Amateur golfers are discovering what Tour pros have known for a number of years; there simply is no better way to practice and improve your short game than to have the luxury of walking out your back door and onto your very own putting green.
While some traditionalists, especially those with deep pockets, continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the installation and annual upkeep of real grass greens, their numbers are dwindling. Technological advances in materials have made synthetic greens almost a no-brainer when it comes to backyard putting greens. Although they are not inexpensive, a synthetic grass putting green is less costly and nowhere near as labor intensive to upkeep than real grass.
We all know any golfer worth his or her salt wishes they could spend more time at the course. But playing golf, and even visiting the practice range, requires a hefty investment of time. We once had to choose between playing golf all day and neglecting the rest of our lives (generally frowned upon in polite society) or limiting our time with the game in favor of a more respectable home life (something that is tough to swallow for the serious golfer). That has all changed thanks to synthetic grass greens.
The evolution of golf has yielded many benefits. At about the same time that Callaway was birthing the Big Bertha, companies began to spring up that could design and build artificial grass putting greens for private residences. Thanks to these synthetic putting greens, golfers could now enjoy the game they love from the sanctuary of their own homes.
While the quality and “lastability” of the early synthetic greens was not quite up to snuff, vast improvements have been made in the industry during the last five to six years, and most synthetic greens carry eight to 10 year warranties and last many years beyond that. They realistically simulate natural grass in their roll and ability to receive shots from a modest distance.
What is there not to love about having a putting green in your backyard? For the serious golfer, having a synthetic putting green allows more time for practice of course-like conditions. While you can always work on your putting stroke on the living room carpet by hitting into an empty glass, the level of realism possible with a synthetic green will never be felt by knocking one into your favorite coffee cup or beer glass. Modern synthetic grass putting greens are as close to the real thing as you can get.
For the recreational golfer, a synthetic putting green can be a fun diversion when there’s no time to head out to the course for play or practice. Just like a swimming pool or pool table, a synthetic putting green can enhance the entertainment value of your home, keeping the kids and their friends at home and occupied. Adding a putting green to your property qualifies as “home improvement,” and increases the value of your property in the same way a new fence or driveway would.
“There is no doubt having a practice green in your backyard improves the value of your property,” said Barbara Rees, owner, along with her husband Walt, of STI of Northern California, an installer of Synthetic Turf International products. “The real estate market is not quite as hot as it was and it’s a nice plus to have a practice green on your property. It pulls potential buyers in.”
Offered Brian Hagen, CEO of Heavenly Greens, which has offices in San Jose and Sacramento, “The greens and practice areas enhance the property, aesthetically and value wise. With the popularity of golf, realtors love to see a putting green on a property they are going to sell.” Hagen’s company installs Tour Turf products.
We all know golf is a beautifully aesthetic game, and, as Hagen said, the visual pleasure of having a putting green in your backyard is incalculable. People spend great amounts of time and energy working on their lawns in order to make them beautiful. Perhaps they need to consider doing away with the high maintenance of a real grass lawn and replacing it with a low-maintenance putting green. It requires less work than a lawn, and a putting green is guaranteed to garner some positive attention for your property, never mind jealous whispers from your buddies and neighbors.
A synthetic putting green can make your house the place to be. Parties, visits from friends, and the length of these visits will all increase once you install a putting green. A synthetic putting green will be a social lightning rod in your backyard. Even non-golfers enjoy a putting contest. If you consider yourself a people person, then a synthetic putting green is definitely for you.
And there is no question having a synthetic putting green, which can be contoured to allow for side hill breaks and uphill and downhill putts and made to run any speed the owner desires, can shave strokes off your score. Why do you think many of today’s Tour pros, like Vijay Singh, Steve Lowry and Jim Furyk, have artificial greens in their backyard, basement or both? Practice, my friend, makes perfect.
“We target the serious golfer,” said Patty Duce, owner with her husband, Ron, of Oasis Putting Greens in Concord, a Mirage Putting Greens dealer. “These people understand the benefits of, as we say, putting in your pajamas. One of our first customers, a husband and wife, were taking up the game and wanted to improve. They practiced on the green every single day and saw a dramatic change in their handicaps.”
