Donald Ross. Pete Dye. Tom Morris. Brad Gibala.
To be included in the list of golfs all time greatest golf architects is no small feat. The tasks laid ahead of them in creating their gems were difficult to say the least. For me, not so much. Got it all done in a day or two.
Welcome to: The Woods Huntington
Huntington Woods, MI only private golf course. Its private because its in my back yard. A golf course so unique and well thought out that it only needs three holes.
Thats right. A 3 hole backyard golf course.
Without further ado.
Hole #1 – Bearded Jim
A 15.5 yard long hole named after my neighbor Jim who has a sweet beard and who is also one cool dude. Him and I share the property line to the right which you cannot see in the picture. Many conversations have been had over the fence while he’s working on something in his garage. He has owned his side of the fence longer than I have been alive.
Hole #1 demands an accurate tee shot. Anything long is gone. Anything right is trouble. The trunk of one of the enormous oak trees guards the front right portion of the green.
Bank your tee shot off its hill and you’ll have a chance at two hopping it into the hole. Otherwise you’ll want to land it right in front of the pin short of the green hoping it checks up and rolls into the hole. Hit it too hard and you’ll have to pray for it to roll up the backstop and come through the backdoor.
Miss the hole but hit it well and it will probably end up in the collection area left of the pin. Hit it too hard and it doesn’t go over the green then it will probably be rolling full tilt off the backstop and off the false front.
Hole #2 – Johnny Boy
A 16 yard long hole named after my dad who being a lefty would be pelting the giant oak tree that engulfs the right fairway along with protecting the right side of the green. Sadly he never got a chance to play a round at The Woods Huntington but if he did I know he’d put up a monster number.
Hole #2 demands precision off the tee with two options to put it in the hole. A real gamer aims between the tree and flag stick hoping for a one hop off the fringe, onto the green, and catching the right to left break ending up in the hole.
Channel your inner Phil Mickelson and land your tee shot on the front left ledge which ricochets to the right for a one hop slam dunk hole in one.
Long is gone. Come up short and you’ll end up in the native area (golf architect slang for dirt). Hit the tree and you better have your head on a swivel as its coming right back at you.
Not visible in the picture are four wires hanging above the fairway daring you to chip one through the three windows they create. Basically, trouble everywhere.
Everything else will roll around the green ending up in the collection area short left of the pin.
Hole #3 – Clowns Mouth
This monster of a closing hole provides so many options to get a hole in one that no secrets will be shared. Long is gone. Left is gone. Right is a tree. Short is a trench.
Not shown in the picture are the same four wires above Hole #2 begging you to hit it through one of the windows. Theres also a huge branch hanging over the green that DTE Energy has said they were going to cut down a year ago which will knock down any flop shots.
Many a championships have been won or lost on this hole. Just get it to the green and let it do the rest.
And to demonstrate that it is possible to get a hole in one on each hole yours truly has made a video showing you how its done.
After finishing your grueling round feel free to stop by the patio and grab a drink at The Squirrels Nest located right behind the #3 tee box. The staff does not understand the concept of golf etiquette and will scream during a back swing. They probably don’t even have drinks either. They just like to open the window and ask for money.
**No putting. How many chip shots it took over all 3 holes. Get a hole in one and move on. Add up all your shots. Only rule is your shot cannot hit another ball and go in.
From the beginning I knew I did not want just a putting green. While they look cool they are also one dimensional. After awhile they get boring and nobody uses it.
And practicing putting is very boring. Yipee – 30 minutes of practicing three footers!
I instead wanted something where I could practice chipping. And if I could practice a number of different shots from a number of different lengths then it might be fun. Who needs to practice three foot putts when your chipping to within a foot?
One of the unique features of my home in Huntington Woods is its a double lot with a two car attached garage. Most of my neighbors have single lots and their (two or one car) garage is in the backyard which cuts it in half. You don’t realize how key the garage situation is until after you’ve been in the house for awhile.
Three 100 foot tall oak trees provide shade for our entire backyard along with tens of thousands of leaves to rake in the fall. They also provide interesting design elements to the golf course.
What I decided on was one green with three different tee areas. This would allow me to maximize the space in my backyard, give me three different lengths to chip, and three different shots to practice.
