News Column

Walker Art Center puts quirky, artsy spin on mini golf

June 6, 2014

By Maja Beckstrom, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.



June 06----More mini golf: 13 places to putt your way through summer

The Walker Art Center's mini golf course is about as high brow as putt putt gets. There are no windmills, tiny bridges or waterfalls.

Among the 18 holes squeezed into a lawn just west of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis are nods to avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp and theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg -- think quantum mechanics. The small landscapes encourage players to fool around with visual puns and concepts as much as with golf balls.

It's also quite fun.

Serious mini golf players were out there, but we were not among them.

For my family, mini golf is an excuse to hang out together, a rare family activity that appeals to all ages. So, I took my 14-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter to Walker on the Green during opening week.

"So, will these be like art with, like, paintings above every hole?" the 14-year-old asked in the car on our drive from St. Paul. "Can you not make me read every little thing? Can we just have a golf experience?"

He was relieved to find no paintings and plenty of pop culture. There were holes that looked like a giant gumball machine, a ping pong table, a cemetery with gravestones and a hole with garden gnomes affixed to twirling rods, like an oversized foosball table.

PLAYING WITH ART

This is the fourth summer the Walker has invited local artists to submit designs for a temporary course. At 18 holes, it's double last year's size, although we chose to play just nine.

Our Hole No. 1 was "Curling Club," a miniaturized sheet of curling "ice" designed by Paul Hedlund, who has a day job as a software developer. We hit our balls past obstacles of brooms and stones.

Two art professors from Carleton College -- David Lefkowitz and Stephen Mohring -- created "18 Holes in One," which looks like a 3-D model of a small, terraced valley carpeted in Astroturf. It represents the famed holes of the Augusta National Golf Course, shrunk and layered on top of each other.

I'll leave it to a real golfer to decide whether this "non-linear spatiotemporal golfing experience," as the Walker describes it, bears any resemblance to its inspiration.

"Is that a bathroom?!" squealed my daughter.

Sure enough, Hole No. 4 was a white urinal at the end of a long, gray approach, a nod to the porcelain urinal that Dada artist DuChamp submitted to an early 20th-century art exhibit, which some art historians cite as the beginning of conceptual art.

"There's something a little weird about hitting it into a urinal," said my daughter, as she took aim.

"Not for me," said my son.

We enjoyed goofier holes, including "Guess What? Chicken Putt!" featuring a fox guarding a henhouse. My daughter's favorite was our final hole, a giant gumball machine filled with colorful balls, "Don't Blow It" by Robin Schwartzman.

If you get a hole-in-one, you can watch your ball roll down a metal spiral ramp and disappear. My son had spent the entire game trying to fix his sister's unconventional golf stroke, but she somehow managed to nail a hole-in-one by swinging the club straight out between her wide-spread legs.

BEYOND THE COURSE

Walker Art Center constructed the holes from designs submitted by the artists. For the most part, the results are cool and play well.

There were a few technical glitches. There was a lip at the bottom of several slopes that caused balls to pop up, for example. And the smooth, white, painted surface of the curling ice was tilted slightly so the ball rolled off to one side. But we aren't overly competitive players, so it didn't bother us.

At the end of our round, we grabbed dinner at the Dog House, a food truck run by D'Amico that sells hot dogs with various toppings ($7), along with barbecue pork sandwiches, sorbet and alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.

We enjoyed our gourmet beef dogs and cold lemonade on patio sofas on the deck outside the ticket house for the mini golf.

If we went again, I might take a picnic to eat in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, where we could wander the paths and take family selfies in front of Claes Oldenburg's "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture.

Walker on the Green is more expensive than most mini golf courses, but your ticket also gives you admission to the indoor art galleries.

The real payoff is in the quirky artist designs and the novelty of getting to tee off in a green oasis in the middle of Minneapolis as the sounds of bells from the Basilica of St. Mary drift over the low hum of freeway commuter traffic. There are worse ways to spend a summer evening.

THE SCOOP

What: Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf

Address: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Information: 612-375-7697 or walkerart.org/calendar/2014/walker-green-artist-designed-mini-golf

Admission: $12 adults, $10 students ($9 children ages 7-12) for nine holes; $18 adults, $15 students ($13.50 children ages 7-12) for 18 holes; free for ages 6 and younger with a paid adult.

Hours: Through Labor Day: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday

Target audience: High-brow mini golfers

Crowd pleaser: A hole shaped like a giant gumball machine

Tip: Expect to wait in line if you go on a nice day.

More: Plan your family fun with more than 140 Family Outings at twincities.com/family

Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.

___

(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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