Over the years, as someone who grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football, my love for competing in sports became a love of watching them. But while cable television and streaming services are helping lots of people pass days spent sheltering indoors, for sports fans like me, they don’t offer much. A season’s worth of events, from college basketball’s Final Four, to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, to golf’s The Masters, got canceled faster than dominoes fall, and it looks like many of those sports won’t be returning to stadiums (or airwaves) anytime soon. There’s talk that golf — one of the more socially distant sports and the only one I still play regularly — will resume professional competitions in June, but a date when amateur players like me can return to courses remains uncertain.
With few sports to watch — reruns are never as exciting, and the pretaped, pro-cornhole games some networks have been airing can only keep your attention for so long — I decided to buy an indoor putting mat I could use to work on my golf game until I can return to an actual green. After being barraged by ads for different models on Facebook and Instagram, I did some research (I am the father of a Strategist editor, after all), ultimately choosing Putt-a-Bout’s Par 3 Putting Green for its value and reviews that praised how much it felt like putting on a real green. The mat doesn’t come with a putter or golf balls, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who would use a practice green probably has this stuff in their arsenal.
Once the mat arrived, I grabbed my putter and spent a couple of afternoons practicing. Functionally, it met all my expectations, and its three different holes (or pins) make it kind of like three practice greens in one, since each requires a slightly different approach. But after several hours of using just the mat, I craved more of a challenge. That’s when it hit me: By rearranging a couple of pieces of furniture in my (and most every person’s) living room, I could create a course with unique holes featuring different “hazards” to play around as I tried to sink a ball into one of the mat’s three pins.
I first laid out a dog-leg par two, then, by moving a table here and couch there, made par-three and par-four holes, until I had a nine-hole, par-27 course to play. By playing each hole twice, that became an 18-hole, par-54 course — which, while far from Augusta National, allowed my wife and I to play for hours together on a recent Saturday afternoon. (The blueprint to the left shows how I designed each hole, including which of the mat’s three pins to aim for while playing each.) As the match wore on, we made further tweaks, like adding coasters to demarcate the tee box. By the time we reached the 18th hole and I was lining up my bogey putt, it felt almost like the real thing. The best part: We didn’t lose a single ball.
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