The green would go in the back right corner which works out well since any errand tee shot would probably hit a tree, the fence, maybe the back of my neighbors garage, and nothing else unless you go way long.
The corner of my lot where I decided to put the green used to have a fountain which I had dug up and sold on Craigslist the fall before. To fill it up I put a bunch of leaves and sticks I had in the yard.
Over the winter it decomposed leaving a decent depression. We needed a bunch of dirt for another area in our yard so I added another yard to an order we placed to get delivered.
Many wheelbarrow trips from my driveway to the backyard later and it was time to start shaping the green.
I knew I wanted a backstop with a decent slope to keep more balls from going over and also to allow for shots that went pass the flagstick to have a chance to roll back in.
Once I had the dirt where I wanted it I brought up the roller I borrowed from my mom and started shaping it.
I really wanted my green to be made out of real grass. After doing some research I decided it would be worth a try because my green wasn’t going to be that big. All I needed to get was grass seed and a greens mower. This is what The Woods Huntington looked like in March 2016 after the winter thaw and the 2015 golf season.
It was something to hit golf balls at but not great to look at.
When I started building The Woods Huntington I went to Ace Hardware and bought a bag of Scotts Turf Builder Sun & Shade Mix Grass Seed. My thought was this grass seed would blend in with the rest of the grass in the backyard and I would cut it short with the greens mower to give it the golf green effect.
The grass did grow but not well. Not to be deterred for the 2016 golf season I headed back to the internet and sought out better grass seed along with making the green better to play.
Penncross Creeping Bentgrass was what I decided upon due to it being the most popular grass for putting greens. It also appears to grow well in northern climates which I am in. I bought five pounds of it for $58.
What I found to be most interesting about the Penncross Creeping Bentgrass was how fine the seeds were. Much different the Scotts Turfbuilder I used last year. My concern with this grass seed was how tough it was going to be.
Finding the manual greens mower was tough. The few that are made are over $300 new which is way out of my budget for the size of green I’m building. Used ones are even more rare.
There are quite a few used powered ones on Craigslist and eBay from golf courses selling old equipment. But those are huge and I don’t mow my lawn with a gas mower. I have a manual reel mower.
After checking Craigslist every day one finally popped up. A Greens Zephyr De-Luxe. The seller bought it at a farm auction because it looked cool. We agreed on $75. This thing was awesome and hilarious. It was heavy as hell and needed a serious blade sharpening.
It was funny watching the grass grow because it was a lighter shade of green then the rest of my yard. When the sun hit it just right in the morning with some dew on it made me laugh because I had a green in my backyard.
Six weeks of watering it twice a day and keeping my two year old off of the green by circling it with some fencing the previous owners left in the shed when we moved in resulted in my masterpiece.
Was chomping at the bit to start dropping lob shots on it. Had my orange Home Depot bucket full of used golf balls I’ve managed to amass over the years ready to go.
Dug out a hole, put the cup in, and placed my flag.
My first hundred shots into the green from three different tee boxes were fun. I had my backyard golf course. Sadly, there were a few things I was starting to learn about backyard golf course.
- Putting green grass is hard to grow.
- I was tearing up my grass with all the pitch shots.
All of the lob shots I hit were leaving ball marks everywhere. On top of that, the foot traffic from me and my two year old going back and forth hitting shots and shagging balls was killing the grass. While the grass was two inches tall when I started hitting shots it probably needed another three weeks of growing to fill in.
My green was dying before I even got a chance to cut it.
Nothing I did to get it growing again worked. I used the rest of the grass seed and did not hit a shot or walk on the green for another three weeks.
But even that could not stop it from dying. My green was dead.
My best guess was it wasn’t just not giving it more time to grow or the foot traffic but all of the stuff falling off the giant oak tree above it too.
Two weeks later there were just a few patches of Creeping Bentgrass on the green. It was June and my dreams of having a backyard golf course were basically over.
I was back to hitting shots at a dirt backstop. It just wasn’t right.
The grass never got long enough for me to use the Greens Zephyr De-Luxe greens mower so I sold it on Craigslist for $50 to a guy who was trying to build a green like me. Told him about my struggles and to not put the green under a tree. I never could get the blades sharp enough with DIY kits anyways.
