May 16, 2008 Mark Twain once famously quipped that "Golf is a good walk spoiled". Perhaps if he'd had access to the fully autonomous Shadow Caddy®, he might have been a little more enthusiastic.
This "follow-me golf caddy" has the ability to trail you around the course without the use of any form of remote control, making it a civilized compromise between dragging or carrying a set of clubs or foregoing the benefits of a pleasant stroll entirely by riding in a golf cart. It's also cheaper than hiring a human caddy and because it is autonomous, it leaves your mind free to concentrate on connecting with that little white ball.
Golfer Hubert Novak decided to pursue the idea in 2004, after a search for a hands-free product that could meet his needs proved fruitless. Although the concept itself is not new, no one had ever managed to successfully commercialize a product like this until now.
The Shadow Caddy® works via a transmitter worn on the body of the user and uses multiple on-board CPUs and a collision detection system to navigate the fairways. There are two simple settings controlled by a panel at the front of the 3-wheeled cart: “Follow-Me” for normal use and “Park” to stop it from following you onto the green (or into a bunker, creek, jungle, public roadway and so on). In park mode the cart simply stays put until you return and re-activate it and there's also a reverse button in case it does follow you into any awkward spots.
The Shadow Caddy can function in all weather conditions according to the designers and is quite zippy as this video demonstrates. One criticism is that the transmitter looks to be on the high-end of the "pocket-sized" scale, and this could be a distraction for some golfers. The system undoubtedly has huge potential however, and the Australian based company is also licensing the tracking technology in non-golf areas.
One of 21 finalists in the Next Big Thing Award, Shadow Caddy is initially being marketed under a rental model rather than as a retail product. Trials are are being conducted at four Melbourne golf courses.