Introduction: Putting Green W/ Lever-Activated Golf Ball Elevator
These plans are to build a practice putting
green that has an automatic ball return system whether you make the shot or happen to miss. Additionally, there is a lever-activated golf ball elevator system that you can operate with the head of your putter to eject your next ball to putt. The putting green features tall sides to prohibit shots from rolling off the green but can also be used for banking shots if obstacles are placed in front of the hole. There’s a 10” extension off the end to allow for plenty of room for you to stand while putting. This putting green is tons of fun for adults and children alike so have fun building it and then have even more fun playing on it!
Approximate cost: $175-$200 in materials
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Step 1: Tools Needed
NOTE: Underlined tool names indicate alternatives
- Measuring tape
- Combination Square / Speed Square
- Pencil / Marking gauge or knife
- Long Clamps (2’ or longer)
- Short Clamps
- Putty knife
- Notched trowel
- Drill, Driver, & Countersink bits
- 2” Forstner bit
- 9/64” drill bit (for pivot pins)
- Flush-trim saw
- 4” Hole saw bit
- Utility knife
- Vice grips / Pliers or vice
- Framing square
- Miter Saw / Handsaw
- Table Saw
- Band saw / Coping saw & vice
- Power drill
- Power driver / Impact driver
- Jigsaw / Handsaw
- Disc Sander / Sandpaper
- Angle Grinder / Hacksaw
- Trim Router & Roundover bit
- Drill Press / Power Drill
- Circular Saw / Handsaw
- Palm Sander / Sandpaper
Step 2: Materials Needed
- Putter & Golf balls - Duh!
- Quantity 4 of 10’ 2x6
- Quantity 1 of ½” 4x8 Quality Plywood
- Quantity 1 of ½” 4x8 MDF
- CA Glue & Activator
- Wood Glue
- Craft adhesive
- 10’ of 2” PVC pipe
- 2” PVC pipe hangers
- Joint Compound
- Masking tape
- 2.5’ x 8’ Astro Turf
- 1qt of flooring adhesive
- Primer & Paint
- 1 1/8” drywall screws
- 3” decking screws
- 2 3” Nails to use for pivot pins
- 3 small screw hooks
- Rubber bands
- Paint brush & stir sticks
- Adhesive-backed cushion
Step 3: Frame Assembly
1. Cut out all the framework pieces that you’ll need at the miter saw:
- Quantity 2 of 2x6 boards cut at 8’ 1.5”
- Quantity 8 of 2x6 boards cut at 15”
- Quantity 1 of 2x6 board cut at 21”
- Quantity 2 of 2x6 boards cut at 8.5”
- Quantity 12 of 2x6 boards cut at 1.5”
2. Make sure you’re on a level surface and fasten all pieces of the framework together with 3” decking screws. Use the following dimensional drawing as a guide:
3. At this point, you’re safe to glue on the feet. Placement of these feet doesn’t need to be precise and can be rather arbitrary. Refer to the picture below to see where I chose to place the feet if you’d like to take my example. Just glue and clamp on the feet. I’d advise against screwing on these feet since they may be prone to splitting.
Step 4: Ball Return Assembly
1. The first step in building the ball return system is to cut the board used in the “miss trough”. Start off by cutting one of the 2x6 scraps to a length of 15”
2. Next, tilt your table saw blade to roughly 4-5 degrees and cut that angle into one of the edges of the board.
3. Mark the center of the board on the canted edge and from there, measure down ½”.
4. From this point, draw a straight line to the top two opposing corners to form an elongated V-shape.
5. Cut out the V-shape on the band saw referencing the flat edge on the surface of the saw.
6. Sand off any band saw blade marks and smooth things out as best you can.
7. Now cut the angled edge on the other side so that you create a parallelogram profile for the board. Make sure to do it in a way where you’re left with a 3” wide board.
