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KEEPING THE GOLF COURSE GREEN.

At first blush, golf might truly seem a gentleman's game: the background of birdsong, the clean smack of the ball, the greens that roll away. Like every sport, golf is bound by rules and regulations and, in this sport perhaps more than others, by unwritten gentlemen's agreements. One of them says that when a ball lands on a green and creates a dent, or divot, a golfer will pry up the dent lest the area turn brown, ruin the appearance of the green, and create furrows for other golfers.

For David Roach, chief executive officer of Roach Harkins Design in Hollis, N.H., golf is a passion that moved him to become involved in the politics of the game on a local level. The company he runs designs technology products, including medical and electronic equipment as well as disposable medical test devices. But his love of golf led him to design a tool that he says properly repairs the greens after a ball has caused a divot.

The condition of the greens is always of concern for organizations that oversee golf clubs, Roach said.

"Think of a ball landing on short, soft grass like on a golf green," Roach said. "The ball makes a dent in the grass and the dent needs to be repaired or the grass turns brown and dies. There are two ways to repair the dent: by twisting and scraping grass from around the dent, which aerates the green, or by prying up the dent."

The second way is not the correct way, Roach said, although many golfers instinctively pull up the divot to smooth out the grass.

"Most people don't aerate the grass because it doesn't feel right," he said. "They instead try to pry up the dent, but that leaves a void underneath it. Even though it looks okay at first, when the mower runs over it, it pushes down the dent again."

The space underneath the pulled-up dent causes the root system to become diseased, so the grass turns brown and dies, Roach said. Indeed, greens maintenance is part art and part science, according to the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, associated with Texas A&M University in College Station.

Over the centuries, the art of greens maintenance has been passed from one generation to the next by greenskeepers of chiefly Scottish descent. The Scots seemed to have had a monopoly on the art of greenskeeping since Scotland was golf's place of origin and the country where most golf courses were found prior to the 20th century.

Now, the golf course superintendent has replaced the greenskeeper, and science is rapidiy replacing art in the profession of greens maintenance. Still, a combination of factors, such as when and how much to fertilize and water the grounds and how often and in what pattern to mow the grass, plays an important role in putting and ball-holding quality.

Proper care includes daily mowing, daily changing of mowing patterns, mowing at the correct height, precise adjustment of mowers, daily cleaning and sharpening of mowers, training of mower operators, and visual inspection of results. Mowing is the single most important practice in greens maintenance, according to Texas A&M's extension service.

About a year ago, Roach found a way to marry his job to his hobby in a way that would get the message out about an individual golfer's responsibility in proper greens maintenance. Roach and his employees spent one year researching and designing a divot tool that uses the aeration method to repair dents caused by balls landing on the green. The tool comes with an instruction book that describes the two separate methods of divot repair and why aeration is necessary.

Design engineers at Roach Harkins Design spent about a year developing the product, using computer-aided design software in order to make sure that the product was ergonomically sound when held, Roach said. The product was modeled in Pro/Engineer CAD software from PTC of Waltham, Mass. Then the engineers downloaded the CAD information to a rapid-prototyping system that created a soft model of the tool.

"We wanted to feel what the product would feel like in the hand and to verify that the ergonomics of the shape were correct," Roach said. The tool was then cast in steel and hand finished for what Roach called a sexy look, which will encourage players to remember and use their divot-repair tool.

The tool includes a coin set in the top that can be taken off and used to mark the position of the ball on the green.

Four months ago, Roach's company began making the divot-repair tool. For the time being, it is available only through his brother-in-law's company, DisVet Enterprises of Waukesha, Wis., which distributes products to corporations. A corporation can put its logo on the coin and pass out the divot-repair tools as an employee reward or incentive.

With the divot-repair tool launched, Roach feels that he has helped spur greens repair.

"Golfers are responsible for repairing the dents they make. The etiquette of golf dictates that you do this," he said.
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Title Annotation:divot repair tool
Comment:KEEPING THE GOLF COURSE GREEN.(divot repair tool)
Author:THILMANY, JEAN
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:846
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