Artificial Turf vs. Real Grass Putting Greens: A Head-To-Head Comparison Guide
All great golfers – for that matter, all good golfers, too – have to practice a lot.
Especially for those who don’t play golf for a living, however, it can be hard to get out to the course as often as you’d like due to work and family commitments.
Most professional golfers install a putting green and chipping area at their homes, either inside or in the backyard.
You may think that’s not possible for you, given the condition of your grass and your budget.
We’re here to tell you that you may be surprised.
Your putting green can be large enough to include a single practice hole or so large that it meanders around your property with multiple holes, sand traps, and more.
That means a backyard putting green can fit into just about any budget.
Artificial Turf vs. Real Grass Putting Greens
Backyard putting greens allow you to practice your short game without having to leave home, burn gasoline to get to the course, pay greens fees, and so on.
In addition to helping reduce your golf score, backyard putting greens also provide a way to unwind at the end of a long day at work.
Another benefit of backyard putting greens is that they increase property values.
And having one will impress those who attend your next backyard barbecue, putting competition, or other social gatherings.
Once you’ve decided to put a putting green in your backyard, the next step is to determine whether to use artificial turf or natural grass.
Find out what one of our clients has to say about his putting green in our post: “Taking the Putting Green Plunge.”
Below we’ve provided a head-to-head comparison of artificial turf vs. real grass putting greens.
The comparison covers eight key areas that will help you determine which option is right for you.
1. Installation Cost
The cost of installing a backyard putting green is often the biggest factor in a homeowner’s decision.
Several details influence cost.
- Geographic location
- Who you hire to do the work
- Amount of ground prep that is needed
- Complexity of the design
- Features such as additional holes or sand traps
Whether installing natural grass or artificial turf, you should use a professional contractor with experience in backyard putting greens.
Installation of a putting green is a specialized project.
Even homeowners with extensive DIY experience are likely to be disappointed in the results achieved if doing this on their own.
If you’re planning a small, flat green with few features, the installation cost is usually lower if you go with real grass.
However, when using natural grass, you have to:
- Wait for your turf to grow before you can use it as a putting green
- Maintain the grass with mowing, weeding, edging, watering, and fertilizing
- Keep pets from urinating on the grass to avoid unsightly discoloration and messes
- Worry about damage to the smooth, flat surface from lawn furniture, riding toys, and playing children
- Cope with mud and wet surfaces after rain
All of those factors add to the out-of-pocket expense and time required to maintain a natural grass putting green.
Installing an artificial turf putting green in your backyard will typically cost between $11-$35 per square foot.
Most contractors are willing to lessen the price per square foot for larger projects.
For an area of 2,000 feet, for example, you can expect to spend about $11-15 per square foot, depending on the type of artificial turf chosen.
If you’re considering a putting green around 400 square feet or less, expect to pay about $35 per square foot.
You’re looking at perhaps $20-$30 per square foot for areas of between 400-2,000 square feet.
While you’ll certainly pay more for a turf golf green, some of the advantages of artificial turf are:
- You won’t have to wait for your turf to grow with artificial grass.
- You won’t have to provide significant maintenance.
- If your pets urinate or mess on it, just rinse it off – no discoloration.
- Lightweight lawn furniture and playing children won’t damage it.
- And you can expect excellent drainage following a rainstorm.
To get a better idea of the cost of installing an artificial turf putting green, check out our putting green cost calculator.
2. Location Flexibility
The ability to locate your putting green almost anywhere – even indoors if that’s what you prefer – makes artificial turf the winner here.
Natural grass depends on environmental factors such as sunlight, water, and soil for its health and beauty.
That means a successful natural grass putting green cannot be grown in shady areas or in soil that doesn’t have the proper nutrients or consistency.
In comparison, synthetic turf can be installed practically anywhere.
It requires no sun, nitrogen, phosphorous, or fertilizer to look its best.
That means you can install your artificial grass putting green under a shade tree, in a side yard that doesn’t get much sun, on top of poor soil, or in areas that tend to stay too wet.
We can all agree that natural grass makes for a beautiful lawn when carefully maintained and perfectly manicured.
So does artificial grass.
What it takes to achieve that beautiful lawn is where they vary.
Achieving perfection in natural turf, especially on a putting green, involves a lot of work and expense.
Natural grass rapidly loses its beauty without the right amount of water, sun, fertilization, weeding, edging, and mowing.
Damage from pets, putters, and too much foot traffic also mars the appearance of natural turf.
Artificial grass, on the other hand, is always lush and green.
There are no weeds, bare spots, brown spots, or divots.
No fertilizing, mowing or edging.
With artificial grass, you give it a quick spray with the hose when needed to rinse away dust, dirt, and pet urine.
Brush it occasionally to keep the fibers upright and looking natural.
