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First ‘nano golf’ course to open in Larkinville

Mini golf is so 1995.

Get your fine-motor skills in shape for Larkin Links, Buffalo’s first “nano golf” course, a lighthearted fusion of public art and recreation dreamed up by Buffalo entrepreneur Harry Zemsky. It’s scheduled to open June 17.

The course, which will be free and open to the public, features 11 holes designed by local artists and designers. These range from a circular installation made from 2,600 recycled, painted golf balls to a miniature reconstruction of the H-O Oats grain elevator that was demolished in 2006.

Zemsky, who will contribute holes based on a skateboarding half-pipe and a long ski with a hole at one end, said the project grew out of his recent obsession with mini golf.

“I started just sketching and designing my own holes,” he said, adding that he thought it would be “cool” to design a nano golf course.

With the blessing and assistance of his mother, Larkinville “director of fun” Leslie Zemsky, a request for proposals went out in February and creative designs started flowing in.

“I just tried to think of ways to make it extremely feasible and low-overhead, low-cost, so that’s where the idea of reaching out to local artists, architects and designers came from,” Zemsky said. “We encouraged them to use reclaimed materials to kind of go with the aesthetic of the neighborhood.”

During a Mother’s Day antiquing trip, the Zemskys picked up a few dozen vintage putters, which will be available for free use when the course opens.

The new course, opening during the first Live at Larkin concert of the 2015 season, will be installed on a lot at 863 Seneca St. adjacent to Larkin Square, part of the neighborhood recently created by developer Howard Zemsky.

Artists and designers drew inspiration for their installations from across the region’s industrial and architectural history, often employing recycled materials toward quirky ends.

“Creativity and sense of humor were how we picked the winners,” Leslie Zemsky said.

For Brian Grunert of the Larkinville-based design firm White Bicycle, contributing to the project was a way to play a part in the ever-evolving vibe of the neighborhood.

“We’ve been Larkinville residents since the end of 2013 and pretty much every day it seems like there’s something fun and cool that gets added to the culture of the place, whether it’s an event or a new business or permanent installation,” he said. “Being here has been a breath of fresh air for us.”

Other contributors include the firemen stationed at the Ladder 5/Engine 32 firehouse in Larkinville, whose design resembles a pickax and includes a model of a firehouse, a fire hydrant and a flag pole.

A design titled “DOT,” by Canadian designers and artists Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, uses thousands of recycled golf balls to create an extremely challenging take on the standard putting green.

“The goal is to get the ball from the perimeter of ‘DOT’ to the center, which may seem like an easy task, but because of the uneven surface created by the balls, this will prove more difficult than it appears at first glance,” the artists wrote in a statement. “Negotiating the textured terrain should be a fun and comical experience.”

The Larkin Links project follows several other off-beat endeavors in the neighborhood, including an art gallery based in a phone booth and the pickleball courts that were part of Larkin Square’s original design.

“What really works in a profound way with Larkinville is that the culture surrounding the businesses and residences of this area has been emphasized as much if not more than the infrastructure and the building environment,” Grunert said. “It’s important that people not only like working and coming here all the time, but actually spending time here.”