For two weeks this November, we had an amazing opportunity to work with the students, faculty and staff at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar to design and start building a 9 hole mini golf course. This was in tandem with Tasmeem Doha, a biennial international art and design conference that will be hosted at the school next March. During our stay, we lectured on mini golf tropes and obstacles as well as our own work with the Walker Art Center. Then we worked with the students to help them as they came up with ideas and built cardboard prototypes. We, along with the graphic design faculty, discussed how materials, narrative and form work together to effect the game play experience. We are so grateful for this incredible experience and can’t wait to return in March to see and play the final rendition of the course. Until then, we’ll let our photos and video do the rest of the talking.
Played July 21, 2014
Review by Mr. Tee
My Halloween nights from 2006 to 2011 were spent in the Haunted Basement of The Soap Factory, a Minneapolis art gallery. I worked in various roles to help scare the crap out of over 10,000 people every October and loved every minute of it. When we first started this blog, we searched through lists of best of and unique mini golf courses and this one immediately stood out. A mini golf course in the basement of an active funeral home that is death themed. Sold! The owner built it for both his kids and the community and the notion of demystifying death through mini golf was intriguing. We attempted to go in the Summer of 2013 on our annual July jaunt to Chicago but they were booked with real funerals the whole time. I called ahead earlier this year and was thrilled to possibly play even though the Pink Putter wasn’t making the trip this time. The beginning of a potential scary story starts with “I went by myself to a Chicago suburb on a Monday afternoon to the basement of a funeral home. Upon arrival I was greeted by a man in a full dark suit and quickly found out there was no cell phone coverage in the basement. My heart was racing.” This is no tale of doom and gloom though. The whole experience was pure fun!
Hole-in-One – The idea of going to a funeral home has never been exciting until now. The 9 holes are equally dark and campy, like a good horror film. This homemade course references traditional tropes associated with mini golf like windmills and light houses, and death. A skull from the creator’s mortuary school experience, a rail box used for transporting dead bodies, a kitschy haunted house filled with sound effects, a graveyard and a guillotine. The atmosphere is equally creepy as it is fun. The combined noises from the HVAC system, haunting sound effects CD and video games add perfectly to the natural ambiance. The play was challenging and it took a few times playing through the course to really get close to par. Shuffleboard, pool, video games, snooker and pinball are available to play as well and surround the course. Remember I’m talking about the basement of a funeral home. Mr. Ahlgrim found a way to embrace the notion of play in a space where few would consider it and did it without desire for financial gain. I salute you Mr. Ahlgrim and your staff. You’re our type of people. I’ve already gone on too long and I’ll let the videos and photos speak for themselves.
Played August 23, 2013
Reviewed by the Pink Putter
Birdie – We love when mini golf meets education and this course does it well. A variety of water features combined with hills, pipes and rolling landscapes makes for a quick and fun adventure. Signs on each hole give educational facts about the terrain. The course is also surrounded by native Minnesota plants complete with a course plant guide. And the bonus? You can explore the whole museum when you are done putting.
Played many times over the last 3 years
Review by Mr. Tee
I remember visiting Goony Golf in the 1980s not only for the mini golf but for water slides. Outdoor water parks (family aquatic centers) were a hot attraction during that era and for a period of time they took up the real estate that is now the Championship Course at Goony Golf. If you want a sense of what it looked like (or at least as far as my memory serves me), watch the date scene from the first Karate Kid. As large destination water parks grew in number and small water parks became more common in community centers and hotels, water slides were removed from family entertainment centers. Fortunately, Goony Golf used the terrain to add yet another option to their already strong mini golf complex. Unlike the brightly colored and kitschy north and south courses, the Championship course looks and feels like a more traditional miniature version of the game of golf.
Hole-in-One -The course uses a fairly generic looking cement waterway of bright blue water that flows from a very modern looking water fall. Dull looking rocks, bushes and small trees are used in the landscaping design and layout. You’re thinking how in the world did this course end up getting a hole-in-one but stick with me.
While our mini golf bias leans towards kitsch, we do enjoy the game as a whole and are quite competitive in our regular outings. Goony Golf’s Championship course puts both of our putting skills to the test. In our adventures I usually pit myself against the Pink Putter for the lowest score. Narrow playing surfaces, sloped terrains and creative hole placement make staying under the six strokes per hole limit a feat in itself. The major battle one faces is against the course par. While frustrating play is a regular complaint of ours in reviews, the intentionality of challenge built in to this course is clear. The playfulness of the design is only appreciated after you finish. I find the challenge of the course keeps me coming back. Easily the most difficult course we’ve played to date and a nice change of pace from Goony Golf’s other top notch offerings.
