Simple answer is Yes. It is anything from really useful to a complete waste of time.
Astro Turf is a brand name, who manufacture a number of different surfaces, but like 'Hoover' it has come to be used to describe practically any artificial surface.
My experience is as follows:
Carpet similar to the indoor carpets used for tennis but made to be used outdoors. No use at all, the pile is too short, balls go for miles. When you swap back to grass you underhit everything.
2G/3G/4G/5G (different specifications of artificial turf) all may be of some help, but you really need to look at the pile depth and also in some cases how much topping is on them and how well spread it is. Pile depth is between 20 & 50 mm. This bears no relationship to grass length on a real lawn, my best guess is that a 20mm artificial turf is about the same as 5mm grass.
- often what looks level at first glance isn't but it is hidden because of the length of the pile;
- hockey & football pitches often have worn areas, rugby is not usually as bad;
- they often have sand (or rubber) dressing, this can pick up on the balls.
Other thing to watch for is that the balls behave differentlyto grass as they slow down. I haven't noticed them being much different as you hit, but they pull up a lot quicker.
For those who know Nottingham, Beeston Hockey Club is opposite. They recently had their main lawn swapped from ?G to a water based pitch. When the contractors were in I got to try both. Top tip, don't try a water based pitch without a complete re-think on footwear & clothing! (They're no good for croquet either, balls tend to skid across the surface, then slow down really quickly).
I converted a grass croquet court in my garden to Astro Turf in 1995. It is too fast for AC, running at nearly 18 seconds and with enough dips through settlement to make a break very hard to maintain. I have only completed two TPs in 20 years on it. It is fine for shooting practice.
I thought about replacing the carpet about three years ago and tried out some newer versions which had promise by adjusting the sand depth (less sand = slower). I also had the chance to play on a new Astro Turf court in North Carolina in 2014 which was excellent and very similar to normal grass. It had the odd characteristic that walking on it “sucked up” the sand so a well-contested hoop would appear to be in a very sandy area compared to greener less used areas. However, this was easily sorted by brushing.
They are not cheap to install but the maintenance is much less than for a grass lawn. Regular sweeping can be carried out by almost anyone who is ambulant and seasonal treatment is limited to anti-moss and anti-algae spraying.
There are two English guys who live in the hills in southern Portugal who have the most wonderful artificial surface on a 6/7ths size lawn. It’s one of the nicest lawns I’ve played on. The surface had the appearance of fine round-leaved mosses rather than blades of grass. It was fast but played e.g. roll strokes “authentically”. They had it laid for them by a local company called Grasshooper, in Portugal http://grasshoppergreens.com/portfolio/. Fixing hoops was of course a challenge, but they had regular tournament hoops hammered into specific areas of a particular grit, which held the carrots reasonably well – not challenging but not trivial either.