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Backyard Golf

If you are serious about your golf game, or if you're looking for a way to make your backyard into a playground, you might want to meet Doug Norby.

Norby owns a Grants Pass business called Home Country Club that installs putting greens, courts and athletic fields for homeowners, businesses and anybody else who wants a piece of playful sod nearby.

Norby, co-owner of Dutcher Creek Golf Course, has installed about 150 artificial greens in the Rogue Valley since he started his business in 1999. "We've been busy enough here that we have a crew that works full-time from March to November," he says.

"We opened Dutcher Creek Golf Course in 1994, and this business spun off of that," We had people saying they wanted putting greens, and I told them they didn't want to become greens keepers because they are difficult and expensive to maintain."

Norby's greens, made of synthetic turf that mimics bent grass greens, don't require mowing, watering, fertilizer or a background in horticulture. He describes the turf as similar to a shag carpet made of polypropylene fiber that is filled with sand. His crews measure and cut the turf, spread sand over it, then broom the sand until the shag is filled nearly to the tips of the fiber. Then they roll it out. The more they roll it, the faster the ball will roll.

The shag goes over top of a gravel base that can be shaped to give homeowners as many undulations and breaks as they desire.

"Most people like their greens fast," Norby says. "We can make it break any way they want. We did one for a guy in Merlin who wanted a Disneyland hole, where the cup was at the top of a three-foot mound so you'd have to hit it perfect to get it in."

Because of Norby's golf background, the company started out doing nothing but backyard putting greens. Over time, they have branched into all sorts of uses for synthetic turf, including athletic fields at Grants Pass and Roseburg high schools, nine-hole putting courses at retirement centers, parking lot median strips, and synthetic lawns for people who don't want to deal with watering and mowing the grass. Home Country Club now installs about four times more synthetic lawns than putting greens, he says.

"People have a tendency to think that synthetic turf is not eco-friendly," Norby says, "but it is actually very environmentally friendly. You don't waste water. You don't use fertilizers that wash into the water system, and you don't use mowers, which are very polluting."

At $12 to $14 per square foot to install a synthetic green, the initial cost is about four times more than natural grass, he says, but the savings in water and maintenance reduce the cost over time. The greens come with an eight-year warranty for UV degradation, but Norby says you can expect the greens to last for 15 years or more.

Home Country Club installs putting greens, courts and athletic fields for homeowners, businesses and anybody else who wants a piece of playful sod nearby. - David Smigelski