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What if you turned a bunch of makers loose to create a new kind of miniature golf course, one built with all the modern technology available, but that still retained the whimsical fun and inventiveness that makes miniature golf so enduringly popular? You’d get Urban Putt.

Urban Putt is an indoor miniature golf course in the works in San Francisco. The Jules Verne/steampunk-inspired course is being built with scores of traditional and electrical contraptions as well as several mechanical ones, too. Some of the features include the 1906 earthquake hole featuring buildings that shake and rumble, an “undersea” hole where the ball triggers a series of motion-sensitive LEDs, an Archimedes’ screw that lifts the golf ball 12 feet of the ground before depositing it on a ramp where it bounces off a series of drums, bells, and cymbals, and a “marble-maze” platform mounted over servos controlled by a putter that acts as a joystick.

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Concept sketch of the “music hole.”

Urban Putt has assembled a team of industrial designers, architects, sound designers, and Burning Man veterans to build the course. They leaned heavily on a mighty ShopBot Buddy and 3D modeling software to create the one-of-a-kind course. SpinBot founders Anne Mayoral and Chris Myers lead the design team for the project.

“There is a very strong alignment between the makers and miniature golf on this project,” said founder and head greenskeeper Steve Fox.

The idea for Urban Putt was born in Fox’s house several years ago. He and his wife used to host miniature golf games at a course he built. The parties grew to be very popular and he knew he was on to something. Could he develop the game into something bigger?

“I developed a real love for a new kind of miniature golf,” he said, a game that was more interactive, immersive, and surprising than the traditional 1970s kitsch that surrounds miniature golf. “The idea kept nagging at me.”

After writing and scrapping several business plans he came up with Urban Putt. To make it a profitable business in crazy expensive San Francisco, there will be a restaurant and bar attached to the course. A stand-alone course wouldn’t cut it, he said.

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Foamcore prototypes of the “earthquake hole.”

The project has already reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter but more funds mean more fun. In addition to Kickstarter, Fox has raised about $1.45 million in private money.

When it does open check out hole No. 13. MAKE is designing the hole complete with robots.

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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