Oasis’s most significant project was the installation of an elaborate practice facility for a client in Hillsboro that included a 72-foot-long putting green, another smaller target green, a fairway area for full shots and several chipping areas.
“It’s one of those things everybody in the family will use,” said Hagen. “The kids will have their friends over to enjoy it and the serious golfer can work on his game. We have had so many letters from clients telling us how happy they are with the product and how it has improved their golf scores.”
Many customers find that once they get onto a real course and face a nasty five-foot slider they say to themselves, “I know I can make this. I practiced this putt 100 times on my green at home.” Practicing on your own green builds confidence.
Synthetic putting greens have been popping up all over Northern California like flowers on a warm spring day.
“ My business has been growing about 200 percent a year,” said Hagen. “People see the greens at a friend’s house and say `I’ve got to have one of these for myself.’”
For some, money is no hindrance to creating a spectacular setting. “We put in a green in Saratoga that has a waterfall coming down a hill on the side of it, a large bunker nearby and a couple of different tee boxes to hit shots to the green,” said Hagen.
“The materials being used now are environmentally friendly,” said Steve Bosco, owner of Perfect Putt in Clovis. His company installs Southwest Putting Greens products. “Once installed, the greens don’t require watering or mowing, which saves resources and cuts down on yard work. And as far as helping your game, if you can shave a couple of strokes off your short game, which is about half or more of a total score, it makes a huge difference in your score.”
Artificial greens are installed much the same way a real grass green is laid down. The ground below the green is leveled and mounding added to provide the desired undulations on the surface. Most companies have a slight variation on the depth and composition layers of the foundation, with the most common materials used being crushed stone, stone dust or gravel. Some companies spread a thin layer of sand onto the synthetic surface, while others use no sand, relying on a materials such as crushed rubber, quartz acrylic and slightly longer blades of synthetic grass to create a surface that putts consistently, accepts chip and short wedge shots, and drains properly. The material of choice for synthetic grass is usually nylon or polypropylene.
Dealers say the average size green installed is between 600 and 800 square feet. That allows for a minimum of around four hole placements. But larger greens are not uncommon. The average cost of an artificial green in the Northern California area generally runs between $17 and $22 per square foot. Some companies offer do-it-yourself kits or modular synthetic grass putting greens that can be installed either outdoors or indoors.
Of course, artificial grass greens do require some maintenance.
“Mostly, you need to blow organic materials off of them and have them rolled once in a while,” said Bosco. Some companies offer annual maintenance that has workers coming in once or twice a year to brush up the green, put a new level of top dressing on it, roll it out and make sure it looks good and is ready to go.
Most companies will also install a ring of artificial grass around the green to simulate the fringe on a real on-course green. Homeowners can then practice chipping skills as well as hone their putting talents. The fringe product for around the greens has improved so much that it stands up all the time and keeps the ball set up nicely for chipping. Some companies will even install “satellite” tee areas 30 to 50 yards away from the green to allow wedge shots to be hit to the green, or even tee areas up to 150 yards away.
The speed of the greens can be adjusted to the client’s preferences. “We can get the green rolling between a 10 or 10 and a half, which is average, up to a 12, which is fast,” said Bosco. “The faster the green, the smoother the putt rolls so you can simulate putting on a real green, say at a private club, that are kept on the fast side.”
All of the individuals contacted for this story advised consumers to do their homework before hiring a company to install an artificial grass green. Make sure, they say, to thoroughly check the company’s track record, methods of construction and installation, and materials used as well as their willingness to stand behind their product and their work. Without hesitation, we can recommend the four companies outlined in our story. They have excellent references, track records and do great work! One company, Sport Court, was contacted a good 6 or so times before this story as we had heard they install synthetic putting greens here in Northern California, but they never even tried to get back with us, so they must not be in this business any longer.
“We always meet with our customers,” said Duce, “to make sure we find out what type of golfer they are, where and how much they play golf, what they want to do with the green, and what they hope to accomplish by having a practice green. And we show them samples of the products, which we feel is very important.” Contact Information Heavenly Greens 408 723-4954 Perfect Putt 408 252-5838 or 559 294-7888 STI of Northern California 800 380-2098 Oasis Putting Greens 925 988-9503 or 866 414-1860 in So CA