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Best Artificial Turf for Putting Greens: Poly vs. Nylon and Slit

Polypropylene vs. Nylon putting green is a large debate among installers and contractors in the turf industry. Which putting green material is best for realistic golf gameplay? Which material provides a longer ball roll and a higher stimp rating?  We'll dig into the physics, compare putting green materials, reveal popular misconceptions, and explain how to select the best putting green. Let's get to it!

What if we told you that the type of plastic used in these materials doesn't necessarily have that much of an effect on the overall play surface? Most golfers are trying to achieve the highest stimp speed of a rolling ball to mimic the most realistic golf course. Let's begin with the physics of a long roll to see how we can get there.

The Physics of a Long roll

What makes the ball roll far? The force of friction is slowing the ball. The lower the force, the longer the ball will roll. Therefore, the rougher the surface, the shorter the distance the ball will roll.

So, for the longest roll, we will need a surface that has just enough grip to make the ball roll, but also with little roughness to help it roll as long as possible.

The stimp rating meter measures the rolling distance but does not reflect a situation when you hit the ball to make it rolling. For example, if your ball is sliding upon the initial impulse, it slows down fast and will begin to roll when the grip is sufficient to make it roll.

This explains why a pro golf player may be confused seeing 11 on a stimp meter but not being able to achieve it with a club. Also, the stimp meter does not show the speed of a golf ball. The speed cannot be measured by linear ft. Yes, there is a correlation between how long the ball rolls and how fast it rolls. However, calling a stimp rating a "stimp speed" meter is incorrect. This alone creates frustrations. 

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Most articles out there talking about increasing the "stimp speed" by adding more sand are  describing old technology and the slit material adjustment process. This has nothing to do with curly surfaces that are used today. The ball does not penetrate curly surfaces at all. Backfilling the curled blades with sand will provide no difference to the stimp speed unless the surface unless you fill the surface with sand all the way to the top.

We haven't even gotten to the materials yet! Let's see how different materials correlate with the physics of a long roll. Below we'll lay out the facts, and share the pros and cons of each material. We'll also share our incites from years of experience in designing and building backyard putting greens, and help you to compare different grasses for putting greens. Now, let's dig into the materials.

Poly vs Nylon Putting Greens

SAND-FILLED Slit Poly Putting Greens

This type of putting green features the oldest technology, which is generally a compacted sand infill surface stabilized by plastic blades. The blades are rolled at the top securing the sand underneath, making the surface hard and smooth. 

All the articles mentioning the connection of the "stimp speed" with the amount of sand are related to this old technology. And it makes total sense, the less sand applied, the more blades will stick out, creating friction to slow down the ball.

Polypropylene is essentially just a type of plastic. 

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Benefits of Sand-Filled Poly: 

Polypropylene putting greens filled with sand are more affordable than other surfaces. This material is preferred for large courses with high maintenance as it will be the most durable for for how cost effective it is. The sand creates a 'beach-like' effect on the slit putting green, where it absorbs the energy of the golf ball, making it stop rolling.

To make this surface feasible to play on today, you'll want to include a soft pad layer so the surface is not so hard. With a soft pad, a slit putting green provides a durable surface with adjustable play.

Downfalls of Sand-Filled Poly: 

Customers have complained that the golf ball wiggles around on this surface when putting. This is from not getting the poly fiber to stand up perfectly straight, which compromises the playability of the putting surface. Sand-filled poly greens are also harder to install right away and require more maintenance. Using large amounts of infill can result in sand clumping, blowing around, or even washing off the green. 

Poly Putting Greens

In recent years, manufacturers have been able to make surfaces with curly fibers that can stand up by themselves mimicking a dense carpet. These surfaces are dense and hold their shape without infill. Poly putting greens also provides a bit of softness. The blades are rolled and curved during production.

The only reason for including sand infill on poly putts is to weigh the material down and provide dimensional stability which will reduce wrinkles when temperature fluctuates.

Outdoor putting green made of poly

Benefits of Poly Putting Greens: 

Poly-putting greens provide a great surface out of the box. They do not require messing with the sand infill levels. Softness and a smooth surface come with this material by default. Poly putting green materials will be comparable in cost to Slit putting green material, but is cheaper than Nylon putting materials. 

