Crawfox Minigolf: A Brief History in Words and Pictures

Putting Through History

Fun from Putter Bros. The Eleventh Not-Quite-Annual
Crawfox Minigolf Benefit
May 7, 2006

In the SpiderholeThe Tenth Not-Quite-Annual
Crawfox Minigolf Benefit
May 23, 2004.

Politics as usual The Ninth Not-Quite-Annual
Crawfox Minigolf Tournament at Our House
June 2, 2002.

I'm all ears The Eighth Annual
Crawfox Minigolf Tournament at Our House
May 21, 2000

virtual golfThe Seventh Annual Indoor-Outdoor
Miniature Golf Benefit at Our House
April 25, 1999

Say Aaaaahhh The Sixth Annual Indoor-Outdoor
Miniature Golf Benefit at Our House
May 17th, 1998
spuds The Fifth Annual Indoor-Outdoor
Miniature Golf Benefit at Our House
April 20, 1997

Moooooooo The Fourth Annual Indoor-Outdoor
Miniature Golf Benefit at Our House
May 5, 1996

Go Ask Alice The Third Annual St. Valentine's Day
Invitational Miniature Golf Benefit at Our House
February 12, 1995

Golf in Hell The Second Annual St. Valentine's Day
Invitational Miniature Golf Party at Our House
February 13, 1994
Say Cheese The Birth of Crawfox Minigolf
The First Annual St. Valentine's Day
Invitational Miniature Golf Party at our House
February 14, 1993.
The dangers of genetic engineering Back to Crawfox Home Page

Back in February 1993, we (Leslie Crawford and Steve Fox) were scouting around for a different way of marking Valentine's Day. On a whim, we invited some friends over for a "bring-your-own-hole" minigolf party. About 25 folks showed up, putters in hand, and began teeing off. The Best of Show: Cary Hammer and Nadine Browning's hole constructed entirely of cheese. The party was loads of fun, and it was obvious we were on to something. We promptly began planning for a more ambitious event the next year.

In 1994 about 50 people showed up, several of them toting their own golf holes. We asked all attendees to cast ballots for their favorite hole, and John Loose won handily with an elaborate hole that played sound effects whenever golf ball hits sensor a series of electronic sensors. The design bar had officially been raised.

For the 1995 rendition, we added a new element: Our minigolf tournament was now a benefit, for the Hamilton Family Center, with 100 attendees crowding our Upper Market flat. Cary Hammer and Nadine Browning again captured the best-of-show award with "Dealey Plaza," a recreation of JFK's assasination that allowed golfers to tee off from either the Book Depository or the Grassy Knoll, depending upon their theories of the event. Minigolfers were required to putt the golf ball through Kennedy's head, where it was then required to make a sharp right turn before landing in the cup, which was lodged, of course, in Connolly's shoulder. A difficult par 1.

In 1996 we moved into our current house, but were still unpacking in February. So we opted to hold the benefit (this time for the San Francisco SPCA) in April. Top hole designers: Annette Goodfriend and Kirk Steers for their eerie black-light bathed hole depicting the autopsy of the recently deceased inventor of minigolf.

For the Fifth Annual Indoor-Outdoor Miniature Golf Benefit at our House, roughly 200 kids and adults descended on our Noe Valley home, where they contributed more than $1700 to the SPCA. 1997 also introduced the world to the stunning golf hole design talents of Peter and James Cury, whose exquisite miniature rendition of an Evel Knievel canyon jump (the hole was set within a diarama-style box; you looked through magnifying glasses to view the scene and manipulated the miniature putter and balls using gloves built into the box) took first place.

Conventional wisdom had it that we would skip minigolf in1998. After all, we had a newborn (Sam, born in September 1997) and we had our hands full without playing host to 200-plus putter-wielding partygoers. So much for conventional wisdom. The May benefit, this time for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of San Francisco and the Peninsula, was a huge success, highlighted by Bud Peen and Robert Kanes's winning entry, "Monica's Revenge." Suffice it to say that the hole included an underwear-clad Bill Clinton and that all players had to put on knee-pads before putting. Other standouts included a maze hole from Melissa Riofrio and Sami Iwata (a golf version of the old marble tilt game) and "Behind the Screen Door," an elaborately decorated "White Trash" hole that was part minigolf, part performance art, created by KAS and friends.

Minigolf returned once again for a seventh go-around in 1999, this time in April. Again, it was a benefit for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The winning hole--from long-time attendees (but first time hole designers) Tessa, Nina and Sharon Rudnick--re-created a sweet-sixteen party. A virtual reality hole, "Woody Woodman's Golf Miniature Reality," featured gigabytes of digital video, while Mimi Heft's "MUNI Golf" awarded bonus points for hitting pedestrians. Minigolf vet Melissa Riofrio actually shipped a working hole from Germany, while Joyce Hulbert constructed "A Golf Koan," a minigolf version of a Zen garden, in which "the par comes from within."

The Eighth Annual hoo-ha rolled into our house on May 21, 2000. Robert Kanes and Bud Peen scored a second win with their topical "Elian's Dilemma," which they described as a mini-golf referendum on the Elian Gonzalez case. "This Is Your Brain on Mini-Golf" (from Steve Fox, Colin Duwe, and Henry Kaiser) had "subjects" participate in a sensory experiment in which they donned video goggles and putted a ball while viewing themselves being filmed. In Mimi Heft's standout "Vincent Van Golf," players putted over a green constructed from a Van Gogh self-portrait, eventally ending up in the cup, in Vincent's ear. Leslie Crawford's "Got Milk?"--complete with giant chocolate chip cookies, gargantuan PB&J sandwiches, and a five-foot-high milk carton--was a kids' favorite. Unfortunately, the stress of putting on such an elaborate event year after year had finally worn us down. At the end of the party, we made a surprise announcement. We were hanging up our cleats. Minigolf was no more.

