The Berkshire Eagle
Monday, July 2, 2001
By Derek Gentile
Berkshire Eagle Staff
STOCKBRIDGE – You’ve got your artificial football field. You’ve got your artificial baseball field. You’ve got your artificial soccer field.
But is the world ready for an artificial putting green?
Apparently so. Local landscaper/entrepreneur Thomas Farley, owner of Farley’s Landscape and Design Corp., has already put in a handful around the country and in New York, and he has contracts to put in several more in the area. He is the only landscaper in Berkshire County and one of the few in the New England area to offer this service.
And he even has the blessing of local golf course pros.
“I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me, wanting to get a putting green put in,” said James Conant, golf course superintendant for the Country Club of Pittsfield. “Then I tell them how much money it costs, and the maintenance, and they lose interest.”
Conant is referring to what we will call a “regular” putting green; that is, a putting green made of real grass. Farley estimates that such a real green costs between $60,000 and $80,000. His green costs about one-eighth of a real one.
But the real problem for putting in “real” greens, said Farley, is that the individual who owns it must mow it, water it, fertilize it and keep it free of pests.
“The maintenance is really extensive,” he said.
“It really takes an incredible amount of work and money,” agreed Conant. “Just a used greens mower, in half-decent shape, costs more than $1,000. So these fake greens have a ready-made niche market. It’s perfect for a retired gent or golf enthusiast who enjoys golf but maybe can’t get over to the golf course every day.”
Like Conant, Farley kept getting requests from local golfers for some kind of cheap, durable practice green that looked like the real thing but didn’t cost as much. For more than eight years, Farley said, he kept his eyes and ears open.
Finally, he saw an advertisement in a trade magazine for the stuff. He found a landscaper in Florida who would teach him how to install it.
The turf itself is an Astro Turf knockoff, said Farley, that “stands up” better than real grass.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “You can’t tell it’s not real.”
The installation takes about two days, according to Jody Decker, a foreman in Farley’s company. A layer of crushed stone is laid down, and the fabric itself is laid over that. One or two or more holes are cut into the fabric.
Then the landscapers roll in several pounds of a type of sand called Black Beauty, which is used in sandblasting operations. The sand is rolled into the fabric until the artificial grass is the required eighth of an inch long.
When that is completed, said Decker, it’s putting time.
Other than sweeping the green in the springtime, said Farley, the maintenance is almost nonexistent. The artificial grass never grows, never turns brown in the sun and is never hit by any one of the plant fungi that can kill a putting green. The greens can even be quickly squeegeed off after a very heavy rainstorm.
Conant believes, however, that artificial grass will never replace the original at the club or professional level. The inherent differences in natural putting green from golf course to golf course are a sharp contrast to the sameness of artificial ones, a contrast that golfers would reject.
“You don’t get the same feel on an artificial green,” he said.
Farley, however, is not so positive.
“I don’t know,” he said, noting that he knows of a landscaper who has done an 18-hole synthetic course in Illinois. “It could be the wave of the future. You never know.”