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September 2019

Robotic Mowers Get the Green Thumbs Up

By Scott Kauffman

From Google to Tesla to name-your-favorite automotive manufacturer, everyone seems to be working on a self-driving car these days. And many of the minds behind these various makes and models see the adoption of autonomous vehicles happening sooner rather than later.

Indeed, just a of couple months ago at a press event in Auburndale, Florida, attended by the state governor, Starsky Robotics CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher showcased his company’s new self-driving semi-truck as part of a new state law, effective July 1, allowing driverless transportation networks to operate on public roads without the presence of human drivers in the vehicles.

To be sure, autonomous vehicles are nothing new to the agricultural world and something farmers are already using to maintain row crops. Now, this same type of automation is helping superintendents take care of the most valuable crop on a course – greens.

The group behind one of the more innovative new mowers is MTD Products Inc., but consumers might be most familiar with this Cleveland-area company as Cub Cadet. And now that Cub Cadet’s robotic RG3 mower technology has been thoroughly tested and proven at a couple of dozen courses over the past few years, the company can’t wait to commercially launch the next-gen Infinicut RGX greens mower at the 2020 Golf Industry Show in Orlando.

When the industry’s debut greens mower hits the market next year, it will join other autonomous specialty turf mowers in the works. For instance, John Deere announced last January it will develop autonomous mowing solutions for the golf and sports turf industry with Precision Makers, a Netherlands-based company specializing in autonomous technology for various equipment forms.

In the words of Tony Whelan, MTD Products’ director of sales and marketing for specialty turf products, the new RGX mower will feature the platform of the successful namesake Infinicut mowers currently used at sports venues like Wimbledon with a greatly enhanced new global positioning system (versus locally positioned beacons) and longer-lasting power lithium battery power source (versus lead-acid batteries).

Superintendent Justin Daigle of Perry Park Country Club in Larkspur, Colorado, is ecstatic about receiving one of the new RGX mowers. Daigle was one of the early adopters of the Cub Cadet R&D team’s technology, operating a limited-in-scope lone mower for a couple of years before he went all in with his current fleet of four RG3s at an annual lease cost of $36,000.

Daigle says above and beyond all the obvious labor efficiencies gained through autonomous mowing – not to mention approximately $9,000 in annual net labor and gas savings – he is 100 percent sold on the technology. The main reason for his ringing endorsement is the dual mowing-rolling function of the unit.

“Say it takes 1,500 steps on average to walk mow a green,” Daigle points out. “Or, you put a triplex on it, and you have three tire tracks going across (the green). Sure, I can come back with a roller on either one of those, but how about rolling it without those inputs. That’s what the robotic mower does. People say footsteps don’t matter; maybe so. …

“That first season we had it we did demos one green at a time. We mowed half a green and then we rolled it. Then we did RG3 on the other side, and there was absolutely noticeable difference. Members would come into the shop and would be able to tell which greens were robotically mowed. There’s no machine on the market that can put out a greens surface like a robotic mower; it’s physically impossible.”

Scott Kauffman is a golf business writer and the managing director of Aloha Media Group, and is regular technology columnist for Golf Business. You can contact him with tech news at 


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