Played many times over the last 3 years
Review by Mr. Tee
Only two miles from the previously reviewed Lilli Putt sits another one of the mini golf memories of my youth, Goony Golf. While the area near the course, much like Lilli Putt, has been in decline since the late 80s, this course has maintained it’s grandeur through regular maintenance and fresh coats of paint. The Pink Putter already covered our history and the general history of Goony Golf with her review of the North Course so I’ll jump right to it.
Hole-in-One – Goony Golf and Big Stone are runaway favorites for us when it comes to mini golf in Minnesota. Big Stone may have creative hole design, farm animals and a picturesque landscapes but Goony Golf has a classic kitschy down pat. When I reviewed the fantastic Austin’s Peter Pan, I couldn’t help thinking of this course. Concrete, plaster, turf and chicken wire with bright bold colors used to bring out the character in the larger than life obstacles. I enjoyed playing this course as a kid in the 80s and grown even more fond of it as an adult. I slightly favor the north course at Goony Golf but this is like saying you cheese slightly more than chocolate. Both are awesome and bring repeated pleasure and enjoyment. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Played many times over the last 3 years.
Reviewed by the Pink Putter
During the first month that Mr. Tee and I started dating, we played a round or two at Goony Golf. Every summer since we’ve gone back over and over with friends and family. This course has an interesting history which roadarch.com does a really nice job of telling. I’ll sum it up for you here. The first course of its kind was called Sir Goony Golf and was built in 1960 in Chattanooga, TN by a company called Amusement Products.The distinctive style of the characters and obstacles were designed by Barbara Magrath, along with her husband Dutch Magrath. Sir Goony Golf was such a hit that by 1965 they opened 5 more locations throughout Florida and eventually there were 36 Goony Golf courses nationwide. We are lucky enough to have one right in our own backyard of Spring Lake Park. Since this location has three different courses each worthy of their own review, we’ll start with the North Course.
Hole-in-One – There’s no doubt about it, this relic from the 1960’s has somehow managed to survive in just a few locations around the country and is a true mini golf gem. Classic kitsch combined with a wide range of obstacles, traps, hills, jumps and tunnels makes for exciting and varied play. Favorite holes include the dinosaur and caveman, the alligator and the cow waterfall. While crumbling concrete and torn turf reveals this course’s age, it has still managed to keep its charm. The owners have shown some TLC through fresh coats of paint and working lights, motors and water features. Even if we didn’t live so close, this is definitely a course we’d go out of our way to play over and over.
Played on numerous occasions throughout the Summer 2014
Reviewed by Mr. Tee
The 4th iteration of the Walker Artist-Designed Mini Golf course came only one year after the 3rd iteration. After spacing this project out every couple of years in 2004, 2008 and 2013, the Walker made a call for designs in the Fall of 2013 for a full 18 hole course to be installed May 2014. Unlike previous years, artists and architects would submit a design and if their idea was selected, it would be fabricated by a local company, not the designers. 10 new holes, including one by us, were selected in Winter 2013 to join 8 holes held over from the previous version of the course. Unlike 2013, there would be no unifying visual theme but just 8 “garden” themed holes from 2013 and 10 new unrelated holes. A huge perk of having our design selected was the ability to play the course for free throughout the summer. This review comes after playing about 15-20 times including one time playing with the amazing Risa Puno. If you’re not familiar with her, we’ll have more on her soon!
Birdie – How can we not be biased? Our design was a signature final hole on the “A” course and we were given a new place to play the game we love in our hometown that we could visit throughout the Summer. The new additions to the course were built by the same company which made for more consistent play and visual experience than in previous years. Yet, the one issue we had with this year’s course was play. Visually, the new holes looked fantastic but some of the aesthetics came at the expense of the play. Numerous new holes had smooth, non-turfed playing areas that made for frustrating and unnecessarily challenging putting. This created longer wait times for groups to finish. The angles of ramps and hills didn’t consistently reward skilled shots and we found ourselves searching for ways to work around what appeared to be the natural route towards the cup. The course is leaps and bounds better than average but lacked the personality and character of the previous years. The photos below feature all of the newest additions and one picture of a hole from last year.