Artificial putting surface provides outdoor centerpiece

With its elevated position providing a towering vista over the water, the putting green could be somewhere in coastal California, or maybe somewhere in Ireland or even Scotland, the birthplace of the sport of golf.

In reality, it’s right on the shoreline of West Lake Okoboji. An artificial putting green perched up high above the water in the backyard of Aaron Jones, broker/owner of RE/MAX Lakes Realty.

The putting green edges right up to a sleek and modern patio with an outdoor fire pit and plenty of comfortable seating to help soak in that sunset over the water. And maybe to heckle a friend or family member as they try to sink a 10-foot putt sloping toward the drop-off.

Jones provided us with some insight as to the decision to go with an artificial surface and what he enjoys most about his own outdoor space in the Iowa Great Lakes in the following Q&A.

First, let’s go over a bit of the background of the home and location.

It was purchased from the Bernau Family in 2018, but many locals would recognize the property as the Jerry Jewett home of Jewett Lumber. I did not know the Jewett family, but as I understand, they were very well liked and Jerry and his wife were definitely characters around the Okoboji scene. When we added on and remodeled starting in 2018, we really felt it was important to keep as much of the Jewett nostalgia as possible, while still adding our own flair. We removed the breezeway and the garage roof, and added on and out toward the lake. Having 108 feet of lakeshore was key in giving us the opportunity to accomplish this. We also performed an extensive lakeshore bank rehab and added a motorized trolley to offset the 70-some steps to the lake.

What were the initial plans for the outdoor space?

The original cottage was built in 1947 according to the county assessor. The initial phase of the planning for the addition and lakeside space was actually quite challenging because, believe it or not, the main sewer line actually is located on the lakeside of the home. Though our original plans needed to shrink up a bit because of the sewer line, we were able to work with the sanitation district to get plans approved and get approval for the outdoor patio space. The only thing that changed from our original plan to the final product is the fact that we decided to add the putting green and turf rather than sod.

What was the thought process behind going with the artificial surface?

We had originally decided to go with sod and keep it fairly simple. But one day, Lance Evans and I got to talking about his family’s new company, Intelligent Turf and Greens, an exclusive partner with Celebrity Greens. Celebrity Greens is known nationwide for being one of the best artificial green and turf companies out there. Anybody that watches golf would likely recognize the name Celebrity Greens as being the company who specializes in PGA-caliber synthetic golf greens and their clients include many PGA Tour players, Top 100 golf instructors, celebrities and sports figures who want and expect the best. Lance mentioned how awesome he thought it would be for our lakeside to be a model for other homes in the Iowa Great Lakes and I couldn’t have agreed more. We were faced with some challenges, however, because this was a new concept for the city of Okoboji and their Low Impact Development requirements. Ryan Brown of Brown Landscaping, lead installer for Intelligent Turf and Greens, worked diligently with Jacobson-Westergard’s engineer Jeff Rose to review the physical and drainage properties of the turf, to make sure that the installation would be as environmentally friendly toward Okoboji’s LID requirements and after much work by both parties, we had a satisfactory solution that will likely be a model for other installations. Added benefits of the turf and green is that they are treated to be pet friendly and help keep the bugs at bay, which can be a big deal, especially on the lake. Being able to let our dog out to do her business and not have to worry about muddy paws when she comes back in is actually quite a big deal for us, so we could not be more thrilled with the final product.

What are some of the unique benefits and challenges of having such an elevated shoreline?

We decided to invest in a trolley and that really solved the main challenge of getting up and down the hill. Additionally, riding the trolley up and down gives one time to just sit out and look at the lake and provides the opportunity for some really incredible views up and down the lake, either from the trolley or the patio area. As part of the bank rehab we were very fortunate to be put in touch with State Representative and conservation expert John Wills. The state was offering assistance to those property owners who had a high risk of erosion. They had a very detailed program laid out where we cleaned the bank and hydroseeded the bank with natural grasses and flowers that take deep root in the shoreline with the long term goal of not only stabilizing the shoreline, but also beautifying it as well. The process takes years, so we are looking forward to the results for sure.

What are the other highlights of the home’s outdoor spaces?

All of the lighting, shades, and music are part of our smart home system, so we can control all of those things with our phones, so if we are boating home at night we can turn on our outdoor lighting from the boat and raise the shades. Even if we are putting or just hanging out on the patio, it’s a pretty sweet feature. Speaking of the patio, Mat Hanson, owner of Blue Water Prairie Landscape & Design did a great job last fall with our cement patio and walkway that runs the length of the house. He also provided us with the natural gas fire pit that is the perfect highlight to a night of hanging out on the patio. We have awesome neighbors on both sides of us that have also invested tremendously in their outdoor spaces, so that’s a real bonus, when you have neighbors that care as much as you do about having an attractive outdoor space.

What is your favorite part of your outdoor space and why?

Unquestionably, the favorite part of our outdoor space is the green. It gives our friends’ kids something to do while we grill and hang out on the patio. But it’s not only for the little kids. The big kids are using it, too, and there may or may not be a little wagering going on. The putts are extremely challenging and a ton of fun.