ORLANDO -- PGA Show organizers are used to seeing innovative and unique exhibits each year as companies plan their showcases. Hearing about a new company wanting to drive in a mobile unit with a robotic putting green simulator was probably a little atypical.
Driving from their Encinitas, Calif., home base to Orlando, Jim Stracka—the inventor and founder of the well-known green-reading mapping company—and his son-in-law Justin Porter are debuting their joint venture, the Robogreen, which takes Stracka's 3-D laser-mapping technology, applies it to a 160-foot putting green with robotic simulations to mimic the exact breaks of putts.
The end result is a mobile unit, just like you'd see from high-end clubfitting operations, that is essentially a transportable putting green simulator. It includes an app that has mapped every contour of every green at now more than 1,000 courses, so you can choose from the exact position on each green you'd like to putt from. Then, the ball actually performs like it would.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? The price tag is obviously out of question for most reading this, as Robogreen will charge $40,000 at a base price, hoping to sell these and franchise them out regionally. The idea might be wild, but so was the process for making this come together.
"We finished this, honestly, the week that we left," says Porter, formerly in the automative industry. "And then we left the hour after this was finished and drove it 2,500 miles across the country.
"There were some insane, late nights. But Jim had the idea: 'Let's do a robot green where we can utilize our data and replicate real putts.' "
Porter says it took about a year of working through the bugs of the green, and making sure everything worked the way he and Stracka wanted it to before coming to market. The duo say they need just two hours of lead time if a golf course or regional professional wants to buy or lease one. And they can customize each trailer, making it wider or longer based on the client's needs.
Is there a market for transportable putting-green simulators? Robogreen hopes there is, as the company will target club events like member-guests but also after-school programs and other kids events by gameifying the simulator experience.
It's a forward-thinking idea that epitomizes some of the best ideas at the 2020 PGA Show: Taking great technological innovations and combining them into experiences people want to enjoy. Sure, that sounds buzzwordy, but if it's effective, it's a new revenue stream that Robogreen will take credit for.