Splendor in the grass

by Keri Carlson

Gently flowing rivers, swirling windmills, spewing volcanoes and giant purple elephants. The more absurd a miniature golf course gets, the better the course, unless you actually want to work on your putting skills. The magic of mini-golf is not so much the actual sport or game; rather, it’s about how many colorful plastic statues clutter the course and how to hit a golf ball into a lion’s mouth before it closes.

The really good mini-golf places are the most imaginative – the ones that feel like an acid trip through “Fraggle Rock.” Sadly, those miniature golf courses are few and hard to find, and the Twin Cities have been severely lacking in good mini-golf places. Lava Links has half of their course in black light, which is awesome, but there has to be more than just sand traps.

The Walker Art Center found the perfect solution to boring mini golf. It makes perfect sense: Get artists to design the mini golf course, in the sculpture garden. Claus Oldenburg’s “Spoon and Cherry” already sets the right mini-golf atmosphere. Sculpture artists designing mini-golf sculptures – why have we not had this sooner?

The 10-hole course is even better than expected. The hole designers were not content with merely building a large, colorful statue to putt around (this is the Walker after all). In fact, the rules of mini-golf have been thrown in front of a lawn mower.

Zander Brimijoin and Luke Burgdorf designed a 6-foot ramp leading to a large Pachinko board for “Pachinko Generation.” Each time a ball rolls down the board it is led on its own unique path.

“Mini Golf Smackdown!” by Takuma Handa and Daniel Vercruysse is even more anarchical. Score cards mean nothing when players are allowed (encouraged even) to knock opponents’ balls out of the way. This game is about beating everyone else. Soon helmets and facemasks will be necessary for mini-golf.

Other holes do not bend the traditional rules of mini-golf, but their concepts make them more entertaining than any windmill.

Troy Kampa’s “O-par-ation” turns the children’s game “Operation” into a putting green. When players miss, a loud buzzer goes off and the patient’s nose lights up.

“Life Sucks” by Burlesque of North America lets you try to make it as a rock star. But if you miss, the two paths are living in your parents’ basement or working in a cubical.

The Walker’s miniature golf course has gone beyond large animals and weird, surreal fantasy lands. They have turned mini-golf into an art. Dada putt-putt, perhaps?