8. Next step is to drill out the two 2” holes in the last two braces of the frame for the balls to roll through as they’re being returned. Locate the center of each brace (should be 7.5”) and drill the first one about 1/8” down from the top. Keep in mind it’s important to drill them at a subtle angle so that there is no risk of a ball stopping in the hole. The next hole should be about 5/8” down from the top edge.
9. Mount the “miss trough” board into the frame and line up the top edge so that it’s just over the bottom edge of the first hole. Before you fasten it with screws, make sure that everything sits flush on the back edges and that golf balls will easily roll from either side to the center and then through the hole.
10. The “drop ramp” comes next. This is a piece of scrap 2x6 that is cut to 11.5”. Wedge it down in between the last two braces so that the top of it is flush with the 2” holes that you previously drilled. Make sure that it’s laterally level and fasten it with screws. Cut two guide rails that are 1”x ½”x 11 5/8” long. Orient them in a way where they will funnel the golf balls into the second hole and glue them down. Refer to the below picture as a guide:
11. Once you’re done constructing the golf ball elevator, you’ll see that the entry hold is 1 3/8” off the ground. That means you need to notch out the braces to accommodate a slanted pipe that starts at your 2nd 2” hold you drilled and ends 1 3/8” off the ground on the far side of the green. To figure out the approximate size of the notches that you’ll need, refer to the picture and table:
Of the six braces to notch, the one nearest the “drop ramp” is the only one that gets notched from the top. All the rest get cut from the bottom. The width of each notch should be 2.5” so find center on each brace (7.5”) and measure out 1 ¼” on either side. Use the table above to measure out the depth each notch needs to be and mark it accordingly. At this point, I found it easiest to tip the framework up on end, use a jigsaw to cut up each of the notch lines, and then use a hammer to bang out the piece. You don’t have to be too precise with these notches because the return pipe gets held in by the hangers, not the notches.
12. With the framework upside down, lay in the PVC return pipe and mark it about 1” out of the frame. This will give you plenty of extra pipe if you factor in the .5” MDF sides that we plan to attach. Cut the PVC pipe at your mark.
13. Flip the framework back over right-side-up with your PVC return pipe in the notches. Use clamps, shims, or whatever means you have to temporarily hold up the PVC return pipe so that it exactly matches up with the “drop ramp” 2” hole as well as exactly 1 3/8” up from the last notch.
14. With the return pipe in just the right position, drop some golf balls into the miss trough and verify that they exit the pipe easily. NOTE: I found that dust and debris might hinder how the balls roll so you might need to vacuum out the pipe.
15. At this point, you’re all set to fasten the pipe hangers onto your return pipe and secure it to the braces. Depending on the style of pipe hangers that you’ve gotten (some clip on, some wrap around, etc.), add them to the return pipe and screw them on either side of the braces in alternating fashions (one pulling the pipe to the right, the next pulling the pipe to the left).
Step 5: Surf(ace) & Turf
1. For the Surface, we need to cut down our ½” plywood. There are 2 pieces that you need and you can easily get them from a single sheet of 4x8 plywood.
- 6’ 1.5” x 1.5’
- 1’9” x 2’ 4”
This will leave you with quite a bit of left over plywood, but you will need more ½” plywood for some of the pieces in the golf ball elevator in later steps. If it’s more convenient for you, have the home center cut the sheet for you. It sure makes for easier transportation.
2. For the Astro Turf, I simply purchased 2.5’ x 8’ of cheap turf from the home center. It was only $15 to get all the turf so don’t be misled my looking at the crazy prices that are listed online for premium astro turf. Along with the turf you’ll need some flooring adhesive (1qt will do) along with a notched trowel to spread it. You can typically find disposable notched trowels for like $1.
3. Once you have your surface cut to size, lay it on top of your framework but nudge it to the side so you can easily see where the braces are underneath. With your pencil and framing square, draw a line across the surface boards where each of the braces are so you’ll know where to drive screws to secure it down. IMPORTANT: stay clear of the center near the “drop ramp” and the “miss trough” because you don’t want to accidentally drive a screw through that would impede the ball return.
