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Prazza Ball Finder - it works, at a price!
by Dominic Pedler
May 2011

Not counting fore-caddies, which date back hundreds of years, man’s eternal quest to keep tabs on his golf ball goes back at least to the late- 1970s when New Scientist reported on Japanese attempts to install a micro transmitter ‘homing’ device inside the pesky sphere.

While those early prototypes suffered from having little room left for the innards necessary to make the thing actually fly, variations on the theme have preoccupied the R&D men ever since, with the RadarGolf transmitter and the camera-based Scout just two of the more recent offerings.

But the Prazza Golf Ball Finder takes things a stage further with a hand-held device that detects a signal from a micro-chip inside a specially made golf ball and guides you to it – or at least the immediate vicinity – fairly well within a range of about 100 yards. The visual display on the unit features an arrow to point you in the right direction and a graphic of a ball that gets larger as you get closer, along with a choice of bleeps or vibrations that steadily increase in frequency.

Developed by scientists in the Netherlands, the Prazza improves dramatically on the RadarGolf system in terms of both technology and range, by having a chip that operates though ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ Radio-Frequency Identification. You simply calibrate the ball to the handset at the start of the round and it remains in continuous contact for 30 minutes after your last strike. For an instant demo, just checkout the YouTube clip of master coach and Sky Sports analyst Simon Holmes (just one of the big names impressed by the device) finding his ball in the trees at Mill Ride.

I’ve tried it, too, and the thing does actually work, helping me to find my ball in some seemingly hopeless situations as well as being regularly in use on one test day when the horizontal winter sunshine made for challenging visibility. But potential purchase

Readers should note that the device rarely guides you ‘as the crow flies’ as you might expect: you need to walk slowly, react patiently to the sometimes trigger-happy arrow and be prepared to retrace your steps. Even when the unit is registering ‘full ball’, you may still not immediately see your ball lurking in long grass or under leaves, but at least you will have dramatically reduced your area of search to perhaps a few square feet.

Prazza is a certainly an intriguing breakthrough given industry estimates of some 500 million lost balls a year, worldwide, though it also represents something of a Pandora’s Box and raises as many questions as it answers.

For a start, the £299.95 kit comes far too frugally with just two balls, with replacements currently costing a mighty £39.95 for a sleeve of three. For while you’re not supposed to lose any balls, you surely will – whether in a lake (beneath the 8 inches of water in which the system still works), deep into a sea of gorse, or (as I did, mortifyingly) over a barbed wire perimeter fence. You know it’s in there but just how determined are you to raze the area to retrieve it in front of your smirking fourball?

Yes, the Prazza has fantastic potential to speed up play, but only providing the special ball prices plummet sufficiently to dispel that find-it-at-all-costs mentality. In the meantime, the concept is probably not so much about saving money over the long term but the simple pleasure of finding your ball far more often than you would normally.

Meanwhile, beyond the fact that it’s not approved for competition, there’s the issue of ball quality. It certainly performed well enough in our admittedly rather impromptu wintery tests, with no obvious distance deficiency, but it is rather firm in feel and construction – presumably given the understandable need for durability. It’s not a Pro V1 or a Srixon Z-Star, and for many golfers the feel and performance of their favourite brand is a bond they don’t break lightly; though ‘non-affiliated’ two-piece players are presumably Prazza’s more obvious target market.

Looking ahead, you can’t swim against the tide of technology and, if prices come down, the Prazza (or its successors) should shake off the inevitable early stigma and could even be packaged one day with GPS to lead you to your ball ‘Sat-Nav style’, complete with descending yardage numbers as you approach.

Finally, in the spirit of New Scientist, it’s not too futuristic to suggest that the same micro-chip technology could be developed to create some kind of ‘SmartBall’, yielding accurate data on a golfer’s launch conditions, distance and dispersion as he plays a course, as well as his shot-making and scoring profile.

Of course, that would probably require the golf ball giants to rework their business plan based on us all losing balls and to license the technology to create a premium trackable ball. Now, that really would be irresistible.

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