Artificial vs. Natural
There are purists who'll insist upon having a natural grass practice green in their backyard. And it seems like a good cheap solution, since you can buy a 5-pound (2.2-kilogram) sack of grass seed specially developed for golf courses for under $60 [source: Amazon].
But as University of Arkansas turf-grass expert Aaron Patton points out, using real grass requires the right conditions — including ample sun exposure, air flow that is not blocked by nearby buildings and good drainage. Additionally, you'll have to pick a type of grass that's suited to your climate zone, and spend a lot of time maintaining it — including mowing it four times a week to achieve the designed height of no more than one-fourth of an inch, weekly fertilizing, and judiciously watering the turf when it shows the purplish color that is a sign of drought stress. And you may have to use pesticides to protect your grass. All that may cost you about $375 a year in upkeep, not counting the many hours you'll invest in labor [source: Patton].
You can eliminate all of those worries by going with a synthetic surface. If you're thinking that it's going to resemble an indoor-outdoor carpet, guess again. The latest-generation synthetic surfaces are textured to look and perform pretty much like real grass, and they don't require much upkeep, other than occasionally cleaning the surface with a leaf blower [source: Downs].
Synthetic surfaces can be pricey, if you hire a company to build a green for you — one outfit, Tour Greens, estimates a price of $15 to $25 per square foot, depending upon the grade of material and the size of the installation. But if you're willing to build your own green, you can buy rolls of synthetic grass for between $1.50 and $4.50 per square foot, depending upon quality, and install it yourself. Make sure you pick a style designed to simulate a putting green's close-cropped surface, which will have tightly curled fibers instead of straight ones [source: Abkowitz].