Course: Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden
Location: 7110 County Rd 110 W, Minnetrista, MN 55364
Price: $9 for 18 holes (cash only)
Review: Is mini golf art?
Ever since the creation of mass-production, people have wondered whether pop culture had any “value”: Andy Warhol found beauty in Campbell’s soup cans; Alan Moore turned uninspired comic books into acclaimed graphic novels; and Jimmy Fallon revolutionized cliched talk shows by ironically appropriating manic canned laughter, subverting its implicit joy and, instead, transforming it into a desperate cry for help. But, despite the work of these pioneers, the question still remains: is mini golf art? So, after a quick dip in one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes* I made my way down to sunny Minnetrista to answer that question for myself.
Big Stone Mini Golf definitely makes a good argument towards mini golf’s artistic potential. Set in the middle of a massive sculpture garden (created in 2004 by local sculptor Bruce Stillman), this 14 hole course has consistently been the highest ranked in Minnesota. It even got a write-up in the New York Times in 2012.** And, art-wise, boy oh boy did this course have it going on. There were giant metallic sunflowers and sculpted stone pumpkins (which, incidentally, are still more edible than anything served in the many Waffle Houses I’ve visited on this trip); there was a giant spiraling par-5 hole in the middle of an active garden that grew organic cabbage (although, all things considered, there are probably better places to grow cabbage… like, I don’t know, a farm. Doy.); there was an interactive Pachinko board; a water maze your ball rolled through on the last hole; sand traps made out of real sand; a nearby goat enclosure where you could actually feed the goats; and a massive sculpture garden adjacent to the course that you could walk through free of charge. It was overwhelming. Honestly, this short synopsis can’t do a venue of this caliber any justice – it was all too original, unique, and complex to condense into a quick blurb (that’s like condensing the Louvre into a single tweet. Or summarizing the plot of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch in anything less than a 10-volume dissertation).
Of course, as with Pennsylvania’s course, there were several inherent problems with Big Stone’s whole “rustic nature” aesthetic. There were some divots. Some scuffs. Some twigs/pebbles on the course. But most importantly, since I was golfing on a warm summer evening in a state that (if its lake count is accurate) is made almost entirely out of water… there were a lot of skeeters. After spending an hour and a half at Big Stone, my exposed arms and legs felt more rough and ragged than Jimmy Fallon’s throat after he laughs away his pain in front of an empty studio audience hours after the show is over and everyone has already gone home to their wife and kids. In short, I was eaten up real good.*** But the sheer length, complexity, uniqueness, and pure visual spectacle of the course far surpassed any of these minor foibles (he typed, while itching his skeeter-bitten arms frantically).
Perhaps, in the end, this course did not definitively prove that mini golf was art in itself. It really just crammed enough art and innovation into a 14 hole mini golf course to make it artistic by association. But if you’re looking for a course that is a jawdroppingly beautiful art gallery in the middle of Minnesota’s stunning (albeit skeeter-filled) lakeland. This course comes with a very strong recommendation.
* Only 9,999 to go!
** Print media wasn’t even dying back then! Back then, the only time you heard the word “Buzzfeed” was when mosquitoes got super hungry.
*** It really was a “buzzfeed” amiright? (only kids born before 2012 will get this sick reference).
Course Score: 49; par – 56.
Pros: Look, it’s a mini golf course that’s in the middle of a beautiful, expansive sculpture garden, it’s pretty incredible; fantastic scenery; long/inventive/highly original holes; goats; right next to a large outdoor sculpture gallery; uses nature well.
Cons: Skeeters (and lots of ’em); several divots and scuffs; only 14 holes; cash only; pebbles/leaves on the course; a little overworn, but not dangerously so.