Art, fun and public space in Croydon: the adventure continues at Putt Putt #2

By - Wednesday 13th August, 2014

Tom Winter plays crazy golf like you’ve never seen it before

Putt Putt #2 – crazy golf in Ruskin Square, East Croydon.
Photo by Jim Stephenson, used with permission.

On a warm Friday evening in early July following a tiring day at work, I find myself coasting on my bicycle down to the opening of Turf Project’s Putt Putt #2 interactive art installation near East Croydon station. Having successfully gained funding earlier in the year through Arts Council England, Stanhope Schroder, Kickstarter and supportive local business, it’s with great anticipation that Putt Putt #2 has opened to an eagerly-waiting public following the triumph of the previous year’s Putt Putt #1 installation near Surrey Street Market.

Putt Putt is crazy golf in public spaces, but with a very artistic twist. Unlike Putt Putt #1, this time around Turf Projects has been able to commission artists to design holes for the Putt Putt #2 course and what I find when I arrived excitingly reflects this. Colours, shapes and characters of all kinds are playfully laid out in and around a landscaped area adjacent to the new exit from the bridge at East Croydon station.

Encouragingly, in addition to the usual mix of confident and clumsy participants perhaps chancing their swing at the deceitfully tricky hole titled ‘The Flat-Pack Golf Ball Social’, there are many people simply enjoying the carefree company and enjoying a cold beer or two in the evening sun.

The Easy Hole

The Easy Hole – or perhaps not quite so easy.
Photo by Jim Stephenson, used with permission.

Having been at the opening only a short time, my friend Chris gestures that we should begin our journey through the adventure that is to be Putt Putt #2 so with club, ball and scorecard in hand we set off upon the challenge.

First hole. ‘The Easy Hole’ by Welch Whitaker. Par 1. I can do this. Got to make a solid start. Grisly miss followed by a second attempt. Then a full-bloodied punch through the over-sized hole. Success. Scrutinise the holes to follow. A nervous swallow.

A couple of disastrous holes later and we find ourselves at ‘Rib’ by Holly Hendry, an elephantine hole that would make any participant weep in shame after their initial belief that they can make the hole-in-one. A continuous piece of silver ducting suspended, propped and wedged around a set of large timber trestles and sandbags makes for a seriously simple yet challenging hole that could be easily adapted or relocated. All of which makes a fantastic contrast to the general assumption that most crazy golf holes are more of a permanent nature.

One. Two. Three holes later and I am beginning to feel my inner golf pro coming to life. Bit softer. Around the red plastic tower. A little more to the right. Orbit the tree and down the hole. It feels like everyone is watching me. Am I the next Tiger Woods? Oh no – not back down the slope. Across the fake turf and through the green crate. Finally an eagle.

The last hole, curiously titled ‘Putt, Putt, Putt, Putt, Putt’ by Iain Hales greets me with a post-modernist smile like that of a Michael Graves building with its bright cones and gravel pits. Two levels separate the start from the finish and with a Par 5 on the cards I approach the hole with caution and the utilisation of all the skills I have practiced up until then. The unforgiving nature of the gravel and the obvious obstacles mocking the participant make this hole elegant yet humble. Par 5. Finish like a pro. Wave to the crowd.

Putt Putt in pink.
Photo by Jim Stephenson, used with permission.

Having completed the round it’s clear to see how the Putt Putt idea has evolved from the previous year’s attempt, which had less money and experience behind it. This time around, the location, marketing and experience of the installation is of a higher professionalism whilst still retaining the feel of an approachable and friendly grass-roots local art project – a tricky balance to achieve.

So at a time when Croydon is receiving much attention for rising house prices and large-scale retail developments such as Westfield, it is wonderfully encouraging to see art projects like this being enjoyed by a wide variety of people.

Long may it continue.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter

Practicing Architectural Assistant and fabricator of Dirty Croydon Love architecture and urban-design blog, having worked for Fantastic Norway Architekten in Oslo over the summer of 2011 and now recently graduated with a postgraduate in Architecture at London South Bank University. Stimulated in and intoxicated with South London with a keen interest in the potential of Resourceful Design and Urban Social Spaces that can be created through provocative yet sensitive contemporary urban architecture, with a strong belief that architecture can further enhance Croydon’s complex urban community. Also a passionate cricket player, dedicated book reader and enthusiastic CD music collector.

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