However I won't be buying one any time soon, at least not until I've seen firm evidence that it can be safely hand caught
You should search the hands-on videos on YouTube. The majority of them have at least one shot of hand catching and/or hand-releasing, including DJI's own ad spots. On paper (i.e. forums), DJI "isn't recommending" it, but they don't "recommend" a lot of practices we do that are perfectly fine.
How about getting a foldable bit of plastic/cardboard to act as a makeshift landing pad? Just something that can push down grasses or even out gravel. Unless you're truly launching from mountain peaks?because of the very rough terrain I fly over.