By Carl Mickelson :: Photography courtesy of Dave Pelz SYNScapes
Eddie Pelz stares intently as his dad’s high-arcing flop shot carries the front-left bunker of a green meticulously patterned after the treacherous 14th at Pebble Beach. Eddie’s ball is sitting pretty, just five feet past a tightly-tucked pin. Dave Pelz’s ball, though, lands soft then takes two rabbit hops and sticks a foot from the pin. Eddie can only laugh, realizing the perils of challenging the man some say “invented” the short game in (literally) his own backyard.
Spend a little time with this Austin-based father-son duo and you’ll quickly gather they both genuinely love golf: playing the game, teaching it, studying it and talking about it. What might surprise is they care a lot more about YOUR scores than their own. “Just imagine how good a wedge player a golfer could become if they had (a good place to practice) in the backyard, Eddie,” says the elder Pelz, who has coached 10 professionals to 20 major wins, written two of the best-selling golf instruction books in history and dedicated the last 40 years to “understanding the game better so I can I teach it more simply.”
The green modeled after #14 at Pebble Beach is just one awe-inspiring golf feature in Dave’s private paradise, a setting called “The World’s Greatest Backyard (for a Golfer)” by the Wall Street Journal. The now-famous, nearly-three-acre backyard complex also features tributes to the 17th at Pebble Beach, the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass, the 12th and 13th at Augusta National and the Road Hole at St. Andrews in addition to purpose-built target greens and several specially-designed putting stations. The short-game facility is “wall-to-wall” with SYNLawn synthetic turf that never requires watering or mowing, and that features a special patent-pending ShotStopper underlayment, allowing the putting surfaces to receive shots like real bent- and Bermuda grass greens.
For the former NASA physicist turned short game guru, this golfer’s wonderland isn’t just a place to play. To Dave, it’s his “laboratory,” a place he can research golf shots, teach players and easily engage in his quest to find out just how good a golfer can become. “How much do you think you could improve your handicap if you got up every morning and practiced for an hour with good feedback?”
In the synthetic turf industry, that “good feedback” hasn’t always been a given. When Dave and Eddie began working with SYNLawn Golf (the leading manufacturer and installer of synthetic turf) in 2009, they only agreed to get involved if they could be instrumental in making sure all of the company’s backyard green installations gave their owners greens and hitting areas that bounced, rolled, behaved and looked like real golf course conditions. In the past six years, the Pelz team has helped SYNLawn put industry-leading best practices in place for installations that look and perform uncannily like real grass golf greens and hitting surfaces.
Three years ago, after photos and videos of Pelz’s backyard went viral on the web and people began asking what they could do to get quality putting greens in their yards, Eddie launched an Austin-San Antonio branch of SYNLawn, called Dave Pelz SYNScapes, and has seen the business grow each of the years since the launch.
“People are water conscious in Central Texas. We’re kind of a problem solver for a lot of home and business owners who want a beautiful, sustainable outdoor space they can enjoy year-round,” Eddie says.
For Eddie’s golfing clients, working with a Pelz is a chance to get creative and ensure the green designs provide quality practice conditions. “We started Dave Pelz SYNScapes to give people the best installations on the most realistic, true-to-real-golf surfaces so they could have the best practice experiences. It’s got to be true to what golfers see on the course,” Eddie says. “We’ve been amazed at the kind of jobs we’ve been able to do, from simple greens to full golf holes, rooftop jobs and custom-designed indoor learning centers like the facility we installed for the University of Arkansas golf teams. There really aren’t many limits to what we can do and with each installation we increase access to the great game of golf — for the whole family.”
When Cordillera Ranch’s C-Star members visited the Pelz backyard this past fall for a Member-Guest outing, there were more than a few dropped jaws and cell phones popping out to capture the panoramic scale and creative design Dave and Eddie built with the Dave Pelz SYNScapes team. Pelz designed a series of special skill-oriented games to allow the group to see the entire property. “I couldn’t believe how well nearly 100 people fit into the space with very little crowding. It was a fun group to get to know and there were quite a few good wedge players!” Dave says.
Dave and Eddie are often asked “What does it take to get something like this built?” The price tag remains undisclosed and the construction took nearly two years, but the expertise the Dave Pelz SYNScapes team developed in the process now goes into every installation they do.
“What I did with SYNLawn in my yard certainly goes to the extreme. It’s my dream home and a dream come true to be able to hit shots any time I want to my favorite greens in golf. But, I did this to show people what’s possible,” Dave says. “People can take elements of what’s here and apply to their personal spaces — no matter how small. If you’re hitting an eight-foot putt on a good realistic surface, you’re accessing golf and you’re going to improve. We just want golfers to improve and there’s no better or more fun way to do that than improving your putting and short game.”
For more information about the innovative golf and landscaping projects Dave Pelz SYNScapes has done or can do, please visit www.davepelzsynscapes.com and check out “Facebook: Dave Pelz Synscapes” for photos of recent installations.