Radar Golf might make lost balls a thing of the past
Radar Golf was founded about two years ago.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Lost balls spoiled many a round of golf for Chris Savarese, until the former software executive decided to do something about it.
His search of patent filings showed others had tried to devise technological fixes to the lost-ball dilemma. Among the not-ready-for-prime-time contraptions: golf-club-shaped metal detectors that scout out metallic balls, a tube that helped players sniff out scented balls and even Geiger counters that could locate balls embedded with radioactive material.
Savarese thought he could do better. And his new hand-held gadget, called Radar Golf, may prove he's a better entrepreneur than he is a golfer.
Radar Golf helps players find balls embedded with radio frequency identification chips. RFID chips emit a radio signal that can be tracked with a scanner.
Savarese quit his job and formed Radar Golf about two years ago. Steve Harari, a technology consultant and angel investor, took a stake in Radar Golf early on and became chief executive in November. The company recently moved its headquarters from Los Altos to Roseville, a Sacramento suburb.
Harari showed off a prototype of the Radar Golf system at the Palo Alto Hills Golf & amp; Country Club. On his second shot in the third hole, a par 4, Harari's ball flew high toward the golden hills of the East Bay, bounced off a tree and descended -- somewhere.
Savarese whipped out the hand-held scanner and turned it on, sending a radio signal to the ball, which responded by beaming signals back. The device began beeping, slowly at first, and more quickly as Savarese walked straight and then slightly to his right. Just as the ball was in full view -- nestled in a patch of grass under some pine trees -- the beeps coalesced into one continuous, high-pitched whine.
"Bingo," Harari said. "We got it."
He found the ball within 10 seconds -- avoiding what might have been a two-stroke penalty if he hadn't located the ball within five minutes as golfing rules require.
On average, the device finds one out of four balls. But if golfers hit into water, over fences or down canyons, they're still out of luck.
Harari and Savarese are in discussions with two national retailers about selling the products. They already have started taking orders online at www.radargolf.com. The company will begin shipping the finished products in November.
Some golfers might balk at paying $249 for a ball-finder scanner and the first dozen balls, and then $39 for each additional dozen.
But that may not be Radar Golf's biggest obstacle.
Some serious golfers like MaryBee Johnston of Portola Valley, Calif., opt for the brand of golf balls they like best, such as Titleist or Precept.
"We're picky about our balls, the feel of them, and how they perform," Johnston said. "I'm not going to want to buy just any brand."
Radar Golf balls are fine for tournaments because the flea-sized microchip in each ball doesn't change its size, shape or performance, say United States Golf Association officials.
But the ball-finder scanner is another story. According to the golf association, the gadget is not allowed because it would be considered a distance-measuring device that would give players an unfair advantage. In other words, Tiger Woods will have to find his lost balls on his own.