We know that as famous YouTubers, we have several people who regularly read our blog and watch our videos. (Yes, they are our moms, but still…) Those superfans might say, “Didn’t you already have a video and blog about using Echo Robotics for golf course maintenance?” And the answer is yes, Mom, we did. But this one is different.
We were so excited about the Echo Robotics product line and how it could revolutionize golf course maintenance that we had to bring in someone from the company to interview. That person is none other than the rockstar sales manager Jake Vollbeer. (Yes, rockstar is part of his official title in our eyes.) And of course, we combined the interview with a little demo of the robotic mower and robotic range picker in action.
You can check out our video below. Otherwise, you can find more details about the Echo Robotics products and how they can be used to maintain a golf course below that.
The Echo Robotic Range Picker
We had to start with what we believe is the most innovative product that Echo offers for golf courses. Let’s be honest: you have quite a few options when it comes to robotic mowers. But a robot that picks up all the golf balls on a driving range? Not many companies manufacture those. And of the ones that do, no one matches the Echo machines for sleek design that won’t intrude upon your business.
You have a few different choices when it comes to the Echo robot range picker. We lay out the differences below. Then we give a quick overview of the unloading function.
The Echo RP1200 is a robotic range picker that runs a random pattern across an area. You define that area by laying out boundary wire. The robotic range picker stays within that area, moving back and forth and scooping up all the golf balls it finds. Then it comes to a predetermined location and dumps all the golf balls it collected.
The Echo RP1250 is similar to the RP1200 in many ways, but it has a few extra innovations.
The main difference is that the RP1250 uses Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) technology. You still put boundary wire around the area where you want the robotic golf ball picker to work. This helps you create a virtual boundary for the machine and show it the safe working area. But the RTK technology helps you specify different zones for the RP1250.
In essence, then, you can tell the Echo RP1250 to focus on a certain section within the driving range the most because that’s where the majority of the golf balls lie. (For us, that section would be about 325 yards right down the center, of course.) And you can tell the robot golf picker to work in that area at specific times of the day.
And when you let the RP1250 loose, it will devise the most efficient patterns so you get the most out of every charge.
Dropping Off the Golf Balls
Of course, picking up all the golf balls out on the driving range is not the only thing you need the robotic picker to do. It also needs to drop the balls off somewhere so they can get washed and then brought back for the next golfer.
Both of the Echo robotic range pickers unload golf balls beautifully—but you do need a good setup. The most common setup is to have the robotic range picker go up a slope and then park over the receptacle you want the balls to go into. That way, the robot can drop the golf balls and head right back out to the range.
It is possible for you to set up the dropoff location within a building. However, this can be challenging because you need to ensure that the robotic range picker can maneuver within the space.
No matter what type of setup you want for the golf ball unloading, you want to do lots of testing to ensure that everything works properly. And, realize that you may have to adjust your plans. A bit of trial and error may be necessary before you find the right plan.
Echo Robotic Mowers for Golf Courses
Our video and interview also show off another great product for golf course owners: Echo robotic mowers. Echo Robotics specifically designs their mowers with a large cutting width and longer battery life. As a result, Echo’s mowers are really turf mowers, best suited for large spaces. (They are also great for corporate campuses, schools, parks, university campuses, and more. You can set a cut height down to 3/4” and up to 4”.) So of course, they are well-optimized for a golf course.
Like with the Echo range picker, you can set up zones where you don’t want the mower to go (for example, around yardage signs.) You can also set up different zones for different times of the day. That’s why in the video, you can see that Jake set up the mower to work away from the driving range during open business hours.
Protecting the Robotic Mower From Golf Balls
Of course, a natural concern that arises if you are going to run a robot lawn mower on a golf course is that the mower will get destroyed by the golf balls, thus ruining your investment before you get much use out of it. Echo autonomous products are designed to, with apologies to Timex, take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Part of this is a tough exterior shell that isn’t harmed by the occasional wayward drive.
However, one of the coolest innovations that Echo Robotics has are the golf ball protection discs to put over the blades. Obviously, a robotic mower running over a golf ball would usually damage the blades. With a traditional robotic mower, you would be changing the blades every few days, most likely. But with an Echo product, you can put their patented protection discs over the blades. These discs have slats that are large enough for grass blades to enter but too small for golf balls.
If an Echo turf mower with the protection discs on encounters a golf ball, the ball is just pushed away, with no damage to the blades or ball at all. See the video for a close-up of how the golf ball protection discs work.
One important caveat to note is that the protection discs do make the mowing less efficient than the standard cutting blade. You can’t get quite as low with the protection discs (down to about 1 1/4”) as you do with the standard blades (down to about 3/4”). But the tradeoff that you get, 24-hour mowing capability, makes up for this efficiency gap, in our opinion.
Benefits to Autonomous Golf Course Maintenance
When we talk to golf course owners, we hear two concerns the most often. One is trying to keep up with staffing, which has gotten even harder in the last few years. The second is about trying to find the right time to do the clean picking and mowing. Well, robotic golf course maintenance helps with both.
giving Humans Better Things to Do
First, the staffing concern. It hurts our backs to bend over and pick up hundreds of golf balls. Give Jimmy something better to do.
If you can have robots do some of the menial tasks that humans don’t want to do, you can focus your hiring for the positions where you really need a human element. AND, your staff can focus their talents on tasks that need a human touch.
solve scheduling headaches
In terms of timing, most golf courses using traditional mowing are having to do so one day a week at some ungodly hour. (And again, it’s hard to find too many humans lining up for that job!) And no matter when you do it, you run the risk of taking away from critical revenue time. After all, if it is light enough outside to run a mower, it’s light enough for someone to be hitting golf balls.
Plus, mowing in the twilight hours that you need to with traditional solutions means that you cannot do your best work. How could you when you can barely see? And are probably groggy?
A common problem when people are mowing in those barely-light moments is that they unwittingly hit a golf ball and send it careening. (Just pray it doesn’t hit a window!)
An Echo robotic turf mower lets you mow 24 hours a day, any day you want. Even if you choose not to use the robotic range picker, you don’t have to be concerned with coordinating a clean pick day. The mower can keep the golf course looking great at all times. (It can even run at night, since its “eyes” don’t need light!) And the protection discs will keep everything safe from stray golf balls.
Will such a solution distract your customers? Absolutely not. It’s virtually silent. In our experience, most customers find robotic solutions novel and fun, and they appreciate the eco-friendliness.
One final cost-saving benefit of autonomous golf course maintenance to note. A robotic mower continually cuts off tips of grass to the desired height. Since the mower is just clipping little bits of the grass, it mulches much better than traditional mowing. As a result, golf course owners spend less on fertilizer, mulching, or other grass-health methods.
Interested in Echo Robotic Golf Course Maintenance?
One potential drawback to the Echo robot products for golf course maintenance is that they do need professional installation. The setups can be somewhat complex.
If you are interested in using Echo Robotics for your golf course, check out our list of certified robotic lawn care service providers.