DULUTH -- If you see a swinging club in Hunters Park, a Wiffle ball might follow.

“You can hit the Wiffle balls really hard, but they don’t go far,” said Mariah Vitiritto with a laugh.

She and her husband, Scott Vitiritto, are behind Critter Hill Golf Course, a nine-hole Wiffle ball course they made in their Hunters Park backyard.

Scott and Mariah Vitiritto created Critter Hill Golf Course in their backyard to practice social distancing and enjoy an outdoor activity during the coronavirus pandemic. The couple plays a round every night. Mariah challenged Scott to a one-handed round Tuesday; she joked that was the only way she could beat him. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Scott and Mariah Vitiritto created Critter Hill Golf Course in their backyard to practice social distancing and enjoy an outdoor activity during the coronavirus pandemic. The couple plays a round every night. Mariah challenged Scott to a one-handed round Tuesday; she joked that was the only way she could beat him. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

The idea came to Mariah during quarantine, and it didn’t take Scott long to latch onto the idea. Soon, the couple walked through their yard, plotting the course and spray-painting circles.

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Before flags and poles, they used sticks from the woods behind their house as course markers.

Critter Hill has been up and running for about two months. Since then, Mariah has painted rocks with yardage markers. A graphic designer friend made score cards. And, the couple launched a Facebook page, where people can set up tee times.

Mariah Vitiritto eyes her ball while playing a round on her family's backyard golf course with her husband Scott and friend Jessie Peters on Wednesday, July 1. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Mariah Vitiritto eyes her ball while playing a round on her family's backyard golf course with her husband Scott and friend Jessie Peters on Wednesday, July 1. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Scott has been a leisurely golfer for 25 years. He said theirs is an abbreviated course — each hole averages about 20-30 yards apart — and you only use one club. Proper golf is more of a challenge, but this does encourage different kinds of shots.

There is one tricky part of the Critter Hill course.

“It has an angle that goes under trees and around the front deck and over a hill. It takes a pretty good shot to get there,” he said.

As for the name “Critter Hill,” Mariah said, there’s always something to watch in the yard.

“Deer, bear, chipmunks, bunnies, squirrels. We’ve seen groundhogs, we’ve seen fox, we had a family of crows this year,” she added.

Mariah and Scott Vitiritto's friend recently printed proper score cards for their family and friends to use while playing on Critter Hill. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Mariah and Scott Vitiritto's friend recently printed proper score cards for their family and friends to use while playing on Critter Hill. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

The couple has ideas on revamping the course each year; there may be night golfing on the horizon.

The couple have lived in their home, on nine lots, for about a year. The yard is pretty secluded, and it’s butted up against a cemetery. And the Vitirittos have more plans for their outdoor space.

They’re building a patio, and they’re having a shed delivered, half of which will be an outdoor pub/lounge.

The couple hadn’t worked on a project together like this — maybe since they put together their 12-year-old daughter’s crib. It was good teamwork and something they could share during the quarantine, which was the impetus for Critter Hill, she said.

COVID-19 canceled several events they were looking forward to, one of which was the House of Hearts celebrity bonspiel, an annual event that raises money for local causes.

So, the couple has made golfing at Critter Hill strictly donation-based, with proceeds going to Project Joy, which aims to raise awareness and fight child hunger in the Northland.

Scott Vitiritto plays a round on Critter Hill Golf Course outside his home with his wife Mariah and their friend Jessie Peters (left) on Wednesday. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Scott Vitiritto plays a round on Critter Hill Golf Course outside his home with his wife Mariah and their friend Jessie Peters (left) on Wednesday. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Helping efforts like this are important during times like these, Scott said.

So far, the Vitirittos have competed on their Wiffle ball course with their curling friends, but mostly with each other, which makes for some interesting bets.

“If you win, I’ll do the dishes. Or, if I win, you have to let the dogs out later. We’re super competitive with each other,” said Mariah.

“We’re getting a lot of enjoyment out of it,” Scott said, “and using some of this free time, if you will, to our advantage.”

Mariah and Scott Vitiritto said The Turn on Critter Hill Golf Course is after hole 5 and is the perfect time to refill on drinks and take a quick break before completing the course. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Mariah and Scott Vitiritto said The Turn on Critter Hill Golf Course is after hole 5 and is the perfect time to refill on drinks and take a quick break before completing the course. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

If you go

What: Critter Hill Golf Course

Where: Hunters Park area. Message the Vitirittos on their Facebook page.

Cost: Donations benefit Project Joy, which aims to raise awareness and fight child hunger in the Northland.