4. Drill, countersink, and drive screws in to secure the surface plywood to the frame. Be sure that all the screw heads are countersunk and fall beneath the surface.
5. With the surface fastened down, we can now drill out the cup! Measure 6” in from the back edge and 9” in from one of the sides. This is your spot to use 4-inch your hole saw bit and to cut in your cup. IMPORTANT: the “drop ramp” is right below, so be sure to remove the leader bit out of your hole saw once you get the hole started so that you don’t end up drilling into the ramp!
6. With the cup cut in, it’s time to spread out the flooring adhesive and to secure the turf. Use the notched trowel to skim a coat of adhesive over the entire surface making sure to get it all the way to the edges without any of it dripping over. Do your best to keep it as even as you can and to hold the trowel at a consistent angle.
7. Once all the flooring adhesive has been applied, prepare to unroll the turf onto the surface. I find it best to have the turf rolled up with the “grass” side in so that you can basically unroll it right onto the glued surface. Trying to lay it down otherwise would, no doubt, prove to be rather messy and would lead to wrinkles and a putting green that isn’t level. Simply start at one end and roll it out while pressing it down and smoothing it out from side to side, inching forward until you reach the end. With the turf laid down, weigh it down with some heavy objects. To get distributed pressure, place large boards down (perhaps the remains of your ½” plywood) and lay the weight on top of it. It’s best to let the flooring adhesive cure for 24hours.
8. Now that the turf is dry, remove the weight and grab your utility knife. Carefully go around the edges and trim off all the overhanging turf. Feel around for where the cup is and make an incision in the center and cut outwards until you find the edge and then trace around the circle.
Step 6: Sides
1. Just like with the surface plywood, you won’t have any problem getting all the sides out of a single sheet of 4x8 MDF. There are 8 total sides that need to be cut. Refer to the table below for your cut list:
|Right Forward Tall Side||5’ 1.5” x 9.5” x .5”|
|Front Wall||1.5’ x 9.5” x .5”|
|Left Forward Tall Side||5’ 1.5” x 9.5” x .5”|
|Left Rear Side||1’ 3.5” x 8.25” x .5”|
|Landing Side||9.5” x 8.25” x .5”|
|Right Rear Side||3’ 1” x 8.25” x .5”|
|Elevator Side||2’ 4” x 8.25” x .5”|
|Landing Front||1’ 10” x 8.25” x .5”|
2. Once all the sides have been cut out, you can now cut the diagonal corner into the two long sides. This is an angle that will help blend in the shorter sides with the taller ones so that there isn’t such an abrupt change with a sharp corner. Simply measure down 1.25” and make a mark on the back edge. Then measure in 3” and make a mark on the top edge. Connect those two marks with a straight line and that’s the section to cut off. To make it easier, clamp the two pieces together and just make one cut. This way you can be sure that both end up identical.
3. Put the Right Rear Side and the Landing Front pieces into their respective locations so you can get an accurate location of where the Elevator side will fit in. You probably won’t be able to put that piece in place yet because of the protruding return pipe. However, you should be able to have it lay flat and slide it under the pipe. Mark where the sides of the pipe fall onto the MDF to get the width of the notch that you’ll need to cut out. Next, tip the piece up on end to get a reference for the height that the notch needs to be and then transfer that marking over to you others. Use a square to draw out the notch and then cut it out and verify the piece fits. Don’t worry about being precise, all of this gets covered by the elevator.
4. At this point, you can clamp all the sides onto the green to get a good idea of how things will look. Since the sides will only be clamped on, you should be able to make any necessary adjustments to line up the joints so that they are as tight as possible. Once everything is lined up and looking good, run your trim router over the edges (or use sandpaper) to get a nice round over. If you used a router, you may have to go back over all the edges with some hand sanding to get a nice smooth edge.
