The cost of using a driving range can add up for an avid golfer. At Big Cedar in Missouri, access to the driving range is $25 per person (3/2021) and the virtual golf simulator is $40 an hour. St. Andrews Golf in Illinois charges up to $26 per bucket of balls. If you’re using the driving range once a week, it quickly adds up.
Save money and build your own homemade driving range in your backyard. Depending on your acreage, you can make a larger range in a larger space or go with the recommended minimum of 20 by 30 feet. With a frame and the right type of tarp for a driving range backstop, you’ll have a durable backstop completed within a few hours and not have spent more than a couple hundred.
Choose the Right Materials
Before you get started, figure out the best materials for your backstop. If you don’t have brutally cold temperatures, PVC piping may work well. You’d want two tall posts, elbows, and a top bar. If you live in a climate where the temperatures get cold enough, the PVC may crack if it’s hit on a very cold day. Sun can also weaken the plastic slightly over time.
Metal is a good choice for the outside environment, but it may rust over time if it’s exposed to a lot of rain. You’d want a metal like a flag pole. Make sure on cold days that no one touches it and becomes stuck to the icy metal. Like the PVC frame, you’d want two posts, elbows, and a bar across the top.
This leaves wood posts and beams. You could also look at the alternative wood-like planks that are made from recycled plastic. Cedar will stand up to the weather and any insects that may want to call the wood beams home. Plastic boards also don’t rot or attract insects. Wood is far heavier than PVC though. With wood, you could secure two posts and attach a bar across the top.
If you’re using wood, there’s one more supply you’d need. You have to have wood screws and metal braces to secure the pieces of wood together. Wood glue may also be useful at helping hold everything until the screws are in place.
You want your tarp that will serve as the golf ball backstop. Make sure you get a tarp that is slightly too large for your frame. You want several inches of excess where the net meets the ground.
Do you plan to practice at night? If there’s no electrical lighting nearby, look into solar lighting that you can stake into the ground or attack to the posts. That helps illuminate the area after the sun goes down.
Choose the Right Location
You want the homemade backstop to be as far away from breakable items as possible. If you put it in front of the back of your house and a golf ball curves too far, you could break a window. If you put it near a driveway, you could break a car window. Always think of what’s nearby if a golf ball is errant.
When possible, position it as far away from houses, sheds, garages, and cars. If your home is backed by woods, place the backstop so that the woods are behind it. If a ball does go the wrong way, you may hit a tree or lose the ball in the woods. That’s better than smashing someone’s window or an outside light fixture.
How to Build the Backstop
You have the materials. Securing the homemade driving range backstop into the ground is important. A PVC frame could be disassembled and brought in during the winter if you wanted. Metal and wood are more likely to become permanent fixtures. Dig holes, use concrete to secure the posts into the ground, and let the concrete set.
Start by digging your holes. If the backstop is permanent, fill them with concrete. If you don’t want to carry a heavy bag of concrete look at products like Fast 2K that is an alternative concrete product you mix in a bag for 30 seconds before pouring it.
It expands to fill the hole, is waterproof, and keeps water from getting to the base of the metal or wood post. Plus, you can use the polymer alternative in temperatures of -20 to 100 degrees F.
While your concrete or polymer sets, use a nylon cord and an anchor to hold the post straight up. On a PVC frame that you plan to move in for the winter, you’ll want to leave the cords and anchors in place for the summer. Make sure they’re in an out-of-the-way location that people won’t trip over.
You want the frame to be a large rectangle. Use nylon rope to secure the grommets to the frame. You could use bungee cords, but make sure they won’t get wet and start to rot over time. Ideally, you want waterproof cords that also withstand the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
To weigh down the bottom of the tarp to the ground, get a few sandbags. Place them on the bottom of the tarp to hold it in place. By weighing down the bottom of the tarp, you keep any balls from slipping under the net. If they’re all in the tarp, you don’t have to search for your balls. They’re in one confined area.
The Best Tarps for Golf Backstops
You have the frame in place. Now, you need your tarp that will catch the balls.
When choosing a tarp for your backstop, you want something waterproof, lightweight, and durable. It also needs to withstand the sun. If air can’t pass through it, it may impact your ball’s path. Mesh tarps that are often used for privacy screening are ideal as they allow air to pass, but they’re tough and waterproof.
The best tarp for your driving range backstop is vinyl-coated color mesh. Choose the color (black or multi) you want for your backstop and order the right size. Chicago Canvas offers this mesh tarp in sizes of up to 10 by 18 feet. If you need something even larger, ask for a custom size.
Grommets on vinyl coated color mesh tarps are placed every 2 feet, which is ideal and keeps the tarp secure to your frame. Seams are also heat sealed for strength. The benefit to a mesh tarp is that wind can pass through it, which helps resist rips and tears. It’s also vinyl-coated, which makes it waterproof.
You need a green to drive the balls from. You want to clear a flat surface somewhere in front of the backstop. Level the ground with sand and install a turf mat. That way, if your swing is too low, you won’t leave divots on your lawn. Look for artificial turf that works with your preferred tee so that you get the most of your backyard practice.
Once your driving range backstop is in place, use your driving range as often as you’d like. You don’t have to get into the car and drive miles or hours to the nearest driving range. You’ll have an affordable driving range you can walk to.
Call Chicago Canvas with your desired measurements and let us make a sturdy custom-size tarp for your homemade golf backstop. We can also help you find braided utility rope or other tarp tie-downs.