Got a goose on the loose?

By |  May 14, 2019 0 Comments
A gander-free — and droppings-free — No. 10 at Ruth Lake CC. (Photo: of Ruth Lake CC / Golf Shots Unlimited)

A gander-free — and droppings-free — No. 10 at Ruth Lake CC. (Photo: of Ruth Lake CC / Golf Shots Unlimited)

Almost 10 years ago, local engineer Rick Johnson asked Dan Marco, CGCS at Ruth Lake Country Club in the western Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Ill., if he could use the property as a testing site for solar-powered laser units to deter geese.

At first, Marco thought it was another “hocus-pocus-type device” that would never work. “I said, ‘Rick, I’ve seen every goose device in the world, and none have worked, but if you want to come out here and try it out, I’m all for it.’ I thought it would never work, but I had a huge geese problem.”

As the tests went on, however, Marco started to see fewer geese on the course. Of greater interest to him, though, were the significantly fewer goose droppings where the units were placed.

The green laser in the land-based and floating devices spooks geese, causing them to roost elsewhere. (Photo: iStock.com/MicroStockHub)

The green laser in the land-based and floating devices spooks geese, causing them to roost elsewhere. (Photo: iStock.com/MicroStockHub)

“He came out and started putting these different devices on the course (including floating in ponds),” Marco says. “He’d go out in a boat — they were red lasers at the time — and I’d walk the course and I’d say, ‘Where are all the geese? This is actually working.’”

Throughout the years of testing, Marco developed a relationship with Johnson, who owned a local Jacobsen distributorship. Eventually, Johnson started talking about retirement.

“Rick has it out there for five years,” Marco remembers. “He basically was a one-man show, and he was getting up there in years and going to retire. But I said, ‘I hate to see this technology go away, could I maybe buy the patent off you?’”

And that’s exactly what the longtime superintendent did, along with partner Dave Anderson.

In many cases, land-based flashers can be placed on top of hazard stakes that surround ponds. (Photo: Ruth Lake CC)

In many cases, land-based flashers can be placed on top of hazard stakes that surround ponds. (Photo: Ruth Lake CC)

Anderson, a consultant who had focused mainly on the TDR soil-moisture device for Spectrum Technologies, had recently retired and was looking for a new project. Further developing a solar-powered, laser-driven goose deterrent fit the bill. The new company took the name Verde Technical Solutions.

“I got really lucky,” Marco says. Anderson lived behind the 12th tee at Ruth Lake CC, “and he had more of the technical end of it, and we changed (Johnson’s) device around — we put a green laser in instead of red. It’s been well documented that geese hate green laser light. A lot of superintendents have these green pens that they use to lase the geese during the day.”

The partners dubbed the device the Gander Disbander. “We’ve had them out in the field for two years,” Marco says, noting that it’s been a word-of-mouth product up to now. “And we’ve had some really good feedback. We just took on some distribution (Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Precision USA), so we’re excited about it.” Precision USA highlighted the product at its booth at the recent Golf Industry Show in San Diego.

The number of in-pond floaters a course requires depends on the size and shape of the water features. (Photo: Ruth Lake CC)

The number of in-pond floaters a course requires depends on the size and shape of the water features. (Photo: Ruth Lake CC)

“We have about 60 courses around the country,” Marco notes. “We sold in Arizona; we sold our first international unit — maybe — to Canada. There’s a lot of interest in Carolina, of course, and around Chicago where I’m from, which I guess is low-hanging fruit. I have a lot of connections and a lot of friends. They’ve tried it and liked it. We’re also in Arkansas, so we’re spreading our wings a little bit.”

Strobing over your pond

Asked how to describe his product, Marco says it’s pretty straightforward.

“It’s a strobing green laser that shoots across your pond,” he says. “There’s a floating buoy that sits in the middle of your pond (anchored to the lake bottom by a cable — the anchor and cable cost less than $20), and this green laser shoots across 200 yards in every direction.

“What superintendents have liked about it is that when they leave for the day — because this comes on at dusk — the geese fly in to roost overnight, this kicks on every seven minutes for seven minutes, flashes throughout the night and spooks them off the golf course. The droppings go way down, and that’s the biggest thing. We also have a version where you can put it on land. Let’s say you have a driving range that’s flat where geese congregate — it works there, too.”

And not wanting to come off as discriminating against man’s best friend, Marco adds, “I love the dog services and the dogs, and I don’t want to take away from that — and superintendents probably will always have them — but when you have to have an outside firm come in and you’re spending a lot of money, this is a way more economical solution.”

The number of the land-based “flashers” and in-pond “floaters” a superintendent needs is based on the course’s terrain, Marco says.

“It depends on how big your lake is. If the lake or pond is more winding, you might have to have a few because it’s just going to shoot straight. If you have an open lake, it shoots far, but it’s still safe for animal and human viewing. For the land-based product, if you have hazard stakes around your pond, you can plop it on top of the hazard stakes.”

The company has a number of testimonials from superintendents and some product love from USGA’s Course Care publication, which noted that the product “improves upon handheld versions by mounting the laser on a floating doughnut placed in the middle of a lake … The technology requires minimal power and no moving parts. The green laser beams are only observable during the early morning, late evening and nighttime.”

So, what’s it like being a full-time superintendent while trying to get a new business off the ground?

“It’s a lot of work at home at night after dinner,” Marco says. “My wife’s watching something on Netflix, and I’m on the computer typing and doing emails. It’s just learning how to manage my time where I’m not affecting my job at all.”

Marco says the company is working on other devices that are technology driven but simple to use. He hopes to have them ready next summer and production ready next fall.

By which, Marco presumably means devices that will help him, among other superintendents, like the Gander Disbander helped him solve his own goose problem at Ruth Lake CC.

“It’s a question of trying to build things that will help me where I’m at,” he notes. “And if it helps me, maybe it’ll help someone else.”



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