Hitting The Links At Home
by Deborah Raider Notis
What’s the new golfing hotspot for Westchester and Connecticut’s elite? Believe it or not, it’s right in their backyards. Thanks to Armonk resident Michael Lehrer’s Home Green Advantage, courses are coming home.
Just ask Greenwich resident Ahmad Rashad. “I love that I can go home, go outside, and practice my golf game,” says the former NFL All-Pro. “Any time I feel like it, I just go out there and putt,” he says of his four-year-old green. “Its large, private, and convenient,” stresses Rashad. “Plus, there’s no upkeep. I’ve improved my putting accuracy seventy to eighty percent.”
Lehrer, who Rashad calls “a golf fanatic,” graduated from Scarsdale High School and lived in Larchmont before settling in Armonk. He began his career as a certified public accountant, at first working for a large accounting firm and ultimately starting a private practice.
On the side, he was always an avid collector of sports mementos. “I’ve been collecting baseball cards, football memorabilia, anything sports-related, since high school. But its wasn’t until the early ‘90’s that I became a golf addict,” says Lehrer, who owns over 500 wooden shafted clubs.
In 1995, Lehrer took his passion to the next level and started Fairway to Heaven, a golf apparel business, outfitting the Women’s Classic at Wykagl Country Club, the Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club, and the PGA Championship at the Winged Foot Golf Club. Lehrer soon closed his Larchmont accounting practice and became a designer for the golf championships full-time.
That same year, he also built a course in his own backyard. “Its dramatic,” says Lehrer of his 2,500 square foot natural green with three to four different tees and a rock-face ledge. And, before he knew it, his neighbor Steve Saccriponti wanted a green too. “I was his guinea pig,” says Saccriponti. “He’s very creative; he knew that he had a theory, so I let him try it out on my property.” As it turns out, the 20’x18’ freeform green, which Saccriponti calls “attractive and very low maintenance,” marked the birth of Home Green Advantage.
Since its inception, Lehrer has built over 200 carefully customized courses and putting greens throughout Westchester. “Mike has come such a long way with his products and skill level,” notes Saccriponti. “It’s really a science. He’s been able to build greens that have a speed similar to the courses at the club (as measured by a stimp meter). And they get better every year.”
From small putting greens in Briarcliff, Bronxville, Edgemont, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, Sleepy Hollow, and White Plains, to sprawling courses in Armonk, Bedford, Greenwich, Harrison, Purchase and Rye, Lehrer can create whatever your heart desires.
“You really can do this on a very small piece of land,” he notes. The smallest greens, a couple of holes on a 12’x8’ plot of land will take just a half a day to install. Typically pre-built of the highest quality nylon, Lehrer adds, “This type of green is really to practice your putting and chipping shots.”
Barry Adler has been the proud owner of one of Home Green Advantage’s small putting greens since 1998. “I was really bored that winter,” says the Scarsdale resident. “It wasn’t golf season, so I couldn’t play at my club. I hired Lehrer to build me a few holes so that I could practice my putting…”
On the other hand, if a ‘golf Shangri-la’ is what you’re looking for, all you need is a quarter of an acre, about one week for building and installation. Starting at 250 square feet, the greens can include sand traps, tee boxes, and can even be wired to light up for golfing at night. Lehrer, who stresses that the topography around the course is almost as important as the course and the surrounding land to create a cohesive look and a subtle flow with the remaining yard.
Pound Ridge resident Stephanie Susetka calls her Home Green Advantage course, “a real accent to the property.” Built in 2002, Lehrer used less than one-fifth of the Susetka’s four acres to create a four-hole putting green with two sand traps. He raised their property and did a great deal of detailed landscaping to create “the look of Augusta National.”
“Originally, my husband Bill, was not in favor of building a home green. He has a three handicap and thought that playing on a synthetic surface would ruin his game. But Michael built the green to roll at a speed similar to the one at our golf club – about a ten or eleven on the stimp meter. And now, Bill loves it,” says Susetka, who commissioned the green as a surprise for her husband.
Home builder Steve Rakoff had similar concerns to Susetka’s husband. “Playing on a lot of these greens can really hurt your game,” says the Scarsdale resident. “But Mike’s greens roll like the professional courses.” So far, he has referred Home Green Advantage to three of his customers, two in Harrison, and one in Scarsdale. “Most of my clients are fanatical about the quality of the greens. Mike’s look real, feel real, and react real. A lot of other synthetic ones roll like you’re putting on your living-room carpet.”
Luckily, Lehrer’s greens require very little upkeep. He usually recommends using the synthetic variety to further reduce the maintenance process and will monitor and refurbish the greens as necessary annually. Maintenance includes putting down snow treatments for winter, promoting good root growth (in the case of natural greens), and preventing fungi from growing on synthetic turf. He also cleans, brushes, and rolls the synthetic greens and maintains the traps and tees.
By creating low maintenance, attractively landscaped, high quality greens, Lehrer has developed a true fan following. Rakoff hopes to hire him to construct a course for himself someday. And Saccriponti, who is building a new home in Armonk, says that he is looking forward to a more elaborate Home Green Advantage course in his backyard.
“Most golfers buy a lot of junk,” says Rashad. “Clubs and equipment that end up in the garbage or the garage. My home green was the best investment that I ever made for my game. It’s the greatest golfing invention yet.”
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