Why robots (yes, robots) have a future in golf

Why robots (yes, robots) have a future in golf

Harden yourselves, golfers. Robots are coming.

Technically, they are already here.

These aren’t Arnold Schwarzenegger’s era-traveling avengers from the movies trying to save and/or kill the unlucky John Connor.

The golf-related movie Rise of the Machines stars smaller, unprepared robots doing an important but mean job. Imagine a larger, more powerful Roomba (home vacuum cleaner) that cuts down the hallway or scoops out range balls instead of sweeping cat litter off your kitchen floor.

I spotted my first golf robot during last year’s Korn Ferry Tour qualifier at Bull Valley Country Club in Woodstock, Illinois. Watching the Tour Pros heat up on the training range, I spotted what looked like limousine versions of metallic armadillos on wheels that slowly rolled through the range’s recovery balls.

When the metal armadillo was full, he returned to a terminal—a terminal, not a terminator—and drove a ramp, deposited his load of balls through a manhole and back to work.

The armadillo-like scope-collecting machines were actually robotic machines — bots — from Eco Robotics, based in Northbrook, Illinois. The Echo RP 1200 picks up balls; The Echo TM 2000 mowed the lawn. I don’t know why, maybe just because it was new, but the range-selecting robots were surprisingly amazing.

Echo Robotics offerings include a robotic lawn mower, left ball, and ball.

(Photo: Eco Robotics)

Korn Ferry players seemed to enjoy it. Some of the pros were having fun trying to shoot the ball in front of the robot to see if they could catch that ball, like when Jordan Spieth made that decisive blow at the British Open, he pointed to the cup and told the canister, Michael Griller, “Go get it!”

It was inevitable that robots would come to golf and there they are. The next step for a fully automated group is the robotic ball washer, which was developed in Europe and will soon come to America.

“You can automate field pickers, lane mowers – where do you end up?” asks Joe Langton of Automated Outdoor Solutions, a Woodstock, Illinois-based company that sells golf-related robots directly and also offers service agreements. “It’s not happening. In the next five to 10 years, 50 to 60 percent of all golf course maintenance will be automated.”

For example, says Langton, Sweden-based Husqvarna has a robotic mower that can cut 11 acres a day, from track to rough ground, rough to coarse, and is powered by a GPS monitor in the club that can control up to 20 acres a day. machines at a time.

Robot mowers mean weeds can be cut at night – top models are very quiet. Some courses in Europe use robot mowers during daytime play and golfers enjoy watching them play, Langton said.

“It’s very functional and serves an absolute need in our industry,” says Langton.

Pickers and robotic mowers solve two problems. One is individuals. Almost all businesses in America have trouble finding workers, and golf courses are no exception. The second is the use of time. Clubs lacking staff often require a professional assistant, key professional, or club manager to lead a range picker. Supervisors who mow the lawn themselves can handle more critical jobs such as sewer repair, watering, tee maintenance, and other repairs if they have robotic mowers.

“Golf is about customer service,” says Langton. “I see automation giving a different look to the club where staff and members can interact and spend more time mingling plus staff can feel needed and wanted instead of doing normal tasks. The potential is huge.”

Robots are instrumental in the nearly $3 million renovation made for the practice facility at The Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Try not to drool when you read about the cute ibis, a two-sided set with more than 80 batting holes; Five green targets and artificial oceans; a large zigzag X cut as a lane in the center of the scope as a target point; Multiple slicing, pitching and putting greens; indoor golf academy; Club-friendly studio with a full-time coach; 10 covered hitting holes at one end of the scope; The digital yard gauges on each ball box show long distances for flags of different colors.

When golfing great Annika Sorenstam attended the group grand opening last year, along with Martin Hall, the club’s golf coach, Sorenstam said, “I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.”

Driving range 2021.jpg

The extensively renovated training facility at The Club at Ibis, located in West Palm Beach, Florida.

