There's an old saying in golf that you drive for show but putt for dough, so it's no surprise that the top pros — and lesser mortals, as well — spend a lot of time practicing their putting. And the easiest way to get in a lot of time working on your short game is to have your very own practice green.
Don't take our word for it. Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the greatest golfer of all time and, later, a famed golf course designer, still practices on a synthetic-grass green that he installed at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla. [source: Nicklaus.com].
And Phil Mickelson Jr., winner of more than 40 tournaments and four major championships on the PGA tour, developed his remarkable skills from an early age on a 40-yard (36.5-meter) golf hole that his father spent 10 months fashioning in the family's southern California backyard, which included a green built to exacting U.S. Golf Association specifications [source: Leonard].
But even if your dream in life is just to break 90 for 18 holes, having a personal golf green is a luxury that makes life more enjoyable. As Kansas City Star writer Stacy Downs once put it: "Where else but on your own backyard green can you stroll out in a bathrobe and putt barefoot, day or night?"
You might think that installing and maintaining a practice green in your backyard is a fool's errand, given the grueling work that your local country club's groundskeepers have to put into keeping the greens nice. But while it is true that natural grass requires elaborate care, you can get around that problem these days by putting in a synthetic grass surface that doesn't require as much maintenance.
Be forewarned, though: Creating a putting green in your backyard tends to be a bit more expensive than, say, hanging a basketball hoop on the garage. You could spend a few hundred dollars on a do-it-yourself green that's just big enough to practice close-in putts, or upward of $30,000 for a 2,400-square-foot (223-square-meter) area with multiple holes, sand traps and lights for night practice, as a suburban Pittsburgh couple did in 2008 [source: McKay].
However, you can minimize costs if you're willing to serve as your own architect and laborer and not set your goals unreasonably high. We'll give you some tips on how to build your own backyard golf green, including what materials and tools you'll need. But first, let's talk about why synthetic grass may be better than the real stuff.