Once a year, the inside of Shaare Torah, in Gaithersburg, is transformed into an 18-hole miniature golf course.
This has been going on at the Conservative congregation for 11 years. It’s billed as a mini golf event and camp fair and pulls double duty introducing members to Jewish camps from across the country and raising money for the synagogue.
“It was pretty darn awesome,” member Lew Fontek said about the recent event.
Fontek designs and builds all the holes, which are sponsored by local organizations.
Fontek said he develops each hole around its sponsor’s interests. One time, he designed a guitar-shaped hole for the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington because of its music program.
He gives each one a punny name. This year there was a hole called Jewrassic Park,” with toy dinosaurs and a miniature volcano.
“Jew-piter in Action,” requires players to navigate their balls through Jupiter’s moons. “Shamrock Falls” includes a fountain.
“We also had a jail that opens and closes,” he said. “We had fun with it.”
He and others developed the course because it required few people to oversee and it brings in people from outside the congregation.
Fontek became the course designer in the event’s third year. He used to be a handyman (he’s now the chief development officer for the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes) and he loves the challenge of designing unique and interesting holes.
“Once you know what to do, some of the concepts are very simple. Some of them I’ve built in an hour,” he said.
One of his favorite holes is called “Jew-da” (rhymes with Cuba, sort of.) The golfer must get their ball from Florida to Cuba. It’s a challenging hole, Fontek explained, because the golfer must hit the ball over the water to land in the hole.
Each hole can be folded up and packed away between fundraisers. Fontek said he experiments with new holes and in the interim. And he can play mini golf anytime he wants to.
And his favorite golf course?
“The right answer is Shaare Torah.”