(Photo: The Club at Ibis)

The Club at Ibis has the latest style. Call it “destination range” because it’s good. It ranks with the Atlanta Athletic Club, the exclusive Grove XXII Club of Michael Jordan in South Florida, and a few others among the best modern practice facilities in the country.

When the Ibis collection was to be renewed due to the need to improve drainage, the club decided to go all in. This included robots for maintenance.

“If we go the way of the robots, the robots can clear the range while the members are hitting,” said Ben Bauer, director of the Ibis Golf Club before a recent job. “Then we got to The Great Resignation in South Florida. As long as the robots work, we’re good. We don’t have to pay them benefits, 401K, or buy them a uniform or lunch. They allow our employees to provide more personal touches instead of being outside Truck driving range.

The club contains two robotic mowers and four range pickers. Besides being efficient, bots add to the scale’s success factor.

“During the holidays when members’ children and grandchildren would come to town, people would stop and watch the robots go back and forth,” Power said. “The technology is so new, it’s impressive. I remember thinking, ‘This is so cool.'”

When prospective ibis members used to tour the facilities with three Nicklaus Design golf courses, the training range was a drive-by component. Now a 15-minute pause, including a look at the range bots.

“It’s a real conversation piece that has enhanced our golf experience,” says John Jorritsma, Ibis Director of Sales and Marketing.

The robots have been a visual and financial success. “The return on investment is relatively short, a year or two for us,” Bauer said. “We saved two employees, one on maintenance.”

Automation isn’t cheap, as you might have guessed, but the payoff usually pays off in less than two years. The robot range picker costs $19,500 plus $2,200 for the charging station, $2,200 for installation, and another $2,200 for the ball deposit ramp. The robot mower sells for about $15,500 plus $2,200 for a base station and $2,200 for installation.

The most common way is to buy a service contract from Langton – the equivalent of what people do with their cell phones instead of paying up front. Under the service contract, the cut-and-pick solution starts at $3,000 per month. This equates to $2.44 per hour cutting and $3.44 per hour picking. The contract includes new mower blades and a fix for any problems that may arise.

“Because the technology was so new, we didn’t want to maintain or discover it,” Bauer said. “They are machines, things happen, the scope mowers push the balls aside as they go so our scope balls don’t get chipped. Our lane needs to be cut into an X to a different height, and these mowers raise and lower the blades automatically. They have been good for us.”

Echo is the industry standard for robotic range selection platforms. Husqvarna, a Swedish company, is a strong competitor in robot mowers. Her Ceora is the new lawn mower. Husqvarna also has heavy-duty mowers that can handle hillsides with slopes of up to 70 degrees. Mowers are monitored and controlled by an app.

Another option for the clubs is Mowfleet, a rental deal that provides Husqvarna robots on a trailer so customers can deploy the robots in areas without power outlets. The robots do a ten-hour shift and are then captured.

Between the robots and the renewal of the range, Ibis members have proven the premise of building on it and they will come. Bauer said the members hit 40,000 to 50,000 balls before renewing on a busy day. After the renovation, the range became more popular and the number of balls hit could be as high as 70,000 or 80,000. Goritsma said members who used to show up 15 minutes before play times often now arrive an hour early so they can use the updated range. By the way, each robot can collect about 12,500 balls in 24 hours. At Ibis, the robots stop at night for two hours so the range can be irrigated.

How Far Will The Rise Of The Machines Go In Golf? Maybe too far.

“I think our restaurants are looking for a robotic server,” Bauer said. “It’s a robot that can bring drinks or food to the table. At the Grove XXIII Club in Jordan, there are drones that deliver food to the players on the track.”

A public course in Mesa, Arizona also tested drone-delivered refreshments. At least one Topgolf facility in Texas uses Echo mowing and picking robots.

So far, robots have a larger golf footprint in Europe than they do in the United States. But robotics in golf is a trend that is unlikely… to end soon.

#robots #robots #future #golf

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