In the mockumentary film This is Spinal Tap, bassist Derek Smalls suggests that the difference between miniature golf and regular golf is the size of the ball. While the ball remains the same, virtually everything else about mini golf grows—at least on the course of
Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf
on the greenspace adjacent to the Walker Art Center’s Vineland Place entrance that will be open 10 am–8 pm Wednesday–Sunday, May 24–September 7. Small packages hold big ideas in the rebirth of a favorite Walker program from the summer of 2004. Artists, architects, and designers answered an open call to create green-themed holes, pitching ideas destined to challenge players’ senses as much as their games. Two seven-hole courses feature a water hazard; a replica of the real life “island of plastic,” a heap of debris floating in the Pacific Ocean; a 12-foot-tall Paul Bunyan; a single-breaking wave covered with recycled glass; and a hole that plays like Pachinko, a Japanese version of pinball with a human-powered elevator for your golf ball.
“For the last course, it was artists and the Walker having a lot of fun. This one is fun with a message,” says Christi Atkinson, an associate director in the Walker’s education and community programs department, who coordinated the entries. “Most proposals incorporate a lot of ideas. We just have to make sure the courses will stand up to four months of weather, not to mention an enthusiastic, club-wielding public.”
Designers range from independent artists and architects to members of established companies and design collectives. All are registered with mnartists.org, an online resource for Minnesota artists. Alchemy Architects of St. Paul created Water Hazard, which employs dozens of dangling water bottles as “an observation of the less-than-ecological practice of bottling and shipping drinking water.” Sculptor Zoran Mojsilov cut a groove into the branches of storm-damaged trees, culled from the Pig’s Eye landfill, to serve as a track for the ball. Maura Rockcastle, a former member of the Walker’s Teen Arts Council, teamed with Regan Golden-McNerney to build a hilly landscape pocked with mounds that appear as inverted holes. Kevin Kane collaborated with his students to create a rainwater garden, a hillside of pop-bottle bottoms, and a garden for birds. You can sink a ball into the mouth of Theodore Roosevelt—if you can maneuver past a 12-foot Paul Bunyan—created by artist Andrew MacGuffie. The Big Kahuna is Michael Keenan’s huge, single-breaking wave covered with recycled glass. The hole designed by Ed Hernandez plays like Pachinko, a Japanese version of pinball.
The two seven-hole courses share a grand finale—a unique layout that not only embraces the wealth of strong designs, but also allows more people to play throughout the day.
There are no advance reservations—play comes on a first-come, first-served basis. The course also includes a golf shack featuring a selection of food and refreshments from Wolfgang Puck’s Gallery 8 Café. Copresented by mnartists.org.
Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf
Wednesday–Sunday, May 24–September 7, 10 am–8 pm (weather permitting)
On the Walker campus
$8 adults ($6 Walker members, seniors, students, $5 children 12 and under, $4 members 12 and under)
Water Hazard employs dozens of dangling water bottles as an observation of the less-than-ecological practice of bottling and shipping drinking water. Reflect on “clean water” as you play this hole in some discomfort and the intentionally claustrophobic experience is felt as one maneuvers through the hazards.
Alchemy Architects: Blake Loya and Geoffrey Warner
Paul & Teddy
This hole requires you to maneuver past a 12-foot-tall Paul Bunyan so you can sink a ball into the mouth of Theodore Roosevelt who was instrumental in creating the National Park Systems we know today.
Survival Design has constructed a water tank hole filled with the annual average amount of water that a golf course typically uses for one person at one hole.
Survival Design: Jason S. Brown, Sean P. Frank, Elizabeth Scofield, and Frederic Scofield
A study in the potential of everyday recycled materials to create surface treatments appropriate for the modern environment. A skilled putter has a chance for a hole-in-one along a narrow, smooth surface of recycled tire rubber. An errant shot will send the golfer’s ball onto the rough, an unpredictable ricochet from compressed aluminum beverage cans.
Julie Snow Architects: Tyson McElvain and Dan Winden
This hole is made completely of copper, a recyclable and natural resource. The idea of “sustainability” has become devalued as more and more people try to become “green.” It has become fashionable, and even used as a marketing tool, to present green ideas when in fact much of what is presented as being “green” is really not. Cu:Copper is completely recyclable. We build it, we putt on it, and then we melt it down, gone.
James Dayton Design and A. Zahner and Company.
Growholes is climbable, rollable, jumpable, and whackable. Made from scrap tires, this durable recycled rubber topography will playfully engage your body and your ball. Growholes uses topography to increase momentum and impose a twist on the most obvious, integrating play with the dualities of open and closed, empty and full, inherent in the game of golf. Dare to take on gravity and watch out for entropy!
Regan Golden-McNerney and Maura Rockcastle
Triangular paving stones made of stabilized compacted earth forms faceted hills and valleys for your putt-putt fun. Like a neglected sidewalk, weeds creep through the playing surface, changing the game-play throughout the summer. Compressed earth is a sturdy and efficient traditional building material that is used throughout the world. This golf hole is made from waste dirt pressed into a form using a simple lever mechanism.
Brett and Erin Smith
This hole plays like Pachinko, a Japanese version of pinball, starts with a human-powered elevator for your golf ball. Through a series of switches, this hole changes each time it’s played. Ever wonder how your actions affect the world around you? Your putt directly affects the next. Will you have a positive or negative impact?
BBDO: Ed Hernandez, Yves Roux, Heather Sullard, Zaar Taha
People Powered Penny Arcade
The most efficient form of recycling is reuse. These artists love dumpster diving! Virtually everything you see on this golf hole has been creatively salvaged from choice Minneapolis locations.
