Urban Putt – San Francisco, CA

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Played November 24 & 29, 2015

Reviewed by Mr. Tee

This is the best indoor course we have played to date and one of the best mini golf courses in the world.

Urban Putt has had our attention since before they opened their doors. Numerous friends pointed us towards their imaginative Kickstarter campaign. Once images popped up online of the course in progress, we knew it was going to be a one-of-a-kind joint. The Pink Putter’s sister lives in San Fransisco so it seemed inevitable that we would get a chance to play. The Thanksgiving holiday provided time off of work and the excuse to get together with family. Of course, we had our sights on mini golf.

Shortly after landing at SFO, we went to Urban Putt early on a weekday to beat the crowds. 4pm on a Tuesday wouldn’t seem like a busy a time of day for mini golf but the holidays were near and the place was packed with families and kids. Despite the chaotic atmosphere, all 14 holes blew us away. We loved the course so much that we returned at the backend of our trip with my long-time music friend and KALX radio DJ, Jeanne. The founder and owner of Urban Putt, Steve Fox, gave us all a behind the scenes tour of the shop and the course as an added bonus. After an enthralling and educational conversation with Steve about his personal love of mini golf and how the course came to be built, it was clear to us why this course was transcendent. This place contains the blood, sweat and tears of a passionate long-time mini golf maker.

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Rating:

Hole-in-One – Not only is the BEST indoor course we have played to date, but it is one of the top courses we have seen in the world. The design theme is a mix of Jules Verne, San Fransisco, and steampunk with play that equals the beautiful environments. Housed in San Fransisco’s mission district in the space of a former mortuary, Urban Putt uses limited square feet to create an immersive and all encompassing mini golf adventure. Creative use of cutting edge technology and basic analog game principles make this course a unique and distinctive entity. You’ll find yourself moving quickly from a penny-farthing themed hole that depends on force and gravity to a hole that uses the analog striking of the ball to activate a virtual/digital adventure through a world from an 80s desktop computer video game. A trip through an interactive black light underwater environment in a submarine leads to three unique Rube Goldberg holes that take your ball from the ground level across the wall and ceiling on a journey towards the hole. It’s hard worrying about your score when you’re following the ball on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride type adventure.

The tight quarters and rough lighting made it tough to fully capture this course but we tried our best. Check out Urban Putt’s Gallery page for some fantastic photos and videos of how the course was built. Ultimately, you should just play this course many times.

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While we wish there were more than 14 holes, we’re not greedy. There is definitely a whole lot to take in.
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Purchase a token and pick your ball! The final hole takes balls across the room to the holding device above where you obtain your ball. Genius!
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Even the signs and instructions look cool
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WHAT? If your group choose to use the smallest (pink) putters to play, then you get your photo on the wall.
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Of course we took on the Pink Putter challenge!

Before you start the course, you can take your ball and engage in this interactive mini golf art installation. We watched this video before arriving and couldn’t believe it. The video also features some great shots of a number of the holes on the course.

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Pencils, score card and earthquake themed hole to start the course.

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Hole 3 (Penny Pitch) on the left, Hole 12 (Quack!) on the right and Hole 11 (Golfland at The Beach) in the middle

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Players face off to get the best score. The first to finish to the end gets a hole-in-one. Second place gets a 2. Several traps before the finish will land you a 3.

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Hole 7 (The Reef) was hard to photograph because it was a black light hole. This hole had a lot of unique paths to the hole.
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Hole 8 (Jules Verne’s Nautilus) takes you in an interactive black light environment with digital fish tanks, buttons and levers. The build on this is incredible.
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Hole 9 (Dia De Los Muertos) – Take a wild adventure with your ball on the straight path.
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Detail of Dia De Los Muertos

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Hole 11 – Entrance to Golfland at the Beach

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Hole 12 – Quack – Love the ball returns to the left and right. Visually one of my favorites and provided quite a challenge to many players we watched.
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Pink Putter at Hole #13 (Gold Rush). This has about 7 different paths to the finish.

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Pink Putter at the final hole, Fibonacci’s Finale. Watch the video but as you can see, they use the height of the ceiling to move the ball to finish off the game.

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To top it off, they have a Caddyshack influenced photo op. As you can see, it folds back up against the wall after you use it.
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If we had one minor quibble, it would be that the score card was not super fun but their logo is great.

Urban Putt Website

Pros:

Impeccable design with perfect blend of analog and modern technology
Creative use of a relatively small space
Lots of interactive elements including a 3D animated mini golf art piece by Dan Rosenfeld
High attention to detail in all aspects of the experience in the space from the game to the bar
Unique way to engage the course for multiple visits (The Pink Putter Challenge)
Lots of moving parts that are maintained impeccably

Cons:

Popularity of the course can lead to large crowds and sometimes long waits but they are worth it

Nerdy Notes:

  • 14 holes. Par 35
  • 7 Stroke limit.
  • Rubber covered putters of varying sizes. Play with the smallest size in pink and get your picture featured in the Pink Putter Challenge gallery.
  • Price: Ages 0 to 5 – Free, Ages 6 to 12 – $8, Ages 13 and up – $12. Guests under 21 years old are not permitted on the course after 8pm.
  • No alcohol on the course.
  • See website / Facebook for current mini golf hours. Mon – Thurs – 4pm to Midnight. Fri – 4pm to 1am. Sat – 11am to 1am. Sun – 11am to Midnight. Last tokens for play sold an hour before closing.
  • Restaurant located on the 2nd floor and bar located next to course. Lockers, Pop-A-Shot and Skeeball are located on the first floor.
  • Prior to Urban Putt, the building was used as a mortuary.

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