Golf Ball Picker Upper




Introduction: Golf Ball Picker Upper

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...
A friend began to tell me about pulling a muscle in his back because he tried to lean too far out of someone's golf cart while picking up golf balls on the fairway. He mentioned someone who had a grabber tool similar to those often used by senior citizens to pick up items off of the floor, but the grabber my friend had seen was designed to pick up golf balls. I began to think about how I could build one for him.

For this project I used:

  • 1/4 inch steel rod
  • 1/8 inch steel rod
  • Flat washers
  • 1/2 inch electrical conduit
  • 1/8 x 3/4 inch strap iron
  • Wood for the handle
  • Screws and "T"-nuts for holding the handle

  • Angle head grinder with a cutting wheel
  • Grinder
  • Hacksaw
  • Electric drill
  • Bits
  • Flux core wire welder
  • Spring clamps
  • Vise
  • 1 1/2 inch aluminum angle
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer

Step 1: How It Works

My picker upper is a 2-part cage from welded 1/8 inch steel rod. One of the halves can rotate about the 1/4 inch axle so that the cage can open. The other half is fixed to the 1/4 inch axle and cannot move. See the next step.

Step 2: How It Works 2

My fingers are lifting the cage half that can rotate. The other half is the fixed half. The cage is large enough to hold a golf ball with plenty of room to spare. This photo shows the 1/4 inch axle attached to the 1/2 inch electrical conduit shaft. How to use this golf ball picker upper will be explained in the last steps of this Instructable. It is really quite simple and features only one moving part. 

(When my friend and I first began discussing a golf ball picker upper for him, I imagined using a trigger mechanism to close the open cage around a golf ball. The cage would be kept open by a light spring. But, before I got that far, I found the design shown here works very efficiently without all of the extra work of making a trigger mechanism and mounting a spring. The total length of the picker upper is 30 inches. That is what my friend said he needs.)

Step 3: How It Works 3

When the electrical conduit shaft is rotated clockwise (as viewed by the operator) the cage opens as shown here. The left half of the cage as viewed in this photo rotates. The right half is fixed to the 1/4 inch axle. You may still be wondering how this device is able to pick up a golf ball, but that will be shown in increments of motion later. I invited my friend over to check out what I had done. In just a very few minutes he was using what you see to pick up golf balls quite skillfully with only a couple of motions.

Step 4: Construction

I made numerous photos documenting each step of the construction only to discover most of them were blurred. The photo with this step shows how I used some 1 1/2 aluminum angle to hold pieces with spring clamps until I could tack weld them. The 90 degree corner allows clamping pieces to different parts of the angle so they are held in the correct orientation. It is a very handy way of working. See the yellow text boxes for more detail. In the second graphic the parts are shown in the manner of an exploded diagram. I tried using text boxes, but they did not stay in place on the browser I most often use and did not display at all on another very common browser, so I will describe the parts and the construction steps.

Look at the left piece. Bend loops in 1/8 inch rod large enough to move smoothly when on a 1/4 inch axle. Bend the 1/8 inch rod to make a "U"-shaped piece. Make another "U"-shaped piece and weld it just below the loops. Add ribs. No set number of ribs is needed. Just make certain any given opening is not large enough to pass a golf ball.

Bend a1/4 inch axle so the cages will be parallel to the ground when the picker upper is in use. Slip the cage half with the loops onto the 1/4 inch axle with two washers (not shown here). Bend another "U"-shaped piece and weld it to the axle so the ends are between the two loops on the first half of the cage. Add the last "U"-shaped piece and add the remaining ribs.

Step 5: Weld the Axle to the Electrical Conduit

I used a cutting wheel to make a 1/4 inch wide slot in one end of the electrical conduit. I bent the 1/4 inch axle so the bottom of the cages can be parallel to the ground when the picker upper is in use. (The conduit will be held at an angle toward the ground.) My welder is a flux core unit. I have not yet cleaned the flux from the welds in this photo.

Step 6: The Handle

I welded a piece of 3/4 inch strap iron to the electrical conduit to make a core for the handle. The handle will be wood. I used a router mounted in a router table to inlet the halves of the handle for the strap iron. I drilled the strap iron. I clamped one half of the wooden portion to the strap iron and drilled holes for screws. Then I removed the wood and clamped the other half of the handle to the strap iron so I could drill holes into it. This two step process made certain the screw holes would align perfectly. 

