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Unprecedented Putt-Putt at the National Building Museum

Miniature golf is one of America’s most quintessential outdoor summer activities. Whether it’s playing putt-putt with family, friends or a significant other, it’s always a wonderful way to spend a warm evening.

Washington, D.C. does it differently.  The city’s most popular course this summer isn’t located outdoors. It’s in the middle of a building downtown. And that might be the least unconventional aspect of it. Because at this course, holographs replace water hazards; carpet, plastic and wood are used instead of grass; and traditional curves become unnavigable angles. It’s also a temporary pop-up putt-putt shop, only here until September.

So what exactly is it?

It’s the National Building Museum Mini Golf, the annual tradition where a mini golf course is built in D.C.’s monument to building. Due to its extreme popularity last year, the offering in 2013 has been expanded. While the course in 2012 was just nine holes long, this year two separate nine-hole courses were built, both to ease wait times and give golfers move obstacles to navigate.

And they are hard to navigate. The holes are meant to be complex and confusing. That’s because they weren’t created by any typical course designer. At the National Building Museum, local building architects, landscape architects and contractors created each of the 18 holes. The results are radical challenges tougher than any faced at even the most arduous miniature golf places.

Take for instance the opening hole of the Blue Course. It’s called “Mount Vernon Triangulation” (a play on area not far from the Building Museum). What looks like a flat, straight forward opening hole actually changes when golfers step up to the tee box. Only then are obstacles revealed and it becomes in exercise in using angles to find the proper path to the cup.

It only gets more complicated from there. Hole Four, which is designed with the future of green roofs in mind, is actually an uphill challenge where putters must make it all the way up to the top of a “roof.” Hole Six is “OutSMART the GRID,” showcasing both current and future methods of electricity delivery and usage. Putters send their balls through tubes, reflecting the current distribution system. Once they finally finish the hole, a display shows them how much energy they used, reflecting the modern move toward efficient use.

The Green Course is no less complex. The second hole golfers play is “MateriALIVE,” which is made from the newer, more sustainable materials being used in modern construction. But it’s the next hole that may be the most complex ever seen on a putt-putt course. It’s the “Holograph Hole” and shows how 3-D visualizations are helping architects imagine, construct and design buildings of the future.

The Green Course closes with “Urban Pinball,” where your ball can take an extremely unexpected route, disappearing in a tunnel and coming out of an entirely different one, mimicking a pinball machine.

Each course is considered its own round, so if you’d like to play both, you need to purchase tickets for each one. However, it’s just $5 for a nine-hole round, and even cheaper if you purchase a pass to see the whole museum.

The National Building Museum Mini Golf is open until 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and 3:00 p.m. on weekends. But a few weeks from now, on August 22, the course will stay open until 9:00 at night.

While a trip to the course could require skipping a bit of work, the National Building Museum Mini Golf courses are worth it for an experience unlike the traditional summer round everyone is used to playing.


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