Each summer, the Walker Art Center turns its northern lawn into an 18-hole putt-putt course that pays homage to the museum's collection and the city itself. This year's two nine-hole routes feature a blend of new holes and familiar favorites, with special inspiration drawn from "International Pop," a visiting exhibition exploring the global pop-art movement from the '50s through the '70s.
City Pages played a few rounds at the Walker last afternoon. Lots of hot dogs were involved.
Artist-Designed Mini Golf has always faced the challenge of creating holes that are fun to play while also being artistic statements. In past years, some holes have been stronger on aesthetic than playability, which results in attractive challenges that fast become frustrating. But over time the holes have been streamlined, often striking that delicate balance of form and function perfectly.
However, that doesn't mean that the courses offered are traditional. Each hole isn't just about getting the ball from Point A to Point B. Along the way there are details to take in, elements to play with when it's not your turn, and things to do if you want to make things more difficult for your competitors.
New holes this year are big and bright, just like the works featured in "International Pop." Let's Be Frank invites putters to hit their balls toward a giant hot dog through a stack of fries. It's all about spectacle here, as the oversize food items are reminiscent of summer picnics with a dash of Claes Oldenburg. Thrillo-Brillo Clean-Shot by Andy Warhol(e) is pure '60s pop art, with soap boxes stacked as obstacles. Keep on Truckin' invites competitors to sit in retro vehicles while people take turns putting.
Returning holes include Rock! Garden, a round filled with glittery rocks that tinkle when you tap them; Snake Bite!, a winding hole that is part kinetic sculpture; and Right on Cue, which invites players to try their hand at pool for a round.
Overall, the course is easy enough for kids to enjoy, but quirky enough for adults to get a kick out of it too. For folks who want to make a day of it, the outdoor lounge and picnic tables serve well as a spot to enjoy a hot dog (meat or veggie) or a cool can of beer. Tickets also include admission to the museum, which will give you an opportunity to see the works that inspired the holes you just played on.
IF YOU GO:
Artist-Designed Mini Golf Through September 7 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays. $12; $18 for the full course. Ticket includes free gallery admission. For weather-related and course closure information, call 612-375-7697.