Downfalls of Poly Putting Greens: 

Poly fibers are not as strong or durable as Nylon or Slit. For this reason, the lifespan of this type of putting green can be shorter. When installing, this turf must be stretched professionally. Otherwise, installers will have to use more infill to prevent wrinkles which can lead to the surface hardening too much. The more infill applied to short poly, the harder the surface gets.

Nylon Putting Greens

A Nylon putting green is very similar to the look and function of a Poly putting green. Depending on how the fibers are curled, Nylon putting materials can become both smoother and more rough than Poly. It just depends how it was manufactured. However, Nylon is a stiff engineering plastic that provides more durability and melts at a much higher temperature than poly. 

Backyard putting green made of nylon

Benefits of Nylon Putting Greens: 

Nylon is a very durable and long-lasting material. Nylon putting greens will have a longer lifespan, especially when installed in excessive heat environments, such as rooftops, with the risk of magnification. Nylon putting greens also require very little aftercare or maintenance. 

Downfalls of Nylon Putting Greens: 

Nylon putting green materials will cost more than poly and slit materials. Game play on Nylon is hard to adjust as the blade memory is stronger than poly or slit.

What is the best quality Putting green artificial turf material?

Comparing slit to poly and nylon putting greens we often hear this question. What is the best putting green material in terms of quality? Quality and composition are two different things. We determine quality by:

  • Visible defects, such as stripes and raptures
  • Quality of UV inhibitors applied to the putting green turf
  • Consistency of the material
  • Dimensional stability (no wrinkles)

For us, the quality of the putting green has nothing to do with the type of material! However, Nylon materials are known to be the most durable so will resist wear and tear for the longest. 

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What is the best material for artificial Putting green grass That Offers A realistic golfing experience?

We analyzed and researched popular articles and tested different surfaces ourselves. While we can't test thousands of materials, our tests proved to be more in line with our stance in this article: The ball roll will be affected by the texture of the surface, not by the material it's made of. 

We did not have the same results as the Synlawn review. During our testing, nylon was not superior to poly in terms of game play. We are not saying their findings are wrong, but they might be comparing materials of a different texture or composition which will naturally differ. 

Another article from Coastal Synthetic Turf states that polypropylene putting greens absorb more energy. We're assuming they are referring to slit putting greens, with blades as high as one inch. In our experience, infilled slit poly greens can be hard as a rock. Over time, the sand compacts so well and gets locked with fibers so strong, that the surface acts similar to concrete. 

Pro Lawn states that slit polypropylene looks more realistic than nylon. But when we see slit golf fields, many of them look incredibly fake

Because there are so many differing opinions out there, we see why many golfers get confused with material selection. This is a part of the experience of building your desired backyard putting green. Trust yourself, your intuition, your liking, and trust the power of physics. 

Our Professional Opinion:

To achieve the longest roll, we recommend assessing the surface and texture of the putting green samples. The turf should be firm and smooth, but also coarse. When you touch the putting green material, you should be able to move your hand without the discomforting scratchiness but still feel the grip.

Any material that feels abrasive or rough will cause the ball to slow down quickly. Material that is slick will cause the ball to slide and lose control. You can choose either poly, nylon, or carefully pampered slit. Your choice should not be focused on the type of material. Compare the surface conditions instead.

When should I stick to Slit, Poly, or Nylon putting green artificial turf? 

Sand-Filled Slit Poly

A slit poly putting green turf is ideal for large areas because with all the sand weighing it down, it is less likely to buckle or wrinkle over time with temperature fluctuations. This is really the only scenario we'd recommend considering a slit poly surface filled with sand, unless you want to spend more time prepping the surface rather than playing on it.

We typically recommend slit surfaces for large commercial putting green golf field projects.

Poly Putting green 

We'd recommend a poly material for anyone looking to save a bit more on installation, as it will offer similar gameplay as Nylon. However, we are upfront with our clients that poly putting surfaces may not be as long-lasting as Nylon. Yet, many great polypropylene materials provide a great grip and smooth surface out of the box.

Nylon Putting Green

A properly selected nylon putting green material provides durability, softness, and golf ball roll performance. Pro golfers will typically insist that nylon materials are best, and they are in terms of durability. However, we do not think this is critical when you are installing putting green turf in your backyard. We generally recommend nylon putting green materials for commercial projects with high traffic, rooftop patios, and spaces with the risk of magnification.