Three neighbors build putting greens in their backyards
JANESVILLE It's a golfer's ultimate backyard toy.
Imagine walking out of the house with a wedge and a Scotty Cameron in hand to pitch and putt on your own putting green.
East side Janesville neighbors Darrin Ott, Mark Stuckey and Victor Herbst all built putting greens in their backyards, and together they share the joys of golf and over-the-top yard work.
The greens had humble beginnings.
"At first, it was just normal grass that we mowed short," Ott said.
The biggest setback was a gas pipeline project that ran through their backyards and wiped out the budding mini golf course, but they rebuilt.
The threesome took the project up a notch, building a proper foundation and planting bent grass.
"We put in two greens in a weekend and a third one after that," Ott said. "It's not like a golf course where they put in drain tiles. We threw seed on them and watered the heck out of them.''
They used regular lawn equipment to start but eventually bought used specialty equipment, including a machine with small knife-like blades for top dressing. Jeff Rottier, course superintendent at the Janesville Country Club, provided the expert advice.
"If it wasn't for Jeff's cocktail, that really helped our greens come in," Herbst said of Rottier's mixture of ingredients.
"It's not so much fertilizer," Rottier said of his mix. "It's like a sunscreen made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. You find it in Banana Boat sunscreen.''
The threesome usually spends a day a week on cutting and maintenance.
"You have to be pretty dedicated," Rottier said. "It's all the work of a garden and then some.''
The backyard greens are cut to 3/8 of an inch, as opposed to the country club greens that are shaved to 1/10th of an inch.
The threesome is looking to cut the greens shorter next spring, which would make them roll like professional putting surfaces.
The shorter the grass, the more work to keep the grass healthy and prevent fungus and disease.
"By next year, we will be able to mow them down," Stuckey said. "But when you go shorter, you open another can of worms."
With all of their work, there should be rewards, but as with the development of a mature putting surface, the returns of better golf come slowly.
"I use (the green) as a target for chipping," Otte said. "I don't do a lot of putting.''
Herbst, a teacher and varsity baseball coach at Craig High, said his time in limited.
"I am gone most of the time with school," Herbst said. "I hit a little bit.''
Stuckey, who works for Beloit Memorial Hospital, said his game has not improved by leaps and bounds.
The three may not play a whole lot better golf, but they enjoy the fruits of their labor.
"It's fun," Herbst said.
Ken Veloskey is a sports writer for The Gazette.