How do the golf balls collected get back to the dispenser? Is the process fully automated? Are the balls washed?
The automated ball return system is responsible for the washing and transportation back to the dispenser of golf balls. It works in conjunction with the robot ballpicker that goes out and collects the balls out on the outfield. Once the robot is full it returns to its base and drops them into the return system. This process is fully automatic, from the time the balls are collected to being transported back to the dispenser, no human interaction is involved.
The design itself consists of a stainless steel ball drop zone that is shaped like half a diamond. This is installed into the ground and it is what the robot drops the balls into. The half diamond shape allows the balls to be funnelled towards the centre, at the base of the drop zone container is a slider that moves back and forth. With each back and forth motion the balls drop into a u-bend shaped cage, this allows any debris such as small stones to fall away. Leaving the balls to roll into a connected vacuum pipe, the suction process of the vacuum pipe propels the golf balls back to the ball dispenser. During this transportation process water is introduced and the balls are cleaned. The return system is controlled via control panel that is usually located alongside the ball dispenser unit as well as the air compressor for the vacuum pipe.
The design and development of the new system was undertaken by the owner of AMS Philip Sear and his technical director Sam Daybell. Philip had this to say about the ball return system:
“Research and development are a key component of our technology infrastructure, so we always strive to improve our products and services. With this in mind the new design is definitely more efficient in processing the balls and returning them to the dispenser. An example of this can be seen in the modification on how we use water in the system, we decided to only introduce water into transportation (vacuum) pipe. After previously also having it in the ball drop zone itself, this ensures water is used more resourcefully along with the balls being cleaned effectively. Overall we are very pleased with the new design as it continues our sustainability in offering a solution that streamlines resources and is cost-effective for our clients”
The new return system is currently being installed at FourAshes Golf Centre based in Solihull, who have been utilising robot technology at their facility for the past 4 years. It is also part of a new installation being undertaken at Grimsby Golf Club and was installed at High Legh Golf Club based in Knutsford, seen in last month’s issue.