“Maker’s Golf” at Nine Below: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Jan. 2, 2017
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The name is a play on words, but as it becomes more of a reality as a weather forecast, the cozy below-ground links of Nine Below offers a wonderful respite from wintertime in Milwaukee. The world’s first and only “maker’s” miniature golf course, Nine Below is as unique as it is fun. The course is located at 1905 E. North Ave., below the Beans & Barley, and features a full 18 holes. Conceived by the owners of the Third Ward’s Splash Studios – the paint-n-drink place – Nine Below encourages guests to get creative. “We wanted something more interesting and more interactive than sitting in a bar or a movie theatre,” Marla Poytinger, co-owner of Splash and Nine Below, told Around MKE.

The creativity comes in the first part of your overall Nine Below experience. After checking in, you are assigned a green – which looks every bit of a blank canvass before you get started. For the first hour of your reservation, you and your party use a variety of props and portable hazards to create your own hole. Here, you can be as silly or sadistic as you wish. Want an oversized Ninja Turtle action figure to guard the pin? You got it. Want to require players to jump their ball over the Ten Commandments? It’s your world. After you get your green set, you can set your par and name it (just please don’t act like you’re the first one to think of using “the glory hole”) and then wait at the bar for the round to being.

Nine Below’s remarkably handy golf carts

Like any variation of golf, drinking is highly encouraged. The Nine Below bar is well-stocked and certainly much more reasonably priced than a real golf course bar. You are also provided with a push-cart to carry your drinks, phones, purses, and whatever else the winter weather requires. When your round starts, each party moves through the nine holes, ending on their own creation. The course plays more or less like typical putt-putt golf, but feels much fresher and cleaner than the average roadside course. The space does not feel confined and is airy and open, with bird chirps and other “natural” sounds mixed over the music. “It’s really meant to transport people away from dark, wintery Milwaukee into this wonderland of fun and creativity,” Poytinger said.

Beware the lure of the trick shot.

Nine Below has only been open since late September, but the feedback thus far has been highly positive, Poytinger said. It’s not hard to see why. While there are plenty of places to sit and eat and drink, maybe while looking at something, there are not a great number of options if you actually want to DO something. Nine Below forces you to engage and solve problems, while still allowing you to have a lot of fun. I’ll also note here that it definitely brings out the competitor in people. I lost the round that I played on a playoff hole and am still kicking myself for trying to play my ball off the bunny ramp when I clearly should have taken the safer route around the log. So stupid of me…

If you want to give it a try, visit www.ninebelowmke.com to reverse a tee time. You’ll need a team of between two and four players. Nine holes rounds cost between $13 and $20, depending on your group size and tee time/day.

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