Opening Day at Tanglewood Park is March 29th!

A Timeline of Softgolf

1974

Raymond Baldorossi Sr., A design engineer at Martin Marietta (Lockheed Martin), observes his son, Ray Jr., hitting a 4” souvenir basketball with a golf club at their home in Orlando Florida. After hitting the ball well, Ray Jr. exclaims, “Dad that would be cool... golf with a big ball!”. Senior starts designing clubs and balls the next day.

1975

After a year of experimenting with different types of balls, Ray Sr. settles on a lightweight closed-cell foam with an outer vinyl skin to bring the weight upon the ball. The 4 3/8” diameter ball has no dimples and travels about 50 yards on a good hit. Simultaneously he has developed 5 large-faced clubs (different angles).

1976
  • March... Ray Sr. builds molds for 5 professionally designed clubs and makes models of them for casting purposes by handcrafting them using wood and molding putty. He also starts playing around with different ball designs with a variety of sophisticated dimple arrangements.
  • May… Ray Sr. and his wife, Blanche, start writing technical descriptions of the equipment and rules of the Softgolf game. He presents a rough sketched concept of a logo to his son-in-law, John Czajkowski, and asks him to make the logo.
  • June... Ray Sr. designs a Softgolf ball-making machine. Ray and his son build it together. The ball machine is made completely out of repurposed parts from the 1960s (washing machine, skateboard wheels, pipes, scrap metal, and circular saw.). The machine still cuts a perfect sphere to this day and was last used by Ray Jr. in February 2021 to make a prototype of “The Ball” (a highly durable ball that plays well and can be mass-produced) Once the ball machine is completed, they go to work making a lot of balls in their hand-dug basement. It takes an hour to make each ball with 75% of the time going into applying several coats of vinyl to it. The ball machine is used often throughout the 1970s and 1980s because each ball only lasts for a few months.
  • Fall... Blanche and Ray Sr. apply for 5 patents.
  • Winter... Over 300 balls are completed and they start making mass quantities of various sizes of clubs for people of all heights. The process to make the specialized clubs takes about 45 minutes per club. They decided to go with 3 clubs per set because the difference between hitting the ball with the longest club and the shortest club is only about 20 yards ... the two clubs that are designed to hit the ball distances between that are eliminated.
1977
  • February... While still making clubs, they also start making club carriers out of PVC pipes.  This too is a process that takes about an hour to make. So the total time it takes to make five clubs, the ball and the club carrier is 4 1/2 hours (excluding preparation work like building the ball machine and making the molds for the club faces).
  • Summer... All of the patent requests are denied and have been denied twice. They have to rewrite the applications and resubmit it to the US patent office. They have successfully completed making over 200 sets of clubs and carriers of various sizes.  The clubs and cases are being painted an assortment of colors to help determine size.
  • Fall... Their applications for five patents have been denied for the third time. While they are somewhat frustrated, they have good reason to believe they will eventually be awarded their patents. With all the balls, clubs, and club cases completed, the production team (Ray and Ray Jr.) start focusing on making the holes scorecard stands, tee off markers, and signs.
1978
  • Summer.. After two years and applying 4 times, Blanche and Ray are finally awarded the first of 5 patents.  They have a party and introduce Softgolf to their friends.
  • Ray and Blanche have been searching for a location for their first Softgolf course. They settle on a par 3 course in Delran, NJ.. They sell the home they have shared for 21 years to their son-in-law and move to Burlington, NJ. (John Czajkowski still lives in the Orlando house with the handmade pool and basement to this day).
1979-88
1979...
  • July... For the first time ever Softgolf opens and is introduced to the world.
  • September... Softgolf has the first World Softgolf Championship.
1985...
  • Summer... Ray Jr. moves from Florida to take over as operations manager.
1986...
  • Softgolf has grown ever so popular and there are now lines of people waiting to play Softgolf seven days a week.
1988...
  • September... After 10 years of operating in Delran New Jersey, the landlord opts to sell the property and does not want to renew the lease. The Baldorossi Family discusses moving Softgolf to a new location but ultimately decides to focus on finding a ball that they can mass produce. There are a dozen entities interested in Softgolf franchises; however, they know that they need to have a ball that will last more than three months in order to scale.
1999

Ray Jr. finds a new type of foam. He and his father are able to make three lumpy prototypes from the sample he acquired. After a lot of testing the new ball proves to be highly durable but it cannot be mass-produced and it’s challenging to make a decent-looking professional Softgolf ball from it. The prototype type is still holding up well after 22 years.

