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The spirit of Magic Carpet Golf lives on all across Tucson

Magic Carpet Golf bull statue
Posted at 3:48 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 18:45:21-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — If you grew up in Tucson you likely spent time playing miniature golf at an old east side favorite, Magic Carpet Golf.

It closed a dozen years ago, but it lives on through its numerous statues, spread all over town.

Check out the map below to see where all the Magic Carpet Golf statues are today:

"A lot of kids who come in here to go to the U of A, they come down here and drink at the Hut, and they don't have any idea where that used to be," said former state legislator Steve Farley. "They thought it was built for here. But it's now a symbol of 4th Avenue."

Farley knows exactly where the Tiki Head used to be.

Magic Carpet Golf Tiki statue now at The Hut

He would take his daughters to play mini golf at the one-time east side staple Magic Carpet Golf.

"One of their favorite places in the world to be," Farley said while standing in front of the Tiki Head statue.

In 2008, after 40 years in business, Magic Carpet Golf closed.

It would be demolished for a car dealership parking lot.

"My first thought when we heard they were closing is what are they going to do with everything," remembered local business owner Sam O'Shaughnessy.

O'Shaughnessy was not alone.

Steve Farley knew he had to save as many of the iconic statues, that graced each hole at Magic Carpet Golf, as possible.

"Tucson, too often we tear down those things that are precious to so many people who grew up here." said Farley. "This was a place where I had an opportunity to say no, not this one."

Farley and Valley of the Moon volunteer Charlie Spillar teamed up to try and save the statues.

They organized a One Last Round event at Magic Carpet Golf.

"We could have people have a lot of fun, say goodbye to the golf course and raise money to them at the same time," Farley recalled.

"It was like a part of the fabric of growing up in Tucson," said Phil Villarreal, Senior Real Time Editor at KGUN9.

Villarreal grew up playing at Magic Carpet Golf.

He covered the closing of the iconic spot and dismantling for the Arizona Daily Star. He also wrote about Farley and Spillar's efforts to find the statues new homes.

"They got it done one by one," said Villarreal. "He found businesses that would take some of these statues, he found private collections and private residences to put in their backyard. They couldn't save everything, but they saved a lot of them. Had they not done that, we may have lost everything."

Charlie Spillar had four of those statues moved to Valley of the Moon, a special place for kids to play and learn.

Magic Carpet Golf statue at Valley of the Moon

"He saw the vision, he saw it right away," said Valley of the Moon President Jenni Sunshine. "Valley of the Moon would be a great place and would fit in with the whimsical, fun atmosphere."

One by one, they moved the statues from Magic Carpet Golf to locations all across the city.

For the statue of the bull, that meant using a crane and a flatbed truck to move it to O'Shaughnessy's Irish Steakhouse off Tanque Verde, near Tucson Country Club.

Magic Carpet Golf bull statue

"Ferdinand is his name," said O'Shaughnessy. "It is 13 feet long, 10 feet high and it weighs 3,000 pounds. It's made out of number 5 rebar, and Gunite, and concrete. It was quite a chore even moving this bull."

The statues were all designed and built by Michael Kautza, who also built the giant boot on Sabino Canyon, the Castle at Golf N' Stuff, plus the matador and bull in front of Casa Molina.

There are more than a dozen of the Magic Carpet Golf statues around town, as well as the restored Magic Carpet Golf sign.

You never know when you'll stumble across one.

You can find the monkey statue driving through the Dunbar - Spring neighborhood. It is tucked away in the side yard of a private home, restored by its owners.

Magic Carpet Golf monkey statue

"Whenever you encounter them it's this amazing serendipitous event, you feel so blessed," said Farley. "Wow look I got a piece of Magic Carpet today."

You can find an alligator and serpent on the north side.

The Sun on the east side or the T-Rex moved to a business in the south part of town.

Magic Carpet Golf T-Rex statue

Farley says even though the statues are spread out all over Tucson, they still transport us back to those magical times at Magic Carpet Golf.

"It's a neat thing," Farley said. "It makes everyone feel like you can step outside of your normal life and be in a whole other fantasyland. We need more things like that."

The old magic carpet golf location on Speedway is now a Chuck E Cheese.