Celebrities build full-fledged golf complexes in their gardens. Here’s how they do it



CNN

What do Mark Wahlberg, Cindy Crawford, DJ Khaled and Josh Allen have in common? Everyone liked the golf enough to take it home with them.

From putting greens and par-three holes to full-fledged replica courses, the sport is increasingly making its way into gardens and backyards as golf enthusiasts of all levels seek to shorten their travel time to the tee.

And if it’s in a home in the US, there’s a decent chance the piece was sculpted and built by Back Nine Greens, an artificial turf installation company based in Southern California.

Established in 1997, the firm says it has built over 10,000 projects over 26 years, with the aforementioned quartet heading up a star-studded clientele that has helped the business branch out from headquarters in Palm Desert to a network of locations across the country.

Business is booming through the Covid-19 pandemic, with homebound golfers desperate to keep playing, but despite the company’s name, golf isn’t the dominant revenue stream for Back Nine Greens — it’s grass.

Artificial lawns offer a lower-maintenance alternative to the real deal, which is more vulnerable to weather and requires regular attention. Clearing away leaves or other debris, synthetic turf requires relatively little maintenance and does not need to be watered, a potential deal-sealer in hot spots where the company operates frequently. California in particular is especially prone to drought, with state officials encouraging its citizens to reduce water use.

As a result of the demand, Back Nine Greens’ specialties have expanded from backyards to offices, playgrounds, pickleball courts and more. Yet golf remains his signature style.

“People are looking for the art of golf. They don’t know it, but they are,” explained Back Nine Greens founder and president Dominic Nappi, who claims to be the first in the nation to use white grass instead of sand to create bunkers.

“If we’re watching the British Open or The Masters, we’re in the house looking at the backyard – if you could see it, what would you like it to look like?” he added.

“These are beautiful works of art the way I see them, and they want to buy that art.”

Like fine art, it has a price. The cost of a generic artificial green, without bunkers, starts between $15 and $25 per square foot. With some designs spanning entire lawns—Tim Venturi, son of golf club owner Ken Venturi, had a 12,000-square-foot putting green installed at his home—the largest can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Costs can be affected by the condition of the chosen terrain, with areas littered with trees, rocks and other obstacles requiring additional work before construction can begin. Yet the “number one factor” that can drive up prices for larger vegetables, Nappi explains, is — ironically — drainage.

Although they don’t require watering, greens sculpted in areas prone to heavy rain — like Florida or Georgia — pose the threat of standing water that can lead to mold and ruin the playing experience.

The latter is a no-go because while aesthetics are key, playability is the ultimate goal.

“You can make it look pretty and beautiful and they’ll like it, but it better play right,” Nappi said. “That’s the beauty of it all, you can deliver both.”

Putting greens are tailored to fit the specifications of the buyer's backyard.

And for his most famous clients, that delivery comes with added pressure.

Hired in 2013 to build a five-hole paradise for Hollywood actor Wahlberg at his sprawling 30,500-foot Beverly Park estate — a property that sold for $87.5 million in April 2022, according to the Los Angeles Times — Nappy spent three nights locked upstairs in a hotel room, trapped by sketching designs only to scrape them up and throw them in the bin.

After enlisting the support of Tim Jackson — co-founder of the Jackson Kahn golf course design firm that sculpted Scottsdale National in Arizona — Nappi designed a 120-yard short-game complex for the movie star, complete with rolling hills and multiple teeing grounds. throwing.

“It turned out to be the coolest — and hardest — job I’ve ever done,” Nappi said. “There is no better green in the nation than this. That’s pretty gross.”

Other highlight projects include a putting green for Crawford and her husband, Rande Gerber, at their Malibu home, another for Bills quarterback Allen at his new home in Buffalo – completed with bunkers that light up when he pulls into the driveway — and a sprawling compound to house music producer DJ Khaled at his Miami Beach mansion.

Sometimes customers demand something a little more bespoke. Back Nine Greens was called in to improve golf broadcaster Jim Nantz’s garden replica of Pebble Beach’s iconic seventh hole — at half its original scale.

The par-three seventh has special meaning for Nantz, who married his wife, Courtney Richards, in 2012. A host of famous names, including legendary golf duo Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, have played the garden replica named after those who have made a hole-in-one. one – like Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Tony Romo – engraved on the nearby Rock of Fame.

Numerous other celebrities have attempted to transport some of the world’s most famous holes onto their properties. Dubbed “the world’s greatest backyard” by the Wall Street Journal in 2012, American golf coach and former NASA employee Dave Peltz’s garden in Austin, Texas, is a short game paradise. The two-and-a-half-acre site, sculpted by SYNLawn, boasts replicas of the 17 holes at Pebble Beach and TPC Sawgrass (the “Island Hole”), as well as Augusta National’s legendary par-three 12th.

Copies of the latter two are also on Welsh football icon Gareth Bale’s property in Glamorgan, South Wales. The former Real Madrid star — long known for his golf skills — also has a replica of Royal Troon’s “postage stamp” 8th hole. The three-hole course was built by UK-based Southwest Greens Construction.

Not surprisingly, perhaps the most famous golfer of them all also has his own practice retreat. Tiger Woods partnered with his own firm, TGR Design, to oversee the construction of a 3.5-acre backyard practice facility when he moved into a Jupiter Island, Florida, estate in 2010, complete with four putting greens and a row of bunkers .

Yet for Nappi, perhaps his most heartfelt project was for a buyer without celebrity status: a 63-yard par-three garden for an amateur golfer in South Dakota. A month after construction, the client won their local club tournament in a closest-to-the-hole competition after a tie.

The distance of the shot? Just short of 63 yards.

“He had hit hundreds of balls [in his garden] and just said, ‘I wanted it,'” Nappi recalled.

“It gave me goosebumps when I realized that on replay he made that shot from that distance. This is great.”

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