A peek behind the scenes at 2015’s weird and wonderful mix of industrial art, sport and mischief: Smash Putt.
Under the banging of hammers and roaring of saws in the old post office on 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” plays from a small, dust-covered CD player. The lid of the CD tray is held down by a small soccer trophy. On the wall, there’s a bar top leaning on its side. It’s covered in pornographic pictures.
That bar top is on its way out. It’s much too tame for Smash Putt.
Smash Putt — a pop-up miniature-golf nightclub that opens in the abandoned post office Friday, March 20, and runs until July — mixes equal parts science, mischief and art into a mini-golf experience light years away from the kitschy windmill putt-putt courses of the past.
IF YOU GO
Weekend evenings starting Friday, March 20, runs until July, 1110 23rd Ave., Seattle; 21 and older, $10-$20 (smashputt.com).
“We’re a very good-natured group, and I feel like that really comes through,” said Josh Zelenka, who has worked with Smash Putt since its inception in 2009 and helped bring the event to Portland and Denver for brief stays. “We have a conscious discourse that we want it to be a place for adults to come and play in sort of a childlike way.”
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If there were official rules, then breaking them would be encouraged. Don’t bother with that scorecard. If rules are that important, then drink more, the group says; you’re missing the point.
“Our group has always been into doing technology-based work and also social-based work,” Zelenka said. “It’s stuff that forces people to interact with strangers in a more good-natured way than they intended to.”
That’s the idea behind “living room,” a hole in which golfers have to navigate around other players sitting on a couch, playing video games on a TV.
Part of Smash Putt’s genius comes from the collective backgrounds of those who work on it. The group has artists, software developers, carpenters and architects, and they combine forces to cook up the different holes.
“We come from all walks of life, but we all have this vision of how this should look,” said Chris Ford, a creator of Smash Putt who is a fencing coach with experience in theater and stage design. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Since its last Seattle iteration in 2013, Smash Putt added and tweaked holes. It debuted the lowrider hole in Portland last year and intends to take the handmade car to Seattle. The pink, purple and blue car is set on four air pistons. The objective is to get a ball off the tee (a gold watch with the face punched out) on the hood through the car to the hole in the trunk by tilting and rocking the car via remote control.
Seattle’s show will have about 15 holes, but because it will be longer-lived than most installations, the team has an opportunity to add more holes during the run. Typically, shows last about three months.
Old staples will also return, including the driving range with air-powered guns and the lasers that players have to weave through in the affectionately named “mission impossib-hole.”
The one thing that changes each time is the bar. This newest rendition will be adorned with baby dolls, posable plastic cactuses and the remnants of what is believed to be a gorilla costume.
As items are delivered, the group takes a break from building the bar to comb through the boxes. There are two bronze-colored baby shoes glued to a wooden podium and a doll with tangled blond hair and blue eyes that close when the doll is laid down. The doll’s feet find their way into the shoes, and when the doll is hung upside-down, its eyes close, but its smile remains fixed as its hair and arms flop toward the floor.
It’s a little terrifying and very bizarre, which makes it perfect for Smash Putt.