ROV Golf Ball Retrieval


Why are the massive numbers of golf balls on the floor of ponds all around the world even a concern? What is the best method of retrieving these golf balls? Approximately one billion new golf balls are produced each year and 100 million of those are collected by golf ball divers. Golf ball retrieval at a driving range and recycling has become a multi-million dollar industry over the past few decades and a diver can earn between $50,000-100,000 annually. Golf balls littering the bottom of ponds has become a concern for many because of the negative impact they have on the environment. They can take up to 1,000 years to decompose and as they do, they release a toxic heavy metal, Zinc, that attaches itself to the sediments in the ground and poisons the surrounding environment. You can see more details here.

We are going to construct an underwater ROV that will collect the balls that are becoming a nuisance to the environment. We felt that this new method would be much safer than the alternative, diving for golf balls. Divers face many dangers each day that they go below the surface of ponds. Two of these dangers are the pesticides and chemicals that divers come in contact with. They have to get regular tetanus shots to combat these chemicals. Divers also face alligators, snapping turtles, and snakes that hide in the murky water and can cause bodily harm. Our ROV will make this retrieval much safer because it will keep the divers out of the water entirely. This line of work may seem harmless, but it has claimed the lives of many. We hope that our ROV will continue the improvements being made in golf ball retrieval that have been aimed towards helping the environment and minimise the risks involved in the profession. Learn more from the Golf holidays direct reviews.

Literature Review

Budiyono, Agus. (2009). Advances in unmanned underwater vehicles technologies: Modeling, control and guidance perspectives. Indian Journal of Marine Sciences. Retrieved from

This article introduces the two types of unmanned underwater vehicles or UUVs. The first is the remotely operated vehicle or ROV. Although our ROV is not used in the same way that the article says they are, the setup of our ROV is the same. With our ROV having the same operation setup I believe that we can add on to it or modify it to be able to pick up golf balls. The second is the autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV. The article describes how AUVs are superior to ROVs because they don’t need to be supervised by a human operator and are not restricted by the tether that is on an ROV. Furthermore, the article goes on to describe what can be attached to an AUV so it can perform different tasks and how they have advanced as machines over recent years concerning their programing, shape, and abilities.

With the materials that we have and the limitations on ROVs I’m not sure that we could make it into an AUV, but I do believe that it can be modified to create a golf ball retrieval robot. By adding a claw and a container to the ROV we could have a functioning way to collect golf balls. Also, if we add wheels to the ROV and take away the propellers we will get rid of some issues concerning keeping the robot in a single spot if there is a current in the water.

Problem Identification for Underwater Robot. (2012). SciVerse Science Direct. Engineering Procedia. Retrieved from

The author of this article wrote about about the systems in a ROV and what is good and bad about how these systems perform in an underwater environment. First, the article details the advantages and disadvantages of a ROV in a general view of how they function. Second, the multiple control systems used on ROVs are examined to help determine which ones work best in a real life environment. Third, the topic of under actuated condition is brought up with concern to the ROV maintaining its position in the water if one of its motors gives out that is keeping it in place. Fourth, station keeping and how the ROV will return to its “home” after its mission is complete. Fifth, the ways that a ROV is coupled to the platform and the operator is discussed, specifically what is used and what it is used for. Sixth, the inability of a ROV to transmit GPS data and to communicate with a the operator is showed with a table. Finally, the thrust of an ROV and the factors that influence it are stated.

The content of this article is very informative on the mechanics of how you could make an ROV. This information will help us to examine what we will need to change about our robot and what we will need to possibly make or get for our robot. With the large number of things that will factor into the performance of our ROV, this article will be very helpful to determine what we need to do in the near future.

Lance, Jennifer. (2009). Golf Balls Take 1000 Years to Decompose. Green Living Ideas. Retrieved from

Ms. Lance discusses some interesting points about golf courses and golf balls as it relates to the environment. She starts by stating that environmentalists have been working to change how golf courses are taken care of so the environment isn’t affected so greatly. Attention has recently shifted to the golf balls that sit at the bottom of ponds that can take up to 1000 years to decompose. Coupled with the fact that 300 million balls are lost in the U.S. every year, this is becoming a serious issue. She also discussed the chemicals that are released from the golf balls when they break down. A toxic Zinc is a heavy metal released by the balls that attaches “itself to the ground sediment and poisoned the surrounding flora and fauna” when in water.

Ms. Lance proposed that golf courses could ban toxic golf balls and require non-toxic biodegradable balls. The ROV that we will be constructing is meant to help combat the growing number of golf balls sitting at the bottom of ponds.

What It’s Like To Be A Golf Ball Diver. (2006). Scuba Diving. Retrieved from

This article goes through what it’s like to be a golf ball diver. Golf ball retrieval has become a multimillion-dollar industry over the past few years and a diver can earn between $50,000-100,000 annually. The concern I had with this method of retrieval was the dangers the divers faced. The article listed two of the dangers to be pesticides and fertilizers. Divers have to get regular tetanus shots to combat the chemicals they come into contact with daily. The potential threats I found the most daunting were the alligators, snakes, and snapping turtles that hide in the murky waters.

