Golf around town: Pop-up course launches in downtown Charleston

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The Charleston Area Alliance is bringing a pop-up miniature golf course to downtown Charleston. The 27-hole course, called Downtown Open, will make its reveal Saturday at the “Go to Hale” event, which is a part of FestivALL. 

The block party will be held along Hale St. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Live music will be played, local businesses will open pop-up shops along the street and people can try the free miniature golf course, which is a first of its kind to come to Charleston.

After Saturday, the course will be spread along the sidewalks, walkways and parks in downtown Charleston. People can wind their way from Haddad Riverfront Park to the corner of Quarrier and Dunbar streets to test out their putting skills. The course will be set up until July 10.

It took many people, parts, and businesses to bring the miniature golf course to downtown Charleston. Here's a look at what it took to get it here — and what you'll need to play.

Inspired by a similar project in Huntsville, Alabama, Susie Salisbury, vice president of community development for the Alliance, brought the idea back to Charleston after learning about it at a conference. Lesli Forbes, downtown Charleston coordinator, worked on the planning.

“We just want this to be a fun event that brings people to downtown Charleston,” Forbes said.

Caitlin Cook, communication manager for the Alliance, said, “We have so many segments of the community coming together to create something that the entire community will be able to use for free. The end game is to make downtown Charleston even more economically vibrant, walkable and culturally alive.”

Students enrolled in Ben Franklin Career and Technical Center's Building Construction Program took the idea and ran with it. Using three designs — an “I” shape, an “L” and a “T” — the tenth and eleventh graders from local high schools used their time at the career center, located in Dunbar, to build nine copies of each design, making 27 total.

As part of the school's simulated workforce initiative, students act just like they would in the workforce. They treated Forbes as their client, exchanging emails back and forth and consulting with her on specs and pricing.

They made every hole 10 feet long. They built the hole's frame out of two-by-fours and then added support through the platform's center before covering the board in plywood. They used geometry to ensure that the boards were level and that the angles, or kickers, they placed on the boards for the balls to bounce off of were correct.

“This is the biggest thing we've done,” said Shaun McGraw, a student at Sissonville High School and the class' foreman.

After the students at Ben Franklin finished the boards, they were shipped to businesses around Charleston. Twenty-five businesses, organizations and nonprofits sponsored one board or more. It was the job of the sponsors to decorate the boards and create obstacles for the golfers.

ZMM Architects and Engineers designed their board to look like Lee St. You can hit your ball down the street, over the Lee St. Bridge and past a replica of what the renovated Charleston Civic Center will look like. Lights even run down the path to light up the course at night.

Inspired by the famous Augusta National Golf Club, Spillman Thomas & Battle turned their three holes into a miniature version of Amen Corner, the famous 11th, 12th and 13th holes on the Augusta course. Jeff Davis, facilities manager for the law firm, built the holes to mirror the actual course. There are sand traps with actual sand and a bridge that mimics the famous structure on the 12th hole.

Katie Rugeley, owner of The Initialed Life, a clothing boutique and monogram business, played with the themes of her store by lining her board in pink grass and placing white, wooden shopping bags along the way to serve as obstacles.

Arguably the most interesting obstacle on the miniature course is a replica of famed artist Bob Ross. The Art Emporium carved and painted a Styrofoam cutout to look like that blue jean-wearing, paint brush-swirling, brown mushroom cloud-sporting man. Ross is holding a purple-covered paint brush in his right hand and is kneeling down on the board. Golfers have to hit a ball between his legs and then under an easel holding a mountain landscape painting. They'll have to dodge the happy trees before trying to make it in the hole.

Owner of Art Emporium, Traci Higginbotham, said it was her idea to play tribute to the famous painter, but she can't take credit for the work. Darren Husband, a local artist, carved and painted the styrofoam.

After Saturday's Go to Hale event, the golf course will be set up through downtown Charleston. People can pick up golf balls and putters from Taylor Books, Oddbird Gift Emporium and Tony the Tailor. But Forbes encourages people to bring their own putters and balls. The course is free, open to all ages and will be available for play 24 hours a day until July 10.

The course tees off along Haddad Riverfront Park. From there, you'll wind down Capitol Street to Summers Street. You'll go up the Brawley Walkway to pop back onto Capitol Street. The final seven holes run down Hale Street, over to McFarland Street and then finish along Quarrier Street close to the Quarrier Diner. You can pick up a course map in most downtown Charleston businesses, including the three businesses with putters and balls. You can also go online to print out a map at charlestonareaalliance.chambermaster.com/Events/details/downtown-open-855.