AN ARTISTIC SWING: PUTT-PUTT AT THE WALKER ART CENTER
As I watched my ball roll hopelessly down the ramp for the 3rd consecutive shot, I knew then that I was up against no ordinary giant watering can.
I suppose that sentence needs a little bit of explaining. First, what you need to know is this journey started at the Walker Art Center. Why? It’s their 25-year anniversary this year. That’s 25 years of bringing some of the rarest and most thought-provoking art to Minneapolis. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff throughout the year, and one of them happens to be the reason I was invited out on a warm July day.
Usually, art and athletics don’t overlap. However, the Walker Art Center and 15 artists have created something special that brings these worlds together. The new Walker on the Green, an artist-designed mini-golf course on the grounds of the Walker Art Center, is flat-out awesome. If you’re looking for a date idea, a place to take the kids or just something to do that’s out of the ordinary, this is it. The course is 16 unique holes (split into Course A and B) that will definitely challenge you and make you laugh at the same time. Did I mention you can even drink on this course? They’ve definitely nailed the essence of golfing.
Granted, I didn’t know any of this when I started. Eager to test my rusty mini-golf skills, I picked up my putter, my bright orange golf ball and my camera, and stared down the largest watering can I’ve ever seen.
FOR INFORMATION ON HOLE INSPIRATIONS, PRICES AND ADDITIONAL FACTS ON THE COURSE, DOWNLOAD THIS PDF.
HOLE 1: CAN YOU HANDLE THIS?
Spoiler alert: No I could not. This hole broke my spirit right away, and I looked like Happy Gilmore when he was learning to putt at that mini golf course (thankfully, no clowns were punched). Shaped like a giant watering can, you have the option of putting up the long, thin ramp and dropping down right next to the hole, or putting to the side and dropping a ways away from the hole on the second tier. I won’t tell you which path I took, but one will definitely make you feel like a fool in front of your group. This was a difficult hole, but it encapsulated everything a good hole has: ramps, two tiers, a ramp and a comically-oversized something-or-other.
HOLE 2: MOVE YOUR HOLE!
This hole is very similar to the show Survivor. By that, I mean you’ll figure out who in your group wants to help you cross the finish line and who wants to see your torch extinguished as they laugh maniacally. See all those boards in the picture? They’re not just for rebounding off of. At the sacrifice of one stroke, a member of your group can switch the hole location by removing one of those boards and placing it in the existing hole, thus creating a new hole. While I got under par on the hole (perks for solo reviewing), I heard someone got a 15. Keys to this hole: Concentration, steady form and unabashed blackmail.
HOLE 3: GOPHER HOLE
Time for a little luck. The hole starts by dropping your ball in a big funnel, and from there karma/rotation of the Earth/the hopes and dreams of a nation will guide your ball to either A) A choice placement next to the hole or B) A terrible location where par isn’t an option. Thankfully, fortune smiled upon me after getting rocked on the first hole.
HOLE 4: LA BAGATELLE DE BAGATELLE
Upon getting to this hole, I shouted in my best Derek Zoolander voice, “What is this, a hole for ants?!” This hole is a combination of a miniature house model and Plinko from The Price is Right.Once you putt the ball up the ramp, it falls through the house and navigates its way through the many pegs on the board. Your ball then drops into a slot with a number on it. That, dear readers, is what your score then becomes. It can range anywhere from 1-4.
HOLE 5: EARTH ADVENTURES
And ohhhh what an adventure this was. Don’t let the giant anthill the ball eventually passes through distract you. The real challenge of this hole is a ramp so high and long that a Tour de France cyclist might not be able to make it up. There are two holes at the top of the ramp, and one places you in a slightly better position on the second tier. Rumor is, if you can get the ball in one of these holes in one shot, you automatically become King of the Brits. Tough hole, but very cool-looking and ridiculously creative.
HOLE 6: AMES ROOM
Holy optical illusion, Batman. This hole takes advantage of forced perspective and the illusion of depth, which is kind of tricky when putting a ball requires….well….depth perception. Thankfully, if you miss the hole in the top right location (or is it top left? ILLUSIONS!), your ball caroms down to the bottom of the house where another hole is waiting for you.
HOLE 7: SWARM
I’ll let the description the artists came up with take over:
“Swarm by Baguss and Hiltner explores a failed agrarian culture, inspired by aerial views of pivot irrigation, the landscape now arid and repurposed by new inhabitants whose only visual imprint is their architecture. Fallen civilizations leave remnants of their existence behind, reclaimed and intermingled with the naturally occurring landscape transformed into a garden of long lost potential. Players are challenged to work their way through the landscape as an ominous hum echoes through the chambers of the structure, leaving one with a sense of unease as to what resides within.”
That’s some ominous stuff. I got a 2.
HOLE 8: 18 HOLES IN ONE
As a grown man, letting out an audible squeal is generally taboo. But hey, that’s what I did when I reached this hole. It appealed to everything golf-centric in me. The hole is framed like a four-leaf clover, and the surface is a physical manifestation of an overlay of ALL 18 LEGENDARY GREENS AS AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF COURSE! It’s a golf course within a golf course! Cue up the Inceptionmusic! Anyways, there’s 18 different holes to choose from, so you should be able to manage par.
Par for Course A: 23
Score on Course A: 23
TO SEE WHAT COURSE B LOOKS LIKE, CHECK OUT PART 2 HERE.