Synthetic greens offer realistic way to
By: DOUG PIKE
Today's synthetic putting green offers a practice surface that's a
driver and 2-iron closer to reality than chipping off backyard St.
Augustine or rolling balls across the den and into a tumbler. The size
of a fake green is limited only by the amount of real green in the
customer's wallet, and configurations are as varied as clients'
imaginations. "Average size is about 750 square feet, but our biggest
was around 4,000 square feet," said Peter Gunn, whose Southwest Greens
Houston (swghouston.com) also installs play areas but takes greatest
pride in its new Nicklaus Design greens. Gunn recently completed Texas'
first Nicklaus Design practice green, only the fourth in the world, at
the Houston home of junior golf standout Cory Whitsett.
The system Gunn has used since 2003 starts with an aggregate rock base
capped with a layer of sand to create subtle contours similar to those
of a grass green. He then adds a layer of pad and the actual turf. A
dressing of silica sand is rolled into the turf fibers and measured
carefully to produce the desired speed, which can be as slow as those at
a public course after a storm or as quick as those on the PGA Tour. Cost
for an SGH installation runs $15 to $19 per square foot, depending on
size and accessibility, and professional maintenance takes only a couple
of hours once annually. Because no actual grass is grown, light and
moisture do not limit location. One man whose back yard is small tucked
a narrow putting green behind his garage. A customer who owns five rural
acres, Gunn said, put greens in each corner of his property and a
synthetic tee box in the middle — one hole on that "course" plays over
the house. Clients often add sand traps and chipping areas, Gunn said,
so that they can practice their short games. With 135 courses and
a few dozen more driving ranges around Houston, there are plenty of
places to roll golf balls. What there is not, for many of us, is free
time to travel to and from those practice areas. Serious golfers are
opting more frequently to bring the game into their own yards. Synthetic
putting greens are not cheap, but with gas prices at $3-plus per gallon,
they're starting to make more economic sense.