There are few things better than spending time on the golf course, honing your skills in a favorite pastime. But it’s often difficult to find that time. So, what if you could bring a bit of the game to your own backyard? What if you installed a backyard putting green?
Of course, there are landscaping professionals who could do that for you, but you could also install your own backyard putting green. Read on for help in setting up a little bit of golfing fun within a few steps of your back door.
First, we’ll take a look at installing a natural-grass green, and then we’ll talk about installing a synthetic turf green. You can expect to pay between $4 and $40 per square foot for a natural-turf installation. An artificial turf installation will cost between $18 and $25 per square foot.
Getting Started On Your Backyard Putting Green
You may already have some idea of where you’d like to locate your backyard putting green. But before you start, there are a few things to check.
At a minimum, plan to allocate about 1,000 square feet — say 25 feet by 40 feet — for your green. Your chosen spot should also get a lot of sun.
Your chosen spot need not be perfectly flat. After all, where’s the challenge in that? But neither should your green be built on a steep hillside, where making a putt becomes more of a frustration than a game-improving challenge.
Digging a Foundation for Your Backyard Putting Green
As you choose a site for your backyard putting green, outline its boundaries with grass-marking spray paint. Once you’ve marked the boundaries, it’s time to start installing the foundation that will support the turf topping your green.
Plan to dig down about 10 inches to make room for the foundation materials that will provide drainage and other features to your backyard putting green. If your green is small enough, you might consider doing this work with a shovel and wheelbarrow.
However, if your backyard putting green will cover a large area, you may want to consider renting a mini-excavator. Daily rental of a mini-excavator should run somewhere around $300.
Of course, if you have tricky terrain, or you’re not confident you could operate a mini-excavator, you should find a contractor. When contracting for the work, you might want to require that the contractor haul away the dug-out soil.
Whether you use a mini-excavator or dig manually, you should be aware of any utility lines that might cross under your site.
Electric, gas, water, and sewerage lines, typically buried between 2 feet and 3 feet deep, should be well below your excavation. But telephone and cable TV lines are typically buried just 1 foot underground and could be subject to damage from your excavation.
Also, home irrigation and yard lighting system lines can be buried as shallow as 5 inches underground. Unless you’re absolutely certain of your backyard’s utility layout, you should call a professional utility locating service to mark line locations.
Contouring Your Putting Green
If your backyard putting green plans include the installation of swales and other sloping, you should include those features as part of laying its foundation. Heap and compact soil where you want elevated areas, and dig it out a little deeper and compact it to create lower-lying areas.
A mini-excavator can be particularly handy for this work. But again, if you’re not confident, bring in a contractor for this part of the job.
Don’t Forget the Drainage
Your goal in creating a backyard putting green should be to replicate the surface at elite courses. Part of doing that is being sure that rainwater will quickly drain from its manicured surface.
There are no definitive guidelines for installing drainage, except that you should use multiple 4-inch perforated drainage pipes to carry the water away. To start the installation, dig a trench deep enough to accommodate the pipes and a layer of pea gravel on top of them.
Plan to install two or three drainage pipes, or maybe more if your backyard putting green is particularly large. Make sure the pipes slope downhill, although the angle doesn’t need to be particularly steep.
Route the pipes past the edge of the green. Be sure that wherever they come out of the ground, they won’t wash out other parts of your landscape.
Choosing the Right Sand and Soil
Once you have your base dug out and your drainage in place, the next step is installing a layer of landscape fabric. This will keep unwanted weeds and vegetation from infiltrating the pristine surface of your backyard putting green.
The United States Golf Association has meticulous standards for putting greens — a gravel base, a sand layer, a soil layer and then the grass surface. Following those standards could be expensive, not to mention tedious, for a simple backyard putting green.
In your backyard, start with a couple of inches of pea gravel as a base for your putting green. Above that, install a couple of inches of coarse sand, and bring your green up to grade with a layer of topsoil.
Your topsoil layer should be a sandy loam soil, which may be available in bulk from your local garden supply center or home improvement warehouse. If not, check with local landscaping companies for their availability of sandy loam topsoil for your backyard putting green.
Establishing Turf for a Backyard Putting Green
Once the base layers of your backyard putting green are installed, you’ll need to choose a grass surface. After you decide what type of grass you want, your next decision will be whether to plant seed or to lay sod.
For best results, seeding your backyard putting green is recommended. Seeding should ensure a more even surface than sodding your backyard putting green.
Read on to learn about the most common grasses used on putting greens.
If you live in the southern United States, a number of hybrid Bermuda grass varieties will work well as a backyard putting green surface. Hybrid Bermuda grasses have stiff, upright leaves to facilitate ball movement. However, the ball may move more slowly than on other grasses.
If you decide on a Bermuda grass surface for your backyard putting green, plan to seed the green in late spring or early summer. If you need advice on Bermuda grasses, contact your local agricultural extension office.
Creeping bentgrass is a great turfgrass for a backyard putting green installed in the northern part of the country.
The blades of creeping bentgrass are very finely textured, which means golf balls will roll easily and quickly across them. If you decide on creeping bentgrass for your backyard putting green, you should plant it in late summer or early fall.
Part of the bluegrass family of grasses, poa annua is found on the greens of some of the nation’s best golf courses. It grows best in warmer areas of the country and would be a good choice for backyard putting greens in the southwestern United States.
There are, however, some characteristics that make poa annua problematic as a choice for a backyard putting green. First, packages of poa annua seeds will include different strains of the grass, with different growth characteristics. Also, poa annua grows very quickly.
Poa annua may be a superior putting green grass. However, its variability and maintenance needs may make it impractical for a backyard putting green grass.
