THE NEW YORK TIMES: Putting in Your Own Backyard: Installing Greens, the Latest Must-Have for Homeow
Blame Tiger (Woods) Mania. Since 1986, the number of golfers in the United States has increased 33 percent. There are 26.4 million golfers age 12 and older, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry market research and trade group in Jupiter, Fla. And they’re willing to pay to play. Golfers spend $30.5 billion annually on equipment, related merchandise and playing fees. In a strong economy, the business of home putting greens is taking off.
It was a market that Michael Lehrer foresaw five years ago when he began his Armonk-based business Home Green Advantage. Since then Mr. Lehrer has installed more than 130 putting greens, which range from about $3,000 for a basic setup of three to five putting holes to up to $75,000 for greens that include nine holes, rock walls, water hazards, sand traps and other enrichments. The average job costs between $10,000 and $15,000, Mr. Lehrer said. “When I started in this business, no one else was around,” Mr. Lehrer said. “Now everyone and his cousin is into it. People who were doing aluminum siding last week are putting in greens.” Most home putting greens are made of synthetic turf, which is generally maintenance free. The technology of synthetic greens has improved greatly since the earliest days of AstroTurf. Today, the speed of the green can be controlled by altering the amount of fill used between the blades and by changing the length of the blades themselves. Mr. Lehrer considers himself the grandfather of the home putting green business in the region. Not only has he installed greens in many private homes but he has also put one on a rooftop of a building at Chelsea Piers, and he recently installed a putting green indoors at the head quarters of Fox News in Manhattan. The growing appeal to homeowners goes beyond the exploding popularity of the sport, Mr. Lehrer said. The average home putting green is still considerably less expensive than installing a tennis court or a swimming pool. Also, installing a green does not usually require much in the way of permits. Putting greens are generally considered landscaping, and short of problems with wetland areas, they do not require the approval of zoning authorities. In addition, golf is being increasingly promoted as a family sport, and for many there is great appeal in a project that cannot only enhance property but also provide an activity for both children and parents. “It is a wonderful, beautiful piece of scenery,” said Bob Lewis, for whom Mr. Lehrer recently built a green with several holes, sand traps and dramatic landscaping in Mount Kisco. “I haven’t exactly been to the Masters. But I did want something I could share with my children. Golf is really a time-commitment sport, and having it right here will bring the family together instead of dividing it.” For fanatical golfers, having a putting green at home offers an opportunity to practice without leaving a golf widow or widower behind. Mr. Lehrer said he has installed putting greens for people who do not themselves even play golf but who just want the look, entertainment value- or the status- of having a home green. He maintains a Web site (homegreenadvantage.com) but gets most of his business through referrals. “I just built a green in Orienta,” Mr. Lehrer said. “The neighbor came over and said, ‘When you’re done with this, you can start mine.’ They can link up if they’re not adversaries – you play over my hole, I’ll play over yours.”