Title:
Putting distance and putting line trainer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates in general to golf training devices and, more specifically, to a portable putting trainer suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Unlike other putting training devices, the trainer of the invention provides feedback to the user concerning the speed of the putt, its direction, and the distance it would have traveled past the hole if not holed, collects, sorts and retains putted balls according to direction and predetermined distance ranges, and particularly trains the user to strike the ball on the proper line with such force as to impart an initial speed sufficient to at least cover the distance to the hole with a safe speed margin in reserve, and preferably with the optimum speed. It accomplishes this by means of a target, a ramp, and one or more troughs and stalls constructed to identify, sort and retain balls according to direction and predetermined distance ranges.



Inventors:
Richter, Bernd (Erding, DE)
King, Ronn D. (Muenchen, DE)
Allport, John (Oakville, CA)
Application Number:
10/174987
Publication Date:
12/25/2003
Filing Date:
06/20/2002
Assignee:
RICHTER BERND
KING RONN D.
ALLPORT JOHN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B67/02; A63B69/36; (IPC1-7): A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GRAHAM, MARK S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ALLPORT, JOHN (c/o INTELLIPHARMACEUTICS INC. SUITE 106 405 BRITANNIA ROAD EAST, MISSISSAUGA, ON, L47 3E7, CA)
Claims:

What we claim as our invention is:



1. A portable putting distance and putting line trainer, comprising a base component intended to rest on a practice putting surface or putting green, a target affixed to the base component and elevated above the base of the base component, at which a practicing golfer aims a putted ball, and at least one ramp up to and ahead of the target and at least one trough below the level of and behind the target.

2. A portable putting distance and putting line trainer, comprising a base component intended to rest on a practice putting surface or putting green, a target on a substantially horizontal surface of the base component at which a practicing golfer, putting on a practice surface or a putting green, aims a putted ball, and at least one ramp up to and ahead of the target and at least one trough below and behind the target, wherein the trough captures certain putted balls whose speeds when they first encounter the trainer are within a certain pre-determined range, corresponding to a range of distances beyond the target that a putted ball would have traveled in the absence of the trainer.

3. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 2, wherein the range of distances beyond the target is between 6″ and 24″.

4. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 1, wherein the target is marked on a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp and has the width of a regulation golf hole.

5. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 1, wherein the target is a circle marked on a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp and has the diameter of a regulation golf hole.

6. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 2, wherein the target is a hole in a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp, with the diameter of a regulation golf hole, and depth, when uncovered, sufficient to retain a putted ball.

7. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 6, wherein the hole is substantially covered by a plate which is stably but loosely supported in the hole such that its upper surface is between {fraction (1/16)}″ and ⅛″ below the substantially horizontal surface.

8. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 7, wherein the plate is removable.

9. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 7, wherein the plate is made of material which vibrates in a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it.

10. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 7, wherein the plate has a surface treated in such a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it.

11. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 6, wherein the plate is in substantially the same plane as the substantially horizontal surface.

12. The portable putting distance and putting fine trainer of claim 11, wherein the plate is made of material which vibrates in a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it.

13. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 11, wherein the plate has a surface treated in such a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it.

14. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 1, wherein the trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope., and wherein the highest point on the second slope is higher than the highest point on the first slope.

15. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 2, wherein the trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope, and wherein the highest point on the second slope is higher than the highest point on the first slope.

16. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 2, wherein the bottom of the trough slopes to either side of the trainer from a highest point proximate to a center line parallel to the practice putting direction, such that a putted ball which is within that range of speeds to be captured by the trough is expelled to the sides of the trainer and out of the way of subsequently putted balls.

17. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 15, wherein the height difference between the substantially horizontal surface and the practice surface is such that any ball which would have rolled at least 6″ beyond the target hole enters the trough, and wherein the height difference between the highest points on the respective second and first slopes of the trough is such that the trough will capture and expel to the sides those putted balls which would have traveled no more than a predetermined distance which is no more than 24″ beyond the target hole in the absence of the putting trainer.

18. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 15, wherein there are at least two troughs.

19. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 15, wherein there are at least two troughs and a rear stall.

20. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 18, wherein each trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope, and wherein the highest point on the second slope of each trough is higher than the highest point on the first slope of the respective trough.

21. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 20, wherein the heights of the substantially horizontal surface and the highest point of the second ascending slope of the first trough are adjusted such that a putted ball which would have traveled at least a first predetermined distance range beyond the target hole is captured by the first of the troughs and then expelled to the sides of the trainer by slopes in the bottom of the first of the troughs, and wherein the highest point of the second trough is adjusted such that a putted ball which would have traveled at least a second predetermined distance range beyond the target hole is captured by the second of the troughs and then expelled to the sides of the trainer by slopes in the bottom of the second of the troughs.

23. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 22, wherein the first predetermined distance range is a range whose lower limit is at least 6″ and whose upper limit is at least 18″ and at most 30″, and wherein the second predetermined distance range is a range whose lower limit is approximately equal to the upper limit of the first predetermined distance range and whose upper limit is at least 24″ and at most 48″.

24. The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of claim 23, wherein a stall of at least the width of one golf ball diameter and with a rear lip running across the path of the putted ball is included beyond the second trough, and wherein the height of the rear lip is adjusted to capture balls which would have traveled more than a second, but no more than a third, predetermined distance beyond the target hole.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates in general to golf training devices and, more specifically, to a portable putting trainer suitable for indoor or outdoor use. The trainer of the invention provides feedback to the user concerning the speed of the putt, its direction, and the distance it would have traveled past the hole if not holed, and particularly trains the user to strike the ball on the proper line with such force as to impart an initial speed sufficient to at least cover the distance to the hole with a safe speed margin in reserve.

