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BEST HOME PUTTING GREENS
Home is where the heart is. But it can also be where a backyard replica of the 12th hole at Augusta is. If an Oakmont-inspired green is what you’re after, you can get that, too. One of the many beauties of today’s backyard putting greens is the boundless opportunity for customization.
“The only real constraints are the space you’ve got to work with and your budget,” says John Knox, golf brand manager for Georgia-based SynLawn, a leading player in the industry. “Beyond that, we can build you pretty much anything you want.”
Not surprisingly, prices on backyard putting greens vary widely. For a postage stamp-size green that runs pancake-flat, you could spend as a little as $1,200, while a sprawling setup with a wonderland of slopes and breaks might command as much as a luxury car. A good rule of thumb is $10 to $20 per square foot.
You could cut corners, but that’s apt to cost you later. For starters, not all synthetic turf is created equal. The best stuff not only looks real, it also plays real (do you really want a putting green on which putts zigzag or roll at an uneven pace?) — and requires less maintenance in the long run. It won’t buckle or sink or fray at the seams, or harden into a surface as slick and bald as plywood. You won’t have to broom or roll it regularly.
Proper installation is another key. The most reputable brands will do your buildout right, setting down a sound foundation with efficient drainage, along with an impermeable layer to combat weeds and other unwanted intrusions. Plus, they’ll warranty their work.
As with a tricky putt, there’s lots to consider before you pull the trigger on a backyard putting green. But we’ve surveyed the options for you. Here are four brands that make our cut.
Best backyard greens for realistic rolls
You’d be hard-pressed to find a purer roll than the one provided by SynLawn’s synthetic turf, which the company developed in collaboration with the short-game guru, Dave Pelz. Durable and tightly knit, the nylon-based material looks and feels more realistic than many of the plastic turfs used in the industry. It’s also lower maintenance; there’s no need to roll it to keep it running slickly, as you do with many artificial grasses. SynLawn manufacturers everything in the United States, including an optional upgrade called the Dave Pelz ShotStopper, an underlayment system that allows its greens to receive shots from 75-plus yards. Balls land so naturally, you’d swear you’re on the course.
Best backyard greens for putting like the pros
Rather than drone on about the scores of Tour pros who endorse it — Justin Rose, Hale Irwin and Annika Sorenstam among them — let’s discuss what sets this company apart. A fixture in the industry since 1996, Southwest Greens has been there, done that custom installations of all shapes and sizes, relying on a polypropylene infill turf that lets you modify the green speeds by either adding or removing sand from its fibers. Sergio Garcia has a Southwest setup. Ditto Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh. If that doesn’t convince you, consider that Southwest Greens has a close association Nicklaus Design, which has given rise to such inspiring projects as Golden Club Mini Golf, an 18-hole public putting course that directs portions of its greens fees to the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Just think what could be done in your backyard.
Best backyard Greens for attention to detail
If you had to pick this industry’s Alister MacKenzie, you might point to Weston Weber, who in 20-plus years in the business has personally designed more 3,000 custom putting setups, including installations for more than 70 PGA Tour pros. Formerly the CEO and owner of Southwest Greens, Weber sold that company in 2008 and then went into competition with it as the founder of Celebrity Greens. With his new venture, he has built on his old reputation as a detail-driven craftsman with a keen eye for aesthetics and scale. Celebrity Greens uses a true-to-real-grass nylon-based turf that can be fine-tuned to the most exacting specifications. Consider an installation that Weber and his team did for British Open and Masters champion Mark O’Meara. The expansive green is flanked by the kind of stacked-sod bunker you might find in Scotland, at it runs at 14 on the Stimpmeter to mimic the green speeds at Augusta.
Best backyard Greens for variety of grasses
Synthetic Turf International
Zoysia. Fescue. Paspalum. Bermuda. For nearly any strain of real grass you can name, Synthetic Turf International offers a faithful simulation, all manufactured in the United States. Like most of its competitors, the company has turf for a range of applications, from sports fields and batting cages to playgrounds and front lawn. But its putting setups are as versatile as any in the industry. Its portfolio includes both texturized nylon greens and polypropylene sand-filled putting setups. Though the distinctions between these can be subtle, nylon tends to require less maintenance while sand-filled polypropylene is more receptive to chips and pitches. All STI greens feature “true roll’’ technology, a synthetic underlay that lives up to its name.