above the door instead of band names; they’re punny and playful, like ‘Baby’s Got Pac’ and ‘Smells Like Tee Spirit’. Inside, there’s a nine-hole course that starts by the back of the bar called ‘Smoking Possum’ and neon lights spell out slogans that you’d see at other Holey Moley venues in Brisbane and Melbourne, such as ‘Who’s your caddy?’
What’s different about Sydney’s Holey Moley is the dining area – the food offering is a first for the fun-times chain and they’re serving up snacks like pork belly bao, sweet potato fries, and panko prawn on lettuce cup. They’ve got super sweet cocktails too, like the lolly-filled ‘Sugar Caddy’ and chocolatey ‘Happy Gilmoreo’.
Michael Schreiber, CEO of FunLab Group, told Time Out they were looking for locations in every Australian capital city after opening their first branch in Brisbane last year. “We were looking for locations, ideally in the CBD – we’re still looking in the CBD – but this fit the bill because you can come in the evening, play, have drinks, then kick-on to a late night venue.”
“We don’t really get impacted by the lockouts, but I think those restrictions have changed the dynamic of Sydney nightlife for sure – and not positively in my view,” he says. One of the major concerns about the transformation of Newtown Social Club was the loss of a decent sound stage for live music. Schreiber says they will have live DJs and may offer acoustic sets at Holey Moley, but they’re more about providing a fun place to socialise. “We respect that legacy of the Sando, but the Newtown Social never achieved the following to sustain it.”
Upstairs the course ‘Kicking Bird’ has a few music-themed holes, like ‘the Stage Dive’ and ‘Hound Bog’ (see below), which Schreiber says is partly an homage to the venue’s history, but the cheekiest Astroturfed green is one called ‘Ass Hole’ featuring Donald Trump’s face. “I’m sure I’ll get a tweet from POTUS!” he says, laughing. But for our money, downstairs is where the fun’s at. Most of the holes are nostalgic – drawing on pop culture references like Game of Thrones, Pacman, Willy Wonka and our very own Luna Park face.
If you can’t wait to get inside and take a look for yourself, we took a swing at all 18 holes and ranked our favourites from best to worst…
1. A Pin Pin Situation
My score: 4
At least half of the game designs at Newtown’s Holey Moley are new, and the ones with the most gizmos and gadgets seem to be downstairs on the Smoking Possum course. Our personal favourite was A Pin Pin Situation, which started with a pinball machine and ended up straddling the corner of a pool table. The trick is figuring out which pocket to aim for so you’re lined up for a winning shot on the green. Luckily, they’re pretty cool with punters clambering over the furniture.
The Stage Dive
My score: 2
It’s not that challenging, but the Stage Dive is big, loud and super silly. Sure, the live music set-up might feel like a kick in the teeth for Sydney’s live music scene, but when you take that punishingly tricky shot over the snare drums and down the guitar slide you feel like a rock star… a moderate rock star who’s being heavily regulated to keep the noise down and crowd surfing to a minimum, but a rock star nonetheless.
My score: 3
Willy Wonka would be proud of this mini golf wonderland. There are mushrooms to navigate, prickly mounds of Astroturf to avoid, and a vacuum shoot that sucks up your golf ball like Augustus Gloop in a pipe full of chocolate. It’s embarrassingly easy to get a birdie on this one, as the only skill you need is aiming for the first tunnel and hitting a buzzer… But the best we could do was ‘on par’ – we blame it on all the flashing lights and sugary drinks.
My score: 5
The glory hole on the upstairs course is as ostentatious as the man who inspired it. Whether or not Elvis would have approved of his ‘golden shower’ or the glimmering dunny behind it, we’ll never know, but the final shot is a fun time. This one has an angled ramp at the end, which takes some skill and patience, but the cold sweat is worth it to watch the balls roll around the golden bog bowl at the end.
Shut Ya Trap
My score: 4
You can pretty much pack your golf club away for this one. The Mouse Trap-inspired hole starts with a mini club fixed to a giant contraption of buckets, wired nets, an old boot and some plastic tubes. Simply swing the fixed club to roll your ball into the machine, hoist a bucket using the rope and watch it work its way through the trap until it pops out on the green. Now all you have to do it putt it – easy! Try not to analyse our terrible score here.
Vincent Van Go
My score: 4
Holey Moley is littered with puns like ‘So par so good’ and ‘Tee-time’ but we think this one hits peak Dad Joke. It’s the third hole on the ground floor and it looks easy – but don’t be fooled. If you’re even an inch taller than Kylie Minogue, you’ll feel the squeeze inside that kombi. The trick is to work with the skateboards and suitcases, which are stacked inside the van. Of course, we just whacked the ball through the backdoor and learnt the hard way.
Holey Moley Sydney officially opens its doors on Thursday July 6. It costs $16.50 per person for nine holes. Mon-Fri noon-midnight; Sat, Sun 10am-midnight.
If you feel passionately about supporting Sydney’s pubs, the best thing to do is to spend your hard-earned cash in them. Work your way through this list of Time Out Pub Award winners.