[0002] Putting training devices, such as the one described in U.S. Design Pat. No. D273126, have been known and used for many years. It will be understood by one skilled in the art that putting training devices are used to permit the user, by practice, to improve the basic skills of putting, such as alignment of body, alignment of club face and swing plane, which are several aspects of directional control, and length and pace of swing, feel and judgment, which are several aspects of distance control.

[0003] It will be readily apparent that a putted ball will not have a chance to enter a regulation golf hole cut in a green for the purpose of play in accordance with the rules of golf unless the ball is struck so that it travels along a line, whether straight or curvilinear, which intersects the position of the hole. Alignment of the body of the golfer, alignment of the face of the golf club, and execution of a swing motion to strike the ball in such a manner that it will travel along the intended line is therefore an art or skill which must be learned by each golfer by means of practice and training under real or simulated conditions.

[0004] In order to provide the user the opportunity to practice directional control, it will be readily appreciated that a visual target, in the form of a hole or opening, having the dimension in width of a regulation golf hole, namely 4½ inches, must be provided. Many putting trainers known at present provide such a feature.

[0005] It will also be readily appreciated that a putted ball will not have a chance to enter such a regulation golf hole unless the ball is struck with at least a minimum initial velocity to enable it to reach the hole from some initial distance, and with at most a maximum initial velocity which permits it to have slowed to a velocity upon reaching the hole which enables it to fall by the action of gravitational force into the hole, rather than passing over it. For every initial distance from the hole, there is therefore an acceptable range of velocities, which will permit the ball both to reach to and to enter the target hole in accordance with the ordinary laws of physics.

[0006] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing the user with the opportunity to practice control and obtain feedback of the initial velocity to be imparted to the ball for putts of variable initial distances, such that said initial velocities fall within the acceptable range of initial velocities for the respective initial distances.

[0007] It will also be readily appreciated that the game of golf requires that a player should try to cause the ball to enter the hole while striking the ball as few times as possible. It is generally accepted that, once the ball has come to rest on a putting green, a player should be able to cause his ball to enter the hole by striking it preferably only once, but no more than twice. A par score in golf allows for two putts to be taken on the putting green. While taking a single putting stroke is of course desirable, taking three putts is normally considered unacceptable from the standpoint of good scoring.

[0008] It is also generally accepted that shorter putts within a certain range of distances, say 0-4 feet, should be putted into the hole by being struck only once with a very high probability of success, whereas longer putts in a second range of distances, say greater than 4 feet, have a probability of being putted into the hole by being struck only once which decreases as the initial distance from the hole increases.

[0009] While the precise limits of the respective ranges for confidence in taking one putt, and lack of confidence in taking one putt, vary from golfer to golfer, it is reasonably accepted that the outer limit of the range of reasonable confidence varies from about one foot for the novice to about four to five feet for the top professional. It is therefore a goal on any putt that it should be struck along a line and with an appropriate initial velocity to enable it to enter a regulation-sized golf hole and that, if by chance it misses, it not be struck so hard or so softly as to come to rest outside the range of confidence for that golfer.

[0010] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a real or simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest within his range of confidence for holing the subsequent putt.

[0011] Further, it is well known that golfers have many levels of skill, from the rank beginner to the consummate professional. It is also the case that some golfers, representing all levels of skill, are desirous from time to time of engaging in training on various aspects of their golf skills including putting, in order to improve them. The range of putting confidence for the beginner may be as little as about one foot, while for the professional, the range of confidence may extend out to four or five feet.

[0012] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a real or simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance at least equal to or beyond the distance to the hole, and within his own particular range of confidence for the subsequent putt.

[0013] Further, if a golf ball is struck with an initial velocity which is sufficient to permit the ball to come to rest within the range of confidence for a particular golfer, but stops some distance short of the hole, it has no chance to enter the hole even if struck on the ideal line. A putting trainer which trains the golfer in the art and skill of distance control should therefore selectively encourage or reward the striking of the ball with an initial velocity which causes the ball to come to rest within that portion of the range of confidence which lies at or beyond the hole.

[0014] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a real or simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance at least equal to or beyond the distance to the hole, and within a range of confidence for the subsequent putt.

[0015] In considering very short putts, say two feet or less, which may be a first putt if the approach to the green was struck very accurately, or a second putt if the first putt failed to enter the hole but stopped within the zone of confidence, or even a third or greater putt, special considerations may apply. It is generally accepted that it is easier to strike a ball along any intended line if it is struck firmly rather than tentatively. It is also generally accepted, where there is a gradient of the surface of the green over which the ball must travel, where the gradient is generally transverse to the line of travel of the putted ball, that a firmly struck ball will be less affected by the gradient than will a ball which is struck more gently. On such very short putts, which are well within the range of confidence of most golfers, it is therefore desirable to strike the ball with considerable firmness, provided only that the line is accurate and that the ball Is not struck so forcefully as to roll completely over the hole without entering it. It is generally known that a ball struck with sufficient force to travel 6 to 8 feet beyond a golf hole may not be able to enter it, and that a ball which would have traveled more than 8 feet beyond the hole will almost certainly be unable to enter it.

[0016] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable means for training in the art and skill of striking a ball which is at rest at a distance so close to the hole that the golfer has a high confidence level of striking the ball along an intended line, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to the accuracy of the line of the struck ball and as to whether the ball was struck with a velocity which would permit it to enter the hole and not simply roll over it.

