- On the one hand, they aren't much fun to hit off of, since they have little or no "give." They're hard, in other words, at impact. You can't hit down through the ball with an iron, as you would off real turf, because the club bounces up off the mat. And that's hard on the hands, wrists and shoulders. Plus, studies have shown that continual play over time on artificial turf golf mats can change the loft of your irons, making them a few degrees more upright.
- But on the other hand, mats are what keep many driving ranges in business, where growing and maintaining real grass would just be too expensive. Besides, most of us can't fashion a fairway in our front yards; a personal piece of artificial turf in the backyard, garage or even the living room is a way that many golfers get in practice time that would otherwise be unavailable.
Well, a new product aims to do just that, and it's the golf mat. Make that THE Golf Mat, its simple but effective name. (We'll be calling it The Golf Mat - rather than THE Golf Mat - hereafter, but the upper-case "THE" is how the company spells it.) The Golf Mat is an artificial turf mat that promises to reproduce the feeling of "give" that you get when taking a divot on a well-struck iron shot from a real fairway.
And it pretty much fulfills that promise. After using The Golf Mat ourselves, we'll say this: It's an exponential improvement over the traditional artificial golf mats.
The Golf Mat is made by a company called National Golf Products. The product itself is very simple in appearance. You'll immediately recognize it for what it: you know, a golf mat. It's a strip of artificial turf surrounded by a black border that includes a slot at top (the side farthest from the golfer at setup) and bottom where extra golf balls can sit; there's a tee near the top of the mat.
And a golf mat that has real "give" to it is a big improvement on traditional synthetic mats.
Look at The Golf Mat from the side and you'll notice that the hitting area is very slightly raised. The artificial turf is on top of a springloaded polymer-filament board. You can press on it with your hand or foot to see that it depresses, then springs back into place.
So when you use The Golf Mat on an iron shot, your club can - as it should on a properly struck iron shot - make contact with the ball first, then continue downward, next striking the surface of The Golf Mat. And because of that springboard construction, The Golf Mat gives, allowing the iron to reach the bottom of the swing.
It's a full golf swing - no iron bouncing up hard after hitting the surface.
Does it feel identical to hitting from a real fairway and taking a divot? No. I suspect the makers of synthetic mats are still a long way away from that. But it feels much better - much more like the real thing - than traditional artificial turf practice mats.
And the shock taken by your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders is significantly less with The Golf Mat. Hit off a traditional mat, then The Golf Mat, and the difference in feel is huge.
So, are there any drawbacks to The Golf Mat? Depending on your budget, price might be one. Some of the cheaper traditional artificial turf mats - the kind you might buy to keep in the garage - can be had for $20, maybe less if you keep an eye out for sales. The Golf Mat packages start at $199. Do you get what you pay for? I think you do. It's a next-generation product that is vastly superior to the current generation practice mats. And the manufacturer claims each mat's life expectancy is around 200,000 shots.
Most will find The Golf Mat easily transportable, but it is heavy, and that might matter to some individuals.