Before moving to Armonk in 1993, Michael Lehrer had little interest in golf.
Then he became friendly with a neighbor who would invite him to go out on weekly trips to Mohansic Golf Course, a county-run facility in Yorktown. Lehrer fell in love with the game so much that he decided he wanted to hone his skills on his two-acre property rather than drive a half-hour or more to a public course.
Always handy around the house and yard, Lehrer built himself two greens, a sand trap and several tee boxes up on a hill on his land that allows him to take shots from 80 to 160 yards away. Within a few years his newfound passion would allow him to sell his CPA practice and make a living installing greens and designing holes full time on hundreds of private properties.
“It just dawned on me (that) like people have a pool or a tennis court, guys – especially who are so addicted to golf- maybe they’ll spend $5,000, $10,000 to have a putting green or a golf hole (at) their house,” Lehrer said.
Since 1995, he has been president of his startup company Home Green Advantage, which has enjoyed a roaring business in the metropolitan area and beyond. Lehrer’s had clients from Montauk to Hawaii, with the overwhelming portion of his business through client referrals.
While Lehrer put in real grass on his own greens, before he went out full time he researched various types of synthetic turf, which is easier to maintain and lasts longer. Hundreds of types of surfaces can be put down and mixed with sand and other materials to give it the feel of a real green, but also act as a shock absorber for long-distance shots so balls won’t go bouncing off a property. Maintenance is also easy. Greens that Lehrer installed nearly 15 years ago have withstood extremes in weather with little work.
“Basically, it’s a piece of nylon and polypropylene that permeates water (and) has sand in there…,” said Lehrer. “You could put a table on it if you want, the kids can play on it if you want and it looks beautiful.”
The challenge is to build the green correctly. Ideally, the green would be located on a mostly flat piece of land with a slight pitch, so that there would be minimal surface disruption. Unless the layout intrudes into wetlands, no extra permits would be needed in most municipalities. It should also be placed where it has exposure to light and wind to help it dry out after the rain.
“You don’t want to have, in the long run, too many crazy putts,” Lehrer said. “You want to have a putt that’s consistent so (clients) can tell whether they’re putting true, and then have a portion allocated for wild stuff.”
Clients don’t even need multiple acres in order to work on their game from the comfort of their own property. If there isn’t enough room to have an elaborate layout like Lehrer put in for himself, then a simple putting green that’s no more than 500 square feet could go a long way to help the enthusiast, which could also allow enough room to practice chip shots. He’s even installed putting greens in basements.
Lehrer has worked with pet owners, some who may never touch a golf club, to have an outdoor play area for their dogs. He has also had his synthetic turf installed in dog parks, kennels, veterinary offices and doggie day-care facilities.
“Twenty years ago, Lehrer now 53, a divorced father of two, never expected to be where he is today. Raised in New Jersey before his family moved to Westchester, he graduated from Ithaca College. Lehrer always enjoyed sports and has collected an assortment of items from baseball cards to old beer cans, which he has on display in his living room, in addition to baseball equipment and seats from the Polo Grounds and original Yankee Stadium.
While he has competitors, Lehrer knows of no one else that manages to do it full time. Along with the home installations, Lehrer has built promotional greens for events in Central Park and Grand Central Station.
“It’s kind of neat to see a golf green where you don’t expect to see one,” Lehrer said.