You can build your own outdoor putting green or you can have one built for you if you've got $5000 (or more) to spare. You can buy a typical roll-out indoor putting "carpet" for $20-$50. You can't build your own 8' x 8' indoor putting green for less than $250. Or can you?
I live in Pennsylvania, making "winter golf" a matter of either visiting the nearby golf dome or playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour on my GameCube. Eager to maintain my putting stroke during the snowy months, I sought to build an indoor putting green that would adjust to provide adjustable break and putts up to about 10 feet in length. Perhaps it could even allow some gentle chipping from a nearby mat.
The journey - and the project - is documented here.
Concept to Blueprint
My first idea called for a 10' x 10' putting platform. The kind fellow at Home Depot quickly informed me that such an idea was stupid, given that boards come in eight-foot lengths and that plywood measures 4' x 8'. The plan was revised: an 8' x 8' platform. I drew up some rough blueprints (right, below) and counted up the materials: 9 boards, two sheets of plywood, some nails and screws, some glue, some cups, and a piece of green carpet.
Eager to keep the project on budget, I purchased what I could at Home Depot - everything but the cups and the carpet. For the putting surface and cups, I found only one reasonable place from which to get everything: Wittek Golf. The most expensive part of the entire project was the putting green surface. We chose the One-Putt Carpeting, which ranges in price from $9.25 to $10.50 per square yard and comes in a 12' width. Other putting surface manufacturers charge as much as $4.99 per square foot, but the tradeoff is clear: this putting turf has no cushioning or subsurface and is not designed to handle approach shots or outdoor conditions like the more expensive variants.
You need some cups, too and for $4.25 apiece, you can buy your Practice Green Cups from Wittek as well. If you want to add a finishing touch, consider the Flag Sticks (and flags) available for $11.50.
Tools and Materials
I already had some tools available, and I'm going to assume you've got a similar toolset (or can borrow them):
- circular saw (to trim 2x8s)
- power drill (with various drill bits)
- screwdriver (or screwdriver bits)
- carpet knife
- hammer (you can't touch this)
- tape measure
- t-square or 90° ruler
Here's a list of the materials you'll probably need to purchase:
Material Qty Cost Total ------------------------------------ --- ---- ------ 2" x 8" x 8' pine boards 9 5.29 47.61 4' x 8' x 5/8" particle board 2 12.99 25.98 Water Putty (smoothing paste) 1 3.99 3.99 3-1/4" drywall nails (1 lb box) 1 3.99 3.99 Carpet/sheet vinyl adhesive (bucket) 1 7.99 7.99 6 x 1-5/8" drywall screws (200/box) 1 5.99 5.99 4-1/8" hole saw blade 1 6.99 6.99 Practice putting green cup 3 4.25 12.75 One-Putt putting green surface 12 9.25 119.40 ------------------------------------ --- ---- ------ $234.69
We chose 2x8s because they cost little more than a 2x6 and offered substantially more resistance to bending or bowing. Plus, cup height would have been an issue on a 2x6 and 2x4s are far too flexible to support a person's weight without significant bowing. You may elect to use plywood over particle board, but drilling the holes for the cups may prove to be much more difficult.
Hit Home Depot or Lowe's for the wood, screws, nails, glue, and other materials. We recommend building your putting green in the same area as it will be located when finished. The final product will weight a few hundred pounds and measure 8' x 8', after all.
Step 1: Lay out the Frame
To get a general sense of the project, lay out your putting green's frame. Choose four side boards that are moderately warp- and twist-free. Boards with one nice-looking side are a bonus. Arrange the boards so that the pretty side faces out in a rough square.
Step 2: Cut the Cross-Beams
2x8s are eight feet long and the putting green is going to be 8' x 8'. If you nail the boards together without cutting anything, the putting green will be 8'3" x 8' - the extra three inches comes from the two end boards. 8'3" is too large an area for the particle board. We have to trim three inches - the thickness of two end boards - from all of the cross boards.
Cut seven of the 2x8s to 7'9". Bear in mind the carpenter's saying: "measure twice, cut once." These seven boards include the two that will form opposite sides of the green. Though you could trim 1½" from each end of your eight-foot boards, we recommend simply taking 3" from one end. Opt for the side with splits or knots, if possible.
While you're cutting boards, make sure the two end pieces you aren't going to cut measure eight feet in length. If they're a tad larger, trim them to size. If they're a tad smaller, re-evaluate which pieces you're going to use as ends.