5. Once you’re happy with how all the sides look, then go ahead and fasten them all onto the frame by drilling, countersinking, and driving in some drywall screws. IMPORTANT: remember that the frame doesn’t go all the way to the ground and that it’s up on feet so keep all your holes about 2 inches off the ground!
6. At this point you can use a flush-trim saw to cut off any bit of the protruding return pipe. Try to be as accurate as you can because any gap or bumps that the balls encounter is going to hinder how well they enter the elevator.
7. I found with MDF, it’s common that there will be some material that frays up around all your drilling locations. You’ll need to knock that down with some sandpaper before we advance to our next step.
8. Next, use your putty knife to go around the entire putting green and fill in all the screw holes with joint compound. Make sure you work it into the holes and to leave thin coating over the top as well. If you skim the surface flush, the MDF will absorb a lot of the moisture from the compound and will actually draw it in causing divots to appear. Your best bet is to apply it thicker and then sand it flush once it’s perfectly dry.
9. Once all the joint compound is dry, go around and sand it all flush using a palm sander or a sanding block. This can get pretty dusty so be conscious of that. I was able to hooking my shop vac directly up to my palm sander and it made real quick work of the process with virtually no mess at all.
Step 7: Elevator Pieces
1. The moment you’ve been waiting for! The golf ball elevator! Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it seems. In fact, with the 1-to-1 scale printable templates that I include in the plans, it’s actually quite straight forward to assemble. All of the wood that you’ll need to make this can be used out the leftover pieces from assembling the putting green.
|Elevator Piece||Material to use|
|Left-Hand Side||½” quality plywood or ½” MDF|
|Right-Hand Side||½” quality plywood or ½” MDF|
|Bottom||½” quality plywood or ½” MDF|
|Front||½” quality plywood or ½” MDF|
|Upright||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Lever||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Ejector||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Chute||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Push Paddle||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Fin piece (on Lever)||Cut-off from 2x6|
|Catch (or Sear)||¼” plywood sanded down to 3/16”|
Cut-off from 2x6
2. Start off by first printing out all the 1-to-1 scale templates included in this set of plans. Double check that you’ve printed them out at the correct scale by confirming the printed measurements on the diagrams are accurate to what you get when you measure them with a ruler.
3. Some pieces require the stock to be cut to size prior to using the templates (Lever, Upright, Catch, etc.) while some other pieces can use the templates right away (Sides, Front, Bottom). With this in mind, just follow these instructions closely and you’ll be just fine.
4. Left-Hand and Right-Hand Sides: Transfer the measurements or use craft adhesive to affix the templates onto a piece of ½” stock. Cut out the pieces as accurately as you can. Use an awl or nail to mark the centers of all the holes indicated by the templates. Concerning the Left-Hand Side piece, use a 2” forstner bit to drill the ball entry hole as well as the cutout at the top where balls will eject from. Be sure to clamp down the piece very well when using the forstner bits. Also, it’s assumed that you’re using a 1/8” nail for the pivot pin hence the double circle on the template. This is to remind you to countersink after you drill the hole to allow the head of the nail to sit flush with the side since this is the side that will be up against the putting green. IMPORTANT: The holes for the mounting tabs on the Left-Hand side need to be counter sunk on the opposite side after you drill through.
5. Bottom and Front: Transfer the measurements or use craft adhesive to affix the templates onto a piece of ½” stock. Cut out the pieces as accurately as you can. Use an awl or nail to mark the centers of all the holes indicated by the templates. Depending on the rubber bands that you have, you may need to adjust the hook placement on the front to accommodate.
6. Upright: The upright is a piece that can be cut from one of the 2x6 leftover pieces. Use the table saw to rip down a 1.5” x 1.75” piece that is 10” long. With this piece you can either transfer the measurements from the template or glue it right onto the face of the piece. The template has measurements for both the front face and the side faces of the piece so be sure you’re using the right template for the correct face. Use an awl or nail to mark the drill location for the pivot pin and then punch that hole on the drill press. There is a hook for a rubber band that will attach to the catch later, but depending on what size rubber bands you have, you may need to adjust this location.
