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Building museum’s minigolf scores hole-in-one
Architect-designed indoor course is an all-age success
“One of the wooden side panels broke,” she said. “Fortunately, the museum has a great wood shop, and we were able to make a replacement. It was kind of hilarious.
“We generally do condo conversions, single-family homes, restaurants, projects that need plumbing and heating. No golf balls flying around. So this was fun.”
Over par for the course
Piranesi’s Half Pipe is something else: devilishly difficult. Players putt from the bottom of a half circle, aiming for three holes drilled along the half pipe’s incline.
Miss a shot, and the ball rolls back to you. Over and over and over again.
“We wanted to make ours challenging,” Ms. Greer said. “It’s funny, because it looks really easy. Everybody thinks, ‘I’ll whack the ball once, and it will go in.’
“I’ve watched a bunch of people play it. Some get it in right away. I think you do that or die trying.”
According to the exhibit, the chances of making two holes-in-one in a round of actual golf are 67 million to 1; by contrast, the odds of shooting par (a total course score of 30) at the Building Museum only seem that remote.
The hole Daedalus’ Journey mimics the winding, circular, mazelike floor plan of a labyrinth in an old cathedral — and an accompanying sign invites visitors to have “fun in the journey” by having a “par 40 instead of a par 4.” Likewise, the slanted green of Mulligans on the Mall seems designed to prolong the journey, mostly by using gravity to return missed shots to senders.
Other holes are more charming than maddening: A Hole Lot of Events mimics the hoity-toity table settings of a Washington dinner party, albeit on a tiny scale; Always a Hole in One uses gleaming neoclassical white columns to frame a hole that lives up to its name.
The most striking hole is Hole in 1s and 0s, a large wooden box that sports light bulbs and wires along its interior walls and is intended to invoke the innards of a smartphone — perhaps a sly social comment on Washington’s oft-entrapping relationship with its portable electronic devices.
“I cannot make that one,” Ms. Leavitt said. “It’s frustrating.”
On-course frustration hasn’t driven visitors away: According to Ms. Frankel, the exhibit drew 4,700 people over its first 11 days. By contrast, the average Building Museum exhibition draws about 4,000 people per month.
Discussions already are under way to bring back minigolf next summer — and perhaps expand to a full 18 holes. “We’ve gotten such a great response,” Ms. Frankel said, “that there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see another course next year.”
WHAT: Minigolf at the National Building Museum
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About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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