Mini-golf at the National Building Museum is your weekend hole-in-one

While rain from tropical storm Andrea drenches our fair city this weekend, consider grabbing a golf club and traversing the twists and traps of the National Building Museum's new mini-golf courses. Back for a second summer, the courses are mazes of blinking lights, spinning whirligigs and (it's the Building Museum, after all) esoteric architectural flourishes.

A golfer at the National Building Museum takes a shot at "The 19th Crater." (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)
A golfer at the National Building Museum takes a shot at "The 19th Crater." (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

Human logjams were a primary obstacle last year, but with an additional nine holes for 2013, some of the load has been taken off.

Go right and you'll find the thinking man's links in the slick, cerebral Blue Course. To the left, there's the Green Course, where toy trucks, a "pinball" hole and a classroom-inspired hole make for an overarching kiddie motif. (A choice is pretty much necessary, since they're priced separately, at $5 per course, or $3 with paid admission to the museum.)

As I made my way through the courses last night, I couldn't help but think the designers of tired pirate ship and jungle courses could take a hint or two from the architecture firms that had constructed these urban skylines, user-generated terrains and glowing orbs. Yet the courses took a few wrong turns, too. Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) from the links:

Highlight: Mood lighting.

"Urban Pinball," one of the nine holes, designed by KUBE Architecture, at the National Building Museum. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)
"Urban Pinball," designed by KUBE Architecture.

Luminescence was a theme in this year's courses. Some holes lit up when you finally bogey your ball in, others beckoned with an ever-shifting spectrum. It's not just cool; it's "color therapy."

Lowlight: A little too much of an assist from the gallery.

Each of the holes is its own Rubik's Cube to be solved. Families and couples study each from all angles before taking a shot (economy is crucial because golfers are asked to stick to a mere six strokes). But twice, well-intentioned attendants offered me the strategy to a particular hole before I'd even taken my putt.

Highlight: This thing:

"Imagination Powers the Future," designed by Hargrove Inc. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)
"Imagination Powers the Future," designed by Hargrove Inc. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

Hargrove Inc's everything's-coming-up-daisies hole (above), with its spinning elements, puff-ball lighting and rainbow-hued path to glory, was as fun to play as it was to look at.

Lowlight: The holes to nowhere.

Each course had a hole or two so over-designed it was nearly impossible to get in a good putt. (We're looking at you, "Homeroom.")

Lowlight: The creepy Doomsday aesthetic of "Capitol City Crops."

Hole 5 of the Green Course is a massacre. The Mall, goes the storyline, has been engulfed

by the Chesapeake, and we're all living in some kind of farm-centric "Blade Runner," where the Lincoln Memorial is an object to be viewed  under glass. Inexplicably, office carpeting survives.

Highlight: Literature!

Amid all the science and high design, the museum has included a few quotes to live by, including this gem from Zadie Smith's early-aughts insta-classic, "White Teeth."  (And then I turned a corner and found a quote from "Twilight.")

Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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Stephanie Merry | June 7, 2013