By Heidi Simmons
“The Coachella Valley has been an ideal place to raise our family and grow our business,” said Dominic Nappi, President, Back Nine Greens. “We could not have chosen a better place to live and work.”
Back Nine Greens is a premier quality synthetic turf design and installation company headquartered in Palm Desert.
Once prevalent mainly at miniature golf courses, mobile home parks and cheap motels, artificial turf has come a long, long way.
Now, synthetic lawns are designed and sculpted with varying heights, thicknesses and colors that look so natural and beautiful, the only give-away may be its perfection. This has made imitation grass more popular than ever!
“Since we started in this business we have seen the materials really improve,” said Hollee Nappi, Vice President, Back Nine Greens. “It’s environmentally friendly, it’s permeable, and the blades are flexible and soft. It looks good, and feels like a natural lawn.”
Back Nine Greens does business all over the country, designing and installing putting greens, golf courses, athletic fields, city medians, front and back yards, kennels, dog runs, and beautiful turf-scapes worthy of Architectural Digest. The company has done distinguished work in Cleveland, Augusta, Nashville, Sarasota and Charlotte to name a few prominent US cities.
This month, Back Nine Greens celebrates 20 years in business. With a stellar reputation and impeccable work ethic, it is recognized as the top synthetic turf company in California and it all began here in the Coachella Valley.
The same week the Nappis launched their business; they also had their second son.
After a few years, the couple bought a home in a brand new development in the quickly expanding City of La Quinta – where they still reside.
“During the first five years, we did it all from home,” said Hollee. “We rented storage space for the rolls of fabric [turf] and we answered the phone like we were in an office.”
In the beginning, Back Nine Greens mainly installed small backyard putting greens here in the valley and around Southern California. Business was generated through word-of-mouth, referrals and their growing reputation for excellence. At the start, there was only one other local company installing artificial turf.
“We were fortunate that so many of our customers had second homes,” said Hollee. “They enjoyed their synthetic lawn or putting green here in the valley, and wanted the same thing or something different at their primary residence.”
Today, Back Nine Greens boasts an impressive clientele that includes a roster of A-list movie stars and fortune 500 companies. They now offer a new “Luxury Division.” The company averages six installs a week, and are frequently hired to repair and replace badly installed, low-grade materials for homeowners, businesses and municipalities.
“We are the Rolls Royce of the synthetic turf business,” said Hollee. “Whether it’s a big job or small, we only use the best materials. We have the most experience and the finest installers hands-down. Our reputation is good because we do an excellent job, guarantee our work and are here to honor our warranty.”
Over the last two decades, Back Nine Greens has experienced boom-times as well as major challenges.
“After 9/11, people weren’t traveling out of the country. Many chose to vacation at home,” said Hollee. “Instead of putting in pools, people wanted putting greens and great backyards that the whole family could enjoy together.”
This was good for Back Nine Greens. But, with so much demand, it generated new start-ups and encouraged other turf companies to come to the CV and enter the market.
“Plumbers, gardeners and general contractors started to put in turf,” said Hollee. “A lot of the new-comers were not licensed or bonded, and most were inexperienced and unfamiliar with the materials and installation requirements.”
Many of those turf businesses have since left the valley, quit or changed names because they were unable to guarantee their product, work or honor their warranty.
In 2008, Back Nine Greens faced new challenges. The construction industry came to a halt. To endure the hard times and keep their employees, the Nappis worked diligently to seek out new clients and expand the business.
Gregg Photias, Vice President of Sales, started with Back Nine Greens during the recession. Married with two children who recently left the nest, Photias feels he and his family are a part of the Back Nine Greens extended family.
“Dominic is a great cook,” said Photias. “He and Hollee have lavish BBQs at their home for all the employees and their families.”
Dominic is known to work hard, and play hard.
“They’re a good team,” said Photias. “Their energy and attitude definitely trickles down. Hollee works meticulously behind the scenes and Dominc is a real A-type personality. He’s always looking for ways to up the game. He’s willing to take risks and innovate the business. He never leaves a job until it’s perfect. That’s how we’ve earned our pedigree.”
At its largest, Back Nine Greens had over 70 fulltime employees with four showrooms and several warehouses across the state.
“The first ten years we had to educate the public about synthetic turf,” said Hollee. “Now, artificial grass is not just in backyards anymore, so more people are seeing first-hand how great it looks. They’ve touched it and walked across it somewhere. And because of the resent California drought restrictions, people finally have an understanding of the value and benefits of installing synthetic lawns.”
Growing a successful company that lasts decades requires flexibility, hubris and stellar business acumen. With intensifying government regulations, Back Nine Greens has had to constantly adjust its business practices to stay competitive.
Today, Back Nine Greens has 20 fulltime employees. Instead of layoffs or firing employees, the Nappis helped their installers and builders start their own companies, which Back Nine Greens hires as subcontractors.
As a couple sharing the burden of creating and running a business together, it has required extra effort to keep the family and marriage functioning and happy. They not only successfully built a company over the last twenty years, but also raised two sons who are now in college.
“For sure it hasn’t always been easy,” said Hollee. “But, we’ve made it work. We’re fortunate that our skills are opposites. Dominic loves meeting the clients and being in the field. I enjoy the marketing and the finance side.”
A handsome couple, Dominic and Hollee do little self-promotion. They have billboards on the main highways and run local commercials, which sometimes include them, but mostly they keep a low profile.
Dominic is gregarious, generous and kind. Hollee is thoughtful, reserved, but always ready to laugh.
When they’re not working to better their business, the Nappis enjoy their family and love to travel.
The Nappis came to the CV with an idea and they found a growing, prosperous community where they could turn their dreams into a reality.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said Dominic. “We have great people working for us. We’ve shared good times and bad, and seen our employees’ the kids grow up. We’re a big family. And living and working here in the Coachella Valley has made that possible.”
Back Nine Greens has a new showroom at 74200 Hwy 111 at the corner of El Paseo in Palm Desert. The grand opening and 20 year celebration will be held in the fall so their many clients and friends can attend.