Maintaining Your Backyard Putting Green
If you decide to install a backyard putting green, you need to understand that ongoing maintenance and care will demand your time and diligent attention. Read on for some guidance on maintaining your backyard putting green.
Undoubtedly, the first thing you’ll want to do once the grass has established itself on your backyard putting green is to install a hole. Hole cutters are available online, or you might be able to talk your local golf course into letting you have an old one.
You’ll also need a cup to insert into the hole. And since your backyard putting green isn’t a regular golf green, you might consider installing more than one hole for a variety of challenges.
If you do opt for multiple holes, install anything other than the main hole close to the edges of your green. That way, they won’t interfere with other possible putt paths.
If you decide against multiple holes, you’ll certainly want to periodically use different locations for your single hole. Doing so keeps you from getting bored with the same old shots by forcing you to consider new shots on the same green.
To fill in an old hole before cutting a new one, you’ll need a cup puller. Pullers should be readily available online or from your local sporting goods store or golf shop.
Once you’ve pulled the cup, cut the new hole and use the divot from it to fill the old hole. You may need to put some sand in the old hole to make sure the divot is level with the surrounding green. Be sure that the divot’s grass is arranged in the same direction that the grass around it is growing.
Mowing is one of the areas in which a backyard putting green is a compromise from a regular golf course green. Ideally, your green should be kept at a ¼-inch height. However, unless you’re willing to invest thousands of dollars in a greens-cutting mower, you won’t find equipment that can meet that standard.
Your best option will be a manual reel-type mower, most models of which will keep your backyard putting green at ½-inch in height.
Watering your backyard putting green is a matter of hitting the sweet spot between too much and too little. Overwatering your backyard green can promote weed infestation, not to mention negatively affecting the playability of the green.
Underwatering your backyard putting green, on the other hand, can leave you with a hard surface that won’t properly hold a ball once it is struck.
Watering should be done infrequently on your backyard putting green to promote robust growth of grass roots. It’s time to water your green when the grass doesn’t spring back up after being walked on. Or, if you notice your grass taking on a bluish hue, you should water it.
Water your backyard putting green early in the morning to reduce losses to evaporation. Early watering also helps reduce the chance of disease on your green’s turf. Getting an inch of water per week on your backyard putting green should keep it healthy.
Fertilization of your backyard putting green will depend on the type of grass you’ve chosen and on climate conditions in your area. Typically, bentgrass greens should be fertilized twice in spring and twice again in fall. Hybrid Bermuda grass greens will need fertilizer weekly from spring until early fall.
For bentgrass, use a fertilizer with 6 parts nitrogen, 1 part phosphorous, and 4 parts each of potassium and sulfur. Apply between ¼-pound and ½-pound of 6-1-4-4 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of green.
Hybrid Bermudagrass greens should be fertilized with a 4-1-1 mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK), alternated with a 1-0-0 NPK mix.
Installing a Synthetic Turf Backyard Putting Green
It’s certainly understandable if at this point in your consideration of installing a backyard putting green you’ve decided that a natural-grass green is too labor-intensive. That’s certainly OK and is why we’ve included this look at installing a synthetic turf backyard putting green.
Artificial putting green turf is routinely made of either polypropylene or nylon. Nylon turf is more durable and thus, more expensive than polypropylene. Polypropylene looks and feels more like real grass but is subject to matting and developing ruts.
Also to be considered is the “face weight” of an artificial turf. A high face weight indicates more material was used in the production of the turf. Routinely, a 70-ounce face weight indicates a high-quality turf.
Other things you’ll want to consider when evaluating an artificial turf include its backing — the pad to which the turf is attached. For maximum durability, choose a 22-ounce or higher backing material.
You’ll also want a turf with high-quality infill material, like sand, cork, or walnut shells. Infill material keeps the turf’s blades standing upright. Also, be sure to choose a turf with antimicrobial properties to inhibit bacteria or mold buildup.
Excavating and Compacting
Installing artificial turf is a detailed process, and the first rule for a successful installation is to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions. That said, the following is a general guide to installing an artificial-turf backyard putting green.
Begin your artificial turf installation by digging out your designated putting green area to a depth of 4 inches. Dampen the soil and use a plate tamper to smooth it out. Next, apply a layer of crushed granite, level it with a rake, and wet it down. Then, use the plate tamper to even up the installation area.
When the installation is completed to this stage, the excavated area should be 1.5 inches below the surrounding lawn. Use sand to even out the surface of the turf base.
Before beginning to roll out the artificial turf, select the site for your cup. Dig a hole 2 inches wider than the cup and equal to the cup’s depth. Place fast-drying concrete mix powder in and around the hole, leaving 1 inch of the cup exposed above ground.
Next, after it has been unrolled and left to sit in the sun for two hours, roll out your turf across your chosen site. If you’ll be joining multiple rolls of turf together, follow the manufacturer’s directions for lining them up along each side of their adhesive seam.
After the seams have joined the sections of artificial turf, walk over the green several times to ensure a tight seal.
Once your turf is installed, use a broom to brush in the infill material to ensure that the turf will stand up. Finally, locate the spot where your cup is installed and use a utility knife to cut around it.
Maintaining your artificial-turf backyard putting green is easy. First, whenever you see leaves accumulating on it, be sure to pick them up. Fluff up the turf occasionally with a stiff broom, and use a lawn roller to keep it even.
Wrapping up Installing a Backyard Putting Green
Even if golf isn’t a passion for all your family or neighbors, they’ll be impressed with the beauty and functionality of your backyard putting green. And now that you know something about how to install one, all that’s left is for you to get started!
But if golf isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Minneopa Orchards has plenty more advice, help and ideas for enhancing your backyard living. Check it out!