Putt Plug’s Conceptual Distraction

William & Nancy Oliver Gallery – April 26-30, 2010.

Conceptual Distraction was an open-theme mini golf exhibition organized by the creators of Putt Plug. Participants’ only guidelines were to create holes that were 40 square feet or less. We were so pleased with the results and with the diverse themes and constructs. Some holes were over-the-top with decoration and elaborate theming, while others took a more minimal approach. The 15 holes, created by individuals and groups, are reviewed and pictured below.

Lorenzo Llama’s Hole

By Kate Wosleger, Aeriauna Blanton, Lisa Pereiras, Rion Sabean & Seamus Gallagher

This was one of the most popular and most played holes. Lorenzo stood outside of the gallery, beckoning all who passed to accept his challenge. Many people conquered his hole on their first try while others swung ineffectually for many minutes. To us, the success of this hole lay not just in its clever (and hilarious) setup, but also in the dumb luck needed to jump the small ramp into his mouth.

Malfunction Junction

By Ariana Durkin, Sara Futch, Stacey Brown, Rafael Martin & Shawn Palyswia

The difficulty in this hole laid in the lack of external boundaries. The player must negotiate a curved course without any of the usual bumpers that help keep the ball in play. The rhyming title evokes Tampa’s own perpetual traffic and city planning issues. We liked the giant traffic-cone palm tree.

Mel’s Hole

By Becky Dietch & Justin Martin

Mel’s Hole references an urban legend unknown to most Floridians. According to Justin (and Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel%27s_Hole), in 1997 Mel Waters allegedly discovered an infinitely deep hole on his property near Ellensberg, Washington that could, among other things, restore dead animals to life. This course, littered with plastic animal corpses, trees, and evidence of the supernatural (i.e., glitter sand) lets the player unearth buried pets and farm animals as they make their way toward the hole. Sometimes the animals and a little magic come out the mysterious other end.

El Grande Hole

By Jean Carlo Penaloza

Ironic, isn’t it? Certainly the smallest in stature but not necessarily in difficulty. It required a carefully driven putt and a prayer to Our Lady of Guadeloupe to clear the loop and avoid the mini sand trap located on this hole.

A Roll in the Hay

By Jim Reiman

Who knows what sort of illicit activity has taken place on this tiny farm. Players hit the ball up a ramp and into a haystack full of condoms, hypodermics, and even (faux) dead rats. If you can find your ball buried deep within the hay, you then must knock it into the Sin Shack where the real party is going down. Lucky ball.


By Sabrina Hughes

This no-frills course appears deceptively simple until you actually attempt to hit the ball. Applying any pressure to the 8-foot under-stuffed pillow makes the ball lose its footing and roll backwards to meet the club, meaning the player can never get in a good clean swing. Even a wedge doesn’t really help out here. Patience is your best tool to conquer this alternately comforting and frustrating green.

Guaranteed Hole in One!

By Vincent John Kral

A welcome respite among the extremely difficult holes! Play this one when you need a confidence boost and justification that yes, you do know how to play mini golf.

The Knucklenut Back Nine

By Neil Bender & April Childers

This sculpture masquerading as green brought some criticality and contemporaneity to the exhibition. The hole itself was simple enough: down the ramp, through the giant pustule that can evoke any number of bodily parts/functions/fluids, and then through a few archways plastered with muscly torsos to the hole. The crowning glory of this piece, though, is the reproduction of text messages from Tiger Woods to his mistress Joslyn James (http://deadspin.com/5496451/sexting-tiger-threatened-to-slap-spank-bite-and-fuck-till-mercy) along the perimeter. Rather than attempting to elevate mini-golf to the status of art, Knucklenut takes aim at the illusion of bourgeois civility perpetuated by the professional golf industry, destabilizing the notions of gentlemanly sportsmanship through Woods’ threats of golden showers and violent sex.

Dark Carnival

By Deon Blackwell

Maybe someday we can consult with Deon to bring about that post-apocalyptic themed course we’d all love to see. This was another favorite among players, and contributed a fantastic soundtrack to the gallery golfing experience. Players begin with a rifle-shaped putter; the skilled golfer may achieve a hole-in-one by making a clean shot up the pipe and straight into the giant zombie head (super-skilled golfers may even trigger the head to pop open). For the rest of us, the pipe drops the ball into a field of humanoid shapes, at which point we must battle with the handgun putter, creating a pathway for the ball by decimating the ceramic zombies before launching the ball at the giant head.

Golfasaurus Rex

By Sara Jones & Adam Kitzerow

What kind of mini golf exhibition would this be without a volcano? This lilliputian prehistoric hole is a cute response to the dinosaur trope so often used for mini golf and other themed environments. Check out that stegosaurus putter!

Eat Me

By Caroline Mockler, Chris Gilmore, Maria Pistorino, Sam Bishop & Jennifer Willis

A deliciously themed hole, albeit with a design flaw that always leaves the ball resting in the crook of the candy cane. If not actually playable, at least it was fantastic eye-candy.

Dirty Laundry

By Andy Nigon & Carmen Tiffany

We thought this understated hole was the best reinterpretation of real-life mini golf. Were you to replace the piles of children’s clothing and ceramic unicorns with cement barriers, this hole would fit right in at any course. And the cigarette butts added a touch of class.

Glory Hole 2000

By Robb Fladry

Like carnival games, Fladry’s bathroom wall gives the illusion of winnability. We never actually saw anyone make it in, so we’re going to continue to call it impossible. However, the video screen inside the hole may provide frustrated players with a slight release of their built-up tensions, though their ball will never actually have access to the hole. Surprisingly, there were fewer complaints graffitied on the wall than we would have expected.


By Aisha Tazi, Erica Mims, Don Compton, Charles Sommer & Phillip Jacob

Another thoughtfully-themed course with a design that complicates game play. First, we have to say that the space-shuttle-satellite putter was literally out of this world. It was a thing of beauty on its own. The complications arise on two fronts. Firstly, the blacklights sitting on the ground just behind the tee-off point were a little scary considering the putter weighed in at about 10 pounds. This player had to consider her swing very carefully to both set the ball on its way and avoid shattering the light bulbs. Secondly, there was a little problem with the path at the first curve. The designers attempted to fix the issue with duct tape, but the small obstacle provided by the tape ridge usually sent the ball rolling back to the tee. Any attempts at a second or third hit were difficult if not impossible since the putter didn’t exactly fit into the curved ducts that the ball was to travel through. A noble effort for this team, even with these kinks. We also liked that the team put to use the empty space above the course creating a truly immersive little area.

Area 51

By Greg LeSar

Giant monster aliens? Check. UFO? Check. Alien spawn? Um…check. What else could you ask for?

Visit Putt Plug’s Facebook fan page to see more photographs from this course.