2005-2007

2005...

  • Both Rays continue to research and test new foam materials and developments. Ray Sr. Is diagnosed with a rare terminal disease.

2007...

  • December 30... Raymond F Baldorossi Sr. passes away. A few months earlier Ray Jr. promises to find the perfect ball that has high durability, plays well, and can be mass-produced.
2008-2011

2008...

  • The ability to blow mold a closed-cell foam is discovered and patented.  This means the Softgolf ball has the ability to be mass-produced.
  • Ray Jr. comes up with the idea to keep the darkness of the ground, illuminate all the equipment for night play. He also finds a more durable outer coating to apply to the ball. He begins experimenting and testing ideas to make solar-powered equipment and course.

2009...

  • Ray Jr. starts producing new glow in dark balls and clubs. Soon after, he designs and makes the light-up holes, flags, and scorecard stands. All of the equipment for a solar-powered Softgolf course is completed by the fall of 2009.

2011...

  • November... For the first time since September of 1988 Softgolf opens at Plantation Palms golf course. Softgolf utilizes the course at night only when conventional golfers are not playing.
2012- Present Day

2011- 2014...

  • Softgolf continues to operate on various golf courses at night time when they are normally closed. The process of setting up Softgolf on the fairways of commercial golf courses involves four hours of setting up in three hours of break down just to operate for a few hours at night. By 2014 Ray knows the popularity of Softgolf is once again thriving and it is time to find a permanent location.

2018...

  • After almost a year of many meetings with Forsyth county (North Carolina) officials, Softgolf opens for a 10 day trial period at Tanglewood Park.
  • Fall ... Softgolf signs a 3-year contract (starting in 2019) to operate at Tanglewood Park.

2021...

  • Never complacent, Ray Jr. continues to make improvements and invent new unique fun activities. One of his more unique ideas is a talking hole that jokes around and makes fun of players' games.
  • In February Ray achieved a huge milestone by developing 2 prototypes of “The Ball”. He is in the process of acquiring new patients. The Softgolf course at Tanglewood Park continues to grow in popularity and the night golf has proven to be especially popular. Softgolf continues the tradition of hosting the World Softgolf championship every year. There are four age brackets in men’s and women’s categories as well as a wheelchair-bound division.
2023...
  • Ray Jr. oversaw the acquisition of all necessary components, transforming Softgolf into the world's first and only solar-powered golf course. With the ability to cut grass and illuminate equipment through solar energy, this environmentally friendly upgrade was successfully implemented.
  • In July , a new Softgolf ball, locally mass-produced and virtually indestructible under normal play conditions, was introduced by Ray Jr. The innovative use of materials similar to those utilized by NASA, known for their complexity, shape retention, and resilience to various elements including UV rays, marked a significant milestone in the expansion of the Softgolf business model.
  • By October, Ray Jr. had designed and produced portable Softgolf holes featuring a quick and noninvasive system, eliminating the need for golf pins (flags). These portable holes were equipped with illumination for both daytime and nighttime play, enhancing the Softgolf experience for players

Blanche Baldorossi is currently 93 years old and still enjoys playing Softgolf.  Ray Jr. has named the World Championship trophies in honor of his parents. The male winners receive the Raymond Baldorossi Sr.  trophy and female champions receive the Blanche Baldorossi trophy. All of the trophies are presented by Blanche.

The Story, As Told By Ray Jr...

"1974, Orlando, Fl.: I was playing golf with a wiffle ball struggling to hit the tiny orb, when my ball went off course and landed next to a 4” diameter souvenir basketball. I couldn’t resist the urge to take a practice swing at the larger ball. I still remember how well that bigger ball flew off my 7 iron. My dad was standing close by working in the backyard. Looking for his approval, I asked, “Hey dad, did you see that?” He took a break from his work and said, “Yeah, that was a great hit… hit it again!” My second shot soared even straighter and farther than the first one. “Dad, wouldn’t that be cool, golf with a bigger ball?” You could almost see the wheels turning in our brains as we simultaneously started processing the concept."