[0017] Further, because of considerations which include available time, availability of commercial golf practice facilities, distance to commercial golf practice facilities, weather conditions, climate and the like, it is often the case that the golfer will prefer to engage in training activities in the comfort and convenience of his home. Putting training will typically be done on a carpeted, finished area of a home, or where space is often at a premium. As well, a putting green is often crowded, and again space can be at a premium.

[0018] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable indoor means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance at least equal to or beyond the distance to the hole, and within his own particular range of confidence for the subsequent putt, the feedback being provided in such a manner as to maximize the indoor distance available in front of the trainer for the initial putt while minimizing the distance in the rear of the trainer in which information as to the line and velocity of the struck ball is collected and feedback provided to the golfer.

[0019] It is generally accepted that the best training exercises for athletic activities are those which exhibit the greatest transference; that is, that the skills learned in training will be applicable to performance of the activity under actual conditions. The transference of any training activity will tend to be higher if the conditions and movements of the training activity more closely resemble or duplicate real playing conditions for that activity. In the case of putting trainers, the transference of such acts as body alignment, club face alignment, sighting to the target, rhythm and pace of stroke, swing plane, slope and texture of surface, lighting, climatological conditions and other such factors should be higher if the conditions of practice in these regards approach those encountered on a real golf course.

[0020] For a putting trainer suited only to indoor use, it is clear that such factors as the slope and texture of the surface, pace of the stroke as affected by such slope and texture, lighting and climatological factors may be only more or less approximated by the conditions found during indoor training.

[0021] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed by known putting training devices, in providing suitable portable indoor means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance at least equal to or beyond the distance to the hole, and within his own particular range of confidence for the subsequent putt, the feedback being provided in such a manner as to maximize the indoor distance available for the initial putt while minimizing the distance in which information as to the line and velocity of the struck ball is collected and feedback provided to the golfer, such that the device is sufficiently lightweight and of appropriately small size and soft-edged construction that it can be transported comfortably from the home setting to the practice golf green setting and used upon such green in like manner as in the home setting without causing injury or damage to said green.

[0022] It is also understood that putting practice is better when many strokes are taken to build up eye-hand co-ordination and muscle memory, with feedback as to the degree of success being provided after each stroke. Such practice will be enhanced if the previously struck ball does not interfere with the rolling path of the subsequently struck ball, and if the result of the stroke is recorded as a means for later monitoring or charting improvement, or as a means for engaging in competition with oneself or others. However, moving forward to remove a putted ball from the putting trainer or the intended line and manually recording the result of the stroke are activities which interfere with learning by the interposition of physical motions not related to the desired putting practice.

[0023] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed in known putting training devices, in providing suitable portable indoor means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance at least equal to or beyond the distance to the hole, and within his own particular range of confidence for the subsequent putt, the feedback being provided in such a manner as to maximize the indoor distance available for the initial putt while minimizing the distance in which information as to the line and velocity of the struck ball is collected and feedback provided to the golfer, the collection and feedback being carried out in such a manner that each successive ball is first categorized and feedback provided as to its line of rolling and as to the distance by which it would have rolled past the hole had it not fallen into the hole, and then cleared automatically from the intended line of the next putted ball while maintaining a record of the distance categorization for subsequent analysis and feedback.

[0024] Recent research into putting by the pre-eminent putting researcher Dave Pelz (Pelz, Dave; Dave Pelz's Putting Bible; 2000; Doubleday; p.189, FIG. 8.5.2) has demonstrated that a putted ball has a maximum probability of entering a golf hole in a putting green if it is traveling at a speed which would have carried the ball 17″ past the hole had the ball missed the hole.

[0025] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed in known putting training devices, in providing suitable portable indoor means for training in the art and skill of distance control of golf balls putted towards a simulated golf hole from variable initial distances, such that the golfer is provided feedback as to whether a ball when struck with an initial velocity, would have come to rest at a distance of approximately 17″ beyond the hole, or more appropriately, within a reasonable range which includes 17″ in about the middle of the range. A suggested suitable range is approximately 9″ to 24″

[0026] Learning in any sport, and golf putting in particular proceeds more in a statistical manner than a linear manner. It is therefore important during the learning process to amass statistics of putts taken and their results.

[0027] There is therefore a problem, not heretofore addressed in known putting training devices, in providing means which facilitate the collection of meaningful statistics, so that learning progress may be noted.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0028] An object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer suitable for indoor use on a carpet or practice surface or for outdoor use on a putting green. This is accomplished in the invention herein by molding the trainer from a rigid plastic such as Polyamid PA 6.6, whose manufacturing properties permit a strong but lightweight structure capable of being colored in a tasteful manner suitable for home or golf course use, and permitting the fashioning of smooth or rounded corners and angles suitable for use on valuable carpeting or delicate golf greens.

[0029] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with a flat visual target of the size of a regulation golf hole, which target does not substantially interfere with the speed of a ball putted over it. This is accomplished in the invention herein by

[0030] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means which provide feedback as to the initial velocities of putts struck from a range of initial distances. This is accomplished by providing one or more troughs behind and in the line of a golf hole-sized target, whereby the dimensions and construction of the troughs are calibrated to collect and retain putted balls, which would have continued to roll beyond the target by a certain specified range of distances. The practicing golfer learns by repetition and feedback to hit putts with a certain range of initial velocities corresponding to the said range of distances, whereby consistency in assessing and controlling the distance which putts roll is then achieved.

[0031] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means which provide feedback as to whether a putted ball would have come to rest within his personal range of confidence for holing the subsequent putt. This is accomplished by providing one or more collection troughs beyond and in the line of the target hole, each collection trough corresponding to a range of distances which a putted ball would have rolled beyond the hole. The golfer may then select a trough whose range of distances most nearly corresponds to his range of confidence and attempt to cause all first or subsequent putts to be collected in that trough or in a trough closer to the target hole.

