Elsie Esseck of Sterling just doesn't like mowing the lawn. So when a roommate moved out of her Cascades town house, leaving behind the grass-cutting chores, Esseck found a novel--and fun--way out.

She hired Short Game Greens to install a 300-square-foot synthetic putting green, complete with sand trap and landscaping. It covers most of the back yard and "looks great," said Esseck, 49, who would "love to be an everyday golfer, but there's this thing called work."

She picked Short Game Greens, a Vienna dealer of United Turf Industries' SofTrak Personal Putting Greens, after "surfing the Web and finding that everything I looked at you had to install yourself. That was a definite no."

The local dealer has installed about 35 synthetic greens and par-3 holes in the Washington area in the past 18 months. The cost: from $2,500 to $20,000, depending on the size and shape (from $12 to $16 a square foot). Time involved: less than a week. The drill: The space is excavated, a base of crushed stone is laid and contoured, and then the stone is covered with a material called SofTrak (unfinished, it looks like short green shag carpet), silica sand and a green and black sand decorative layer.

The key to making plastic respond like country club turf is the inch of sand worked into the 1 1/8 inches of polypropylene SofTrak, said Robert Thomsen, Short Game Greens owner. The sand supports the fake blades of grass. "AstroTurf has a concrete base, so it's okay for putting, but you can't chip to it or hit longer shots" because it doesn't absorb the bounce like real bent grass or SofTrak, he said.

Esseck wanted a piece of fairway to chip from, so she added another SofTrak product, with blades twice as long as those on the putting-green surface and filled with less sand, that lets her loft the ball onto the green, Thomsen said.

There's a five-year warranty on the turf, and the material can last 15 to 20 years, with maintenance once or twice a year, Thomsen adds. Homeowners can groom their own grounds, using a stiff-bristled broom to brush it, then rolling the surface with a water-filled lawn roller--but where would the fun be in that?

For more information, the firm's World Wide Web site is www.shortgamegreens.com. A major competitor in the area is Sport Court of Washington, which installs putting greens using an AstroTurf product.