Golfers of all abilities are finding out what Tour pros have known for a number of years; there’s no better way to improve your short game than to walk out your back door and onto your very own putting green.
While some traditionalists, and those with deep pockets, still insist on spending tens of thousands of dollars on the installation and annual upkeep of real grass greens, technological advances in materials has made synthetic greens almost a no-brainer when it comes to having your own putting green. While certainly not inexpensive, a synthetic grass green is much less costly and labor intensive than real grass.
Let’s face it, golfers always wish they can spend more time at the golf course. But playing golf requires a hefty time investment, so we once had to choose between playing all day and neglecting the rest of their lives (generally frowned upon in polite society), or limiting their time with the game in favor of a more respectable home life (something that is tough to swallow for the serious golfer).
But 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 can 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 and most synthetic greens now last many years and realistically simulate natural grass in their roll and ability to receive shots from a modest distance away.
What is there to love about having a putting green in your backyard?
For the serious golfer, having a synthetic putting green allows more time for practice on course-like conditions. While you can always work on your putting stroke on the living room carpet with an empty glass, the level of realism that is possible with a synthetic green will never be felt by knocking one into your favorite coffee cup or beer glass.
In fact, modern synthetic 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 to your home. 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.
“It’s a focal piece for your property,” said Russ Maymon co-owner of Synthetic Turf of New England with partner Dave Foy, affiliated with the supplier Synthetic Turf International, based in Warwick, R.I. “It’s become a entertainment spot for the entire family. I have one right next to the pool.” Maymon’s company installed an artificial green in the basement of Tour pro Brad Faxon’s Rhode Island home.
Golf, of course, is a beautifully aesthetic game, and the visual value 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 replace it with 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 get 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.
“People get on a course and have a five-foot slider and they say to themselves, `I know I can make this. I practiced this putt 100 times on my green at home,’” said Steve Goldberg of Greens By Design, located in Norwalk, Ct. and SofTrak certified installer. “Practicing on your own green builds confidence.”
Once believed to be suitable for only warm weather climate backyards, putting greens have been popping up all over New England.
“I did 11 greens my first year,” said Tom McNamara, owner of New England Custom Putting Greens in Clinton, Mass., “and I did it pretty much myself. This year I’ll do over 100 greens and we have a staff helping put them in. Last year we replaced five real grass greens with artificial grass.” McNamara’s firm is affiliated with another major company, Mirage Putting Greens International.
He added, “The biggest thing from a business standpoint that we had to do was educate people in New England that they can do this. There are a number of companies doing this, and I think competition is good. If people see a green going in or someone using one they think about getting their own.”
Doug Preston, a former Massachusetts State Amateur champion and golf course superintendent, sort of fell into the business. He and his brother, Derek, are co-owners of Southwest Putting Greens of Boston.
“I was looking for myself, just to have one at my house for practice,” said Preston. “I was doing some research about Southwest and decided to get involved. The greens that we have been putting in are for people looking for game improvement, maybe a 10 to 12 handicapper who wants to become a single digit player, or a 4 to 6 who wants to start breaking par.”
He added, “Word is getting out. I’ve been doing it for four years and we have installed 35 greens. I must have had 30 to 40 inquires already this year.”
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 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 400 and 600 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 generally runs between $15 and $20 per square foot.
Ken Gentile, owner of Executive Putting Greens of Stamford, Ct. has seen increased interest in greens that will accept a shot from as far as 200 yards away. Gentile is affiliated with STI.
“I’ve designed short, three-hole courses for people using the synthetic grass and small par-threes of about 150 yards. Where once it was mostly putting and chipping greens, people are looking for a little more these days because the material is so good and the green can be designed to receive and hold the shot.”
Gentile has been in the golf industry for 20 years and once designed and installed real grass greens. He said the technology has improved to the point that synthetic grass is making natural grass greens obsolete.
“They have improved the material and the color of the grass so that homeowners don’t mind having an artificial grass green in their backyard no matter how expensive the home is. I always fit the green into the area it is located in to make it look as natural and attractive as possible.”
Said Ted Greiner, owner of TJB-Inc in Hamden, CT., which specializes in custom water features and synthetic putting greens and works with different manufacturers to ensure the green that is best for you, “I’ve put in greens as large as 3,200 square feet. One green I installed cost upwards $60,000, however the average backyard green is usually around 500 square feet and runs between $5,000 and $8,000 with some landscaping.”
Synthetic greens do require some maintenance. They have to be rolled occasionally and homeowners should rake or use a leaf blower to keep organic materials, such as leaves and pine needles, out of the artificial grass blades. Some companies will schedule visits to maintain the green for the customer.
“It’s very low maintenance,” said Frank Johnston, president of Eagles Athletics of Chelmsford, Mass., “no where near what a real green would demand. Our typical program has us 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.” Johnston is a SofTrak dealer.
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,” said Preston.
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.
All of the individuals contacted for this story advised the consumer to do their homework before hiring a company to install an artificial 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.