Hitting pitch shots off of dirt is no fun and it looks like crap. I needed mats. Headed back to Craigslist looking for used mats and everything was beat up. After researching more I decided on…
Country Club Elite Golf Mat Review
They provide very good feedback at contact. I’d say they are fairway-esk in that you can come down too hard and hit it chunky (the mat grabs the club) or nice and clean.
Real Feel is the company that makes the Country Club Elite golf mats and are available in a number of different sizes. I bought three 10″ x 30″ Country Club Elite (CCE) Hitting Strips. One for each hole. I almost bought the smallest one where you can stand and hit off.
Reason being is when I go into the backyard to get some swings in I typically hit from the mat closest to my backdoor (Hole #3).
The mats come with rubber and plastic tees if you want to practice drives. I have never used them as all I am doing is chipping.
The Real Feel Golf Mats are very durable. I bought these in 2015 when I was just getting started building The Woods Huntington.
I bought mine directly from Real Feel Golf Mats in 2015 and customer service was fine. Prices are nearly similar at the Real Feel Golf Mats Amazon Store and if you have an Amazon Prime membership you might save more.
And since I occasionally like to go outside in the winter and hit golf balls when there is no snow I decided to leave the golf mats out there.
Hole #1’s mat looks brand new as I only hit off it when I play a round. Like I stated above, I hit off #3’s mat a lot (far right).You can see where I hit most of my shots, right side of the mat, middle to front.
Even after the 2000+ chip shots I’ve taken in the past two years and the number of times I’ve seen my cats and the neighbors cats use the mats as a scratch pad I’d say there is still a lot of life on these Country Club Elite golf mats. Real Feel makes a great golf mat. And yes, they will be left outside every winter moving forward.
Went a little outside the timeline of events to show you how well the golf mats have worked on my golf course for the past two years.
Circling back to early 2017. This is what the green looks like.
Time To Regroup
While I did not have the pretty green anymore I still did have the shape of a green and I still wanted to play. For the 2017 season I decided to make the switch to artificial turf. It was the only way.
Before I get the turf I decided to do some much needed maintenance and design change to The Woods Huntington. A much higher backstop to keep more golf balls from going over the back and to give it a fishbowl feel.
So there are a lot of trees in Huntington Woods. Hence, the name. Every fall the homeowners are instructed to rake or blow their leaves into the streets and the city sucks them up with custom vacuum trucks. The city takes the leaves to Rochester Hills to decompose over the winter.
In the spring the city picks up the compost and dumps it near the Public Works building for the residents to pick up as much as they want for free. They must make a new trip every week as the pile seems to be high through August.
Since I could get as much compost as I wanted for free and did not need dirt to grow grass I decided compost would work just as well as a base under my artificial turf. Headed to the compost pile with my dads truck and loaded up.
Decided to give the compost a couple of weeks to compress and settle before putting the artificial turf down. I also had to shorten the backstop near the oak tree by four inches as my son kept trying to ride his electric ATV over it causing him to flip over backwards. Can’t have that happening every time I’m trying to chip.
Getting the artificial turf posed a coupe of questions. Scoured Craigslist looking for people giving away or selling turf. Did find one guy who bought a house with a professionally done artificial turf green with fringe and fairway who no longer wanted it. He wanted real grass. What an idiot. He was offering it all for free if you came over and dug up all of the rocks. No thanks. Thats a lot of work.
Everything else was used turf from football fields which were being sold in bulk and was out of my price range.
I did not need a lot of turf and the really good stuff had minimum square footage requirements and it was expensive.
I did not want the cheap Florida room green grass type stuff you see on porches. It looks tacky and would probably fall apart after use. I wanted something that gave some sort of golf feel to it.
Menards to the rescue. They were the only big box home improvement retailer who had anything in stock at a decent price which would work. Home Depot and Lowes had nothing.
Global Syn-Turf Endless Putting Green Review
Global Syn-Turf Endless Green Putting was what I chose. It is a synthetic turf designed to mimic the feel of a real green. It was only sold in 6 foot wide sections and I really needed one twelve foot wide section. To get a 12 foot or a 15 foot wide section of similar quality I would have to pay twice as much per foot plus shipping.
The total square foot needed was 240 square feet. 15 foot wide by 16 foot long.