7. Lever: The lever cat also be cut from the 2x6 leftover pieces. Use the table saw to rip down a 1.25” x 1 5/8” piece that is 13” long. Why the weird 1 5/8” measurement? Because this lever needs to sit in a 1.75” gap with minimal play but yet still have smooth operation. To make it even tighter, you’re welcome to cut it 1.25” x 1.75” and then use a belt sander to knock it down just a bit so that it can easily slide and operate in the 1.75” space of the elevator. Transfer the measurements from the template or glue it right onto the face of the piece. The template has measurements for both the top face and the side faces of the piece so be sure you’re using the right template for the correct face.
Use the bandsaw to cut the notch in the end prior to doing anything on the drill press because cutting this now is much easier than having to try to mark lines on a curved surface.
Use an awl or nail to mark the drill location for the pivot pin and then punch that hole on the drill press. Additionally, you’ll have to use the 2” forstner bit again to cut out the scoop that the golf balls will ride in. Be sure to clamp the piece down very securely prior to drilling out the scoop.
The small 3/8” wide “shark fin” piece can be made out of scrap and glued on where the template indicates. This piece is critical to lifting up the golf balls so that they can rest on top of the catch.
Lastly, there is a hook that gets screwed into the top of the lever as indicated by the template. However, depending on what kind of rubber bands you have available, you may have to adjust this placement.
8. Ejector, Chute, & Push Paddle: All three of these pieces can be cut from the 2x6 leftover scrap. None of them need to be precise either, just as long as they’re pretty close to what is depicted in the templates. Transfer the measurements or just paste the templates onto the wood, whatever works best for you. The easiest way to make the chute is to just drill a 2” forstner hole in a 2x6 scrap piece and then to use the table saw or band saw to cut the edge of that hole. It’s worth noting that the width of the push paddle should be the same as whatever width you ended up using on the lever in the previous step.
9. Catch (or Sear): This piece was definitely the hardest one for me to come up with. This little thing is what makes the whole elevator work. In the table at the beginning of this section, I indicate that this could be made from ¼” plywood and then sanded down to 3/16”. That is true… however another option would be to just widen the groove in the main upright to accommodate a fatter catch. I haven’t encountered any issues with a 3/16” wide catch, but if you’re worried that it might be too brittle, feel free to adjust things as necessary. If you do, you may also need to widen the notch on the lever that lets the tip of the catch through. IMPORTANT: Do not make this piece out of the spare MDF, it needs to be made out of harder wood.
Once you have determined the thickness of the catch you’re going with, use craft adhesive to glue the catch template down onto the face of it. Cut it out on the bandsaw or scroll saw.
There is also a small stop piece included in the template. This piece doesn’t have to be this shape, but it DOES need to be able to fit into the notch you cut on the catch.
With these two pieces cut out, you can take the catch over to the drill press and punch the hole for the pivot pin.
Step 8: Elevator Assembly
1. First step is to prepare our pivot pins. I used 1/8th coated sinker nails that were 3” long. Whatever you use, make sure it fits well into the holes you’ve drilled and that the pieces can move freely. To aid in the area of movement, you might want to consider sanding down any imperfections that the nails may have. I just chucked them into my drill and sanded them with 220grit.
2. Slide the catch into the groove of the main upright and put in one of the pivot pins to hold it place. Verify that the catch can rotate smoothly on the pin without getting held up or pinched anywhere in the upright’s groove. Next, put a dab of CA glue into the notch on the catch, drop in the stop piece, and push the catch all the way forward and hold until the stop piece dries onto the catch so that it’s flat against the upright when the catch is in the forward position.