Diving for golf balls is said to be the most convenient and efficient method of retrieval. I disagree with this statement. In my opinion, using a robot to retrieve the balls is much safer. Many divers have died in this line of work and many more will die in the future. It is a dangerous business. Hopefully with a ROV to do the retrieving, the job will become much safer.

Coxworth, Ben. (2011). New Device Harvests Submerged Golf Balls From Shore. Retrieved from

Mr. Coxworth mentions another method, other than diving for golf balls mentioned earlier, where the G
olf Ball
Wrangler is used. The advantages I found this contraption had over diving was the fact that the user could stay out of the water. The article states that three partners worked together to create this contraption that consists of a series of reinforced fiberglass mesh discs that are mounted on a carbon steel axle, with weights at both ends. The user pulls the device across the bottom of the lake using a rope. The discs roll through the mud at the bottom of the pond and collects golf balls as it moves along. Users remove the balls from the device after each drag, put it back in the water, and repeat until they have collected all the balls they can. This device is currently available for $119.99 plus shipping to U.S. customers only.

As I mentioned earlier, a benefit of this device is that the user doesn’t have to get in the water and expose themselves with the dangerous fertilizers and herbicide runoff from greens. One issue I can foresee with this method is that since it is handheld and dragged by a person standing on the shore, it would only be able to pick up balls on the outer edges. An ROV would still have the same benefits as this method and it can reach the balls farther out in the middle of the pond.

Durrant, Nick. (2013). SeaPerch Retrieval System for Underwater Extraction of Small Objects. Retrieved from

This article provides an example of one underwater ROV that can retrieve small objects such as golf balls. The one mentioned in this article isn’t meant to pick up golf balls from ponds on a golf course but was meant as entertainment for middle school students. However, I found some points in the article that could be of use to us as we construct our own ROV. First, we should consider using aluminum to construct our ROV. This article states that aluminum is ideal because of its strength, low density, low cost, and protective corrosive properties. It will help to keep the system lightweight but not buoyant to prevent imbalance.

Another material that we should consider using if needed is foam. I had not previously thought of using this material as a way to balance out the weight and buoyancy force. However, it is very likely that as we construct our ROV its weight will become greater than the buoyancy force. This article was very helpful in giving ideas for what materials to use when constructing our ROV.

Francis, Don. (2014). ROVs evolve into underwater robots . Offshore Magazine . Retrieved from

Don Francis writes in his article about how the ROV is changing. He says that the ROV and the AUV are starting to move from opposite ends of the spectrum towards each other. With this happening we might be able to expect a robot with the power and capability of a ROV and the freedom of an AUV. The important factors of a ROV are also examined by Francis. Having a skilled pilot is important and will most likely yield a better result when the ROV is completing a task. Francis goes on to talk about how the ROV conducts its dynamic work with tools while in the water as the robot moves its whole body to do work and keep a good operating angle with the tools. Lastly, Francis talks about how before now there was never a real need for ROVs and AUVs to do more than they could. He believes this is why there aren’t really any ground breaking discoveries and research being done with UUVs.

This article helped me to understand more about the importance of having a stable and strong power supply to the ROV and how a good pilot can make a difference on a job being done with a ROV. What stuck out to me was how ROVs and AUVs are moving closer together. When we start making a version of these machines that has the best qualities of an ROV and AUV we will be able to do so many things in the water.

Lam, Brian. (2012). A Mini Sub Made From Cheap Parts Could Change Underwater . Bits . The New York Times. Retrieved from

This article by Brian Lam puts the ROV in the spotlight as it becomes recognized for its potential. ROVs used to be something for hobbyists, but now they are recognized for their ability to do tasks and for underwater exploration. They have gotten recognition from NASA, who uses ROVs in their underwater research base in the Aquarius reef of the coast of Florida and in their NEEMO project. The openROV has little of the restrictions that a human diver has while in the water. This is something that makes it a very nice tool to have while exploring underwater. Along with the relatively low cost of a openROV this is one of the best tools that could be used for underwater exploration and jobs.

This article highlights some of the key factors as to why a ROV is a useful robot to have and use. I liked how Brian Lam showed that this was a recognized asset to underwater exploration and how it has made a transition from toy to tool. After reading this I liked knowing about the versatility of the ROV to work in environments where humans might not be able to. Knowing this, we can see how putting a robot into a pond with chemicals would be much better than placing a human in one.


Before beginning the construction of the ROV, we spent approximately a week coming up with the the design. At first we felt that a claw would work best to pick up the gold balls from the bottom of a pond but upon further consideration we decided that a scoop would be the better option. We also felt that it would be best to create the body out of PVC pipe because it would provide just enough buoyancy so the ROV wouldn’t sink into the mucky pond floor.

