As the assistant superintendent at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ontario, Jordan Kitchen knows a thing or two about using greens covers during Canada's long, tough winters.
He also knows a little bit about how grueling it can be to remove cold, wet covers each spring and the toll such a task can take on one's hands, back and a superintendent's bottom line.
"The first year we had them, that was pretty easy. They were dry and came right from the factory," Kitchen said. "The next spring, after the third tarp in March, you know, it's cold and wet, they're slippery, you're shoveling snow, I was thinking to myself 'there has got to be a better way to do this.' "
When he could find no existing solution to his problem after consulting the online expert for everything (Google), Kitchen decided if there was a possible solution to make managing tarps easier and more efficient, he would have to create it. After about a year of R&D, Kitchen developed TarpDevil, a tractor-mounted system that automatically rolls tarps for easy storage.
The system, which was designed and manufactured by Kitchen and manufacturing engineer Ian Trepte, is a hydraulically driven device that mounts to any tractor and can be used to deploy and remove any permeable or impermeable tarp or cover. Simply fold the tarp or cover to the same width as the roller, and the TarpDevil rolls it up and squeezes out any excess moisture for easy storage.
Superintendent Rhod Trainor began using tarps at 27-hole Hamilton G&CC after a brutal winter storm in 2014 wiped out greens on golf courses throughout parts of Canada and the Northeastern U.S. The crew there typically double-covers each green with an impermeable tarp and another cover, either permeable or impermeable. A video on the TarpDevil web site shows how the device works.
Even when it was functioning, it wasn't sold in some people's minds until more than one was rolled. By the third one, people were saying 'wow, this is changing our world right now.' "
Kitchen said it used to take 12-14 people four days to removed 54 tarps. With the help of the TarpDevil in March, six people were able to remove all 54 covers in three days. Kitchen said that translates into savings of about $1,800 (Canadian).
"The other piece to this, because it rolls them tighter and eliminates water, it retracts them with an even pull and is extending the life of the cover because it is more gentle on the fabric," Kitchen said.
"These things get snagged when stored, and pulling them by hand results in an uneven pull and they fray over several uses. We think it increases the lifespan by 15 to 20 percent, and it rolls them so tight they can be stored back in the manufacturer's bag. That's something you can't achieve in March when they are soaking wet and you remove them by hand."
Even members of the crew at Hamilton were skeptical of what the TarpDevil could do when Kitchen rolled it out in March. They were believers after just a few holes.
"Even when it was functioning, it wasn't sold in some people's minds until more than one was rolled," Kitchen said. "By the third one, people were saying 'wow, this is changing our world right now.' "
Kitchen invented the TarpDevil not as a product to commercialize, but, he said, as a solution to a problem.
"It helps us save labor and redirect it," he said. "Our employees really like it. It saves their backs and their hands. There's nothing exciting about covers. But, if you can take the back-breaking work out of it, it has to be worth something."