"My dad was an aeronautical design engineer with clearance on top secret government projects. A man who built his own basement and an inground pool creating his own filtration system and pool equipment. Within 18 months dad and I had tested several types of spherical foams and inflatable balls. We ended up building a machine together made from repurposed 1960's washing machine parts, my brother’s skateboard wheels, scrap metal and junkyard treasures. The “ball making machine” was used to transform a long cylinder of foam into several 4 ⅜” diameter perfect spheres. But the density of the foam was too light (it only flew about 10 yards) and it needed dimples. The next step was to hand drill 80 symmetrical ½” dimples in the balls with a homemade template.

To bring the weight of the ball up we added several layers of vinyl coating. The total process took about an hour per ball. The finished ball flew about 65 yards, however, it only lasted for approximately 3 months. My father also crafted ten wooden (and clay) clubs (5 left and right-handed). He used those model clubs to make molds. He took the molds to a foundry, and they produced about 800 club faces. Each club face had to have a hole bored in it for the club shaft and each shaft needed grips. Some of the shafts had to be shortened to produce children’s clubs and various adult sizes. The process to produce each club took over an hour but early on in the club production process, dad decided to stop making 2 of the middle loft clubs and go with just a driver, wedge and putter. We also produced 150 various sized carrying cases from PVC pipes that took 45 minutes each. The technology available in the mid 1970’s did not present any other financially logical way to mass produce all of the equipment. (Injection molding closed cell foams was not introduced until 2008 and it has some limitations).

We set up production in our hand dug basement. By 1976 dad and I had accumulated around 1,000 man hours to produce 150 sets of clubs and balls. But we needed patents before we could open a course. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it was necessary for my mom, Blanche, to jump in and utilize her technical writing skills. My parents worked diligently day and night for many months. They applied for 5 different patents. The 5 patents were all denied each time on 3 separate submissions. In the fourth round of submissions, they were finally granted 4 patents in 1978 and 1979. A fifth patent was granted in 1981. Five years after the dream was conceived, Softgolf came to fruition. Raymond Sr. and Blanche Baldorossi, opened the first Softgolf course in Delran, NJ. in June of 1979. That course was popular and successful.

However, Softgolf closed in 1988 after a summer of sold-out nights and record-setting sales. The landlord refused to extend the lease of the property. We had several customers interested in buying Softgolf franchises but spending an hour hand making a ball that wasn’t durable didn’t provide a scalable business model. It may have been a huge mistake to not take advantage of the traction that Softgolf had gained and continue to operate at a new location, but we knew we needed to find a way to mass produce an exceptionally durable ball for our business to expand so we opted to put all of our energy into the quest of the elusive ball. During the next 16 years, dad and I acquired several samples of foams. Many possessed the qualities we were looking for, but they couldn’t be injection molded and many were only available in ½” thickness or less. We experimented with several imaginative techniques. (Re-using an outer shell on diverse types of foams… we also tried using a heavier rubber inner core)

In 2004 we received a sample of a brand-new type of foam. It was available in 1 ½” thickness. We glued three layers together to get a thickness of 4 ½” and managed to cut three somewhat lumpy 4” spheres. They were rough but good enough for test flights. The much higher density balls did not require any coatings to bring the weight up which was a big-time saver. At 80 plus yards, they flew farther than our original and seemed to be virtually indestructible.The higher density and elasticity made it challenging to create a smooth perfect sphere using our machine but the potential for a durable ball was there. Around the same time, dad’s health began to deteriorate. Dad passed away on December 30, 2007. Before his passing, I promised him I would get Softgolf operating again and find a way to mass produce an exceptionally durable and perfectly round ball. To honor my parent’s contributions and legacy, I named the trophies for our World Softgolf Championship in their names. All of the men’s (age groups) champions are awarded the Raymond F Baldorossi Sr. Trophy and the female champions are awarded the Blanche Baldorossi Trophy."