Is a backyard putting green considered landscaping?

A backyard putting green at a home in California.
A backyard putting green at a home in California.
Courtesy WLMS Landscaping

There's nothing more depressing than a neglected tennis court in someone's yard. The net is half hung and the asphalt is cracked and filled with sprouting weeds. It's unpleasant, but an unused island or flower bed with scrub tree saplings sprouting haphazardly from leaf-encrusted earth isn't much better. Put these two ideas together, though, and zing! you've got yourself­ a good idea: a backyard putting green. ­

In the mid-1990s, the concept of adding a putting green in one's backyard took root around the United States. It's not just for golf maniacs: Backyard putting greens are a less expensive alternative to installing a basketball or tennis court, and, when installed correctly, can add manicured beauty to a residential landscape.

­While landscaping with ornamental trees, perennial plants and shrubs is done specifically for the sake of aesthetics, putting greens can also be pract­ical. They provide recreation as well as visual appeal. So can a backyard putting green be considered landscaping? If not, someone should probably alert landscaping companies across the U.S. that have been supplementing their incomes during off-season months and droughts by installing putting greens since the 1990s.

What's more, natural grass putting greens are so labor-intensive that some companies won't install them if they doubt the owners have the time or resources to maintain them [source: TourGreens]. These companies also offer landscaping and water feature installation to soften and accent the putting green.

To cut down on putting green maintenance for people who want one without the hassle, landscape companies now offer them with artificial turf. The decision between natural and artificial is an important one, but far from the only one you'll need to make before you invest in a putting green for your backyard. Read on to find out what other decisions you might face.

Backyard Putting Greens

To keep up a natural grass putting green, you may need to be as well off as this guy.
To keep up a natural grass putting green, you may need to be as well off as this guy.
Ryan McVay/­Getty Images

There's a great debate over whether putting greens should be created from natural grass or synthetic turf. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.

For starters, natural grass is what golf courses use. Golf courses also employ professional greens keepers, and you'll be hard pressed to find a landscape company that will throw one of those in without significantly increasing the price of your putting green. It's a full-time job to tend to a golf course and putting greens consistently require the most attention. This is true for commercial and backyard greens alike.

The suggested height for a natural grass putting green is one-quarter inch, which you're not going to get with your regular lawn mower. You'll need a specially-designed mower (an added up-front cost) for Bermuda or bent grass -- the two types of grass recommended for use in putting greens. To maintain the grass at that height, you'll need to mow it from 3 to 7 times a week, depending on the season [source: Hamdani]. You'll also need to learn about proper watering, fertilizing and other maintenance aspects.

Natural grass isn't an all-around loser when it comes to putting greens. In fact, avid golfers swear by it. Since natural grass is used on commercial courses, practicing at home on synthetic turf would likely handicap a serious golfer. Natural grass is also cheaper to install. Over the course of several years, though, maintenance can make a natural green as costly as a synthetic one.

­There are also maintenance considerations with synthetic greens. With most synthetic turfs, top dressings of sand are required as part of routine upkeep. Synthetic blades of grass tend to droop, so sand must be swept into crevices for support. Sand provides a different surface than surface root systems of natural grass; balls putted along a sandy surface tend to roll faster. Some new synthetic turfs are designed to stand up alone -- some even feature bent individual blades to further simulate a natural green. However, these types will significantly increase the cost of your putting green.

There are other costs to consider as well. Specifically, you must decide if you plan to install your putting green yourself or if you should spring for a professional to install it for you. Landscape trade magazines estimate the average landscape company sees a profit margin of 50 to 60 percent, so you can expect to pay double when hiring a professional [source: Grider]. That said, you're also paying for peace of mind. Installing a putting green is tricky. The grade and contour must be precise to allow rain to run off properly, while the foundation beneath -- usually sand, dirt or powdered gravel, depending on the type of turf -- can't have any divots or holes. HGTV rated the installation of a backyard putting green a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 (with five being the hardest), and estimated it would take several weekends for the average homeowner to complete [source: HGTV].

If you choose to hire a professional company to install your putting green, be an informed customer. Landscapers have to learn how to install a putting green somewhere; like putting itself, practice makes perfect. Just be sure your landscaper isn't practicing in your yard -- and charging you for a perfect green. Ask for references from previous jobs, and don't be afraid to contact past customers. Who knows? You may end up with a new golfing buddy.

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Sources

  • Grider, Olivia. "Backyard putting greens." Total Landscape Care. January 30, 2008. http://www.totallandscapecare.net/apps/news/articletlc.asp?id=65926
  • Hamdani, Barry S. "Backyard putting greens - think before you leap." Landscape Network. Accessed December 1, 2008. http://www.landscapenetwork.com/topics/putting.shtml
  • Moran, Barbara. "Artifical turf (Astroturf®) and how it grew." American Heritage of Invention and Technology. Accessed December 1, 2008. http://www.astroturf.com/history.htm
  • Weber, Cheryl. "Backyard putting greens keep avid golfers in the swing of things." Custom Home Magazine. December 15, 2006. http://www.ebuild.com/articles/articleId.430269/decking-site--landscaping.hwx
  • "PGA Tour winner has SofTrak putting green installed at home." Lawn and Landscape Magazine. May 17, 2005. http://www.versasport.com/softrak/news/Lawn_Lndscp_5_17_2005.htm
  • "Product innovation." Romans Landscaping. Accessed December 1, 2008. http://www.romanslandscaping.com/products.html
  • "Putting green." Landscape Smart. Accessed December 1, 2008. http://www.hgtv.com/gl-landscaping-design/putting-green/index.html
  • "The finest natural grass putting greens are by TourGreens!" TourGreens. Accessed December 1, 2008. http://www.tourgreens.com/products/TourGreens+Natural+Grass+Putting+Greens.html