When David Brooks began hunting for ways to squeeze in more golf practice time, he looked up—to the roof deck on his Upper West Side apartment. It already had a hot tub and 360-degree views of Manhattan. What he added: one of the finest rooftop putting greens in all of New York City (pictured above).
Designed and built by Michael Lehrer of Home Green Advantage, Brooks' putting surface isn't a glorified mini-golf course. "For me it was most important to groove my stroke for lag putting because I struggle on faster greens," says Brooks, a 13-handicapper. Offering a variety of breaking putts over 15 feet and clocking in at 11 on the Stimpmeter, it has already helped him on actual greens.
“Now that the weather is nice, [I’m up here] probably four to five times a week.”
How often does he get up there? "Not enough," says Brooks, general counsel for one of New York's premier investment firms, "but now that the weather is nice, probably four to five times a week." With three holes, two cuts of rough, a chipping "island" and a ridge Brooks helped to design, we can't blame him for wanting to spend more time up there.
There's no official stat for rooftop greens in New York City, but Demetro Carbone of Southwest Greens of Metro New York puts the overall number at about 500, with demand on the rise. Five years ago his company installed three to five a year, he says. Now it's more like 12 to 15. Home Green Advantage figures it has built about 20, typically charging $15,000 to $20,000 for a three-hole rooftop setup.
Just a few miles south of Brooks, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, a prominent real-estate developer invited Golf Digest to photograph his putting paradise (below), also designed and built by HGA.
Though the owner asked that we not use his name, he's clearly proud of his rooftop putting green. Abutting a private garden, kitchen and hot tub and featuring stunning views of the Empire State Building, it's a respite from city life and a serious training aid. "I belong to Deepdale Golf Club, Friar's Head, and Atlantic Golf Club," the owner says, "so I wanted the speed of the green to be fast to replicate the conditions at those courses."
He adds, "It has turned into more than just a putting green. It's become a play area for my son ... which is secretly how I planned to get him interested in golf all along."
These putting surfaces are considered landscaping, so special permits to install them aren't usually required. But you do have to consider New York drainage regulations, and sometimes they require safety netting. The last thing you want is a stray putt bounding 20 floors down onto pedestrians.
Once the green is built, the challenge becomes protecting it against New York City's patented grime. Lehrer suggests regularly using a blower or even a vacuum to remove debris and then having the installer come back for a thorough brushing and cleaning every other year.
"But the turf is weather-proof," he adds, "so the greens definitely don't have to be covered in the winter."