Step 7: The Finished Handle

I used 10-28 screws and "T"-nuts to hold the two halves of the handle together. This picker upper is designed to be used with one hand only. This handle is sufficient for that.

Step 8: Using--step 1

The operator rolls the picker upper clockwise (from the operator's view) so the rotating half of the cage opens as shown. Move the picker upper so the opening in the cage is over the golf ball. 

(My friend said the grass he encounters when picking up golf balls is not much different from the carpet one finds in the average home. He maintains the picker upper will work on the fairway if it can pick up a golf ball on carpet. Yes, the demonstration photos show a golf ball on a dining room table. Be assured, the picker upper worked very well not only on carpet, but in some medium length grass on our front lawn, even where the ground had indentations and the ball sat extra low.) 

Step 9: Using--step 2

The operator rolls the shaft counter-clockwise (from the operator's view) and lowers the cage onto the golf ball with a smooth rolling motion. As seen in the photo, the right half of the cage (the fixed half) rolls under the side of the ball to contact the ground where the ball rests on the ground. The rotating half of the cage automatically begins to close around the ball. 

Step 10: Using--step 3

The operator continues the rolling motion from the last step. The weight of the rotating half of the cage is enough to roll the ball onto the fixed half. You may add a slight scooping motion to the operator's right, if desired. After 15 to 20 attempts, a new operator will be picking up golf balls very smoothly and very efficiently. Lift the picker upper to chest level. Hold your open hand under the cage and rotate slightly clockwise. The ball should roll out into your hand. If it does not, just shake the picker upper a very slight amount. My friend says he expects this picker upper to work very well, even from a slowly moving golf cart. We agreed that if he has any difficulties, I will add the spring and trigger mechanism mentioned earlier. But, he is very enthusiastic about using the picker upper just as it is.

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    8 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice!
    I have a duck who likes to lay her eggs in silly places... this might be the perfect solution. Great work!

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for looking and for commenting. A little practice is needed, but not much. My friend needed to pick up balls from a moving cart. You probably can pick up the eggs a still position. This pick up tool can be quite gentle. It should work for you.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Phil, interesting your contraption. I use one picker like that of iceng, a cheap chinese with a lever that close a pair of fingers. I use it to collect apples from the grass; sometimes the apple slides and falls, but it is matter of habit.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction


    You have a tool similar to what I planned to build. I saw a factory-made tool like you have, but the store price was much more than I thought it would be and the parts were only plastic. Like you say, practice makes using these tools a habit. I discovered just a little practice makes it easy to use this simpler tool that has only one moving part.

    I mentioned my friend knows a man who has a tool similar to yours. But, it sometimes locks up and stops working. Then the owner must work with it to make it work again.

    Thank you for looking.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Table tennis players with stiff backs most commonly use a length of PVC pipe with a rubber band running between two small hole near one end. Push down on the ball ... the rubber bands give and trap the ball. Tip the pipe; the ball rolls out.

    Bill Drissel

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction


    That is a clever and simple solution.

    While talking with my friend and watching him practice with this pick up tool, it became apparent there may be times when he might use the tool standing rather than sitting in a golf cart, as if walking rather than riding in a golf cart. What you describe would be ideal for picking up balls while standing. But, if reaching for a ball off to the side as while riding in a golf cart, the picture changes. My friend has a pickup tool with a telescoping shaft and a plastic ring on the end. The ring has a narrow choke point that will slide over the ball and hold it if the ball is struck from above with the plastic ring. But, it appears golfers are always looking for a better pickup tool. It reminds me of my brother and his turkey hunting. No matter how many turkey calls a hunter has, he is always looking for a better one.

    Thank you for looking and for commenting.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Neat pick up tool !
    At my age bending down is no fun ;-o
    Use this red one after grand kids...

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your reply. My friend and I are both mid-60s in age. He recognizes his back problems are age-related. The device you show in your graphic is similar to what I had in mind. I had planned to use a bicycle brake cable with its sheathing for the trigger coupling. I also bought a small spring that seemed to offer just about the right tension.

    My friend is sure 30 inches is long enough for what he needs. I will not be surprised if he comes back and asks me to weld in a piece to make it a little longer.