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Columns - Outside the Ropes

February 7, 2018

Each January, the self-proclaimed “biggest tech show on earth” is staged in Las Vegas showing off the latest and greatest advances in geekdom. According to the many reports I followed, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) didn’t disappoint.

Among the highlights were an 88-inch 8K OLED television screen, Augmented Reality glasses and earbuds that offer real-time language translation. Reading about these futuristic devices, gadgets, and widgets got me to thinking about which contraptions superintendents might embrace so they’d never have to leave their offices – at least not on foot!

Absolutely you want to investigate drone technology. How about a two-person drone (octacopter) to take you and your assistant on morning rounds? Grab your coffee and discreetly check out everyone on the golf course … and then some.

While cruising in your octacopter, launch a smaller drone to buzz in on “problem areas.” I don’t mean brown spots in the fairway or rough that needs mowing but staff members taking breaks … again.

Personal-command devices were all the rage this past holiday season and even more refined versions were unveiled at CES. I expect it won’t be long before every cart has one so your already over-exercised golfers can order another beer or complain about the slow foursome ahead of them. Personally, I’d mount an Echo right by the divot mix in hopes that golfers will use it to some advantage: “Alexa, repair my divots.”

Then there’s Buddy, from Blue Frog Robotics. He’s a personal robot – think of him as Alexa with big eyes – who can do many of the same things, like reading the weather or reading out great recipes. I’ve got an idea? How about teaching Buddy to read the greens and repair ballmarks? Or better yet, he can alert at the sloth-like foot draggers on your greens, “Please pick up your feet when you walk so the next group doesn’t have to putt through those craters you leave everywhere.” Followed by a high-tech “sheesh!”

There’s an even bigger robot, the NuAviations Hyperlift 200E, which can transport objects weighing 200 pounds at high speeds. That’s four 50-pound bags of fertilizer or topdressing being whisked from the maintenance area out to the crew in no time flat.

For those days when you feel the course doesn’t look its best – after too much rain or too much heat or just too much play – Augmented Reality glasses come to the rescue. Hand them out in the golf shop or put them on the cart allowing your customers to channel their inner Augusta and play the perfect version of your course every time. Azaleas are extra.

A few other new CES toys caught my eye:

EmojiMe. These are headphones that contain a brain-wave scanner, which produces emoji symbols alerting others to the wearer’s mood. I’d give them to the ranger. That should speed up play. But don’t approach your mechanic if there are two poop Emojis shimmering from his headset.

D Free is a sensor system, designed for the health-care industry, that claims to be able to anticipate when elderly patients need to go to the toilet. Those might work for some of your elderly members, but I know precisely when golfers have to go: when they’re as far as possible from the comfort stations. “You’re not cutting that tree down, are you?”

Then there’s Short Edition. This terminal, placed in the golf cart, will print out short stories and poems (New Rules of Golf?) for people to read during times of slow play and overcrowded outings.

OK, those are a good start. Here are a few superintendent-friendly products I’d like to see at CES next year:

Rake Robot. As golfers depart the bunker – unraked, as usual – a sensor is triggered to engage a hydraulic lift system that shakes and settles the bunker sand for the next group.

Suggestion Blocks. Whenever the phrase, “Why don’t we do ___ to our golf course” is uttered by a member of the green committee, a voice-activated sensor hits that person with a low-level electric shock. But enough that he thinks twice about making another suggestion while discouraging anyone else from chiming in.

iGolfer. He smiles, fixes ball marks, repairs divots, rakes bunkers, drives his cart only on the path, picks up broken tees and other garbage he sees, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t eat, lets faster players through, stays out of roped-off areas, and tends the flag. Oh, and he doesn’t have an opinion on how to do your job better.

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf ( Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at or on Twitter @TimMoraghan