Best comedy of all time? You can bet Happy Gilmore is in the top 10. But for as screwball as that comedy was it taught a valuable golf lesson – I don’t care if you can crush it off the tee, it’s your short game that will win it or lose it for you. Most golfers can be found at the driving range trying to whack the ball with their huge drivers clear out to the end of the range. But many experts argue that as much as two-thirds of your strokes are made within 50 yards of the hole. That means that you probably have more opportunity to cut strokes off your game by improving the shorter shots than by stretching more yards out of your powerhouse drive. So in the movie, Happy’s coach takes him mini-golfing to practice keeping his calm with the short game, even in the face of that laughing clown machine that keeps spitting his putts back at him.
Enter the RoboCup Golf Ball Retriever from Fine Tune Golf. The RoboCup is like your own personal Happy Gilmore clown, without the ridicule. In the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show it was named “Best New Product.” I can see why it was chosen from among all the new golf gear as best new product — it probably has the best chance at making it fun to actually practice your putting game and cut strokes off your score. And it could save your back in the process.
Though the RoboCup name might make you think it is some sort of protective armor that you wear, it is actually pretty much a pocket-sized version of the Happy Gilmore clown. You set it in a putting cup and whenever you hit the ball into the cup, it pops it back out to you so you can practice again. Just like the clown. Most golf ball retrievers are just long claws you use to reach down and grab your ball out of the cup, which certainly will save your back from reaching down repeatedly to the cup. But that adds the trouble of walking over to the cup every time you putt it in.
It seems like such a simple little machine. Could this really be as ground-breaking a product as the awards hype it to be? To me it seems the RoboCup really could be, since it may turn out to be golf’s equivalent of the tried and true Kanon tennis ball serving machine that was introduced to the game way back in 1975. What took golf so long to produce a similarly efficient machine for putting practice? Nowadays you don’t see a tennis club without a serving machine, and I would venture to say that within a couple of years you won’t see any serious golf pro shop that isn’t carrying the RoboCup. Perhaps some may opt for the more expensive mini-golf clown instead, but I personally prefer a less sarcastic teaching device. My golf game needs enough work without throwing taunts into the mix.
UPDATE: Fine Tune Golf sent me a sample to try out, and I have to say that it does exactly what it says it will. You putt in (or, if you are close then the guide cord will drop your ball for you), and then the Robocup pops it conveniently right back to you. Easy, convenient way to keep drilling that same putt angle over & over again. However, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- First: Please don’t sit there on the green and practice with everyone backing up behind you.
- Second: If you are at the club’s practice green that has a number of holes placed in different locations on the green, then you usually are going to putt a bunch of balls towards one hole, then pull up the cup and putt towards a different hole, and on and on. That way you are always practicing new angles and won’t necessarily want the ball returned to you by the Robocup to keep practicing the exact same angle at the hole. But if there’s a certain angle at the hole that you just want to drill and drill and drill, nothing will do it for you like the Robocup will. The Robocup is your tool for that.
- Third: And, if the club’s practice green is crowded then placing your Robocup kind of let’s you ‘stake your claim’ on a particular hole on the practice green. But don’t tell people that WE told you to be a cup-hoard like that!
- Fourth: Since you can drop the Robocup into the cup at any angle you want, then you can actually putt into the hole from one angle and the Robocup will pop the ball out at a 45 or 90 or 180 degree angle from where you putted. That way it pre-places your next set of balls to hit some putting practice from all around the same hole.
- Fifth: Fine Tune Golf will cringe when they hear me say this, but the Robocup can also be used as an awesome gag. When you cordially go pull the pin for your buddy to putt in, you quietly drop the Robocup in there. When he drops his putt, it spits it back at him. Just like the Happy Gilmore clown! Priceless…