How can I love miniature golf when I dislike putting? Why do I continue to play when I don't like crowds or baking in the hot sun? I figured out the reason why after discovering a mini-mini golf course and a mini-mini-mini golf course while on vacation this summer. I am enthralled by mini golf because I love miniatures. It's the same reason I like ping-pong but not tennis and why I had to buy a $20.00 Surfer Dude toy. Watch the video and see how cool these guys are!
Every year, I return to the seaside town of Lavallette, New Jersey, where my family has vacationed for nearly forty years. I was excited to see that an adorable mini-mini golf course opened just around the corner from where I stay. It's mini mini because it is not like those vast mountainous courses where you're huffing and puffing as you make your way to the top over rope bridges and through tunnels. Lava Golf is an ingenious and well-designed miniature golf course that fits snugly into a small, residential-sized lot.
Eight of us headed over one hot morning hoping to avoid the crowds. The course was tricky, with fun, quirky and mostly New Jersey themed holes. My favorites were a stretch of the Garden State Parkway, complete with exits, an outdoor shower, and a Hurricane Sandy hole where you must putt through a house turned on its side. We did not beat the crowds so I had my usual stressful experience as groups of golfers played through.
I hit a few bad shots but still appreciated the course and admired the cleverness of the design. I especially loved the 18th hole, no putter required, just a spin of the roulette wheel where you could win anything from an ice cream cone to a coffee at Lava Java. Normally the eighteenth hole consists of an impossible shot requiring a hole-in-one in order to win. If you win, you get a free game at said golf course. It's the last thing I'm hoping for after a grueling game of miniature golf. I'm always glad when my ball rolls into the gutter, never to be seen again.
I was spending quite a bit of time pondering why I was so interested in Lava Golf. Every morning I walked by and studied the course. I couldn't believe that they fit eighteen holes into such a small space. Coincidentally, it was during this time that I came across a notice in The New York Times for an exhibit of miniature diners created by Phil Juska, a Philadelphia artist. They are on exhibit at the Ocean City Arts Center in southern New Jersey through July 31st. I love eating at diners and New Jersey is chock full of them, so I took a ride down to see these miniature marvels. While I enjoyed peeking in the windows and studying the minute details, I was way more intrigued by Mr. Juska's three tabletop miniature golf courses also on display.
As I looked at these little courses, no bigger than two or three feet, I just wanted to play! I looked for some tiny clubs and rainbow-colored golf balls. As I was about to pick up the little club I noticed the Do Not Touch signs. I loved the thought of playing in the quiet of the gallery with no golfers behind me twiddling their clubs while waiting to tee up. Most miniatures produce longing in the viewer because he or she can't shrink down and ride that train or enter the dollhouse but I was especially forlorn because I could have actually played mini-mini-mini golf, holding a club between my thumb and forefinger...
So, inspired by Mr. Juska's creations, I created a Doodle Art & Design lesson about the art of mini golf. I showed my five students slides of golf courses, miniature golf courses and Mr. Juska's tabletop golf courses. We discussed the fact that miniature golf courses have been around since the early 1900s. We designed and built tabletop mini golf courses, complete with golf clubs and golf balls.
If you are interested in trying this at home, pick up a shallow shadow box at your local arts and crafts store, some fake turf, and rummage through your junk drawer for odds and ends to make your golf course interesting. If you need some ideas and inspiration, check out the Doodle Art & Design Pinterest page! Happy Golfing!
Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and founder of Doodle Art & Design, a teaching studio in Western Springs. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. Check out the Doodle Art website at www.doodleartanddesign.com.