Rules! Photo by Abra Lyons-Warren
Rules! Photo by Abra Lyons-Warren

Don’t play the National Building Museum’s architect- and developer-designed miniature golf course this weekend. Or next weekend. Or any weekend. If you’re going to check out the museum’s 12-hole summer attraction—-and you should—-just tell your boss your dog ate your grandmother and do it on a weekday. Avoid the line, and bottle any potential frustration for where you’ll need it: the course’s more devilishly frustrating holes.

My golf partner (a true connoisseur of the leisure activity) and I waited more than an hour to play last weekend—-in line at an admissions booth next to the information desk, where one woman was overheard asking, “Where’s the line for mini-golf tickets?”; and then in a queue winding toward the course itself, which offered all kinds of arguments against ever having children (or at least having four children but only one iPhone-cum-pacifier for them to fight over). Frankly, we were ticked that the family of five ahead of us didn’t let us pass—-see rule No. 12 (“Slower groups and larger groups should allow faster or smaller groups to play through”). Then again, they’d already violated No. 3 at various points during the wait (“Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult at all time”), so who knows why we held out hope.

As you may have heard, the course contains zero windmills, although there are several displays honoring the historical import of the mini-golf mainstay. Pity! Here are our reactions to the course, hole by hole.

Hole No. 1: “Hopscotch,” designed and built by Inscape Studio

Jon: I had trouble getting it up the hill. Then I had trouble getting it out of the semi-circle. Architecture is hard!

Abra: I’m already disappointed.

Par: 3 | Abra: 3 | Jon 6

Hole No. 2: “Hole in 1s and 0s,” designed by GrizForm Design Architects and built by Potomac Construction Services

Abra: Where do we hit it from?

Jon: In violation of the typical mini-golf trope, the ramp that goes straight to the hole ONLY MAKES YOU DO WORSE.

Par: 2 | Abra: 2 | Jon: 2

Hole No. 3: “Ball on the Mall,” designed and built by E/L Studio

Abra: No, seriously, where do we hit it from?

Jon: Actually, this is how L’Enfant decided where to put all the state avenues.

Par: 2 | Abra: 2 | Jon: 2

Hole No. 4: “canal PARk,” designed and built by STUDIOS Architecture and OLIN

Abra: The advertising for the designer’s development is tacky, but I really like the vases.

Jon: Coming next, the IKEA-designed folding-bed hole!

Par: 1 | Abra: 1 | Jon: 3

Hole No. 5: “Always A Hole In One,” designed and built by Hargrove Inc.

Abra: The little boy in front of us broke it. (His mom sort of fixed it.)

Jon: I wanted to do what the little boy did.

Par: 3 | Abra: 4 | Jon: 2

Hole No. 6: “Mulligans on the Mall,” designed and built by Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners

Abra: I liked the chalk drawings on the side. But this one was the most anti-climactic: The hole should’ve led to Hill East.

Jon: Trumped by trompe l’oeil!

Par: 2 | Abra: 2 | Jon: 5

Hole No. 7: “Take Back the Streets!” designed by Seth Estep, Brian Green, Rebecca May, Luke VanBellegham, students of the Virginia Tech Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center



Par: 3 | Abra: 4 | Jon: 2

Hole No. 8: “Piranesi’s Half Pipe,” designed and built by District Design

Jon: I stepped onto this and a dad yelled at me: “Sir! SIR! There’s a line.” Whoa, dude.

Abra: BOOM, HOLE-IN-ONE. Also, I’m pretty sure that dad was originally behind us. At least his daughter observed rule No. 5 (“Strokes are limited to 6 per hole”).

Par: 4 | Abra: 1 | Jon: 6

Hole No. 9: “Daedalus’ Journey,” designed by Atelier U:W and built by Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center of Virginia Tech

Jon: Wrong Labyrinth.

Abra: Still, I really wish Mr. “SIR!” saw my hole-in-one on the last one.

Par: 3 | Abra: 5 | Jon: 1

Hole No. 10: “Confluence,” designed and built by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Abra: JENGA.


Par: 2 | Abra: 4 | Jon: 2

Hole No. 11: “A Hole Lot of Events,” designed by atmosphere Lighting, Foundry Crew, Occasions Caterers, and Perfect Settings and built by Foundry Crew

Jon: In fact, these are the only remaining props from Bonnie Tyler‘s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” video.

Abra: I was exhausted from all the waiting. Meanwhile, Jon rallied.

Par: 2 | Abra: 3 | Jon: 1

Hole No. 12: “Wood & Irons,” designed by Landscape Architecture Bureau and built by Monarc Construction

Jon: I banked my ball off the first incline, it went straight up, and landed in the hole. Coming in 2013: NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM SPACE GOLF.

Abra: I asked the lady collecting balls if Jon gets a free game now. (International mini-golf rules!) She looked confused.

Par: 3 | Abra: 3 | Jon: 1

Total Par: 30 | Abra 34 |Jon: 33

The mini golf course is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays–Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays July 4 to Sept. 3 at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $5 per round; $3 with $5-$8 admission. (202) 272-2448. Images courtesy the staff of the National Building Museum.