Hollrock Engineering Back in the Game
Rick Hollrock thought he was getting out of the golf range/course equipment supply business, for good, a few years back when he was approached by a buyer for his company, Hollrock Engineering. But for anyone who knows Rick Hollrock, they’re not surprised that his love of engineering and inventing combined with an entrepreneurial zeal has led him back into the biz. The word on the street is out. Hollrock Engineering is back in business under its original owner and original trade name. We’ll explain, in just a bit, how this re-entry happened but let’s wind the clock back a bit first.
The seeds of Hollrock’s interest in the range business date back to his college days when he worked at a golf course during his summer breaks. “I came home one day and mentioned to my father that I had seen people collecting golf balls by hand from ponds,” says Hollrock. “My Dad suggested I should try my hand at inventing and building some sort of a machine that could do the same,” adds Hollrock. A tinkerer by nature, Hollrock came to realize after building a few prototypes that it was a lot easier to build and then sell these new ‘ball retrieving’ machines than it was to manually extract balls by hand from ponds.
Based on some early success, Hollrock decided the industry was ripe for new ideas and products. Incorporating Hollrock Engineering in 1974, he started to produce and patent products with applications in the golf range industry. One of his early patents, in 1974, was an underwater golf ball retriever. Then an early lightweight golf ball picker specifically designed to be used in combination with motorized golf carts. “Up until then, golf carts were rarely used on the golf course range, and golf courses then began to consider golf ranges as a possible profit center.” Says Hollrock.
As the golf industry picked up steam through the 1980’s and 1990’s, Hollrock Engineering released a number of innovative products that enjoyed quick acceptance by the industry. Hollrock even opened a full service golf driving range (Western Massachusetts Family Golf Center) down the road from his main building where products could be tested under actual playing conditions. More patents followed as Hollrock Engineering released a popular ball washer called the “Scrub Tub” Country Club Golf Ball Washer. Other ball washers included the 38K Commercial Duty Golf Ball Washer and the golf ball WJ3 Prewash Sorter Machine. One of Hollrock’s more intriguing designs was something he called the “Ball Shooter”. This was a ball conveyance system that was based on ‘blowing compressed air’ through pneumatic tubes thereby transporting range balls through these tubes from a Hollrock washer to a ball-dispensing machine. Hollrock adds, “I also developed something called the ‘Dumper Hopper’ golf ball handling system which allowed my ball pickers to come in loaded with picked range balls and then unload these balls without actually lifting the baskets out of the unit.” Business was good. It was this success that caught the eye of a UK-based company, Pareto, who was actively looking to expand into the North American equipment market.
Pareto, was run at the time by an intrepid group of businessmen. Pareto saw a certain staid quality in the golf industry but was aware that the industry and image were expanding with the help of Tiger Woods and the Hollywood crowd. After several months of negotiations with Hollrock Engineering a deal was struck in 2005. As part of the deal, Hollrock sold its golf patents (except the Robo-T automated tee-up system) and overall business to Pareto. The name of the new company, now owned by the British group Pareto was changed to simply Hollrock Golf. When Rick Hollrock was asked what his motivation to sell was, he responded, “I had other interests and commitments at the time which made it more advantageous to sell the golf equipment business. I felt good that Pareto had a vision that would improve and expand the product line I had created. I also decided that my firm, Hollrock Engineering, would focus efforts exclusively on the development of a new concept: the BallPark Batting Range System.
The “new” Hollrock Golf staffed up, expanded the product line and implemented a jaunty advertising trade campaign in an effort to grow market share. After several years of efforts, it would be fair to say that Hollrock Golf grew a bit too quickly and other business opportunities seemed to draw away some of their attention. Perhaps Rick Hollrock sums it up best when he says, “Pareto (Hollrock Golf) did make improvements to the product line, however their vision as a manufacturer changed over the years and it then seemed appropriate that I return to the business.”
Hollrock Engineering Comes Back
In the intervening years Hollrock worked hard to perfect his Ballpark Batting, Hollrock’s spin-off interpretation of traditional baseball batting cages. “I developed a scalable, turn key system. It’s easy to set up and the construction costs are low. It gets away from the ‘cage’ idea and allows users to hit baseballs into the landing area of a range. As part of this system I also developed special discs and a modified ball picker that will be able to pick up these larger balls.” says Hollrock who adds “players love to be able to hit it out into an open field and watch the ball flight.”
So, 35 years later, Rick Hollrock is back in the game. But then maybe he never really left?