We talked about the problem that we amateurs have of hitting the golf ball into the rough and then spending 20 minutes searching for it before throwing out yet another ball. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an electronic means of finding the ball? Here are some ideas we’ve bounced around:
Passive RFID: Manufacture each ball with an RFID chip inside. Then equip the course with RFID sensors which can triangulate and locate the position of the ball. This information is gathered and relayed to a golf course central processor which then transmits the location coordinates of the ball to a hand held or cart mounted unit. This unit could incorporate GPS technology, showing the golfer’s present position plus the position of the ball. The golfer position would come from standard GPS satellite reception. The ball location would come from the transmitted coordinates. Both would be indicated on the unit’s map.
One drawback of the above system is that GPS resolution is several feet and there are times when you know within that resolution where your ball is but you still can’t find it.
Active Beacon Emitter from Ball: Another approach would be to manufacture the ball with an active RF beacon emitter circuit inside. This circuit would also include a piezoelectric accelerometer which would produce a voltage when the ball is hit with the club. The voltage would be captured on a capacitor and with proper power management would be sufficient to power the RF emitter circuit inside. The RF emitter would continue to emit bursts of an RF signal modulated with a unique identifier (perhaps the chip can be programmed with this ID from outside the ball by RF near field stimulation, or manufacturers would produce balls with regularly updated ID codes) until the power harvested from the impact of the club on the ball has dissipated. This RF beacon would then be received by a hand held or cart mounted unit that has two receivers some distance apart which triangulate the position of the beacon and generate a ‘beep’ and a direction arrow on a display.
Keeping Score: For those who golf near par this may not be as interesting but for the rest may be. Since we have this gadgetry sensing when the ball is hit and where it goes, it wouldn’t take much to add a score keeping function that counts how many times the ball has been hit before landing in the cup which impact pattern could be detected and used to reset the counter for the next hole. Or, maybe there is a wireless circuit in each of the cups to log the score and reset for the next hole.
Update 4/22/11: RadarGolf is a company that in 2005 was selling a golf ball finder system based on RFID tags embedded in the balls. It may have not worked very well, as they seem to no longer be selling the system though they continue to sell the balls. There are also other RFID oriented golf ball finding technologies for sale which can be found with a search on terms like ‘RFID golf’.