Echo Park’s mini-golf course explores L.A. issues and ideas

Electric Palm Tree Turbine House | Pamela Avila


ECHO PARK –– On an empty corner lot across from Echo Park Lake, passersby are invited to explore the conditions and challenges of urban Los Angeles while having fun scoring a hole-in-one.

TURF: A Mini-Golf Project,  a temporary exhibit and mini-golf course organized by Materials & Applications, a Silver Lake non-profit, opened this weekend as temperatures soared into the triple-digits. The heat, however, did not not deter some miniature golf lovers from playing through obstacles that symbolized such topics as the meaning of terrain and territory; housing affordability and environmental issues.

Created by architects, designers and artists, the obstacles included an “Electric Palm Tree Turbine House,” a putting green that sank under your feet as well as a floating obstacle that bobbed and up and down.

“I’ve never had a miniature golf experience like this before” said Jordan Talamon, 24, who paused between every other hole to drink water under the shade. While Talamon said he would have liked to see more explanatory handouts (as well as cooler weather), he enjoyed being challenged by the obstacles and the concepts they represented. “I thought [the meanings behind the installations] were pretty interesting.”

Photo by Pamela Avila

Work on TURF began last July when Materials & Applications solicited proposals for architectural obstacles probing relevant L.A. conditions, in miniature-golf form.

Despite the heat, TURF, which is free to play, appeared to benefit from its location at Echo Park and Park avenues across from busy Echo Park Lake. “We’ve been getting so much foot traffic from people going to the lake, and that’s really what this is about, pulling in the community,” said Courtney Coffman with Materials & Applications.

Photo by Pamela Avila

Jane Niles, 57, who stopped by TURF on Father’s Day morning with her family, said her favorite installation was “SiNK” by New York architect Kyle May. Although she said might have misinterpreted some of the installations, “SiNK” in particular reminded her of earthquakes she’s experienced living in L.A.

“[SiNK] was so earthquake-like,” Niles said. “I remember a couple earthquakes I’ve been through really well, and that’s what it feels like.”

Jane’s husband, Ken Niles, 56, a miniature golf enthusiast, said his favorite obstacle was the floating “Pie in the Sky” by Heyday Partnership. For him, the difficulty of trying to get the ball into the hole represented the challenges of property and affordability in Los Angeles.

“As an art installation I thought it was really great,” Niles said of Echo Park’s temporary mini-golf course. “As far as holes go, at least three of them are undoable … but still, it was fun.”

TURF: A Mini-Golf Project is open to the public, from Thursday to Sunday through July 31.

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Pamela Avila is a Los Angeles-based journalist, with a B.A. in English Literature from UC Santa Cruz. You can read more of her published work here.

Photo by Pamela Avila

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