[0032] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means to encourage the golfer to putt the ball at least as far as the hole, and preferably at least a little past it, while simultaneously providing feedback as to whether the ball would have stopped within the range of confidence. This is accomplished by providing a trainer as aforesaid with one or more troughs beyond the target hole, while simultaneously providing an initial ramp in front of said hole. The initial ramp causes balls which are not struck firmly enough to travel at least a certain minimum distance beyond the target hole to roll back towards the golfer, indicating that they were too weakly struck and providing further discouragement by interfering with the desired path of subsequent putts.

[0033] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means to provide feedback as to whether a certain maximum velocity range has been exceeded. This is accomplished in the present invention for a ball struck with a velocity more than some maximum range of velocities, say those which result in distances beyond the hole of greater than 6 feet, by permitting such ball to traverse all troughs and stalls and to exit the trainer to the rear.

[0034] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer suitable for indoor use on a carpet or outdoor use on a putting green wherein the user is provided with a flat visual target of the size of a regulation golf hole, which target does not substantially interfere with the speed of a ball putted over it, but which provides aural and visual feedback to the user as to whether the line of the putted ball was proper, and wherein the distance beyond the hole which a putted ball would have traveled is measured and recorded by inclines, which slow the speed of the ball, and a series of troughs and stops, which collect the ball and categorize the distance it would have traveled beyond the hole in accordance with a predetermined sequence of distance steps, while clearing successive balls to the sides of the trainer in a fixed and ordered manner to make a clear line for the next putted ball.

[0035] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means to provide feedback as to how far a putted ball would have traveled beyond a target golf hole without permitting it to travel the entire distance. This is accomplished by the provision of one or more troughs and stalls beyond the target hole which respectively collect balls which otherwise would have traveled within a certain range of distances beyond the hole. A trough spanning about 6″ is able to collect balls which would ordinarily have traveled about a further 2 feet, thereby effecting substantial savings of space beyond the trainer.

[0036] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with reasonably small size and of lightweight construction so as to enable it to be transported comfortably between home and practice facility. This is accomplished in the present invention by molding the trainer from a rigid plastic such as Polyamid PA 6.6, whose manufacturing properties permit a strong but lightweight structure.

[0037] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means to clear previously putted balls from each stage of the trainer. This is accomplished in the present invention by the provision of slopes towards the sides of the trainer at the bottom of each trough and at the bottom of the rear stall. Further clearing is accomplished, and a buildup of balls at the ends of troughs averted or postponed by the provision of sloped stalls which clear balls from the ends of each trough.

[0038] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means to identify a preferred range of optimally struck putts. This is accomplished in the preferred embodiment of the present invention by constructing a first trough which collects putts which would have traveled from 9″ to 24″ beyond the target hole.

[0039] A further object of the present invention is to provide a portable putting trainer with means which facilitate the collection of statistics. The trainer of the invention accomplishes this by the provision of collection stalls to either side of the trainer, such that the stalls correspond to the respective troughs. By collecting and categorizing the putted balls in this fashion, the trainer provides a statistical record of both the distance and the line, to left or to right, of each putt. Typically approximately 10 balls may be struck before they impinge upon the intended line and have to be cleared. The results can be separately recorded on prepared charts and sheets for later analysis or for use in skills competitions using the trainer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0040] A preferred embodiment of this invention is illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which like numerals denote like parts throughout, and in which:

[0041] FIG. 1 is an oblique view of a preferred embodiment of a portable putting trainer;

[0042] FIG. 2 is a plan view of the said portable putting trainer;

[0043] FIG. 3 is a longitudinal sectional view on the centre line A-A of the said portable putting trainer;

[0044] FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view on the centre line B-B of a transverse trough of the said portable putting trainer;

[0045] FIG. 5 is an expanded detail view of the portion E of FIG. 3, showing the construction details of a trough of the said portable putting trainer.

[0046] FIG. 5a is an alternative detail view of the portion E of FIG. 3, showing alternative construction details of a trough of the said portable putting trainer.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0047] In FIG. 1, a preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown. The portable putting trainer is a structure comprised of a base component 15, made preferably of rigid, molded plastic, and a target hole cover plate 20, made preferably of thin, rigid sheet metal with a corrugated or roughened upper surface 25 which removably rests under its own weight on a flange or ledge 37 within a cylindrical depression or hole 35 of circular cross-section molded into the said base component 15.

[0048] The plan view of the putting trainer shown in FIG. 2 depicts certain features of the trainer, namely the leading edge 40, incline ramp 55, substantially horizontal plane or plateau 60, target hole cover plate 20, first trough 70, first ridge 95, second trough 135, second ridge 155, rear stall 160, rear lip 165, and side stalls 170.

[0049] As shown in FIG. 3, the base component 15 includes a front or leading edge 40, a ramp portion 55, a substantially horizontal plane or plateau 60, with the cylindrical hole 35 centered therein, and plate 20 which removably rests under its own weight on flange or ledge 37, a first descending slope 80 which descends from the trailing edge of the plateau 75 to a first trough 70 whose lowest position is a narrow plane 85 which is substantially horizontal from front to back, a first ascending slope 90 which ascends from the first trough 70 to a first highest ridge 95, a second descending slope 140 which descends from highest ridge 95 to a second trough 135 whose lowest position is a second narrow plane 145 which is substantially horizontal from front to back, a second ascending slope 150 which ascends from the second trough 135 to a second highest ridge 155, a rear stall 160 and a back lip 165.

