Smash Putt—also known as "Miniature Golf Apocalypse!"—is awesome in the sense that it truly inspires awe. Housed in the abandoned warehouse just south of Lark on 12th Avenue, this is putt-putt golf on (metaphorical) crank: nine holes of mechanized controlled chaos, with golfers enjoying a (real) full bar. It is possibly actually dangerous, intermittently earsplitting, and fun as hell.
Everybody's favorite hole—skip this paragraph if you would like to experience it for yourself, spoiler-free—is the Driving Range. Eye protection is required, and signage warns that there is a "real risk of being hit by errant golf balls," a risk that becomes quite apparent while waiting your turn behind a protective shield. Clubs are not involved; instead, you get two shots with a potent golf-ball cannon, the object being to hit one of several targets, including a dismembered piano. Shouting is involved. The ricochet is extremely high-speed. If you like shooting things, the Driving Range is a huge rush; if not, duck and cover.
Smash Putt is the creation of the industrial artists of HazardFactory, the local savants who also bring you the annual summer Power Tool Race & Derby. (HazardFactory first formed for the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. It probably wouldn't be prudent to say what they did there; just call them minutemen with spot welders.) At the Power Tool Race, you stand back and watch them let 'er rip, while at Smash Putt, you're in the fray with the machinery. Indemnity was a challenge. "I wouldn't give us insurance!" HazardFactory cofounder Jeremy Franklin-Ross said. (Somebody finally did; Smash Putt runs Friday through Sunday until the end of November.)
The machinery, for its part, is a certain kind of old-fashioned beautiful: slowly spinning metal parts, jets of snakelike compressed air, pachinko-style mazes, all backgrounded by the lush green of Astroturf. (Smash Putt's ladies' room is an Astroturf envelope.) But this makes it sound calm—whereas it is anything but. Hole 5, Roulette Française, involves riding a motor scooter, and more inebriated putters tend to abuse the horn; due to the room's acoustics, it's like being inside the engine compartment of a VW bug with the hood closed. During a horn-honking episode, one of the heroic all-volunteer bar staff wished sincerely for a BB gun. HazardFactory cofounder Rusty Oliver offered sincerely to go get one.
Smash Putt's 18th hole is the kind of makeshift bar that's all the better for its makeshiftness. It's got "BAR" and "BEER" spelled out in Astroturf, a sign that's been altered to say "DE CONSTRUCTION AHEAD," tacky mirrored tiles, and stools that are too short. Free snacks include peanuts and pretzels—according to Oliver, "They're fresh!" Around midnight, the eighth hole broke—something to do with the drill bit. "I'm going to go romance the machine," Oliver said.
Smash Putt, 912 12th Ave, www.smashputt.com