We had been working on the idea of Noochie Golf for over a year. JoAnn, my wife, had an idea and used an invention website to file a provisional patent. We had a concept and even a computer drawing made from that website. We lacked a prototype. Enter Jim.
Jim is an engineer and all around smart guy. He knows a great many things and what he doesn’t know, he will look up. I met Jim while coaching a women’s hockey team. We became good friends. Jim moved away for a couple of years while our idea was being born. He moved back to Arizona and we told him about the concept. Jim offered to help make a prototype.
I am not a handy guy, my wood cutting career was limited to cutting the butt ends of my hockey sticks. We went to a hardware store and Jim put things in my cart that I would need. Pressed wood, saw blade, a drill bit that made holes in wood, etc. We spent more time in the store than it took to complete the prototype in my garage. Jim did most of the work, I was learning. I later applied a green grass like carpet to it.
A few months later Jim, JoAnn and I went to lunch. After discussing personal and hockey things he suggested we try a second prototype. Again we went shopping, this time for Styrofoam and instruments to cut it. Our second attempt looked better because we could make the Styrofoam curve and it looked more like what we would want the final product to be.
It was then we decided we had to get realistic about Noochie Golf. We were either going to have to drop the idea or dedicate serious time and effort to it. JoAnn convinced me to quit my job and research how to make this a reality. I have already admitted I lack knowledge in handy woodworking. My knowledge of wood is extensive compared to my knowledge of plastics.
I visited Phoenix plastic companies and interviewed many knowledgeable and informative engineers, salesman, and owners. I learned of different ways to make plastic and was offered many opinions of which process would best suit my needs. I found out that injection molding machines of the size I needed were hard to find. I learned about thermoforming and blow-molding. The pros and cons of each.
Thermoforming would be the cheapest and best process for our prototypes. The molds for this are cheaper than injection molding and work in limited quantities. After sending inquiries to over thirty companies in the United States, we decided on Northern Precision Plastics. Our guy there, George, was unbelievably helpful. He offered us advice on the prototypes and the real product. George’s crew created wooden molds that the melted plastic would be laid on top of and then vacuumed, the thermoforming process.
The plastic pieces arrived from Illinois and it was time for me to become handy, quick. I had less than a month to get them ready for The Chicago Toy & Game Fair. We decided to change the grass for synthetic putting green. I went to local synth-grass stores and bought the remnants they had remaining from outdoor jobs. I then had to trace out a stencil from the plastic molds.
Cutting the straight and obstacles were easy, they only required a razor. The curved and hole pieces were nearly impossible by razor. We bought and tried a few routers that were not strong enough for the synth-grass. Finally, I found an Oscillating Multifunction cutter that worked well. Our final prototype was made.
More Photos From Concept To Prototype
Concept Becomes Reality