[0050] The construction of each of first trough 70 and second trough 135 is substantially similar, as depicted in the expanded view of FIG. 5. There it is shown that the lower portion of the first descending slope 80 is characterized by a steeper plane 132 where it transitions into the plane 85 as compared to the relatively smoother radius of curvature R1 which characterizes the transition from plane 85 to the first ascending slope 90. The effect is to create a sharper ridge or bulge 130.

[0051] FIG. 5a depicts an alternative construction for a trough in which the intersection of the planes 85 and 132 is characterized by a transition curve of radius R2.

[0052] In the transverse cross section of the first trough 70 shown in FIG. 4, the highest point of plane 85 is at the center point 105, and the plane 85 then descends transversely by means of slopes 100 to low points 110 at the outer edges of the operating surface of the trainer. The second trough 135 is substantially similar in construction.

[0053] The side stalls 170 are formed by outer side and end lips 175, inner side walls 180, ball openings 185 in the inner side walls, a central highest ridge line 190, and planes 195 which descend to the front and to the rear from the highest ridge lines.

[0054] The rear stall 160 is bounded by the rear lip 165, the inner side walls of the side stalls 180, and a vertical wall below the second ridge 155, and includes a central highest ridge 200 and planes 205 which descend towards the sides 210 from the peak of ridge 200.

[0055] In operation, the said base component 15 is intended to be placed flat upon a carpet or golf putting green with a front edge 40 placed in closest relation to a user who will attempt to strike a ball along or reasonably near to an intended line 45, corresponding to line A-A in FIG. 2, from a distance ranging from 1 foot to perhaps up to 20 feet, where space will allow, from the said front edge 40.

[0056] It will be appreciated that putting practice from less than 1 foot from the front edge 40 is not necessary, although possible, and that putting from a distance greater than 20 feet is not often practical, either indoors, for reasons of available space, or outdoors, if other golfers are sharing the same putting surface.

[0057] Further, when putting from distances in excess of 20 feet, even small inaccuracies in alignment will serve to cause the putted ball to diverge from the centre line 45 by such a distance that the ball will frequently miss the portable putting trainer entirely, unless the trainer is so wide that its compactness and portability is compromised.

[0058] The leading edge 40 of the portable putting trainer lies in the plane of the base 50 of the trainer, such that it is in close contact with the carpet or golf green upon which it rests during practice. In use, the said leading edge 40 is placed at right angles to the intended line of the practice putt. The said leading edge of the trainer is also the lowest edge of a ramp or incline 55 which spans the full operating width of the trainer, which lies generally between the respective left and right side walls 180. The operating width of the trainer must be at least sufficient to accommodate a regulation golf hole with some room for passage of a ball on either side, and not so wide as to compromise portability, whereby a width of between 8″ and 18″ is preferred under usual conditions of green speed and green slope.

[0059] The ramp 55 is provided to accomplish several purposes. First, because ascending a ramp causes a ball to exchange kinetic energy for potential energy, a putted ball will lose speed, and therefore distance, while ascending the ramp. It is intended that the ramp be of sufficient height to cause a putted ball to lose about 3″ to 12″ of distance, which height may be arrived at by the ordinary workman by adjustment in accordance with the expected speed of the putting surface. A height range for the ramp of between ½″ and 2″ would be appropriate for most putting surfaces.

[0060] The skilled workman may adjust the appropriate height of the ramp and other components of the putting trainer by making use of a speed and distance calibration device such as a Stimpmeter™ channel. A Stimpmeter™ channel is an inclined channel. When placed at a certain slope on a green or practice surface, balls rolled successively down the channel will stop within a narrow and predictable range. By interposing the putting trainer in the path of such balls, the skilled workman may select heights for the ramp 40, ridges 95 and 155, longitudinal widths of the troughs 85 and 145 and stall 160 and height of rear lip 165 of the putting trainer which cause balls which would have rolled past the target hole within a specified range or ranges of distances to stop within the appropriate hole, trough or stall of the putting trainer as may then be desired.

[0061] In the preferred embodiment of the trainer, space is available adjacent the first ramp 40 and outside the operating width of the trainer, and grooved channels 215 which operate in like manner to a Stimpmeter™ channel are there provided. By releasing a ball down such channel prior to putting with the putting trainer, and noting the distance traveled, the practicing golfer can obtain some information about the quickness of the green or practice surface, and can adjust his hitting speed appropriately.

[0062] In this way, it will be appreciated that a ball which just stops in or adjacent to the hole 35 or hole cover plate 20 is one which, because of the effect of the ramp, would have in fact in the preferred embodiment rolled some 3 to 12 inches beyond the target hole. This encourages the golfer to strike the ball with sufficient speed to carry it at least that distance beyond the hole, as a ball, which would have just rolled to the hole on flat ground, will encounter the ramp 55 and roll back towards the golfer. This will interfere with subsequent putts and act as a discouragement to weak putting.

[0063] Further, the elevation achieved by the ramp 55 permits a regulation diameter golf hole to be sunk into a substantially horizontal upper surface 60 of the trainer when it is desired to have balls enter a hole, and also permits the selectively removable hole cover plate 20 to be placed over the hole for added visual and aural feedback, without interference with the subsequent categorization of the putt.

[0064] The slope of the ramp 55 is made shallow enough such as to cause only minor disruption to the smooth rolling of a putted ball, as it will be appreciated that, if the ramp is too steep, the ball may strike the ramp and bounce up unpredictably, thereby disrupting the subsequent measurement and categorization of its final distance of roll beyond the hole. Rather than being a flat surface, the ramp 55 may preferably take the form of a smooth spline curve which is more nearly parallel to the green or practice putting surface at the leading edge, and more nearly parallel to the substantially horizontal plateau 60 at its top end.