Nate Carny Kulenkamp, Chris Pennington, and Eric Veldey
The Big Kahuna
The Big Kahuna is a huge single-breaking wave, covered with recycled glass which glimmers in the summer sun. Shred the curl just right and make it back to shore, but get caught inside and end up snuffed under the slop.
The Cycle then Recycle Home Concept of the Rimsicle Whirled of Minnie Golf
Kevin Kane collaborated with his students at the City of Lakes Waldorf School to create a rain water garden, a hillside of pop-bottle bottoms, a replica of the island of plastic hazard, and more. This island of plastic actually exists in the Pacific Ocean and continues to grow. Currently it is twice the size of the continental United States.
Pig’s Eye Landfill
Sculptor Zoran Mojsilov has cut a groove into the branches of tree trunks to serve as a track for the ball. Mojsilov gets diseased or storm-damaged trees from various recycling sites, otherwise destined for the wood chipper.
In affectionate memory of Angus Fairhurst (1966–2008). Par 1. Only one shot from the tee. If you miss the hole and the ball rolls off the edge of the green, your score is 2. No putting or walking on the mirrored ‘green’ or fairway, as the ball will roll on its own from the tee.
Don’t think of a monkey.
Walker Art Center: Phil Docken and Kirk McCall
Special thanks to the judges who selected the winning designs: Arlene Birt, graphic designer specializing in humanitarian design; Andrew Blauvelt, design director and curator, Walker Art Center; Peter Eleey, visual arts curator, Walker Art Center; Mark Rosen, WCCO-TV sports director/anchor; and Geoffrey Warner, creator of the weeHouse.
MINI FACTS ABOUT MINI GOLF
Miniature Golf has a long, strange, and fascinating history. One of the few truly American art forms, it has evolved from “fake” golf, literally a substitute sport for Scots and Englishmen transplanted to countries lacking their rolling green hills to a sport that rivaled baseball and the movies in popularity. Mini golf moved from being the savior of the American economy, threatening to replace movies as the nation’s fifth largest industry, only to be placed alongside comic books and pools halls as the perpetrators of the corruption of America’s morals. Regardless, mini golf has endured, always reflecting its unique and quirky history.
The 1920s, with factors such as the suffragette movement, prohibition, and new levels of prosperity and leisure time, allowed for the game to evolve from its 1916 origin as a short game of regulation golf to what we now think of as classic miniature golf. It was an era of fads—flagpole sitting, dance marathons, and hot-dog-eating contests. Garden Golf, as it was then called, began in earnest in 1926 in two separate parts of the country. Offered as a diversion for overwrought executives during their lunch break, New York City hosted over 150 courses on building rooftops. At the same time, a resort opened on the border of Georgia and Tennessee as a sort of fantasyland for millionaires. Designed by a woman (women couldn’t be architects at that time), the course’s obstacle and hazard-laden features were patented as Tom Thumb Golf.
Indoor and outdoor courses soon caught on. Most were lavish affairs, often with caddies and open late into the evening so folks could stop by for a round after a night at dinner and the theater. They were a society affair, played by visiting European aristocrats and famous Hollywood stars. A course was even installed in the American Presidential Summer Camp. The crash of 1929 was the impetus for the next era of Garden Golf. Few people could afford to run the courses with their former country club-like atmospheres in these lean times and courses became more ragtag, created on abandoned lots with scavenged objects for the obstacles. Often know as Rinkiedink golf, the game only gained in popularity during the Great Depression. The courses were unique and offered cheap diversions.
The 1950s are the era that produced most of the courses for which our ideas of the game were formed. Miniature golf became a calm and wholesome family activity rather than the craze of the earlier years. The new courses were located in post war suburbia, most often the shopping strips. To increase the entertainment factor, many of the more animated and trick hazards were added—the courses became more challenging, requiring both skill and timing.
Courses tend to reflect their geographical locations—west coast courses are influenced by Hollywood, grandiose and are fantasy-filled, while East Cost links are smaller, often reflecting historical, literary, or artistic themes.
The sport is now played around the world, and the World Minigolfsport Federations (WMF) boasts clubs in 24 nations.
The many names of Miniature Golf over the years: Plantation Golf, Wacky Golf, Putt-Putt Golf, Miniature Golf, Goony Golf, Garden Golf, Carpet Golf, Fun Golf, Midget Golf, Goofy Golf, Pint-Pot Golf, Tom Thumb Golf, Mini-Golf, Pigmy Golf, Half-Pint Golf, Jolly Golf, Lilliput Links, Rinkiedink Golf, Adventure Golf, Peewee Golf, Runt Golf.
Miniature golf course have been located in graveyards, using the tombstones as hazards, The New Hampshire State Prison, The Lincoln State Hospital for the Insane, oceanliners, New York penthouse rooftops, empty corner lots, greenhouses, and churches. The Palladium and Artists Space in New York have both hosted miniature-golf courses.
Annotated History of the Putting Green
Although other materials such as compressed feathers, oiled sawdust, carpet, clay, hard sand, sponge mixed with cement, and a green dye called “Grassit” were used, these were the industry standards.
1920: Natural grass
1925: Cottonseed hull mixed with oil spread upon a sand foundation
1940: Goat hair felt (concocted out of goat hair and vulcanized rubber)
1960: Indoor/outdoor carpeting and astroturf
Accompaniments to mini-golf courses have included: French lessons, teahouses, live bands, and The Singer Midgets.
A 1930s Los Angles course had a live bear cub as an obstacle. They trained him to go after the balls dipping them in honey.
In The Colossus of the Roads, Karal Ann Marling said miniature golf was “the very last of the goofy fads of the twenties.” She also noted that all the fads of the 1920s made participants feel larger than life.
The Above Facts and History are courtesy of John Margolies’ Miniature Golf.