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Can Polycarbonate Panels Protect Against Sports Damage?

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The Case of the Polycarbonate Paneling


Dear Glass Detective,

I’m contacting you on behalf of our neighborhood.  We would like a hockey wall or something similar that can protect us from golf balls. We’ve seen something on your website about polycarbonate and want to know if we can install a couple of panels in the backyard by the deck.

Thank you,
Brenda S.
Caledonia, MI

Golf Course Poly-carbonate Shield



Dear Brenda,

Thank you for making contact with the Glass Detective with your question as to whether or not polycarbonate type glazing materials would prove effective in protecting property (and perhaps people as well) from golf balls. Just for the record, the Glass Detective would like you to know that he is a little bit jealous of people who are lucky enough to live so close to a golf course that they actually have to worry about getting hit by a golf ball. I do, of course, understand your concern inasmuch as I once broke the glass in a patio door while golfing at a course in my area.

You also made a reference to what you called a “hockey wall”. I have provided polycarbonate materials for hockey rinks and for homes and other types of structures that are trying to come up with a form of protection from hockey pucks, golf balls, baseballs and all kinds of other flying projectiles. These sports balls can and will break glass, even when the glass is tempered and/ or of a thicker size.

As I’m sure you can understand, any product, glass or otherwise, can be broken given enough force. We put plate glass, also known as float glass, through a tempering process to make it less likely to break, but with enough force, it will break. At close distance, golf balls, like hockey pucks, really can cause damage to a piece of even thick tempered glass. Polycarbonate, on the other hand, performs quite well at resisting breakage from golf balls and hockey pucks.

Hockey rinks typically are built with thick panels of polycarbonate used above the boards that surround the rink. Often these are ¾-inch thick panels of polycarbonate treated with a scratch-resistant coating. So the answer to your question is yes, polycarbonate is most likely the product of choice for your situation. However, please understand that the glazing system, or framing system if you will, is just as important as the glazing material. Polycarbonate does not react the same way a piece of glass does. It will expand and contract quite differently than a piece of glass and the framing system has to be selected in keeping with the type of glazing material being put into it. Also, depending on the sizes of the openings being glazed, with glass or polycarbonate, the thickness you will want to use will vary. With this in mind, I am going to suggest to you that you find a qualified glass and glazing supplier in your area and work with them to help you select the right glazing product and the appropriate framing system.

Polycarbonate glazing does not have the same characteristics as glass. You will want to take these into consideration as you proceed with this work. To begin with, polycarbonate will, over time, tend to lose some of its clarity. Whereas glass, if properly maintained, will sustain its appearance and clarity over time, polycarbonate will not when used in exterior applications. As is true with many glazing products, there are often trade-offs when using one material over another.

Polycarbonate glazing can sometimes flex, maybe even warp, so it may distort images a bit whereas glass will not. Even when treated with scratch-resistant coatings, polycarbonate also can scratch. The overall aesthetics of glass are, in my opinion, certainly superior to polycarbonate. If you choose polycarbonate, you will want to make sure you use the appropriate polycarbonate cleaner on these panels. Glass cleaner is not the product of choice for polycarbonate panels. You should be able to get this polycarbonate cleaner from or through the glass and glazing contractor you work with. Thank you again for contacting the Glass Detective with your questions and we wish you well with your project.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management. Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon. Find out more about Lyle on Linkedin.

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your introductory materials to deciding what is the best application for an upper deck balcony on a Golf Course. I rarely get a golf ball in flight hitting the house or deck. Normally they are deflected off a tree or bounce off the cart path. Our upper deck currently has conventional metal railing which need to be replaced..

    My question is obviously what would you recommend in terms of Glass thickness, I do wish to retain clarity. I also have considered a cable system however, would prefer glass .

    1. Hi Steve,
      Half-inch tempered glass railing should be adequate to deflect a golf ball while still retaining clarity. Good luck with the project!

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