[0065] If the ramp 20 is too shallow in slope, the angle which it makes with the base 50 at the leading edge 40 will be very small, and the resulting thinness of the putting trainer adjacent to the leading edge 40 may cause structural weakness and resultant breaking or bending of the leading edge. Further, a shallow angle will require greater distance along the intended line of the ball in order to achieve the elevation necessary for the substantially horizontal upper surface 60 and subsequent distance categorization structures, thereby adding to the overall length of the device and reducing its compactness and portability. Angles of between 3 degrees and 30 degrees are acceptable for the portion of maximum slope of ramp 55.

[0066] The substantially horizontal upper surface 60 covers the full operating width of the putting trainer and extends along the intended line of the ball for a distance at least sufficient to include a regulation diameter golf hole 35. The diameter of a regulation golf hole is about 4½ inches.

[0067] While it is possible to include a significant surface area of the plateau 60 either in front of or behind the hole 35, in practice there is no reason to do so, as additional length of the plateau 60 adds to the size of the portable putting trainer with no benefit in return. The plateau 60 is therefore of sufficient width to accommodate a regulation golf hole and any structural or stiffening members required by the ordinary skilled workman in the art of plastic molding.

[0068] The plate 20 lies entirely within the hole 35 and is loosely and removably supported in a horizontal plane within the said hole, resting under its own weight on the ledge or flange 37. The horizontal level of the plate is preferably such that the upper surface 25 of plate 20 is about ⅛″ to {fraction (1/16)}″ below the surface of the substantially horizontal plateau 60, which enables a putted ball to roll relatively smoothly on an unaltered course over the hole 35, while still permitting a struck ball of minimum appropriate speed to come to rest on the plate 20 and within the perimeter of the hole 35.

[0069] Alternatively, if it is not desired that putts which would have traveled only 3″ to 12″ past the target hole actually come to rest within the margins of hole 35 and on the top surface 25 of plate 20, the plate may be removably supported on flange or ledge 37 such that its upper surface 25 is in the same plane as plateau 60, whereby the progress of the ball will be minimally disrupted while the aural feedback feature remains operational.

[0070] Alternatively, the hole cover plate 20 may be removed entirely from the hole 35. In this manner, any putted ball which would enter a regulation golf hole, will enter the hole 35 and remain there.

[0071] Alternative mounting means may be utilized for the plate 20, provided only that the hole remains the size of a regulation golf hole, and that the plate may be loosely and removably stabilized in a substantially horizontal plane about ⅛″ to {fraction (1/16)}″ below plane 60, or in the same plane as desired. It will be appreciated that there are many mounting means available to the skilled workman, including by means of ridges molded into the base unit 15 or feet or other supporting means added to the plate 20.

[0072] It is desirable that a ball rolling over the plate 20 provide both visual and aural feedback to the golfer to clearly indicate that the line of the putted ball intersected the hole 35. This may be accomplished visually by coloring the plate 20 in a manner which contrasts with the color of the plateau 60, and aurally by mounting the plate 20 loosely to allow vibration and by providing a roughened surface 25 and/or by fashioning the plate from a lightly corrugated metal whose corrugations are sufficient to provide a distinctive sound without substantially interfering with the distance of travel or line of the putted ball.

[0073] A ball putted with sufficient velocity to mount the ramp 55 and to traverse the substantially horizontal plateau 60, next encounters a first trough 70. The first edge 75 of trough 70 is the back edge 75 of the plateau 60. The putted ball then descends the first or descending slope 80 of trough 70 until it reaches the bottom plane 85. It then ascends the second or ascending slope 90 of the first trough 70 and either does or does not ascend all the way to the top of the ridge 95, which is the highest point on the far side of the first trough 70.

[0074] The height of the ridge 95 is preferably above the substantially horizontal plane 60, by between ⅛″ and 1″. In this way, the putted ball must give up a fixed quantity of its kinetic energy if it is to achieve sufficient potential energy to surmount the first ridge 95. The height of the first ridge 95 in relation to the plane 60 can be adjusted by the ordinary skilled workman, with the help of a Stimpmeter™—type channel as necessary, so that a putted ball which would have traveled say, between at least 12″ and no more than 24″ beyond the hole 35 for certain putting conditions will be trapped in the said first trough 70, providing feedback to the golfer and being categorized as set out below for future reference or charting As stated above, it is optimally desirable that a putted ball travel with a speed which would have carried it 17″ beyond the hole, whereby a distance range of from 9″ to 24″ past the hole as the range for the first trough 70 provides appropriate positive feedback. Other ranges may be selected as desired by the skilled workman by varying the height of the first ridge 95 in relation to the substantially horizontal plane 60, or less preferably, by varying the width or other parameters of the trough.

[0075] The deepest part of the trough is shown by surface 100 in FIG. 4. Surface 100 preferably has a slight crown, highest in the centre 105 and lowest at the edges 110 of the portable putting trainer remote from the centre 105. The grade of the slope from the centre 105 to each edge 110 is close to and sufficiently steep so as to cause a putted ball which comes to rest in the trough 70 to roll off to the edge of the putting trainer and out of the way of other subsequently putted balls not yet captured by this or other troughs or otherwise categorized. The required slope will vary depending on the materials selected and surface treatment of the trainer. The grade of the slope of the bottom of the trough 100 from the centre line 105 to the edges 110 is preferably between ½% and 15%.

[0076] Because the height of the first ridge 95 exceeds the height of the first edge 75 of trough 70, it is possible that a putted ball that climbs almost to the full height of ridge 95 could then roll backwards through the trough 70 with sufficient velocity to surmount the first edge 75 of trough 70, thereby failing to be captured, and properly categorized and cleared to the sides, and possibly interfering with the progress of subsequently putted balls.

