Golf at home in Armonk
By my very rough calculations, one guy has built more golf greens in Westchester and the Hudson Valley than the legendary golf architect A.W. Tillinghast. He’s Michael Lehrer, owner of Home Green Advantage, who has designed and constructed more than 350 greens—and full holes—on sites ranging from high rise rooftops in Manhattan to private homes in Westchester and Fairfield counties.
Lehrer’s greens are different from Tilly’s, though—you don’t need to mow or fertilize them. That’s a major advantage for a homeowner who’s more interested in grooving a smooth putting stroke than pampering a hypersensitive lawn.
Game improvement was the idea when David Leibowitz had Lehrer design and build a par 3 hole for him at his home in Chappaqua. “It helped my game a lot,” Leibowitz says. “Anytime you can do something for your short game, it helps your score. When you can work on it at home, it’s even better.”
Lehrer built a 1600 sq. ft. green for Leibowitz with a natural grass fairway, two tees, two traps, and five cups. One tee plays 125 yards, the other about 85. When he hits a full shot into it, Leibowitz says, “It holds about 95% as much as a real green.” The green has multiple breaks and definite grain and the longest putt is 40 feet. Leibowitz says his friends love it. “You don’t even have to play golf to like it,” he says. “It’s like Tiger Woods’ swing—even a non-golfer can appreciate the beauty of it.”
Lehrer, a graduate of Scarsdale High, started the business in 1996. He’d had a successful career as a CPA but got hooked on golf when he moved to Armonk. “I noticed my property had a perfect location for a nice elevated green, so I decided to build one,” he explains. “When I finished, other people started asking me to build greens for them.”
One thing led to another and today Home Green Advantage installs everything from indoor putting greens to multiple-hole courses for home owners. They’ve also built practice greens and tee lines for dozens of area clubs including Baltusrol, Old Oaks, and Quaker Ridge.
Private homes are where Lehrer really shines, though. Each hole is custom-designed to play from multiple angles—a design problem Tillinghast didn’t face. “We don’t have 300 acres like a full golf courses,” Lehrer says. “I often work with as little as a half acre, which is enough to give you tee shots from 70 to 120 yards. But to have a green that plays from 180 degrees is quite tricky because you can’t push up berms or tilt the green to accommodate one approach if they block the view for another approach. You have to present logical tiers on the green and other features that are esthetically pleasing and playable from many different angles.”
“Multiple holes are a challenge, too, since I try to maximize different tee shots from different places. You have to think things through to give the golfer the most fun.”
Simple greens that are used for nothing more than putting and short chip shots use nylon “turf” designed to allow the ball to roll naturally. They’re often installed indoors as well as on rooftops or decks and can have undulations and breaks built into them to more accurately replicate the challenges of reading the putt as well as stroking it.
For golfers who want to hit a pitch shot into the green outdoors, Lehrer uses a different type of surface composed of nylon fibers filled with particles of silica and ground rubber. When the ball lands, it reacts much like it does when landing on a natural green—even backing up if you’ve got enough skill to put backspin on your shot. A big advantage, though, is you’ll never have to fix a ball mark.
Bunkers are an option, too. Remember, though, that golf courses have maintenance people who touch up the sand every day. Bunkers have to be raked—and grass edges have to be kept cut back and weeded.
A small green—about 400 sq. ft.—will run around $7,500, Lehrer says. Maintenance is a once-a-year affair costing a few hundred dollars. “If it has fairly good light and air circulation, all we have to do is brush out any dirt that might have gotten into the surface, add silica to bring it back to proper level, brush it, then re-roll it.”
Leibowitz believes his green is more than just an investment in winning more skins from his buddies at Metropolis. “They say when you put in a swimming pool, you lose fifty cents of every dollar it costs in the value of your property,” he says. “I’m guessing a home green really adds value. It’s the ‘wow’ factor. It turns your property into something spectacular.”