Ridiculous Minigolf

Crazy golf holes inspired by Portal, Minecraft, the Crystal Maze, and more besides.

The backstory

All birthdays are arbitrary. Some are more arbitrary than others.

I figured that I should probably celebrate my 10,000th day on this planet, so I took over part of a Grade 2 listed building, asked hackers and makers I know to make ridiculous minigolf holes, and invited loads of people to come and play them.

Overhead shot of the minigolf party.

Want to play?

Alas, after stressing out the members of London Hackspace for weeks, Ridiculous Minigolf has now been destroyed, Office Space-style.

Photos from Russ Garrett (under CC by-nc-sa 2.0) and Heather Sullivan (with permission).

The Minecraft Hole

A person plays the Minecraft hole.

Constructed over several days by Charles Yarnold (@CharlesYarnold), the Minecraft hole was both the largest and most "traditional" minigolf hole on the course.

After designing the course in Minecraft, Charles painstakingly worked out how to laser-cut the blocks from MDF, then added laser-cut pixel stencils and laser-cut the artificial grass to fit. (There was a lot of laser cutting.)

The interactive parts were Arduino-controlled: the creeper moved back and forth thanks to a servo attached to a laser-cut drive train; the TNT block was held in place by a small servo, and dropped when a piezo actuator detected it had been hit by the golf ball.

The Twin Looper Vacuum Powered Suction Tube

The twin loops, illuminated.

Made by Russ Garrett (@russss), the Twin Looper required only one simple putt – but it's a difficult one. If you're accurate enough, the suction tube would pull your ball up and around through thirty metres of plastic tubing at speeds up to 20mph, finally dropping it back where you started at the tee.

Powered by a vacuum cleaner, an ingenious takeoff rig allowed the vacuum to suck air all the way through the pipe while letting the balls to continue their journey.

The Real Turf Wii Nunchuk Controlled Labyrinth

A person plays the Labyrinth hole.

A hole in two parts created by Matt Gray (@unnamedculprit): first a difficult ramped putt up a real turf slope. Your ball then dropped into a scaled-up labyrinth toy: but rather than tilting it by hand, you used a Wii Nunchuk to control powerful servos that pitched and rolled the course. Success required subtle movements, which wasn't always easy.

The Crystal Maze Holes

A long shot of the Crystal Dome and some of the holes.

Chris Paton, the hole's constructor, worked without sleep for several days to get this incredibly ambitious hole to work. Through most of the party, he was trying to sort out the last bugs as various parts started to blow up.

The Aztec Zone

Chris took an alginate cast of my face, and recreated the Crystal Maze's Gag the Gods game with three rather creepy versions of me. Along with all the interactive elements on the course, they were Arduino controlled; a laser-cut rack and pinion moved the mouths up and down, while reed switches inside the mouths stopped them moving once they contained a ball.

Once all three were filled, a servo released a ball, moving it into...

The Ocean Zone

A difficult series of putts across a massive, water-filled, double-lined trough. As with many original Ocean Zone games, it was easier if you didn't mind getting your feet wet.

The Crystal Dome

A simple putt across a beautiful welded metal bridge into an astonishing laser-cut geodesic dome. Lighting and underwater bubblers made this look rather spectacular.

Not shown: the Medieval Zone

The first zone to be constructed, the Medieval Zone broke irreparably on the night, which is a shame because it was lovely: it replicated the Crossbow Shields game only with golf ball putts. Each target would release the "crystal" golf ball a little further down a ramp, until the final shield sent it on to the next zone. The faux-brick wall included real moss.

I can't overestimate just how much trouble Chris went through to get the Crystal Maze ready: playing it, with the theme tune blasting out and a watching crowd shouting encouragement and useless advice... well, it's as close as anyone is likely to get to the TV show. While still playing minigolf.

The Wheel of Fortune

The spinning part of the hole.

Created by several UK and US members of the Haberdashery Collective (@HaberdashingUK), the Wheel of Fortune included parts that were brought all the way from Seattle — and which caused some interesting reactions from the TSA. Powered by a $5 disposable motor, the slowly spinning weighted metal wheel (sourced from a long-defunct exercise machine) gave a 1-in-4 chance of success after a difficult putt up a steep ramp — with slightly better odds if you tracked where the "win" sections were.

The Portal Holes

Lasers scan across the playing field.

The weirdest experience of the night: pushing a Portal button, the one I've seen in the game so many times, and having it behave as I'd expect: noises from the game, an iris door opening, and GLaDOS talking to me. Seeing something virtual become real with such fidelity is bizarre: it's a tribute to Tom Wyatt (@fridgehead) that it worked so well.

The Turret Run

Servo-mounted scanning lasers, controlled from an Arduino with a wave shield for voices, provided the appearance of turrets hidden inside Aperture Science boxes. If they were scanning — they were on a random cycle which usually, but not always, gave you a voice warning — then a ball passing through a hidden breakbeam would trigger strobe lights and a lifting flap that would send your ball flying off course as if shot.

The Portal

Built at 3am the night before: a Kinect and webcam mounted to the top of the entrance portal tracked the speed and angle of golf balls entering it, and sent instructions to a complicated, Arduino-controlled rig at the exit portal that would release a golf ball with matching velocity. The illusion wasn't perfect — time and lighting got in the way — but without violating the laws of physics it's about as close as you can get to a working crazy golf portal.

The Aperture Science Companion Sphere Incinerator

A complicated series of laser-cut perspex gears, hooked to a motor and controlled by an Arduino and microswitches, created the astonishingly precise iris door. Chicken-wire and plaster made the boulder, and paint and Aperture Science stencils finished the effect. Inside, a bright DMX light, speaker and fog machine created the illusion of a furnace: and yes, the only way to get your ball back was to reach in...

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