Step 3: Install the Cross-Beams
Once the cross-beams have been cut to size, nail the outer boards together to form a square. I recommend drilling pilot holes before nailing the boards together. Pay particular attention to line up the top edges of the boards.
The pilot holes, the nail, and the even tops are visible in these photos:
Once you've nailed the outer frame together, use the 90° ruler or t-square to make the boards as square as possible. It's quite possible to work with a rhombus, but it makes things just a tad more difficult. <grin>
After your frame is squared up, install the next most important cross-beam: the middle one. If you look at the blueprints at the top of this article, you'll see that this cross-beam will support both pieces of particle board/plywood. It needs to be carefully centered.
Measure in four feet from both ends of the two uncut end boards. If your board is eight feet in length, you should identify the same spot. Draw a vertical line with a pencil on both end boards at the spot you've identified as the middle. You may wish to lay a piece of particle board or plywood down to make sure you've measured properly. Measure twice, drill once. Once you're certain the measurement is accurate, drill three pilot holes and nail the cross-beam in place. Triple-check by laying your particle board on top and looking for the important overlap.
At this point, you have four cross-beams remaining. Two will fit between the middle cross-beam and each side. On each side board, measure 15½" in both directions from the middle line you previously drew and draw more lines. Nail the crossbeams in place.
For the cross-beams nearest to the side boards, measure 16" from the end and draw lines again. Nail these cross-beams in place. This will evenly space (within ½") the cross-beams to provide for maximum support.
Step 4: Secure Particle Boards
Once the frame and cross-beams have been drilled and nailed, it's time secure the particle boards to the frame. Lay the particle boards down on top of your frame and once again make sure that things are square and that the edges of the particle board come to the edge of your frame. You may need to adjust the frame to square it up just a bit more (kicking works; just make sure you're wearing shoes!).
Use drywall screws and a power drill with a screwdriver bit to screw down the corners of the particle boards. Drill about ¾" from each side (the middle of a 1½"-thick board). Don't worry about countersinking or measuring - the screws should flatten themeslves out and you should be able to approximate the middle of a board.
Once the corners are secured, it's safe to walk on the platform. Make sure that everything fits snugly and that the center of the platform does not sag. If it does sag, your center beam is not positioned under both edges. Ooops! Also make sure that boards don't clack against each other. That implies that boards aren't positioned to properly suppport the particle board.
It's appropriate at this time to figure out where you want to put the holes. I've roughly marked the positions of the holes with waste pieces of wood in the picture below. I think this pattern provides the most variety of putts for a right-handed putter:
Take care to make sure that the intended holes are not over a cross-beam. Mark the centers of your holes. Keep the centers at least three inches from any cross-beams and sides. The radius of a standard cup is 2-1/8", and a little bit of "slop" ensures that you won't encounter problems down the line.
Secure the particle boards by putting screws every 12 to 16 inches along the edges. Draw lines on the particle board to mark the centers of the cross-beams - the nails on the ends provided all the information necessary - and screw the particle board to the cross-beams as well.
Step 5: Drill Holes
This is a tricky step, so pay attention. Secure the 4-1/8" hole saw blade to your drill. As you can see below, I've rigged the hole saw with a guide screw and drilled a small hole at the center mark in the particle board. The hole and guide screw will ensure that the blade stays in one place, and is particularly handy when you're just starting the drilling.
Particle board is a little easier to grind through than wood, and I found it easier to run the drill in reverse to cut the holes. I spent about two minutes drilling each hole, slowly grinding the hole away with what amounted to the backs of the hole saw teeth. With the guide screw, I never worried about drilling an oval or a hole larger than intended - the hole saw stayed centered. Take your time and cut a good, clean hole.
Step 6: Install Holes
When you've finished drilling your holes, the putting cups will probably not fit. The hole you drilled (4-1/8") measures slightly smaller than the putting cup (4-1/4"). With sandpaper, take away some of the particle board around the inside of the hole until the cups barely fit. I used sandpaper attached to a drill bit ($4.99 at Home Depot) to sand away the inside of the hole.
Once your hole is barely large enough to accommodate a cup, put the cup in the hole. If you've sized it properly, it will require a tremendous amount of force to shove the cup down into the hole. Put a board over the cup and gently hammer it down until it's flush with the surface of the board. This minimizes the force the plastic cup receives and you won't have to worry about breaking the cup.
When you're done, and if you ordered flags, put a flag in the cup and check to make sure that the cup is level.
