Cranbrook art, landmarks inspire art museum's new mini golf course

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Step up to one of the holes at Cranbrook Art Museum's new artist-designed miniature golf course this summer and you won't tee up the ball to start at the hole inspired by Cranbrook's rich ceramics history. You'll drop it through what looks like a raw pot on a potter's wheel and turn the wheel instead, a first for any golfer.

"Wherever it lands is where you play from," said Lyla Catellier, the museum's curator of public programs, watching as her ball shot out Friday from the wheel and on to a green filled with several faux ceramic pots modeled after pieces in Cranbrook's collection. "To my knowledge, there is no other miniature golf course that uses a potter's wheel as a putting off point."

Pottery wheels, peacock patterns, fountains, even chairs — all of which tie into Cranbrook's unique architecture, art and campus in some way — are woven into the new "Cranbrook on the Green" mini golf course, which opens to the public Wednesday (see box for details).

Danielle Owensby, social media, Cranbrook Art Museum, takes her shot on the 9th hole Peristyle Playthrough  at the Cranbrook Art Museum on Friday, May 20, 2022.

"Every hole has a different story," said Catellier. 

The nine-hole course on the museum's west lawn, along with a 10th bonus hole, includes a hole named "Slum of Legs" with Eero Saarinen's iconic Tulip chairs. Another is "Bertoia Bronze," inspired by metalsmith Harry Bertoia with a sound element integrated into it. And "Sunken Garden," named after Cranbrook House's beloved annual garden, features large faux hedges and other details (even a small blue door) similar to the original.

"If you're a person who has a lot of Cranbrook knowledge, you're going to be delighted by each of these details," said Catellier. " And if you're someone who has never been to Cranbrook, then you're to going to read the stories and explore these spaces."

Art museums across the country have started to roll out miniature golf courses with art ties as a way to attract and interact with patrons in new ways. Cranbrook's was inspired by a visit its art museum director, Andrew Blauvelt, made to a mini golf course at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center a decade ago. The Muskegon Museum of Art also has a nine-hole MiniARTure mini golf course.

Kathryn Goffnett, Cranbrook Art Museum's assistant curator of collections, takes her shot on the 8th hole "Steggy's Escape."

"For about the last decade museums have been looking for a way to do more interaction," said Catellier, who noted that museum admission is included in tickets for "Cranbrook on the Green." "We really believe the future of museums is designing spaces for people to have a great experience in addition to seeing the art."

Catellier said the process to create Cranbrook's course started roughly five months ago and they came up with a list of 40 possible holes, all with ties to different campus buildings, architecture or notable alumni, before narrowing it to 10.

The course opens, for example, with a hole called "Gateway," that ties in Cranbrook's famous gates and around Cranbrook Schools' Quadrangle Fountain. Cranbrook worked with a firm called a Couple of Putts to design the course and Bluewater Studio to fabricate each hole.

Kat Goffnett (left) hits her best shot as Amanda Coe and Danielle Owensby try to block on the 7th hole Slum of Legs at the Cranbrook Art Museum on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Nearly every hole features some sort of interactive element. The "Triton Poolsball" hole, for example, doubles as a giant foosball table, while guests are encouraged to sit on the Tulip chairs in "Slum of Legs" to make hitting par much more difficult.

The museum plans to open up the mini golf course every summer and add to it, possibly even getting up to 18 holes. The course takes 45 minutes to an hour to finish.

Each hole is "made out of the strongest waterproof, outdoor materials," said Catellier. "These are built to last."

'Cranbrook on the Green'

Open from 11 a.m. to sunset Wednesday through Sunday starting May 25.

Tickets are $15 for adults; $8 for kids 12 and under; museum admission included with ticket purchase. Advance ticket purchases encouraged.

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