Designing this facility was one of the most challenging of my career. Things kept changing and each time it got grander than the last. It took fourteen versions of the master plan before we were done. The park will have a miniature golf course, train ride, climbing wall and jump, bumper boats, three large mechanical rides and a play area for kids. To ensure the many vendor teams all got the same vision, many concept drawings were done to show how the different levels of the park fit together. Some rides are elevated to maximize use of the land and to make things more exciting.
Through my many years in this business I had talked every potential client out of the idea of a pirate-themed golf course—until now. If there was ever a place where a pirate-themed adventure golf course needed to be built, it is in the Caribbean. But it couldn’t be the same as everywhere else. This project would be very different, starting with the main sign.
As with all of our projects, guests would be instantly transported from the ordinary world to a place of make believe and adventure. The challenge was to design the project in such a way that it would break down to fit into containers and then fit together with a minimum of fuss at their end. The solution was to design in a steampunk style. Heavy rivet bands would provide a natural seam for the various pieces. This theme would be repeated throughout the project. This same theme helped tell our story.
It was a no-holds-barred design from beginning to end. Our client was 6,000 miles distant and trusted us completely to come up with a wonderful design. The character signs were the most fun, each one crazier than the last. Cookie was in charge of the kitchen. While the parents may have second thoughts about this establishment, the kids are going to love it.
We used every bad pun and pirate lingo we could come up with for the project. The swing ride was dubbed the Yard Arm Twist. The character in charge is Twister, of course. He’s definitely bad but enjoys a good time!
The golf sign and rule post continues the story line. While we had to post some golf rules, we didn’t have to do it in a non-fun fashion. The sign post is designed to become part of the landscape.
The kraken looks as if he just crawled out of the bumper boat pool, He measures a whopping 30-ft. long. He is a massive sign for the bumper boats and also a memorable icon and photo opportunity for the park.
One of the many photo opportunities for the facility is a pirate horse and wagon. The horse sports an eye patch and a peg leg of course. The wagon is a rowboat with some added wheels. What better mode of ground transport could a pirate own!
We designed common elements through the project. All of the sign posts are salvaged masts from conquered ships. The pirate ensign is a skull and crossed wrenches, a symbol of this crew’s mechanical prowess.

Phase one of a mini golf attraction

Never mind that you have to install it all 6,000 miles from the shop

By Dan Sawatzky

Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2015

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Almost five years ago a fellow from Trinidad disembarked from a cruise ship in Vancouver, British Columbia, flagged a taxi, jumped in and told the driver to take him to the very best miniature golf course in the land. Over the course of the next couple of hours they stopped at various facilities.

Each time they stopped, though, he did not find what he was looking for. He wanted higher quality. He spoke to the owners of each facility and asked directions to the next, hopefully better one. At their second to last stop the owner told him of a miniature golf course that was another hour down the road. He also offered some advice. He said, “The fellow who did the facility was good but also very, very expensive.”

By coincidence I had done some preliminary design for that fellow but my chance of doing some work for him had ended abruptly when we started talking about what it would cost to build. I wasn’t willing to compromise in price nor quality and so we had parted ways. Had I done less than we were capable of, the fellow from Trinidad may have ended his search in Canada. I may well have missed the opportunity now at hand.

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Dan Sawatzky's shop, Sawatzky's Imagination Corporation, is in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Dan shares his experience in his Sign Magic Workshops on 3-D sign making, and his Sculpting Workshop.

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