[0077] It is therefore preferable to provide means to prevent such uncontrolled back-rolling. One such preferred means utilizes a longitudinally short plane 132, adjacent plane 85, steeper than descending slope 80, as shown in FIG. 5. Either or both of the height above plane 85 of the upper ridge 130, formed by the intersection of plane 132 with slope 80, and/or the angle α of plane 132 with plane 85, may be adjusted so that a ball rolled backward from the top of ridge 95 is sufficiently impeded by intersection ridge 130 and angled plane 132 that it is retained within the trough. In the preferred embodiment, the said height is between ¼″ and ¾″ and the angle α is between 135 and 110 degrees.

[0078] An alternative means of preventing such back-rolling utilizes the radius of curvature of the ball as compared to the radius of curvature of the trough, as shown in detail in FIG. 5a. The radius of curvature R2 of the lower portion 125 of the first or descending slope 80 of trough 70 should preferably be less than the radius of curvature of the ball. Thus, a ball rolling backwards through the trough 70 will encounter a ridge 130, which was not noticeably apparent when the ball first rolled through trough 70 in the forward direction. The speed of the ball being relatively low, and the force required to slow it slightly to prevent it from surmounting first edge 75 and leaving the trough 70 in the direction from which it entered the said trough being correspondingly small, this small ridge 130 created by utilization of a radius of curvature slightly smaller than the radius of curvature of the ball is sufficient to impede the further progress of the ball out of the trough 70 in the direction of the practicing golfer, and to retain it within trough 70. A radius of curvature R2 of between ½″ and 1″ and a height of ridge 130 of between ¼″ and ¾″ is suitable for this purpose.

[0079] It is preferable to make the radius of curvature R1 of the first portion 115 of the second or ascending slope 90 of trough 70 greater than the radius of curvature of the golf ball, which is approximately 1″. A radius of curvature R1 which is too close in magnitude to the radius of curvature of the ball, will result in potentially bumpy passage of the ball through the trough, whereas a radius of curvature R1 substantially greater than the radius of curvature of the ball, will result in a trough which is unnecessarily wide and wasteful of spacing, resulting in a larger than necessary portable putting trainer. The skilled workman will readily determine the minimum acceptable radius of curvature of the first portion 115 of the rear slope 90 of trough 70, depending on the materials chosen for construction, so as to permit substantially smooth passage of a ball in the forward direction at the expected speeds. It has been found that a radius of curvature of about 1½″ to 4″, and a subsequent midpoint slope of about 20 to 50 degrees for slope 90 is sufficient to provide a smooth passage in most circumstances.

[0080] A putted ball, which is thus trapped in trough 70, then rolls to one or the other of the ends 110 of the trough, depending on which side of the trough it first traversed and in which it was captured. It is then preferably permitted to roll off the side of the putting trainer. In one variation of the portable putting trainer, as depicted in the preferred embodiment, successive balls roll into side retaining stalls which, by means of appropriate slopes, whereby each of several balls is positioned out of the line of any subsequent ball destined for the same stall, until the capacity of that stall is reached. As shown in FIG. 2, each side stall has a ridge 190 of maximum height. Balls exit the troughs of the trainer substantially over or on such ridges, and then proceed forward or backward down incline planes 195 until stopped by end or side lips 175 or 180, or previously collected balls.

[0081] In another more compact variation of the portable putting trainer, not shown, which is a smaller, lighter, more compact version, there are no side retaining stalls, and balls are permitted to simply exit the device to the sides where they gather in categorized groups on the carpet or on the putting green as the case may be.

[0082] Referring again to FIG. 1, another or second trough 135 may preferably, but certainly not necessarily, be included beyond trough 70. Second trough 135 is of the same overall structure as trough 70, with a first slope 140, a bottom portion 145, a second slope 150 and a final ridge 155. The height of the second ridge 155 in relation to the first ridge 95 can be adjusted by the ordinary skilled workman so that a putted ball which would have traveled say, between at least 24″ and no more than 36″ beyond the hole 35 for certain putting conditions will be trapped in the said second trough 135, providing feedback to the golfer and being categorized for future reference or charting.

[0083] A ball entering trough 135 descends first slope 140, crosses the bottom 145 of the trough in the forward direction, ascends a second slope 150, and either surmounts ridge 155 if it had sufficient kinetic energy to convert into potential energy to do so, or falls back into the second trough where it is captured, if necessary with the assistance of the ridge formed by the steeper inclined plane and ridge located in similar orientation as in the first trough, and is expelled to either side of the trainer for categorization, either by rolling onto the practice surface or green, or into side stalls if provided.

[0084] In the same manner a third trough or subsequent troughs may be included in the portable putting trainer, and the range of distances past the hole for balls captured in each readily determined and provided for, by second or trailing ridge height adjustments, by the ordinary skilled workman.

[0085] As shown in FIG. 1, the portable putting trainer of the preferred embodiment has two such troughs 70 and 135, and a rear collection stall 160 with a back lip 165. It is also possible to include only a single trough with or without a rear collection stall if fewer categorized positions are desired.

[0086] The width of the stall 160 and the height of the lip 165 may be adjusted by the ordinary skilled workman to capture putted balls which would have traveled say, between 36″ and 72″ (or 6 ft.) beyond the hole. If, to conserve space, the width of the stall 160 is minimized to be slightly greater than the diameter of a ball, then the height of the lip 165 may be adjusted to retain putted balls, which would have traveled up to, say, 60″ beyond the hole 35. The inside surface of stall 160 in which a captured ball comes to rest is preferably crowned with a grade from the center 200 to the sides 210, in the same manner as with the bottom of each trough. Balls which would have traveled in excess of, say, 72″ inches beyond the target hole are able to clear the lip 165 and come to rest on the practice surface or putting green beyond the portable putting trainer. Balls which would have traveled beyond 72″ past the target hole are, in a real golf situation, in danger of passing right over the hole even when struck generally on the proper line, and these are preferentially permitted to clear the back lip and land on the green or practice surface.

