It’s tee time for glow-in-the-dark mini golf

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – What do scuba diving and miniature golf have in common?

You’ll find out at Ocean Quest in Kingsport.

Zachary and Susan Machuga were about seven years deep into their lives as scuba diving instructors when they surfaced in the Tri-Cities. Both veterans of the United States Navy, the couple have been diving instructors to hundreds of Tri-Citians for the past five years.

While seeking out their next venture, the Machugas looked into an abandoned property off of Highway 11W in Kingsport. Initially, Zachary said he brushed off the property.

Until Susan looked at a satellite image of the property.

“One day I was at work in Johnson City and (Susan) saw an outline in the satellite image of a miniature golf course and she goes, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re opening mini-golf!’ and I said, ‘What?'” Zachary remembered, laughing.

They said that as far as they know, the previous golf course closed about a decade ago, and the property has been vacant ever since. They bought the property and opened Ocean Quest in March 2018.

The couple laced their love of the ocean into the golf course with decorations and education about the ocean at each of its 36 holes.

But the Machugas are beginning the next chapter of the property this weekend with an indoor, glow-in-the-dark course set to open on Saturday.

Ocean Quest’s blacklight miniature golf course will open on Saturday at noon.

The indoor course is small, with nine holes, but Zachary said the nature of the blacklights allowed them to build in unique challenges.

“The cool thing about the blacklight is you’re able to create optical illusions that you aren’t able to do if it was normal light,” he explained. “Some of our holes have an optical illusion where there’s an extra hidden hump or extra pins that you can’t see when we go blacklight.”

Things aren’t always as they seem at Ocean Quest’s blacklight mini-golf course.

They worked with a local golf expert to tailor each hole.

“People want to be able to get a hole-in-one, you don’t want to make it so hard that it’s not possible,” he said. “But you can make it challenging enough that they have to understand the angles.”

Sophie Gaudiano met the Machugas while taking one of their diving classes. Once they found out that Gaudiano was an artist, they enrolled her to paint the walls to transform the building to an undersea golf course.

Gaudiano said she began her journey as an artist through digital art, and that painting the golf course let her develop new skills.

Sophie Gaudiano got to put her painting skills to the test by designing the art in Ocean Quest’s new blacklight mini-golf course.

Ocean Quest is one arm of the Machugas’ quest to bring entertainment to the area, Zachary said. In addition to running the golf courses and driving range, the pair continue scuba-diving lessons, which include trips to the coast for diving students.

“One day I had a customer come in and he was in his 50s and it was his first time ever going to the ocean, never seen the ocean,” Zachary recalled. “It kind of hit us (that) we could bring a different theme to the area versus Smoky Mountain everything. We could bring the ocean to the Tri-Cities.”

Ocean Quest will open the new blacklight course on Saturday from noon-10 p.m. Tickets are $4 per person and free for children 4 and younger. The course is located at 2000 Stonebrook Place in Kingsport.

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