Miniature Golf Meets Natural History In 18 holes Of Serious Fun
Traverse City MI… This summer Philadelphians don’t have to go to the Jersey Shore to play miniature golf. On June 5, 1999, The Academy of Natural Sciences opened Planet Golf ®, a highly interactive and playful exhibition using miniature golf to communicate information about the natural world.
Visitors learn about nature, butterfly metamorphosis, recycling, water pollution and dinosaur extinction. Planet Golf ® players test their skills by navigating treacherous waters and mimicking the paths of the migrating birds. Gophers also putt through a river system while steering through various threats to it’s health.
The first nine holes illustrate how nature works. On one hole, for example, the ball follows the life cycle of a Chinook salmon. Players have a choice to putt around man made obstacles like a hydroelectric dam to reach the spawning grounds where the hole cup is located, or to follow another route where bears and a beaver dam present other obstacles.
The second nine holes of the course represent human interaction in the biosphere. One hole depicts the importance of recycling. The golfer putts from the tee through the landscape of trash and fill. A ball that has reached the cup will fall into a “blender” set to “grind”. Unknown to the golfer, a substitute ball is ground up before the player’s eyes and moments later the ball returns successfully recycled.
Planet Golf ® was designed by the Director of Exhibits, Willard Whitson and his staff, along with Arne Lundmark, President of Adventure Golf Services, to ensure that the pliability and concept of the course would be fun, whimsical and educational. Don Weber, Weber Group, Inc. provided the consulting and creative direction of the thematics of the golf holes.
“While the science of Planet Golf ® is serious, the structure of the exhibition is playful,” said Whitson. “Our goal was to create a course that would let players experience and learn about the natural world while enjoying themselves; this exhibit allows us to combine our creativity and scientific research.”
The Academy of Natural Sciences conducted extensive research to locate a company capable of producing an upscale portable miniature golf course, in a very show time frame. Adventure Golf Services first envisioned the structural needs and engineered an aluminum skeletal structure with locking mechanism. This was married to sculptured foam / Urethane topography. “We had 30 days to produce a finished course for a black tie opening. Invitations were mailed in advance and there was no room error. This project gave us broader capabilities for a truly portable, upscale miniature golf course.