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Hermantown boys build mini-golf course in backyard woods

The friends decided to putt around and create something for their friends and family members to enjoy.

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Henrik Wikstrom and Hudson Folen stand, on July 22, 2021, beside the entrance to the new miniature golf course, named "Erie Woods Putt Putt," which they created in Hudson's yard. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)
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HERMANTOWN, Minn. — A trip to a Grand Marais miniature golf course inspired two Hermantown, Minnesota, boys to build their own course in the woods behind one of their houses.

Henrik Wikstrom's family played a round while on vacation, and when he returned to meet up with his friend, Hudson Folen, the two decided to try their hand at golf-course design and construction.

"We were just bored one day," Hudson said. "So we started clearing out the area, and now we have nine holes."

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Hudson Folen watches his ball roll to a stop due to some natural obstacles on his new miniature golf course in his backyard on July 22, 2021. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)

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The course sits behind the Folen household in their deep woods. Hudson didn't talk with his parents about their plans before they got started, but his mother, Holly Folen, thought it was a neat idea.

"It wasn't hurting anything; it was just off in the woods," Holly said. "I guess I didn't think they would do nine holes, but they had the space, and they had the time to do it. It's kept them busy."

The boys started by clearing out the area for their first hole using rakes and shovels. They used branches and rocks they found while clearing the space to create a border around the hole and used the trees in the area as natural obstacles. The holes are made from plastic cups dug into the ground.

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Hudson Folen and Henrik Wikstrom watch Hudson's golf ball emerge through the pipe obstacle on their miniature golf course on July 22, 2021. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)

The boys, who are both 11, got their ideas for various holes and obstacles from watching YouTube videos of other mini-golf courses.

"I saw one that I want to do sometime," Henrik said. "It's a loop-de-loop made out of some old tires. We're thinking of putting it into hole five since that one's kind of boring right now."

Some of the more complicated holes on the course include one with two levels of play connected via a metal tube (left over from one of Hudson's father's construction projects) and a hole with a wooden bridge over a dirt trench.

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A small wooden bridge, built by Hudson Folen and his father, spans the dirt trench in the ninth and final hole of Folen's "Erie Woods Putt Putt" course on July 22, 2021. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)

The project started last fall, but the boys had to stop when it began to snow. They picked it back up once spring came and with that, they found a new deadline for the project.

"I wanted to have it done for my sister's grad party in July," Hudson said. "I thought it would be cool if she could have her friends come down here and play."

The course was the hit of the party. Friends and family made their way down to putt through the unique course, which the boys named "Erie Woods Putt Putt." Henrik designed a course-specific scorecard with a par listed for each hole.

"We brought a bucket of 20 golf balls down, and each of us would putt 20 times to figure out the average number of hits it took to get into a hole," Hudson said.

And why 20 golf balls?

"Because that's how many golf balls we had at the time," Hudson said.

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Now that the golf course is complete, both Hudson and Henrik have started to play regular golf with their fathers. They've also set their sights on other projects. Last year, they had started to build a fort, but it got put on hold when they started the golf course. Now that the course is more or less complete, the boys said, they might return to the fort with some new ideas.

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The entrance to Hudson Folen and Henrik Wikstrom's "Erie Woods Putt Putt" miniature golf course in Hudson's yard sits ready for them to play another round on July 22, 2021. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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