Artist-designed mini golf returns to the Walker

Can You Handle This? By Tom Loftus and Robin Schwartzman
Can You Handle This? By Tom Loftus and Robin Schwartzman

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1988 as a joint project between the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the Walker and are bringing back Artist-Designed Mini Golf. The set up is comprised of two eight-hole courses. It's pretty much just like regular mini golf, except, you know, arty.

See also:
Summer Fun: Artist-Designed Mini Golf at the Walker [slideshow]

University of Minnesota Student artists demonstrate the optical illusion of Ames Room 
University of Minnesota Student artists demonstrate the optical illusion of Ames Room 

According to Mental Floss, the first mini-golf course was created in Scotland in 1867. The Ladies' Putting Club of St. Andrews was created for women golfers, as it was considered unladylike to "take the club back past their shoulder." 

Then, in the early part of the 20th century, mini-golf courses became a regular form of entertainment. Geometrically designed holes and elaborate obstacles were added. 

Part of the fun of mini golf is coming upon the hole and recognizing what the dilemma is so you can try to figure out your way around it. For example, in Can You Handle This?, by Tom Loftus and Robin Schwartzman, you can tell by looking that if you choose to try to aim your golf ball through the loop-di-loop chute (a difficult feat) it will spurt through the enormous yellow watering can right in the center of the green, where you're just one or two putts away from the hole. If you'd rather take the easier way and putt through a side chute that's not as difficult, you're going to add an additional putt to get to the main area.

Gopher Hole by Locus Architecture
Gopher Hole by Locus Architecture

Some of the neatest holes were the ones where the artists pushed the boundaries of what mini golf can mean. Karl Unnasch has drawn inspiration from the art of pinball machines into his work, creating a miniature version of the Chateau de Bagatelle, a building located in a public park in Paris. A play on the original word for pinball, the bagatelle, Unnasch's piece is an exciting game of chance.

In Garden Gnome Foosball, Nicola Carpenter, Bryan Carpenter, and Suzanne Dehnhard have created an obstacle where the ball must pass through a kind of foosball game where the pieces are actually garden gnomes. The one problem with this obstacle is that the handles for the foosball don't alternate, so you can't actually play against the person opposite you. It would be cooler if, after putting the ball, you go and match your opponent via foosball to get your ball in the hole.

Holey Lighted by Jeffrey Pauling and Tyler Whitehead
Holey Lighted by Jeffrey Pauling and Tyler Whitehead

The team, along with Sean Donovan, have also created the very fun Be a Sculpture!, a kind of Twister/mini-golf mash up, where foot marks indicate where your friends can stand in order to become the human obstacles. 

The Walker's mini-golf holes vary between those that strive to make a fun and interesting experience, and those that are really more about creating an aesthetically pleasing sculptural piece. Often the coolest looking ones from afar aren't that interesting to actually play. Holy Lighted, for example, by Jeffrey Pauling and Tyler Whitehead, is a lattice-textured arch made of fabricated steel. It's quite beautiful, but the obstacle-element is rather... meh.

Similarly, Ames Room, designed by a group of University of Minnesota students, makes a great photo op with its optical illusion, but it doesn't really make a lot of sense as a game. There are two holes, one at the bottom of a rake and one at the top. If you aim for the top one, which is nearly impossible, and there's another person at the bottom, the optical illusion will make you look like a giant. However, if you are actually playing to win, you would obviously choose to avoid the top hole altogether.


Artist-Designer Mini Golf

Through September 8
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students, and $9 for Walker members and children ages 12 and under.
Every ticket includes free gallery admission.
For weather-related and course closure information, call 612.375.7697.
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Walker Art Center

1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


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