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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 the 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 rating of a rolling ball calling it 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

First, let's think. 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. However, we have another factor here.

The power of friction for a rolling ball is substantially lower than that of a sliding ball. Therefore, a rolling ball will go further than a sliding ball.

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

The stimp rating meter measures a rolling ball distance but does not take into account 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 sometimes stays confused looking at the 11 on a stimp meter but not achieving it with a club. And the stimp meter does not show the speed of a golf ball. The speed cannot be measured if linear ft. The speed is measured as l/t. 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. 

Are you with us on this?

If so, then most articles talking about increasing the "stimp speed" by adding more sand are copies of the articles describing the old technology slit material adjustment process. This has nothing to do with curly surfaces. The ball does not penetrate curly surfaces at all. Backfilling the curly surface with the sand will provide little help unless the surface becomes sandy all the way to the top.

We have not spoken about the materials yet. Let's see how the materials fall into the physics of a long roll. Below we'll lay out the facts, and share the pros and cons of each material and answer the question on the best quality putting green. 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. When you read, see if this makes sense. Now, let's dig into the materials.

Poly vs Nylon Putting Greens

SAND-FILLED Slit Poly Putting Greens

This is the oldest technology putting green, which is generally a compacted sand infill surface stabilized by plastic blades. Blades are rolled at the tops 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 sticking out, creating friction to slow down and soft play the ball.

Polypropylene is essentially just a type of plastic. 

Benefits of Sand-Filled Poly: 

Polypropylene putting greens filled with sand are more affordable than other surfaces. This material is also preferred for large courses with high maintenance as it will be the most durable for the dollar invested. The sand creates a 'beach-like' effect on the newly installed slit putting green, where it absorbs the energy of the golf ball, making it stop rolling. On the older fields, the surface is hard as a rock. Many golfers wish they had a soft pad underneath. 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. Such surfaces are dense without infill. Poly putting green also provides some softness. Compared to slit-putting greens, there is no need to roll the tops for days with a heavy tool. Blades are rolled and curved during production. Sand infill on poly putts is used to hold the material down and provide dimensional stability to reduce wrinkles when hot.

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 up with the sand. Softness and slick surface characteristics come with this material by default. Poly putting green material costs less than nylon and just about the same as slit.

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 shall hypothetically be shorter. When installing, this turf must be stretched. Otherwise, installers have to balance it with turf infill. The more infill applied to short poly, the harder the surface gets.

Nylon Putting Greens

The nylon putting green is essentially similar to Poly putting green. Nylon is a stiff engineering plastic that provides more memory and melts at a much higher temperature than poly. By curling the ends of the fibers, the overall surface texture could be smoother than poly. However, the blades must be thin to achieve this effect. When nylon blades are bold and sticking up, the surface becomes rough and incredibly hard to roll down.

Backyard putting green made of nylon

Benefits of Nylon Putting Greens: 

Nylon is a very durable and long-lasting material, so 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 materials. Nylon is hard to adjust as the blade memory is stronger than poly of 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 quality putting green turf material? The quality and composition are two different things. If nylon putting green costs more, this does not mean that this nylon material is better quality than poly. 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!

putting green cost calculator

What is the best material for artificial Putting green grass with the most realistic golfing experience?

We analyzed and researched some of the most popular articles and tested surfaces ourselves. Yes, we could not test a thousand options, but our tests proved to be more in line with what we are saying in this article rather than a bold statement of preference towards a particular material.

We could not get similar results as stated in a Synlawn thorough review. In our tests nylon was not superior to poly. We are not saying they are wrong, they might be comparing materials of a different texture or composition. Same as you when selecting putting green material for your project.

Another article from Coastalsyntheticturf is stating that polypropylene putting green absorbs more energy. But we think they are talking about slit putting greens, with blades as high as one inch. In our experience, some infilled poly fields are as hard as a rock. They are softer when installed recently. Over time, the sand compacts so well and gets locked with fibers so strong, that the surface acts similar to concrete. 

Same as Pro Lawn stating that polypropylene somehow looks more realistic than nylon. They are talking about slit poly. But when we see slit golf fields, many of them look incredibly fake. And only from the distance slit turf looks realistic to us. This could be a personal perception, same as yours. The roll on a slit poly would be just as good as you prepare and maintain the surface. 

We see why many golfers get confused with material selection. This is a part of the experience of building your desired backyard putting green. This is your baby. Build it just as you like. Trust yourself, your intuition, your liking, and trust a bit the power of physics. Below, we would like to state a few observations that would help you.

To achieve the longest roll, which is considered often the most realistic surface, we recommend looking at the surface of the putting green material. The surface has to be firm, smooth, and coarse. When you touch this putting green material with your hand, you shall move your hand without the discomforting itch but feel the grip. The material that feels abrasive or rough will cause the ball to slow down quickly. The 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 does not hinge on the type of material. Look for the condition of the surface 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. Most pro golfers would insist on nylon materials. 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.

putting green cost calculator


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