The ROV needed to have more motors attached to its controller so that it would have four wheel drive and fully operate the scoop. So, we took a week to test and make sure that if we soldered the wires from two motors onto a wire attached to the power supply the connection would be safe and the ROV would function properly. After we were confident that everything would work the way it was supposed to we took a few days to solder the wires together.

When we began brainstorming about what the ROV would look like we thought about two ideas. The first was letting the ROV use propellers to move through the water and the second was to left it drive on the bottom of a pond. We used a large white board to plan out what each body type would look like and function. We eventually decided that the ROV should drive on the ground and planned the robots construction. We planned out how big the dimensions for the ROV would have to be as well as the pieces that would have to be printed on our 3D printer. Before constructing the ROV we labeled all the pieces and parts. Finally we constructed the ROV.

At the end of the brainstorming process, we decided we wanted to use a mesh or wire container so that the water could flow freely through and not cause any drag. It would also provide holes for mud and small rocks to fall through so they don’t take up room in the container or cause the ROV to become too heavy. During the construction period we found that having a large container, even being wire, was not feasible. There was simply not enough room in the body of the ROV to fit something of that size. Instead we went with a small cylindrical container that would not be too bulky or heavy for the ROV to handle. We attached it in the center of the body in a position where the ball could easily transfer from the tube attached to the scoop into the container.

When we threw out the idea of using a claw and decided to use a scoop instead, we then had to decide how we would make a scoop and attach it to the body of the ROV. We are fortunate enough to have a 3D filament printer available to us and thought this would be a good option. We designed the scoop on a computer program and then transferred it to th
e computer that is linked to the printer. It took about 5 hours to print the scoop and it was attached to a large piece of PVC pipe that would transfer the gold ball from the scoop, to the container.

The wheels that we needed to make we also printed with our 3D printer. We took a couple of weeks to design the wheels on Inventor Pro. We went through four different designs before we decided on the design that we would finally use on the ROV. Each wheel took about five hours to print, so we had to space out how often we printed to about one wheel a day. This process was slowed down immensely by our prints failing and by the printer not working properly when we wanted to print.

Finally, we made it to the testing phase. To begin testing we used a pool to make sure the ROV was balanced and would pick up a golf ball and move correctly before transferring it to a more realistic setting. We made adjustments to the position of the camera and the angle of the scoop after each test depending on how it worked. We tested in a pool setting three times before we felt the ROV was ready to be moved into a pond. When we put in it a pond we went to one in the Plymouth landing neighborhood on Williamston Road. The pond was very murky and was hard to see which prevented us from getting video of the working ROV and we spent about 3 hours testing here. Once we were happy with how the ROV moved and picked up the golf ball we brought it back to land.


Testing the ROV in the pool showed what seemed to be promising results. On a flat surface like the bottom of the pool the ROV was slow but it was functional. The wheels that we designed to help dig and move through the mud had a bit of trouble without the mud to move through. On the pool bottom the ROV was able to move, but did so slowly. When a golf ball was in front of the ROV it was able to pick it up as long as the ROV was able to dig into the mud underneath the golf ball to pick it up. The resounding problem we had while testing the ROV was an issue with the weight distribution. The arm and scoop that is used to pick up golf balls was too heavy to maintain balance in the ROV while going down the slope of the bank of a pond.

During the construction portion of our research we encountered numerous setbacks. Many of these were centered around the 3D printer that we chose to print our wheels. There were many times that students would touch and play with the printer which would mess with the setting and it would all need to be readjusted before a new print, that took about three hours each, could be started. There was also a time where, to our astonishment, a student had decided to tear apart one of our wheels which put us back another print. If the printer had been stored in a closed room that was kept away from the other students I believe we could have gotten the printing done in a much shorter time frame that what it ended up taking. The other problem we encountered was that our arm and scoop didn\’t have a motor that was strong enough to pick up a golf ball. We did, however, come up with a solution to this problem by hooking it up to another motor that was attached to a pulley system. Lastly, when we had the chance to test the ROV in a real pond, we found that the front portion was heavier than the back which meant that when going down a slope, the entire ROV would tip forward and fall. Because of the strict time requirements we had to meet there was no additional time to fix these problems we encountered last minute. With more time, we would be able to find solutions to these problems and hopefully fix them to create a completely functioning ROV that can pick up the golf balls littering the bottom of ponds across the world. When tested in a flatter area, the ROV was able to very slowly crawl across the pond bottom. The printed scoop was fragile and scooping the ball was difficult while trying to not break the scoop. Eventually the task was completed and the golf ball was returned to the shore. The process took approximately six minutes to get to the ball which was about six feet away. The process of picking up the ball took about one to two minutes. Finally, bringing the golf ball back took another six minutes.