“It’s harder than it looks,” said Michelle Sperry, crouching in a small warehouse space on Dickerson Road lined with pegboard and shelves full of tools. She was trying to roll a golf ball up a foot-high slope, which is attached to a 1,000-pound sculptural contraption. After a few tries, she sent the ball into one of three possible holes and stood up to watch as a rotating metal spiral lifted it six feet. The ball dropped into a maze made of forest-green wood and soft, artificial turf, where it would take another putt or two to sink it.
“This is the prototype hole for Cine Golf,” said Jon Shown, Sperry’s collaborator. The two plan to start an indoor, movie-themed, mini-golf establishment, complete with bar, movies projected on the walls and artwork by local artists. They hope to open it in the fall.
Meanwhile, by this Saturday they will have encased the kinetic mechanisms in a wooden model of the Overlook Hotel, where The Shining was set. Internal mechanisms and switchbacks will be visible through windows. The ball will exit the structure through a miniature version of either an icebox, a bar or the legendary Room 237.
They’re planning to debut the hole during the Discover Dickerson Road festival. They’ll also launch their Kickstarter campaign. A related fundraiser art exhibit will feature Jack Nicholson’s mug at its creepiest and other Shining-related work by artists including Mike Lucido, Kaleb Temple, Bryce Chisholm and Megan Ellis.
The seed of this idea was planted about five years ago. Shown, a native Renoite who worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for a decade, was at a film festival at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where The Shining was filmed. A few years later, back in Reno, over coffee, he and Sperry developed the seed into a business idea. They were inspired by a visit to Urban Putt, and indoor mini-golf course in San Francisco. They made a concept drawing of a mini-golf hole and handed it to builders Mikey Burke, Mike Mechanic and Paul Hutchinson, who’ve been doing the construction.
Sperry and Shown have both reached their early 30s and seen their friends start families, and Shown volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada as a big brother to a 7-year-old. Given the increasing presence of kids in their circles, they wanted to open an entertainment venue that was as cool as any new Midtown bar but that also would accommodate families.
Another of Cine Golf’s goals, said Shown, is “to introduce this level of creativity and engineering and art design to, you know, a 12-year-old. Maybe he’s never seen The Shining, but he still sees his ball go up an Archimedes’ screw, and now he knows what an Archimedes’ screw is.” (It’s a simple spiral device that pumps water upward, and the spiral mechanisms inside the golf hole strongly resemble one.)
Sperry, who grew up practicing carpentry with her dad, added, “With some holes you won’t even have a conventional putter. For this one, there will be an ax head on it.”
The hotel and patterned carpeting from The Shining are about as scary as the creators of Cine Golf intend to get. They’re also planning to make interactive golf holes themed after Harry Potter and various Christmas and Halloween flicks, and they said they’ll rotate in new holes every six months or so.