Shake, rattle and putt! Sounds like a tune right out of Al Czervik’s golf bag in “Caddyshack.” It could very well have been but that’s exactly what’s taking place at San Francisco’s newest golf course where the greens are running fast and wacky surrounded by vistas including iconic landmarks such as the Transamerica Building and Painted Ladies. The sport’s latest sensation to hit the City by the Bay has guests lining up to drop a token in one of the four oversized gumball-like dispensers filled with red, purple, yellow and blue golf balls. Welcome to Urban Putt, the city’s first and only indoor miniature golf course.

Not exactly a layout I’d put on my bucket list but for a “near-golf” experience where I only needed to carry one club, this makes for a fun time in the city. And it took a self-confessed non-golfer like Steve Fox to come up with the idea. That’s because he’s an admitted mini-putt junkie who had enough with his career in the publishing field and launched a 14-hole cutting-edge, interactive, mini-golf game, along with a restaurant and two bars inside an old Victorian - and one-time mortuary - brought back to life in the city’s burgeoning Mission District. Spooky idea? Perhaps. Passionate visionary? Absolutely!

This is a guy who, along with his wife, started creating mini golf holes throughout his house for annual one-day events, going so far as drilling holes in the baseboards of the upstairs walls and inserting tubes to putt the ball downstairs. Twenty years later, he acted on his obsessive affection for the zany game to establish an authentic miniature golf layout with a design aesthetically based on a concept of Jules Verne meets Rube Goldberg. Now, he’s the CEO and Chief Greenskeeper at Urban Putt and arrives every morning to work and play with his crew making sure the greens are rolling smooth and all moving parts are fine tuned for these ever-evolving works of art. Aside from the standard candy-colored golf balls and chromatic bulls eye putters, he has clearly refashioned the face of mini-golf.

Of all the holes, the most difficult to construct was the Archimedes’ (Rube) Goldberg hole, an ancient concept designed to move water – in this case, golf balls - up levels. The duck shooting gallery built around the classic American carnival game, is the No. 1 handicap hole requiring a precision putt up a ramp to sneak one through the moving duck’s beak. The first hole has sensors inserted into old buildings causing them to simulate the 1906 earthquake and the grand finale moves the ball via an apparatus similar to a giant bicycle chain to a ceiling track where it will travel along to a collection box. Game over. Time for refreshments at Urban Putt’s 19th...or rather, 15th hole. Go hit the links at www.urbanputt.com.

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