Photo: Courtesy of the Indianapolis Mus

New, Nature-Focused Mini Golf Course Opens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

As if 250,000 spring flowers, a 100-acre nature park, a nationally-landmarked country estate landscaped by Olmsted Brothers weren’t already enough, the Indianapolis Museum of Art has added something extra in 2017: a nature-inspired, artist-designed miniature golf course.

The exhibit runs May 28-September 3rd, and includes an impressive array of inspiration points that take cues from nature and popular culture alike. The museum invited Indiana artists to design art for each hole in the 18-hole golf course, which is located in the IMA’s Sculpture Court. Guests can play past Utah’s red Canyonlands, African plains (populated by a ring-tailed lemur, a cheetah, and a yellow-billed hornbill), a molten carpet of hot lava, melting glaciers, a Japanese-inspired garden with pagoda and pale stones, and features recognizable in Indiana’s geography, including an Indiana wetland with fiberglass cattails, fish-like obstacles, and a beaver lodge. (Another artwork depicts the White River, which in real life you can traverse by canoe or even a gondola as it winds through Indianapolis.)

Photo: Courtesy of the Indianapolis Mus

Different types of prairie grass are included in another artwork, while a replica of the biggest fossil ever found in the state– an Ice Age mastodon skull– are in another. Other installations throughout the course portray a forest filled with tulip poplars, corn, an Indy Car, and a cardinal – two state icons and the state bird.

Five menacingly large squirrels recall a weird episode in Indiana history in 1822, in an installation dubbed Shadow-Tailed Scourge: the “Great Squirrel Invasion,” wherein a massive number of squirrels swam across a river and gorged on the farm state’s crops. (A local’s diary mournfully noted that he killed 248 squirrels in three days, but made barely a dent in the enemy ranks.) The squirrel hole was very popular last summer, when the museum debuted its first artist-designed golf course, which honored Indiana history and a host of famous people, from Kurt Vonnegut to Guns ‘N Roses frontman Axl Rose.

Artist inspiration came from myriad sources. The African plains were inspired by Scott Shoemaker’s work at the Indianapolis Zoo. Glacier artists Luke Crawley and Quincy Owens were inspired by global warming. The wetland artwork was created by Veronica Vela, who works in the museum shop. Sculptor Kevin Bielicki was inspired by Japanese gardens’ illusions of scale and precision. In his molten lava carpet, Martin Kuntz recalled how he would jump from furniture to furniture in his childhood living room to avoid touching the carpet, which he pretended was made of molten-hot lava. For the squirrels straight out of a horror flick? Beth and Chad Eby read historical accounts.

Photo: Courtesy of the Indianapolis Mus

The IMA’s mini golf course is open during regular museum hours. (Playing golf is included in museum admission, but if you visit on a free admission day, it’s $8.) Be sure to admire the spring flowers in bloom through May 31, as the IMA grounds are famous for their beauty and botanical heritage, including purple hyacinths, crimson tulips, yellow daffodils, and other spring blooms.

For nature lovers, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park features woods, wetlands, and a 35-acre lake. Oldfields, the country estate whose centerpiece is Lilly House mansion, is also a big draw. Still, for people who just want to golf amongst the art and then get their nature fix on the way out, the Horticultural Society Overlook is not to be missed. When in bloom, it boasts over 22,000 flowers!

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located at 4000 Michigan Road in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information on the mini golf course or any of their other exhibits, visit the museum’s website

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