Leaving one 6 foot wide section as is for the hole gave me four feet needed on one side and two feet needed on the other. Went forward with cutting the one piece accordingly. To hold the turf together I bought garden staples from Yardworks. Here is how it turned out.
I did have a little extra left over from trimming pieces around the trees and on the backstop. The final square footage was 192. 16 foot long by 12 feet wide.
The Global Syn-Turf has held up well and still looks brand new. Rain drains through it slowly and does not puddle up. When I hit really good golf balls like a Pro V1 at it the ball will check up which is funny to see. I would say the Global Syn-Turf has exceeded expectations.
Its not exactly like a real grass green but good enough. You can hear the ball as it moves across the woven synthetic fibers if you are close enough.
Being honest, if I could afford to pay a professional to artificial turf my entire backyard I would. It looks good all the time and is so much easier to maintain. Even with me not doing anywhere near a professional job of laying turf (grading, many sub-layers, rocks, etc) I’d say it still looks better than my grass.
Hours Of Fun
It is true that I have taken 98% of the shots taken at The Woods Huntington. Most days I’ll head to the course while my kids are playing in the backyard and hit two or three buckets of balls, roughly 80 shots total.
Unsurprisingly it has made me a much better chipper on the real golf course. After you make your first 100 hole in ones you realize you need to make games and practice different types of chip shots. Every time I read a new way to chip in Golf Digest I try it out there.
My son and daughter want to hit golf balls too. They see me hitting and want to do it too. Hopefully I can keep this going with them.
Having the golf course versus just a putting green was a good idea. Sure, it would be nice to have a professionally done putting green and maybe someday that will happen. But playing golf with friends in your backyard instead of putting three footers is much more fun.
I might look into getting the full size mat to hit off of hole #3 as where I stand has worn the grass down to dirt.
Hole #2 will need some more compost next year to build up the bank in front of it. Those damn squirrels and chipmunks keep burrowing underneath there. Regular grass seed will be planted there to give it a better look.
I do not foresee any expansions to the course as I’m tapped on space.
I might take an inch or two off the backstop to slow down golf balls rolling back. It would also give chip shots another chance to decelerate more before bouncing over.
Backyard Golf Course Tips
If you are looking at doing a DIY backyard golf course then these are my suggestions.
- More Holes: Pick a spot in your yard where you can build one green but have more than one tee box.
- Artificial Turf: Real grass sounds fun but it is so much upkeep. Synthetic grass is so much easier and once you lay it down its there. Hit it with a leaf blower every once in awhile and thats it. It looks good all the time too.
- Hitting Strips: You will not need an entire mat to hit off of. Buy a hitting strip mat like the Real Feel Golf Mats I bought and bury them in the grass a bit to give it a level stance.
- Craigslist: Check it for golf course related items people are selling. I saw a number of golf courses selling old items that were a little too big for my course but might work for others. You might even find a number of free items or neat things like golf ball washers if you want to spruce it up.
- Trench: If you are building a green like mine with a backstop be sure to build a little trench in front of the green for balls that roll back. This way they end up in the trench and out of the way of your next shots.
Backyard Green Cost
- Dirt: First load of dirt just for the green $30.
- Compost: Free. Lucky me
- ProActive Backyard Flagstick: $20
- Penncross Creeping Bentgrass: $58
- Global Syn-Turf Endless Putting Green: $209
- Country Club Elite Real Feel Golf Mats 10″ x 30″ Hitting Strips: $122 ($28 each + $13 shipping each)
- Golf Balls: Sort of free. Most of them are ones I find golfing.
- Greens Mower: $25 ($75 purchased – $50 sold for)
For less than $500 I have a backyard golf green which entertains the shit out of me for endless hours. Zillow has said the property value of my house has gone up many tens of dollars since it noticed the green in my backyard with its latest satellite picture.
If you live in Huntington Woods, Oakland County, or anywhere else on Earth and want to rent a golf course to practice or for a tournament feel free to contact me with inquiries. I’m sure I can find a way to overcharge you :).
$1,000,000 lifetime membership fee.
Included with the lifetime fee is unlimited access to The Woods Huntington when I say you can have access. And one use of the potty…forever. Choose wisely.