[0087] In summary, the metal hole plate, each trough, the rear collection stall, and the area beyond the putting trainer each represent a range of distances which a putted ball would have traveled beyond the intended target hole in a practice situation using the putting trainer, and further categories are provided to the left and right of the intended line by the provision of side stalls or side runoff areas. The putting trainer of the invention thereby provides feedback and a record to the practicing golfer of the distance a ball would have rolled beyond the intended target hole, even where the practice area available would not have permitted putts of such distance to be fully completed.

[0088] The portable putting distance and putting line trainer of the invention herein is therefore comprised of and includes

[0089] A portable putting distance and putting line trainer, comprising a target at which a practicing golfer, putting on a practice surface or a putting green, aims a putted ball, and at least one ramp ahead of the target and at least one trough behind the target;

[0090] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer wherein the target is marked on a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp and has the width of a regulation golf hole;

[0091] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the target is a circle marked on a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp and has the diameter of a regulation golf hole;

[0092] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the plate has a surface treated in such a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it;

[0093] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the plate is made of material which vibrates in a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it;

[0094] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope, and wherein the highest point on the second slope is higher than the highest point on the first slope;

[0095] A portable putting distance and putting line trainer, comprising a target on a substantially horizontal surface at which a practicing golfer, putting on a practice surface or a putting green, aims a putted ball, and at least one ramp ahead of the target and at least one trough behind the target, wherein the trough captures certain putted balls whose speeds when they first encounter the trainer are within a certain pre-determined range, corresponding to a range of distances beyond the target that a putted ball would have traveled in the absence of the trainer;

[0096] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the range of distances beyond the target as is captured by the first trough is between 6″ and 24″;

[0097] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the target is a hole in a substantially horizontal surface behind the ramp, with the diameter of a regulation golf hole, and with a depth, when uncovered, sufficient to retain a putted ball;

[0098] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the hole is substantially covered by a plate which is stably but loosely supported in the hole such that its upper surface is between {fraction (1/16)}″ and ⅛″ below the substantially horizontal surface;

[0099] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the hole is substantially covered by a plate which is stably but loosely supported in the hole such that its upper surface is substantially in the same plane as the substantially horizontal surface;

[0100] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the plate covering the hole is removable;

[0101] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the plate is made of material which vibrates in a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it;

[0102] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the plate has a surface treated in such a way so as to make audible noise when a golf ball rolls over it;

[0103] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope, and wherein the highest point on the second slope is higher than the highest point on the first slope,

[0104] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the bottom of the trough slopes to either side of the trainer from a highest point proximate to a center line parallel to the practice putting direction, such that a putted ball which is within that range of speeds to be captured by the trough is expelled to the sides of the trainer and out of the way of subsequently putted balls;

[0105] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the height difference between the substantially horizontal surface and the practice surface is such that any ball which would have rolled at least 6″ beyond the target hole enters the trough, and wherein the height difference between the highest points on the respective second and first slopes of the trough is such that the trough will capture and expel to the sides those putted balls which would have traveled no more than a predetermined distance which is no more than 36″ beyond the target hole in the absence of the putting trainer;

[0106] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the height difference between the substantially horizontal surface and the practice surface is such that any ball which would have rolled at least 6″ beyond the target hole enters the trough, and wherein the height difference between the highest points on the respective second and first slopes of the trough is such that the trough will capture and expel to the sides those putted balls which would have traveled no more than a predetermined distance which is no more than 24″ beyond the target hole in the absence of the putting trainer;

[0107] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein there are at least two troughs;

[0108] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein there are at least two troughs and a rear stall;

[0109] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein each trough has a first descending slope and a second ascending slope, and wherein the highest point on the second slope of each trough is higher than the highest point on the first slope of the respective trough;

[0110] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein the heights of the substantially horizontal surface and the highest point of the second ascending slope of the first trough are adjusted such that a putted ball which would have traveled at least a first predetermined distance range beyond the target hole is captured by the first of the troughs and then expelled to the sides of the trainer by slopes in the bottom of the first of the troughs, and wherein the highest point of the second ascending slope of the second trough is adjusted such that a putted ball which would have traveled at least a second predetermined distance range beyond the target hole is captured by the second of the troughs and then expelled to the sides of the trainer by slopes in the bottom of the second of the trough;

[0111] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein there are three or more troughs, each of which is configured to capture putted balls which would have traveled a predetermined distance range beyond the target hole;

[0112] Such portable putting distance and putting line trainer, wherein a stall of at least the width of one golf ball diameter and with a rear lip running across the path of the putted ball is included beyond the last trough, and wherein the height of the rear lip is adjusted to capture balls which would have traveled more than an additional predetermined distance beyond the target hole.

[0113] It will be readily appreciated that many variations are possible in the number of troughs and the inclusion or absence of rear and side stalls. It will also be readily apparent that the choice of dimensions and material selection and treatment will affect the predetermined distance ranges of putted balls captured by the hole, with or without plate, the respective troughs, and the rear stall. It will also be readily apparent that certain variations in construction are possible which do not materially alter the invention disclosed herein. The skilled workman will readily determine the best combination of all of these, and the inventors claim that each of these falls within the scope of the invention disclosed.