A fully-automated ball collector suitable for use on golf ranges and practice grounds all-year-round has been launched by Turfmech Machinery Ltd.
Known as the RangeRunner, the unmanned, self-propelled machine combines global positioning satellite (GPS) technology with a programmable routing system to enable golf ranges to automate what is accepted as the most hazardous and time-consuming job on the range, namely, the collection and retrieval of golf balls.
“Many golf ranges are now approaching full automation following the installation of automatic ball washing and delivery systems and pop-up tees with ball dispensers adjacent to the driving position,” commented Turfmech’s managing director, Austin Jarrett. “The one part of the system that has not been automated until now is the retrieval of balls from the range itself. The RangeRunner completes the loop, enabling ranges to become far more efficient for the benefit of owners, managers, staff and customers alike.”
Using a combination of GPS tracking and programmable routing, the RangeRunner is able to go to work completely automatically and steer its way methodically across the ground, collecting balls in its hopper before returning them to a receiving pit from where they can be transferred to the range’s ball washing, conveying and dispensing systems.
Because the GPS tracking system knows the RangeRunner’s position at all times, the computerised routing system is able to keep the machine within the limits of the range while steering it around obstacles that have been pre-programmed into the machine’s computer.
The machine can be programmed to work unattended across the complete range or on any specific part of it at any time of the day or night. This option could be used, for example, to keep the machine a safe distance from the range’s driving position to minimise the risk of ball ricochet or deflection or to work only within high ball density areas at certain times of the day to maximise work rate and ball throughput.
All of the RangeRunner electrical functions – its wheel drive, GPS and computer systems – are powered by an on-board generator driven by a low noise 13hp petrol engine with automatic start. There is a back-up battery to ensure that the machine can return to base in the event of an engine or generator failure.
The machine can be started remotely by means of a text message from a mobile phone. This facility also works in reverse, enabling the RangeRunner to send a text message to a mobile phone when it has finished collecting balls or is experiencing any problem.
Once programmed, the RangeRunner can be left to work completely unattended with refuelling only required every three to four days depending on the number of hours and area over which the machine has been set to operate. Although the RangeRunner’s hopper is able to carry a maximum of 1,600 golf balls, this number can be adjusted downwards to suit the reception system and the weather, enabling the weight of the machine to be kept as low as possible when working in soft or wet ground conditions.
The RangeRunner is designed to offload golf balls into a below-ground reception pit with elevator delivery of the balls to the washing system. Turfmech can supply the machine on its own for use with a reception pit installed by the range to suit an existing ball washing and conveying system or can supply a grid-covered reception pit as an option to complement the machine.
Price of the RangeRunner is £55,000 to include initial site survey and programming of the machine to suit the specific requirements of any golf range.
A demonstration site has been set-up by Turfmech at its Hixon headquarters to allow the machine and its ball-collecting abilities to be shown in action to prospective customers.
Turfmech Machinery www.turfmech.co.uk