Or so it seemed. A year passed. April and May of 2001 flowed by blissfully, without the "M" word so much as passing our lips. But later in the year, Sam started looking through the pictures in our golf scrapbook and asking questions. And everytime we'd walk downstairs, we couldn't help taking sideways glances at our gallery: Kate's "Garden of Golf" canvas and her "Moooooore Coffee," Mimi's Vincent Van Golf, Melissa and Sami's Tilt 'n' Turf, Robert and Bud's bigger-than-life-size Bill Clinton, with the strategically placed putting ramping leading directly through his boxer shorts. Yes, we were getting nostalgic.

That brought us to 2002. June 2, to be precise, when--undeterred by common sense, decorum, or even troubling questions of taste and decency--Leslie and I decided that Crawfox minigolf should return for the 2002 season. Since we had skipped a year, we simply redubbed it the Not-Quite-Annual Mini-Golf Tournament at our House. The benefit--this time for Sam's school, Wind in the Willows Early Learning Center--drew a crowd of more than 200 people.

"Axis of Evil," a topical hole by Robert Kanes and Bud Peen, won the prize for best in show. A challenging par 0, "if you know how to play the system," which included drums of oil ("the Mother's Milk of Politics", George W. Bush on a pendulum, an open-mouthed Dick Cheney, and millions of dollars in (fake) cash, required you to pay off the politicos to get par. "Axis of Evil" capped a stunning four-year run by the Kanes/Peen team, which is our only three-time winner ("Monica's Revenge" in '98, "Elian's Dilemma" in 2000, and now "Axis").

"Sunday Afternoon at the Ballpark," by Crawfox mini-golf first-timer Andrew Bernard, finished a strong second in the voting, tagging Bernard as the clear Rookie of the Year. The built-to-scale replica of Pac-Bell Park was a picture-perfect rendition of the original, right down to signature Coca Cola bottle. Another rookie success, "Poopius Leavius," from Shari Weiser and son Spencer Uniacke, featured a sidewalk, a putt-through tree, and piles of realistic-looking (though thankfully synthetic) dog feces. It was a big hit with the younger set.

Henry Kaiser, Kirk Steers, and Steve Fox, along with newcomer Robin Hathaway, continued their string of participatory video-based holes (1999's "Woody Woodman's Golf Miniature Reality" and 2000's "This Is Your Brain on Mini-Golf") with "Gone with the Windmill." Teams were provided with costumes and props and asked to create a one-minute minigolf-themed movie for submission to the International Minigolf Film Festival. Live feeds of the movies were broadcast throughout the house on TV monitors.

The ambitious "Sweet Tooth," fashioned by a throng that included Leslie Crawford, Steve Fox, and Jean Craig-Teerlink, started in an upstairs room festooned with giant M&Ms, Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, and Lifesavers. After putting through either a Milk Duds box or a Hershey's chocolate bar, the ball disappeared into the wall and emerged downstairs, either in a giant cavity-filled mouth or next to a giant cutout dentist (a replica of Steve's dad, Joe, a dentist in real life).

Melissa Riofrio (Tilt'n'Turf from '98, Comet Hale-Bopp from '97, and others), scored another artistic triumph, this time collaborating with her husband, Tom Garfinkel, with "The Painting Green." Players dipped their golf balls in paint, then putted along a white fairway into the hole. By the end of the tournament, the once-pristine surface resembled a Jackson Pollack canvas.

Minigolf vet Colin Duwe and his posse made sweet music with "Straight to the Top of the Charts," which included two working turntables, old 45 rpm records, and even a cassette tape trap. A perfect putt would bounce off a speaker grill, onto the spinning turntable, through a strategically placed tube, and into a 45. The disco ball and Casey Kasem soundtrack completed the mood.

Jerry Lax, who hadn't designed a hole since 1998's "Skeet!," combined with wife Dodie Hamblen and son Jesse, to create "The Happy Meal Wheel of Fortune." A classic electrical minigolf hole, "Happy Meal" required players to putt up a ramp, under a spinning wheel decked out with every imaginable McDonald's kids' toy, and into a hole a the far end of the platform.

The most intriguing hole was created by two-time champions Cary Hammer and Nadine Browning ("The Cheese Hole" from '93, and '95's groundbreaking "Dealey Plaza"). Their entry, "The hole is g h (t ; t , S f B )." required you to solve the riddle of the hole's title in order to receive a score of 0; everyone else got an 8. The golf hole itself featured a graying pelt, accompanied by ringlets of hair and a wig cup, placed atop a map of San Francisco. The pelt fairway was cut into an hourglass shape to allow space for several Bart Simpson figurines, positioned within the South of Market Area (SOMA). The solution: "The hole is grayed hair (thin; thus, SOMA fits Barts)." Say it fast to get, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." So ended another tournament.

But it was not to be the last. With Crawfox Minigolf now firmly established as biennial (rather than annual) event, we hitched up our plaid golf pants and got to work the tenth installment of the rite, which rolled out on May 23, 2004. For pictures and details, go here.

The 11th edition of Crawfox Mini-Golf, on May 7, 2006, was particularly challenging because we had added one family member since Crawfox Minigolf 2004. Molly Irene Fox was born on August 25, 2005, and it turns out that newborns and mini-golf parties are a supremely exhausting combination. Still, the event, a benefit for Friends of the Urban Forest) was a huge success, with more than 200 attendees and a wonderous collection of minigolf holes. Check out the pictures and descriptions here.