3. Pull the pivot pin out so that the end is flush against the upright face (just about to come out of the hole) and mark the other end. Use your angle grinder or hacksaw to cut off the excess and place the pin back into the upright with the catch installed.
4. At this point, I recommend using some clamps to do a dry fit. Position the left-hand side and the right-hand side on their respective sides of the upright and clamp them together so that they’re flush on the bottom, back, and top. Then, place the lever in between and use the second pivot pin to hold it in place. Make sure the head of the pivot pin is countersunk enough and then mark and cut off any protruding section of the nail coming out the other side.
5. Verify the swing function of the lever and that the front doesn’t rub or hit the upright. If it does, simple remove the pivot pin and sand down the end of the lever so that it is no longer rubbing.
6. Once the lever is operating smoothly, use some golf balls to test the overall function of the elevator. You may need to use some rubber bands on the catch so that it can operate as intended. Once you’re satisfied with how it’s working, drill, countersink, and drive in some drywall screws to hold the sides to the upright. Two screws per side will be sufficient. IMPORTANT: Don’t accidentally screw into your catch. Keep your screws above the notch in the upright.
The reason we’re using screws here is so that, if we ever need to, we can remove the screws and access the catch to repair/replace it or to make any adjustments. Once the screws come out, the upright can be removed out the back and the catch slid out.
7. Use CA glue or wood glue to fasten the front on as well as the bottom. Keep everything as flush as you can when fixing these and continue to test the operation of the elevator. IMPORTANT: When gluing on the bottom, be sure not to get any glue or squeeze-out on the bottom of the upright otherwise you won’t be able to disassemble things if you need to make adjustments!
8. Glue on the push paddle onto the end of the lever so that it slopes towards the back. The raised part of the paddle is there to protect the hook and rubber bands from being hit with a golf club.
9. Next, you can drill and screw in your 3 hooks. Depending on what size rubber bands you have, you may need to adjust the template locations for the hooks, but bear in mind that you can always add multiple rubber bands to increase the tension if need be.
10. Use a little CA glue and glue on the chute just under the top cutout on the left-hand side. This helps give the balls a little momentum and sends them out into the putting area on the green.
11. Glue on the tiny wedge-shaped ejector piece on the top of the right-hand side. Make sure you center it with the opening.
Step 9: Mounting the Elevator
1. The easiest way to find just the right spot to mount the elevator is to load up the return pipe with a bunch of golf balls, hold the elevator up against the edge of the return pipe, and nudge it from side to side until the balls drop in. Once you think you’ve found the right spot, check the functionality and then mark the location with your pencil.
2. With the location marked, drill some pilot holes and then fix the elevator onto the green with some drywall screws through the mounting tabs. If you can’t already, make sure the holes in the mounting tabs are counter sunk so that the screws will be flush as well as offer more threads to bite into the MDF.
Step 10: Final Steps
1. Since this is MDF, it’s going to drink up quite a bit of paint. I used 2 coats of primer followed by 2 coats of paint. Remove the elevator from the green and mask off all the turf. I found that you can pretty easily slide strips of painter’s tape down in between the MDF and the turf to get good coverage. Use newspaper, plastic or cardboard to mask off the big sections and then tie it all together with the tape.
2. You may also want to raise up the green on blocks so that you don’t inadvertently paint it down onto the ground.
3. Apply a couple coats of primer to all the MDF being sure to sand between coats with 220 grit to get a good surface for the next coat.
4. Give the putting green a couple coats of paint, being sure to also get down into the trough, the edges of the cup, and as far as you can with the drop ramp as well.
5. When painting the elevator, remove the pivot ping for the main lever and paint those two pieces separately. Since you used screws to fasten the sides, you can remove the upright and even paint the catch separately as well if you’d like.
6. I stuck on a small adhesive-backed cushion onto the push paddle. This helped very much with gripping the club when someone was trying to operate the elevator.
7. Enjoy! And thanks so much for supporting Fisher’s Shop!