The Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. property introduced the robotic “honorary member” on September 23rd at an event for club members. The Rob-OT can be programmed with the characteristics of a player’s swing and demonstrate the physics necessary to consistently hit good shots, increase accuracy and distance.
On September 23rd, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. installed its first robot golf club “member,” reported the Rancho Santa Fe Review.
The Rob-OT uses artificial-intelligence capabilities to give golfers the opportunity to improve their games and assist in equipment fitting, in addition to playing a course itself, reported the Review. It can get out of bunkers, putt and hit any imaginable tee shot, including a hole-in-one
Rob-OT is considered “the most accurate golfer in the world” and the first robot capable of going out onto the golf course, the Review reported. All major golf product manufacturers use the robots for testing—the United States Golf Association also has two for qualifying equipment, as does the European golf body R&A.
At the Fairbanks Ranch event, the Rob-OT analyzed swings, went up against human members in a hole-in-one contest and participated in a kids’ clinic alongside Rancho Santa Fe’s Dean Reinmuth, one of Golf Digest‘s and Golf magazine’s Top 25 best coaches and Sean Dynes, co-creator of the Rob-OT, the Review reported.
“It’s exciting to have this unique technology here at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club,” said Andree Martin, the club’s Director of Golf Instruction. “Rob-OT enhances both the instruction from a teacher’s perspective and the students’ learning is optimized. We are very excited to welcome Rob-OT as an “honorary member” to the club.”
The Rob-OT was designed for product development with its ability to test equipment with consistency that no human could possibly achieve—pounding golf ball after golf ball, hitting the same spot so frequently that it wore out the netting that manufacturers used and they had to switch to a Kevlar product, the Review reported.
Eventually, its developers came up with the idea to create a mobile version.
“When people toured the golf club companies, the robot always was the highlight of the tour,” Dynes said. “We had the idea to get one of the robots out on the course; it would be a lot of fun for him to play rounds of golf and take on humans.”
One Rob-OT, named LDRIC (pronounced Eldrick in honor of Tiger Woods), made a big impact at the 2016 Phoenix Open, landing a hole in one on the raucous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, reported the Review.
“That was so much fun,” Dynes said of the shot that sent the crowd of thousands into a frenzy. “It was like being a rock star.”
The Rob-OT went on to compete in skills competitions against Japanese golfer Shingo Katayama and Rory McIlroy—the Rob-OT even teased McElroy about his endorsement deals and caused him to burst into laughter, the Review reported.
The longest drive Rob-OT has hit is 380 yards, outdistancing the longest-hitting PGA pro, Bubba Watson, who averages 313 yards. To hit like Waton consistently, Dynes said they would have to bolt the robot down so he doesn’t “swing out of his shoes.”
Reinmuth was brought in to see how the Rob-OT could be utilized as more than just an entertainment vehicle, but also as an educational tool—he saw the potential the robot could have in instruction, reported the Review.
Reinmuth has coached his whole career based on simple physics—his “swing shaping” system focuses on making slight adjustments to the golfer’s own natural swings, as opposed to completely changing it.
“Your swing is like your fingerprint; it’s unique to you,” Reinmuth said.
Where the Rob-OT can make a difference, Reinmuth said, is that it can be programmed with the characteristics of a player’s swing and demonstrate the physics necessary to consistently hit good shots, increase accuracy and distance, the Review reported.
“For me as a coach, it takes some of the mystique out of it,” Reinmuth said. “It shows all swings can be successful [and that] you can improve your game.”
By analyzing a golfer’s “swing fingerprint,” the robot can also help figure out what golf equipment best suits a swing for optimal performance.
The players that have worked with the Rob-OT have seen immediate results and are impressed with the information it provides, reported the Review.
Dynes said it is exciting to get the robot out onto the greens and provide learning opportunities for players of all ages. The kids clinics, he said, are especially fun and engaging.
“The best education comes when teachers can get kids excited,” added Reinmuth, who sees the robot as being an ambassador for the sport.
Working with the kids, Dynes also sees himself as being a bit of an ambassador for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the Review reported.
“As an engineer, I love robotics and physics,” he said. “This event shows kids the different kinds of careers you can have in golf besides just being a pro golfer. I think I have more fun than Tiger.”
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