Backyard Putting Greens
Building your own private little one-hole golf course
One of the newest ideas involving turfgrass is the burgeoning trend of homeowners building putting greens in their own backyards.
It only makes sense when you think about it. Golf is a hugely popular pastime, but not everyone can spare 3 to 4 hours at a time to play 18 holes as often as they’d like. At the same time, aging baby boomers are looking at their yards and realizing they no longer need to devote this space to the kids. And so some links-loving empty-nesters are yanking out play sets, mini soccer fields and even swimming pools and replacing them with backyard putting greens.
It’s a move that solves two issues and especially appeals to golfers who also enjoy lawn mowing and lawn care.
Real vs. synthetic
The first decision is whether to go with a real-grass backyard putting green or a synthetic one. Real greens are almost always grown using tightly sheared creeping bentgrass, while synthetic greens are made either of polypropylene or nylon.
Bentgrass greens are less expensive to install, they look most natural in yards, and they offer nearly identical conditions to real golf courses. The holes also are easy to move around. The main drawback for most people is the high level of maintenance that a real bentgrass putting green will require. Basically, it’s like becoming your own amateur greenskeeper.
Bentgrass greens are typically kept trimmed to one-quarter of an inch or less, and that means mowing every other day. The surface also requires occasional rolling to keep it smooth, and the high demands of such a thick but short stand of grass also means regular fertilizing, weed control, top-dressing and irrigating in dry weather – not to mention vigilance against bug and disease attack.
It’s definitely not a good choice for someone who isn’t interested in lawn care. But for those who are passionate about both their lawn and their golf game, it’s a perfect marriage of two hobbies.
One of the best web sites on building and caring for backyard putting greens is www.putting-greens.com, a site developed by New England golfer Leo Melanson, who built his own real-grass backyard putting green in the mid 1990s. The site also has a monitored discussion board in which members help each other troubleshoot problems.
Synthetic putting greens
The person who is far more interested in golf than lawn care usually leans toward a synthetic surface. Synthetic putting greens are more expensive to install up front, but they’re far less maintenance in the long run. The main work is keeping the surface free of leaves and other blowing debris, but it eliminates the day-to-day work of mowing, irrigation, fertilizing, rolling, etc. It also doesn’t require such knowledge as diagnosing disease problems and knowing when to apply which fertilizers.
Most parts of the United States now have companies that offer professional installation of synthetic putting greens. Those who are handy and who don’t mind the work of preparing the surface can do their own installation, using kits available from a variety of companies. One of the larger ones, SynLawn Golf, offers detailed, step-by-step instructions on what’s involved at its web site at www.synlawngolf.com.
Two potential downsides of synthetic surfaces are that they don’t look quite as real as real grass, and it’s not easy to move the holes around. (They’re secured in place with concrete.) However, most golfers say the “feel” of putting on a synthetic surface is very close to the feel of putting on a well maintained golf-course green.
Whether it’s real grass or nylon, backyard putting greens are appealing because they allow time-harried duffers a way to get in a little golf even when they’ve only got 5 minutes to spare.
By surrounding the green with a boundary of more conventional turfgrass, it even becomes possible to practice wedge shots as well as putts. Then the main downside is hooking a pitching-wedge shot into the neighbor’s kitchen window.
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