In a unique collision of recreation and art, the Elmhurst Art Museum joins forces with Colossal founder Christopher Jobson to curate two 9-hole golf courses made by artists, Par Excellence Redux. The Front 9 opens at the Museum July 7 through September 16, 2021, and The Back 9 will continue the fun October 13 – January 2, 2022. The fully playable course, designed by artists and architects from the Midwest and beyond, pays homage to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s wildly popular 1988 exhibition, Par Excellence. Tee time reservations are made online and available beginning June 1 at elmhurstartmuseum.org/golf.
Par Excellence Redux promises an unusual twist on a familiar pastime throughout the Museum’s galleries as players explore a surprisingly varied collection of themes—from social justice to the occult. The exhibition includes a fortune-telling hole that has the power to dramatically change scores as well as a hole that challenges players with an optical illusion. The exhibition was originally slated to open May 9, 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19 and has since been reimagined to abide by current city and state safety mandates.
Front 9, on display throughout the Museum’s main galleries, includes:
Hole #1, “Cross-Section Castle” by A Couple of Putts design duo Robin Schwartzman and Tom Loftus (Minneapolis, Minnesota), features an alternative take on a mini-golf castle by providing players a glimpse at the ball’s journey through ramps and around custom-made figures inside.
Hole #2, “Participation Trophy” by Jesse Meredith (Chicago, Illinois), features numerous golf holes on a rounded turf, providing multiple routes for a winning shot.
Hole #3, “Straight Shot,” created by design collective Current Projects (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) sends players through a small room constructed to skew perspective and create an optical illusion of greater depth.
Hole #4, “Razzle Dazzle” by Andrea Jablonski & Stolatis Inc. (Chicago, Illinois) utilizes ramps, a loop, and intersecting geometric shapes to provide fun and difficulty through contrasting camouflage patterns.
Hole #5, “Greens of Cabrini,” by Julie Cowan (Evanston, Illinois) allows the player to putt through time, starting with the aspiration opening of The Cabrini Green Homes, through the rise of the Old Town Square retail development.
Hole #6, “Just Desserts” by Latent Design (Chicago, Illinois) is a spiraling colorful cone that a golfer must use to bridge from the heights of the putting green and the lows of the hole.
Hole #7, “Chairy Who?” by Gautum Rao (Indianapolis, Indiana) features obstacles of iconic mid-Century furniture in homage to the Museum’s McCormick House.
Hole #8, by Elmhurst Art Museum's Teen Art Council, a putter-free hole, sends golf balls through maze-like tubes with their own set of rules.
Hole #9, “Determine Your Fate” by Annalee Koehn (Chicago, Illinois) is equal parts skills-challenge, game of chance and fortune cookie.
The original 1988 Par Excellence exhibition at the School of the Art Institute was the brainchild of Chicago sculptor Michael O'Brien and opened to queues down the block. The exhibition in Elmhurst will pay homage to the original course through ephemera, newspaper clippings, and photos. The designer Annalee Koehn, who was one of the organizers of the original 1988 exhibit, will recreate her fortune-telling hole Determine Your Fate. Par Excellence was likely the first artist-designed mini-golf course ever created and paved the way for future artistic golf courses that would follow.
Photo: Mikko Lemola