When Margaret Dismukes Massad was a little girl, she lived in the only house on the street with a dinosaur in the backyard.
Her father, Glenn Dismukes, founded Peter Pan Mini-Golf in 1948 with his two brothers, Jack and Clifford Dismukes. Glenn’s handiwork is behind many of the business’ most iconic sculptures, including Peter Pan, the whale, the clown, and, of course, Trex the T-Rex.
Trex has been poking his head out from between the treetops on Barton Springs Road for several decades now. During that time, his home has remained largely — remarkably — unchanged.
We spoke with Margaret, who now runs the mini golf course with her husband, Julio Massad, about what she cherishes most about the Austin staple.
The origin story
Glenn Dismukes started working on the sculptures for his mini golf course — at first called Varsity Links, but later renamed — a few years after he opened it. He wasn’t an artist by trade, but even so, his pieces became staples at Peter Pan and remain standing today.
“He did it kind of as a hobby,” Margaret said. “The sculptures came over time, many of them in the 50s and 60s.”
Before you ask: yes, Peter Pan does look an awful lot like the Jolly Green Giant.
Margaret said her father modeled many of his works in clay before sculpting them, and Peter Pan was in fact modeled after the image on a can of vegetables.
Glenn’s sculptures are lovingly kept in shape today by a local sculptor named Cheryl Latimer. Latimer, who has also added a few of her own works to the Peter Pan course, maintains them and occasionally repaints them with new, modern designs.
Hosting date nights since ‘48
Because it’s been around so long, Peter Pan Mini-Golf has been a part of Austin families over multiple generations, Margaret said. She’s seen parents bring their children for birthday parties almost identical to parties they themselves attended as kids.
It’s also one of Austin’s oldest date night spots — Peter Pan has seen many a love blossom amid its castles and clowns.
The course has hosted engagement photo shoots, bachelor + bachelorette parties, and wedding celebrations, Margaret said. Some couples come every year for their anniversary — and she’s even seen a few proposals take place.
“We’ve had a ton of engagement rings hidden in all kinds of places,” she said. “One was by Peter Pan, because Peter Pan is on one knee.”
Peter Pan today
There have been very few changes to Peter Pan Mini-Golf over the years. In fact, the only substantial change Margaret could think of was the addition of credit card machines, which were added at the start of the pandemic so people could do touchless transactions.
“I think that’s what people love about it. It just doesn’t change,” she said. “Other than some new coats of paint, it’s basically the same.”
Peter Pan has been continuously owned by the Dismukes family for 70+ years. Margaret, who took over from her brother as operator of the business just a few years ago, plans to keep it that way.
“People just really have a sentimental attachment to those things that are part of old Austin, because yeah, it’s barely recognizable anymore,” she said. “So we’re hanging on, we’re not going anywhere.”’
Keep scrolling to see more then-and-now photos of Peter Pan Mini-Golf.