Dave Pelz’s backyard short-game playground is well-known in the world of golf. It has a level of prominence that only makes sense for the backyard of the man who authored The Short Game Bible. What isn’t well known, however, is how Pelz assembled his distinctive backyard.
There’s a company behind the grandeur: SYNLawn. Back in the summer of 2008, Pelz was looking for a turf company to purchase the most realistic turf he could find. He had already been affiliated with other synthetic turf companies. So he called SYNLawn for the job.
SYNLawn, which can be found in all 50 states as well as Canada, specializes in outdoor turf, landscape and playground surfaces with a successful golf branch. That’s why Pelz was interested. The turf led to building one green, which led to another and another and then many surrounding areas of fringe, fairway, and first-cut lengths of turf.
“It took months, maybe even a year,” says John Knox, manager of the SYNLawn golf brand. “They had to do some demolition back there…we moved a lot of dirt back there. Dave has some intricate designs that we don’t normally do.”
But SYNLawn made it work for Pelz, and now 100 percent of his backyard is SYNLawn products, even the sand seen in the bunkers.
Pelz’s backyard is unique and far from the normal SYNLawn project. The typical job is a 1,000 square-foot green, which costs between $13,000 and $17,000. The price depends on specifics in design like humps, bunkers, fringe locations, etc. — many adjustments that allow the owner creativity for however he or she wishes to transform their lot.
“We go there, physically take the measurements and look at integrating the putting green into the design of the backyard,” Knox said. “If [the customer] wants a hump, or if they want a tier, these are various things we build into the base.”
That base is made of stone, and requires a specific level of excavation to drain precipitation correctly. Depending on the region — the level of digging depends on the frost line — there is a day of excavation and initial laying of the stone work. It will take one more day to finish the stonework before a final day of laying the turf in place.
In just a few days, a typical backyard can become a golf refuge. From there, maintenance is minimal. Knox says the leaf blower that already owns a place in the garage is all that’s needed to clean the turf. Any precipitation flows through pores in the turf and through the stone as well. Anything left on the turf is then blown away to keep the green clean.
“If leaves get on it, blow it off,” he says. “Literally that’s it.”
Nowadays, Pelz is not only an ambassador of the turf product but also a partner of the company. (His son now runs SYNLawn distribution in Austin, Texas.) Pelz even created a product of his own to layer beneath the turf to make the greens more receptive — and act more similar to actual soil — for longer-range approach shots.
His addition isn’t for everyone — admittedly, not all SYNLawn clients have as much area as Pelz had to work with — but the idea of a backyard green is catching on with others.
Just last week, a well-known golfer called in and eventually wrote a $70,000 check. It was six-time major champion Tom Watson.