Unveiling the ‘Lightweight Turf Rolling’ time capsule.

27/03/2024

The origins of rolling can be traced back to a time when the very concept of golf course maintenance was in its infancy. In the 1700s, mechanical smoothing through rolling was one of the earliest cultural practices, predating even mowing. Initially, heavy manually pushed rollers, hand-carved from stone, were used. It wasn’t until the mid-1880s that lightweight, manually pushed wooden rollers found their way onto putting greens.

Steel roller being demonstrated in a bowling green in 1940s

The evolution of modern turfgrass rollers owes much to the innovative work of Australian engineer Ron Kaye, whose legacy continues through the pioneering advancements and impact of Tru-Turf. Kaye’s innovation aimed to create smooth, consistent, and healthy putting surfaces, significantly influencing the game by providing more predictable ball behaviour on turf.

In the early 1940s, Kaye developed the 3-inch roller after his father witnessed a groundsman collapse from pushing a heavy barrel-style 3-foot diameter roller. Soon Kaye started manufacturing his own rollers in Victoria, Australia. In the mid-1940s, he initiated the modification and creation of walk-behind, electric-driven, large-diameter, single steel rollers for bowling greens in Victoria (picture above).

These initial rollers, weighing around 400kg with a single, hollow steel roller approximately 90cm in width, laid the foundation for Kaye’s pioneering work. His engineering brilliance led to the recognition of the limitations of single large-diameter rollers, prompting him to conceptualise multiple roller units. In the late 1960s, Kaye introduced the groundbreaking ‘sit-down’, electric-driven, multiple-head rollers for bowling greens, followed by the later development of petrol-driven golf green rollers.

Kaye’s engineering theory behind the conception of multiple roller units centred on their sequential forward rotation, leveraging relatively narrow contact angles to progressively even out surface imperfections by exerting downward pressure on any slightly elevated points on the greens. In 1978, Kaye was flown to Canada along with his bowls machines to correct the bad greens in Edmonton in time for the commencement of the Commonwealth Games through which the roller gained significant recognition (picture below).

Image The of patented Tru-Turf golf course roller

Kaye’s insights challenged conventional wisdom regarding the relationship between roller weight, contact area, and surface pressure. His innovative designs, featuring smaller-diameter rollers and a greater number of contact points, revolutionised the effectiveness and efficiency of greens rolling. His pioneering efforts led to the development of lightweight, multiple-roller units, providing superior surface finishing and ease of operation.

Tru-Turf, born out of Kaye’s visionary design principles and philosophies, introduced lightweight, multiple-roller units in the late 1980s with Ray Dufty. The designs, integrating smaller diameter steering rollers and a focus on surface contours, offered superior rolling capabilities for golf greens, bowling and sports turfs.

Tru-Turf, born out of Kaye’s (pic above) visionary design principles and philosophies, introduced lightweight, multiple-roller units in the late 1980s with Ray Dufty. The designs, integrating smaller diameter steering rollers and a focus on surface contours, offered superior rolling capabilities for golf greens, bowling and sports turfs.

Kaye’s insights challenged conventional wisdom regarding the relationship between roller weight, contact area, and surface pressure. His innovative designs, featuring smaller-diameter rollers and a greater number of contact points, revolutionised the effectiveness and efficiency of greens rolling. His pioneering efforts led to the development of lightweight, multiple-roller units, providing superior surface finishing and ease of operation.

Tru-Turf, born out of Kaye’s visionary design principles and philosophies, introduced lightweight, multiple-roller units in the late 1980s with Ray Dufty. The designs, integrating smaller diameter steering rollers and a focus on surface contours, offered superior rolling capabilities for golf greens, bowling and sports turfs.