Repeat the process for all three cups. You should have something that looks like this:
Step 7: Glue Down Green
Putting green carpets (turf) are available in 12' or 15' widths, so we ordered a 9' x 12' piece of carpet. This will provide a little slop in one direction and a good amount of slop in the other. The measurements: 3 yards by 4 yards, or 12 square yards. At about $10/square yard, this is the priciest piece of the project. You could get cheaper carpets from Home Depot or Lowes, but the indoor/outdoor carpets we tested stimped at about 16 - far too fast for a practice green.
Lay out your putting turf and put encyclopedias or moderately heavy books on any bumps to help flatten the surface. Let it sit for a few days until the ridges or bumps from shipping have been smoothed. If you start with a flat piece surface, it's easier to end up with a flat surface.
Lay your flattened turf on the platform to make sure that it's flat and that it fits. Avoid stepping on the holes and putt on the carpet to confirm that it's relatively flat. Any bumps that remain after the encyclopedia treatment can be glued down fairly easily.
With the turf laying on the platform, roll back a foot or two along one side. Sweep the particle board to clear it of dust. Spread carpet glue evenly on the exposed particle board, then roll the carpet back over. Walk on each inch of the glued-down carpet, then rest the encyclopedias on the surface to ensure that it remains flat while the glue dries. Pay particular attention to what you lay on the carpet. Don't choose anything that can leave impressions (like a Tupperware container, which does not have a flat bottom) or you may find that you'll crush parts of the carpet unevenly.
When the glue has dried, roll up the carpet from the opposite side and spread glue over the next foot or two. Roll the carpet down over the glued area and pull it snug. Walk on each inch and move the books to the newly glued area. Repeat this process until the entire carpet has been glued down, foot by foot. I used the cross-beam lines and screws (spaced every 16") as my guide.
Step 8: Trim the Carpet and Cut out the Holes
Take a carpet knife and cut along the edges of the platform to remove the extra carpet. You may find it easier to cut the bottom of the carpet instead of cutting through the "grass" on top. If you've glued right to the edge, this step is pretty easy. Angle the blade slightly inward - towards the wood - to help you cut in a straight line.
If you've marked the locations of your holes - or have a good idea where they are - locating them will be easy. Take a pin or a small nail and push it through the turf near to where you suspect the holes to be. If you strike particle board, well, your hole ain't there.
Carefully cut your holes out with the carpet knife, being particularly careful not to lift up on the carpet surrounding the edge of the cup. (Should you do so, carefully re-apply some glue.) I cut the lines across the center of the circle, like you'd cut a pie, and then cut out each "piece" of the pie. Cut a smooth circle, using the plastic of the cup as your guide. The turf is glued down, so take your time.
You may have some straggling strands of grass hanging over the lip of your cup (as seen above). Slice them off as well if they disturb you.
Step 9: The Bumper Rail
The final step: installing a bumper rail around the outside. The bumper rail will prevent the ball from falling off the edge if you putt past the holes. Bumper rails should be low enough that you can putt from near the edge without smacking the rail on your backstroke.
I chose ¾" PVC pipe. 10-foot lengths cost $1.09 at Home Depot and 90° elbows cost $0.19 each for a total cost of about $5. You may wish to install wooden borders (quarter-rounds work well), a small fence, or to otherwise decorate the perimeter of your putting green.
If you go the PVC pipe route, cut the pipes to length (a little under eight feet) with a hacksaw. Fit the pipes into the elbows and lay the assembled bumper rail on the putting green to make sure that it's properly sized and square. Drill a pilot hole through the elbows and nail them to 2x8s. I also chose to nail the middle of each pipe as it had a tendency to bow upwards just a bit.
The nice thing about the PVC pipe approach is that the two-foot scrap pieces can be used to create alignment aids. Here I've stuck two long pieces and one shorter piece in a t-bar and used two other longer pieces to create a putting track and a foot alignment aid.
Step 10: C'est Finis!
That's it! You're done! Congratulations! Putt away, my friends, and enjoy!
There are any number of customizations you can add to your putting green. Here are just a few:
- Add a method - whether it's as basic as stacking bricks under one side or as complex as using a jack - to raise and lower at least one side of the green. This allows you to alter the break of your green.
- Decorate the sides of your putting green with artwork, paint, stain, or something creative. If you like bling bling, chrome it!
- Put nails or eye-hooks in certain places, then attach string. You've got a built-in way of providing a visual clue for the line. See our previous tip for more on this.
- Drill a few holes, put some nails through spare blocks of wood, and you can create a little bumper golf course that can be removed easily.
Get creative! See what you can come up with, and post your ideas in our comments (below). That's all we've got time for now, but we hope you enjoy your putting green as much as we have enjoyed building and using ours.