Putting may not seem like the most backbreaking activity at first glance, but those of us who spend hours on the practice green know otherwise.
If we were all as young and limber as Camilo Villegas, it might not be an issue. But the fact is that the constant leaning to putt balls and bending over to retrieve them from the cup can, in fact, cause back strain over time. And once your back starts aching, it becomes very difficult to concentrate on your putting fundamentals.
Enter a new product called the RoboCup, a “ball return robot” that fits inside any practice green cup or standard-sized cup. When you sink your putt, the RoboCup lifts the ball and shoots it right back to you.
The RoboCup ($49.95, includes protective case) made quite a splash at the PGA Merchandise show in January. Now, as of this week, the first orders are being filled. RoboCup runs on four AA batteries and will return the ball up to 14 feet, depending on green speed. A set of batteries lasts for 15,000 putt returns.
The RoboCup ball return robot is the invention of Keith Foley of Fine Tune Golf. Foley says the idea came to him while watching the Golf Channel’s “Fore Inventors Only,” a reality show about golf equipment inventors and their creations. It was a classic light bulb moment for Foley.
He recalls, “I had a thought totally irrelevant to the product I was looking at. I realized how convenient it would be to have your practice balls come back to you. It took me awhile to get over the fact that no one had discovered this yet. I was later disappointed to find out that the show was not going to air again, since I had begun developing a product that could clearly win. After two years of development, the product was complete, just in time for the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show, where we won ‘Best New Product.'”
Foley says that the RoboCup has earned quite a few fans on the professional circuits. “Our tour representative, Mike Neal, has been on the tour practice greens for 11 years,” Foley says. “Through his demonstrations over the last couple months, he has collected over 150 players who have requested the RoboCup, including Arnold Palmer. Mr. Palmer did a double take as the ball popped out of the hole in front of his eyes. He exclaimed, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!'”
The RoboCup comes with an optional Caddy Cord ($14.95), which lays on the ground and loops around the back of the hole. With the Caddy Cord in place, missed putts are fed into the hole, allowing the robot to return them just as it does perfect putts.
“Maybe it’s just my perception, but I feel like I make a lot more and longer putts with this product rewarding me on every stroke,” Foley says. “I feel I focus more intensely on the target with the goal of having the ball returned without touching the Caddy Cord.”
The RoboCup isn’t cheap, but it sounds like a worthy investment for those who are committed to practicing their putting, and who want to save time and avoid back pain along the way. Stay tuned for the PutterZone.com review.