It feels good to roll on your own

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - DO IT YOURSELF - BY MAX ADLER

Be­fore his daugh­ters were born, Donny Hill, a tire sales­man then liv­ing in Granger, Ind., had time to ac­cept a chal­lenge from his buddy, an as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent at a golf course: “There’s no way you can grow a putting green in your back yard.” Hill found a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion from a turf school, de­cided on a base of 60 per­cent sand and 40 per­cent peat moss, and dug a her­ring­bone­shape drainage trench just like the USGA rec­om­mends. A2 Pen­ncross creep­ing bent­grass seemed as suit­able a seed as any. For $100, he bought a walk-be­hind green­mower from a course that was up­grad­ing its fleet. All in, he spent $800. When the first green fuzz sprouted, it seemed to glow. “I was very ex­cited,” Hill says.

Twice a week, he mowed it. If any­thing, the drainage worked too well. Af­ter rain­storms, when the rest of his yard was soaked, the green would be dry. A cou­ple of times when he was away on work trips, the sprin­kler sys­tem didn’t fire, and the grass died. But it al­ways came back. His su­per­in­ten­dent friend of­fered tips on chem­i­cals, but in the end Hill just tipped his lawn-ser­vice guy an ex­tra $5 a week to ap­ply what­ever he was feed­ing the rest of the yard. Usu­ally, the green was run­ning around 6 or 7 on the Stimp­me­ter, so Hill found more use chip­ping. From the far side of his pool he could get a 28-yard pitch. He fixed the marks with love, and they healed nicely.

Hill’s fa­vorite time to use the green was early Sun­day, while his wife was still asleep but be­fore he headed to the course for his usual game. Though if there was a mo­ment when all the ef­fort felt truly worth­while, it was ev­ery third week of July. Af­ter 72 holes of golf, 16 to 20 guys would head to Hill’s place for the fi­nale of the an­nual bud­dies event. Un­der the in­flu­ence of out­door light­ing, tunes and a cooler of beer, his 350-square-foot patch never looked sweeter.

“A grass green is pos­si­ble for any golfer who is de­cently handy, but more im­por­tant, mo­ti­vated to keep it up,” Hill says. “Af­ter my wife and I had kids, it got to a point where I was just main­tain­ing it.”

Which is why for home­own­ers de­sir­ing to pack more golf into their lives—not add a chore—a syn­thetic turf green is the way to go. Other than an oc­ca­sional pass with a leaf blower, a syn­thetic green re­places a swath of prop­erty that would oth­er­wise re­quire mow­ing or up­keep. The var­i­ous meth­ods of in­stal­la­tion, of course, war­rant thor­ough re­search and at­ten­tion (good luck on YouTube), but a ba­sic or­der of op­er­a­tions is as fol­lows: Dig up your lawn. Dump crushed gravel and run a plate com­pactor (they’re cheap to rent, like $30 a day) over the sur­face to form a smooth base. Set down land­scape fab­ric. Use a post-hole dig­ger to cut and set the cups. Roll out the turf and af­fix the bor­der and any seams with turf pegs or sta­ples.

Use a util­ity knife to care­fully re­veal the cups. Collin Rodgers of Dart­mouth, Nova Sco­tia, in­stalled seven syn­thetic putting greens in 2016. He now heads the “golf divi­sion” of his land­scap­ing busi­ness to keep pace with grow­ing de­mand. For a small green—say, eight by 15 feet with two cups—he’ll charge $6,000 and can add hand­some flour­ishes like stone walls or steps. The client can in­crease the putting speed by dress­ing the green with more sand, but Rodgers sug­gests start­ing slow. “It’s more fun for kids, and se­ri­ous golfers build con­fi­dence drain­ing 12-foot­ers in the back yard all day.”

Gen­er­ally, Rodgers ad­vises against the pure do-ity­our­self route. “You need ex­ca­va­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, land ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “The av­er­age home­owner can do it, but it might not go as smooth.”

The turf is the most ex­pen­sive com­po­nent. Rodgers had one client whose neigh­bor split the cost of a roll and did the in­stal­la­tion him­self. The neigh­bor dug only four inches to pre­pare his base, and the win­ter’s frost wreaked havoc. Had the guy lived in Arizona, his green prob­a­bly would’ve been fine. Even in a base­ment, the foun­da­tion is key. You need a few inches of height to set the cup(s), but more im­por­tant, a gravel base ab­sorbs the com­pres­sion of foot traf­fic. When syn­thetic turf is laid di­rectly on a floor like a car­pet, it quickly be­comes thread­bare.

For Bret Cab­bi­ness, a civil en­gi­neer from Nor­man, Okla., a syn­thetic putting green was the last phase of a back-yard re­model that in­cluded a cov­ered pa­tio, out­door kitchen, bath­room, storm safe room, swim­ming pool and spa. For about $2,700, he pur­chased a kit from Pro Putt Sys­tems, a com­pany that fab­ri­cates base pan­els ac­cord­ing to the de­sign of each client. All the ma­te­ri­als ar­rived in his drive­way on one pal­let. For an­other $400, he bought fil­ter fab­ric, crushed-gran­ite base ma­te­rial, and rented a plate com­pactor and sod-cut­ter.

“I com­pleted the project ba­si­cally by my­self in just un­der 10 hours over three days,” Cab­bi­ness says. His only mis­take was cre­at­ing too much break in a con­fined area. “I’d have three or four breaks in a 20-foot putt. But it was pretty con­ve­nient to take up the pan­els, re-grade the area flat­ter, and re­in­stall.” The green is now Cab­bi­ness’ reg­u­lar “nice way to spend a few min­utes of quiet time to de­com­press af­ter a long day at the of­fice.”

Which is what Donny Hill has in mind, too. Last year he sold his real-grass putting green (and his house). At his new home, he’s putting in syn­thetic.

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