Editors' pick

Mini Golf


Editorial Review

Double the fun with bright lights and cityscapes
By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, June 28, 2013

With glowing lights, spinning whirligigs and a topographic relief of the D.C. watershed, the indoor miniature golf course at the National Building Museum looks nothing like the creaky pirate ships we’ve all encountered in suburbs and beach towns.

For the second year, the museum has commissioned teams of architects and designers to inject a few architectural flourishes into one of summer’s great pastimes. Some of the 18 holes are rainbow--colored crowd--pleasers. Others are as sleek and modern as iPhones.

Human logjams were the primary obstacle last year, but with an additional nine holes, the lines no longer stretch quite as long. Between the museum’s two courses, there’s plenty of eye candy for adults as well as children, even if the holes don’t always prove an easy shot.

Take a right in the golfing area just off the lobby and you’ll find the thinking man’s links in the slick, cerebral Blue Course. To the left is the Green Course, where toy trucks, pinball and a classroom--inspired hole make for an overarching kiddie motif. Choose wisely, because they’re priced separately: $5 per course or $3 with museum admission.

Here are five things to expect:

You will be jockeying with kids for tee time.

The museum is a haven for local parents of young children, not to mention summer tourists. If you want to avoid the crush, the museum has announced several dates with extended hours ---- July 11, July 24, Aug. 8 and Aug. 22 ---- when the courses will stay open until 9 p.m., making for a perfect date night (just hit Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue before you go inside).

There will be mood lighting.

Luminescence is a theme in this year’s courses. Some holes light up when you finally bogey your ball in. Others beckon with an ever--shifting spectrum, but it’s clear the designers are making ample use of this fun gimmick. It’s not just cool; it’s color therapy.

Your game will end in less than an hour.

Nine holes turns out to be a quick round. The museum requests that golfers limit themselves to six strokes each hole, but there are a few easy holes--in--one scattered among the courses. Take your time to read up on the architect’s visions for their designs and scope out the course from all angles.

Some holes will prove endlessly frustrating.

Each course has a hole or two so over--designed that the end goal ---- designing a playable hole ---- seems to have been overlooked. Homeroom, we’re looking at you. That topographic relief is guaranteed to trap your ball in a corner. But others, such as Ledoux for Two and Urban Pinball, turn out to be fun puzzles you’ll need to solve before proceeding.

Locals will appreciate the nods to the changing city.

A few architects have taken the course’s theme, “Building the Future,” literally, designing futuristic versions of familiar Washington landmarks, including the Capitol Riverfront (complete with a Metro station). A lowlight? The creepy doomsday aesthetic of Capitol City Crops, which envisions the Mall engulfed by the Chesapeake Bay and the Lincoln Memorial as an object to be viewed under glass.