In return, you have a beautiful putting green year-round.
4. Ongoing Maintenance
As mentioned in the previous section, natural grass lawns need lots of upkeep, and when it’s a putting green, it needs even more.
That means lots of time and expense for equipment, herbicides, and fertilizer.
Your water, gasoline, and electricity bills will be higher as well.
Artificial turf, on the other hand, is low-maintenance.
It requires very little care to keep looking its best.
Natural grass putting greens need a lot of TLC to provide that smooth, even, perfect surface that you need for practicing your putts.
Turf maintenance and management is such a technical field, in fact, that Bachelor’s degrees are offered in it!
There’s a reason why golf courses devote a large percentage of their operating budgets to maintaining their natural grass turf.
They have teams of people using specialized equipment, procedures, and products to keep those fairways and putting greens in top condition.
Artificial turf for putting greens features highly durable nylon fibers that can withstand lots of foot traffic and abuse by putters, pets, and even Mother Nature.
Although the front-end cost to install your putting green may be higher, the far lower maintenance cost makes up for that relatively quickly.
To learn more about maintaining artificial grass, check out our guide to artificial turf maintenance.
There are two schools of thought on greens’ playability, even among PGA pros.
Some golfers vastly prefer natural grass, while others see little difference in playability regardless of whether it’s natural grass or synthetic turf.
We’ve already talked in this article about all the work that goes into creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn.
Multiply that by 18 holes and the specialized needs of fairways and putting greens.
Many PGA pros endorse artificial turf for putting greens.
The cost of converting 18 putting greens (let alone an entire golf course) to artificial turf would be prohibitive.
Otherwise, you would see a lot of golf courses doing it.
In areas facing significant weather challenges, ranging from high heat and frequent drought to the opposite extremes, some golf courses are beginning to replace at least some of their putting greens with artificial turf.
This makes it possible for their turf management teams to maintain year-round playability and the proper roll on greens that are otherwise highly challenged by weather conditions.
Regarding durability, there’s no comparison between natural and artificial grass.
Weather, foot traffic, animals, and putter divots take a toll on natural grass.
Artificial grass, however, needs little more than an occasional brushing and rinsing to stay in top condition.
Even if you replace or patch an area of natural grass that has been damaged, the surface will never return to its former perfection.
This is one reason why some golf courses completely replant certain putting greens during the off-season.
Even with their expertise and equipment, they know that the perfect putting green requires more than a patched surface can provide.
Most artificial turf products used for putting greens has blades made from robust and durable nylon.
It’s manufactured explicitly with enough resiliency to last 20-25 years or longer through golfers, children, pets, and weather.
Even through the worst, it performs its best.
When you practice putting on natural grass, you will get dirt on your shoes and likely track dirt, mud, grass, and other debris into your home.
Your pets and children, who aren’t as careful as you are, will track in even more.
Natural grass is just that, natural.
When it’s dry outside, you get dust and dirt.
When it’s wet, you get mud.
None of these look so nice when tracked across your deck or patio and into your home.
Synthetic grass drains so well that it just doesn’t create mud.
Dust and dirt can be easily removed with a quick spray from the garden hose.
8. Kid & Pet-Friendliness
If your pets or children have access to your backyard putting green, you need it to be safe to play on.
We’ve already talked about how easy it is to damage putting greens through children playing and pets urinating or digging holes.
But there’s also another consideration.
To maintain the perfect surface needed to provide the right roll, your backyard putting green will need maintenance, including herbicide and fertilizer.
If your children and pets have access to your putting green, as they do in most backyard installations, they will be exposed to those chemicals.
Artificial turf is tailor-made for households with children and pets.
It’s durable and can take lots of abuse from running, jumping, and playing.
Dogs lose interest in digging when they figure out that artificial turf is not easy to dig up.
Plus, their urine stains and messes can be easily rinsed off.
Lastly, artificial turf does not expose your children and pets to any potentially harmful chemicals.
Final Thoughts on Artificial Turf vs. Real Grass Putting Greens
So which is better for your backyard – artificial turf vs. real grass putting greens?
Artificial grass nearly always wins that argument.
It’s even endorsed by several PGA golf pros and golf course turf managers.
- Although the installation cost may be higher on the front end, artificial turf makes up for that quickly due to its low maintenance cost and durability.
- Artificial grass can be placed anywhere, regardless of sunlight or soil conditions.
- Artificial turf stays beautiful year-round, needing only regular brushing and rinsing.
- The surface of synthetic turf used for putting greens provides high playability, which is similar if not identical to natural grass.
- Artificial grass is naturally cleaner, easier to keep clean, and safe for children and pets.
To learn more about installing an artificial grass putting green in your backyard, contact Ideal Turf for a free design and installation estimate.
Click the GET A QUOTE button or call us at (800) 204-4650.
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