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Golf At Home: Your Guide To A Backyard Putting Green

A residential backyard should be more than just grass with maybe a flower or vegetable garden or fruit trees. A backyard should be a place for family and neighborhood fun, with maybe a fire pit, a gazebo — or even a backyard putting green!

If you’re a serious golfer, you may already have considered installing a backyard putting green. But even if you’re not an avid golfer, a few thrift-store putters and some cheap golf balls can make a backyard putting green an option for backyard parties and family fun.

Read on for some tips and tricks for installing a backyard putting green, from size to layout to choosing between natural and artificial turf.

backyard putting green

Laying Out a Backyard Putting Green

The first step towards a backyard putting green is determining the layout. Obviously, the size of your backyard will dictate the size of your putting green. A good size for a backyard putting green is around 1,000 square feet. At that size, maintenance won’t be overwhelming for either natural or synthetic turf.

But if you can’t dedicate 1,000 square feet to a backyard putting green, don’t worry. Even 200 square feet can become fun and challenging.

Before starting to plan, check with your local government’s building code office to determine whether you need a permit. Circumstances that could require a permit include lighting your putting green or including walls or other structures on or around it.

To get started, use landscape marking paint to outline the edges of your backyard putting green site.

Excavating for Your Backyard Putting Green

For both natural and synthetic turf greens, you’ll need to excavate soil to create a base to keep the green properly drained. For a synthetic green, 4 inches of crushed limestone sized at ¼-inch to ⅜-inch, tamped down tightly, is all that’s needed.

For a natural turf backyard green, you’ll start with a layer of about 4 inches of gravel, topped with about 10 inches of soil. From there, you’ll either plant grass or lay sod to complete your project.

If your chosen backyard putting green site doesn’t have any natural hills or dips, you can create them by including those features in your excavation.

Also, as you’re rolling out your synthetic turf, laying out your sod, or planting your grass, don’t forget to leave some areas uncovered. Fill in those areas with sand to create sand traps to make your green more challenging.

Natural Turf vs Artificial Turf

The first decision to make about a backyard putting green is whether you want natural or artificial turf. A natural turf green is most suited to the serious golfer, imitating actual golf course conditions. An artificial putting green can do much the same but likely will be more of a backyard entertainment feature.

For both natural turf and artificial turf putting greens, professional installation will offer the best results. But if you’re confident with your lawn maintenance skills, backyard putting green installation can be a rewarding do-it-yourself project.

Read on for a look at the costs, along with the advantages and disadvantages, of natural turf and artificial turf for a backyard putting green.

Advantages of Natural Turf

If you’re planning just a small and flat backyard putting green, you’ll likely spend less money initially for natural turf than for artificial turf. But you will have to wait for seeded grass to grow before using your natural putting green.

Also, a natural turf putting green likely will be more aesthetically pleasing than an artificial turf putting green. That will be particularly true if you can’t find an artificial surface that doesn’t closely match the rest of your natural lawn.

Disadvantages of Natural Turf

Establishing and maintaining the realistic playability of a natural turf backyard putting green will require a lot of work. For instance, once it is established, your putting green will require constant mowing to keep it at an optimal height, typically around a quarter-inch to a half-inch.

Watering and weeding must also be done regularly to ensure that a natural turf backyard putting green remains playable.

Advantages of Artificial Turf

You’ll probably pay more for initial installation of an artificial turf backyard putting green compared to a natural turf backyard putting green. But an artificial turf putting green won’t have nearly the ongoing maintenance costs and labor of natural turf.

Also, when you select the artificial turf for your backyard putting green, you can choose its texture, length, and other characteristics to match your preferences for working on your short game.

Finally, an artificial turf backyard putting green is more environmentally friendly than a natural turf green because it won’t require fertilization and won’t need watering.

Disadvantages of Artificial Turf

While an artificial turf putting green will look great in your backyard, it may not be the best surface on which to practice putting for the natural turf courses on which you’ll play. The perfect surface of a properly installed synthetic green could make it harder to play on natural turf.

backyard putting green

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’ve learned some of the basics about setting up a backyard putting green, you’ll certainly have more questions. In particular, you’ll want some guidance on what to look for in natural turf and artificial turf, depending on which route you’re taking.

Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions about backyard putting green turf.

What are the cost differences between natural and artificial backyard putting greens?

Because of the numerous variables involved, such as the type of natural or artificial turf chosen for a backyard putting green, it’s difficult to pinpoint a definitive level of difference in installation and maintenance costs.

But there are some general guidelines. For instance, artificial turf installation will cost between $5 and $20 per square foot, while installation of natural sod will cost between $1 and $2 per square foot.

Roughly speaking, it can cost as little as $400 to install a backyard putting green or as much as several thousand dollars. On average, people who install backyard putting greens pay a little more than $4,000.

What is the best natural turf for a backyard putting green?

Choosing the best-performing natural turf for your backyard will depend on where you live. In northern areas, creeping bentgrass will be your best choice. In southern areas, you’ll be best served by a hybrid Bermudagrass.

Creeping bent grass

In addition to thriving in cooler weather, creeping bentgrass is a fine-textured grass over which golf balls will roll easily. It is also a favorite grass of professional golf turf experts, meaning it’s the same grass you’ll likely find on actual golf courses in your area.

If you’re planning to use creeping bentgrass for your backyard putting green, you should plant it in late summer or early fall.

Hybrid Bermuda grasses

Among the best varieties of hybrid Bermuda grass for use on a backyard putting green are Tifdwarf, Riviera, Tifway and Princess 77. If you choose a hybrid Bermuda grass, plant it in late spring or early summer.

What are the basics to know about artificial turf for backyard putting greens?

A high-quality synthetic turf backyard putting green can be expected to last for more than 10 years. Of course, heavy use will shorten the time before replacement is necessary.

There are three main artificial turf types for backyard putting greens: polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene.

Polypropylene has a good balance of price and durability, but balls may not roll as naturally on polyethylene or nylon. Polyethylene is a higher-priced but lower-maintenance option than polypropylene, with more realistic ball action

Nylon offers the most realistic ball action and can withstand heavy use. However, it is more expensive than polypropylene.

backyard putting green

Wrapping up Golf at Home: Your Guide to a Backyard Putting Green

Having a backyard putting green will surely improve your short game and impress your golfing friends the next time you tee it up with them. It can also be an entertaining addition to your home landscape for family and friends, whether or not they are serious golfers.

For a more in-depth look at the process, check out our post on Installing a Backyard Putting Green.