FLORENCE — Dr. Michael Brummitt describes himself as an “avid duffer golfer.”
Like most golfers, Brummitt has a never ending quest to improve. That’s why he explored getting a synthetic putting green installed at his house.
Now, working on his short game — chipping and putting — is as simple as walking outside into his backyard.
Brummitt is not alone in trying to hone his game on a synthetic putting green. Synthetic, or artificial, putting greens are not new to the industry, but they are trending upward.
And they definitely aren't cut from the "putt in your living room on your carpet" mode.
“A patient of mine mentioned it and I researched it,” Brummitt said, adding that he researched the topic before opting to get one. “I talked to my wife and she liked the idea.”
Brummitt hired Southwest Greens to install his four-cup green earlier this year.
Brummitt, who frequents Blackberry Trail and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals when he plays, said he was amazed at how much his synthetic green mirrors actual greens.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It putts good and is kind of fast. I can practice my chipping and the ball reacts just like it would on a real green. I like the way it looks.”
The green also has contours and slope, Brummitt said.
Andrew Capstickdale, who is based in Birmingham and owns Southwest Greens, said business is booming.
“The whole synthetic lawn business has gone kind of nuts,” he said. “Business this year is up 20 percent from last year. We’ve grown as the economy has grown, and the product lines have gotten better and better.”
Capstickdale said much of his business comes from referrals. People like Brummitt tell his friends and it goes from there.
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” he said. “We have two product lines – putting greens and multi-purpose play areas.”
Eddie Pelz, the son of acclaimed golf teacher Dave Pelz, has been heading up Dave Pelz Synscapes for the past 15 years. He, too, has seen an uptick in the popularity of synthetic greens
“Over the last seven years we’ve been seeing about a 20-percent increase each year in the overall turf business,” said Pelz, whose company is based in Spiceland, Texas. “There’s so many applications for it,”
Pelz said the improvements in the golf portion of the synthetic turf business have helped increase its popularity. Now, companies such as Southeastern Greens and Synscapes can tailor the greens to meet most of their clients’ specifications.
“It definitely has come a long way,” Pelz said. “It’s more expensive if you want to hit full shots into it, but it can be done. We can do about anything — if you want to just chip and putt or if you want to hit distance wedges.”
Southwest Greens, for example, advertises that its greens can hold shots from up to 200 yards because its polypropylene turf is filled with silica sand that is resistant to compaction; it won’t harden over time.
Capstickdale said he can get the greens to roll as fast as a client wants.
“If you get on a Stimpmeter, we can go as high as 15,” he said. “We usually leave it 10 to 13 depending on the customer.”
Pelz said the ability to add slope and contours has been one of the biggest advancements.
“We want to make it look like a real green and behave like a real green,” he said. “Adding slopes and undulations aren’t a problem anymore.”
Added Capstickdale, “We meet with customers and ask them what they want it to look like — do they want more break, less break? We can make it flat. There are so many options.”
Capstickdale said most of the greens he installs have between three and seven cups.
Depending on the company and the expanse of project, the cost for synthetic greens ranges between $11 and $25 per square foot.
For Brummitt, the convenience of being able to walk outside to practice his short game, combined with the low maintenance - "you just have to take your blower and blow it off," — have made his synthetic green a bargain.
“I’ve been out there four times today,” he said during a recent Friday interview. “I’ve got a little yip in my chips, so I am hoping I can get in a groove. Just to be able to practice, it’s so convenient.”