Title:
Impact resistant golf tee
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A golf tee is composed of a tubular member of rubber, having an open upper end of size suitable to support a golf ball and four uniformly spaced longitudinal slits extending from the upper end toward the lower end. A smaller opening at the lower end receives a conventional golf tee, which is used as an anchor.



Inventors:
Chiou, Shang-jaw (Lower Gwynedd, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/799526
Publication Date:
08/07/2008
Filing Date:
05/02/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B57/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Howson, And Howson (SUITE 210, 501 OFFICE CENTER DRIVE, FT WASHINGTON, PA, 19034, US)
Claims:
1. A golf tee comprising a tubular member composed of a resilient polymeric material, the tubular member having upper and lower ends, a side wall having an annular cross-section extending from the upper end toward the lower end, a circular opening at the upper end, the opening having a diameter in the range from about 0.3 cm to 2 cm, whereby a golf ball can be supported by the tubular member at said upper end, an opening at the lower end for receiving an earth-penetrating element for anchoring the tubular member, and a plurality of slits formed in the side wall of the tubular member, the slits extending from the upper end toward the lower end, and terminating at an intermediate location between the upper and lower ends, the tube having sufficient rigidity to support a golf ball without substantial deformation, but being sufficiently flexible that the slits can open temporarily as a result of impact imparted to the tubular member when a golf ball supported thereon is struck by a golf club.

2. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which a bottom wall is formed in the tubular member at the lower end thereof, and in which said opening at the lower end is an opening in the bottom wall.

3. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the resilient polymeric material is a rubber.

4. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which said opening at the upper end has a diameter in the range from about 0.5 cm to about 1.7 cm.

5. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which said opening at the upper end has a diameter in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 1.5 cm.

6. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the outer diameter of the tube at its upper end is in the range from about 0.4 cm to about 3 cm.

7. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the outer diameter of the tube at its upper end is in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 2.5 cm.

8. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the outer diameter of the tube at its upper end is in the range from about 0.95 cm to about 1.7 cm.

9. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the length of the tubular member is in the range from about 0.5 cm to about 20 cm.

10. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the length of the tubular member is in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 10 cm.

11. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the length of the tubular member is in the range from about 1 cm to about 5 cm.

12. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the opening at the lower end has a maximum transverse dimension not greater than about 1 cm.

13. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the opening at the lower end has a maximum transverse dimension not greater than about 0.7 cm.

14. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the opening at the lower end is a substantially circular opening having a diameter in the range from approximately 0.2 cm to approximately 0.5 cm.

15. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which said slits are disposed at uniform intervals about the circumference of the tubular member.

16. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which lengths of said slits is at least 1/10th the distance from the upper end to the lower end of the tubular member.

17. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which lengths of said slits is in the range from approximately 1/10th to ¾th the distance from the upper end to the lower end of the tubular member.

18. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which the side wall of the tubular member has substantially cylindrical inner and outer faces throughout at least the portion thereof in which the slits are formed.

19. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which a bottom wall is formed in the tubular member at the lower end thereof, and in which said opening at the lower end is an opening in the bottom wall, and in which said bottom wall is unitary with the side wall of the tubular member.

20. A golf tee according to claim 1, in which an earth-penetrating element for anchoring the tubular member extends through the opening at the lower end of the tubular member.

21. A golf tee comprising a tubular member composed of a resilient polymeric material, the tubular member having upper and lower ends, a side wall having an annular cross-section extending from the upper end toward the lower end, a circular opening at the upper end, the opening having a diameter in the range from about 0.3 cm to 2 cm, whereby a golf ball can be supported by the tubular member at said upper end, and a plurality of slits formed in the side wall of the tubular member, the slits extending from the upper end toward the lower end, and terminating at an intermediate location between the upper and lower ends, the tube having sufficient rigidity to support a golf ball without substantial deformation, but being sufficiently flexible that the slits can open temporarily as a result of impact imparted to the tubular member when a golf ball supported thereon is struck by a golf club.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority on the basis of provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/899,421, filed Feb. 5, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to golf tees, and more particularly to a golf tee which is resistant to breakage and which can be used repeatedly over a long period of time.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional golf tees are typically made of wood or plastic. They break easily when struck by a golf club, and can also fly out or lie flat when struck. Often the tees, whether or not broken, are not picked up by the golfer, and, as a result, the teeing areas (“tee boxes”) of a golf course tend to become littered with used and broken tees, which must be gathered periodically by golf course maintenance personnel. The potential for loss of tees, of course, also means that a golfer must maintain a supply of tees on hand, preferably at least about eighteen tees for an eighteen hole round of golf.

Most golfers prefer to set their tees at a consistent height to avoid errant tee shots, e.g., “topping” and “popping up.” However, maintaining a consistent tee height with a conventional tee is difficult, especially for an amateur player. To address the problem of maintaining a consistent tee height, wooden golf tees have been made with projections extending laterally from the tee at a location midway between the top of the tee and its ground-penetrating point. When a tee having these projections is placed in the ground, the projections engage the ground, and help maintain a consistent tee height. However, these tees, like conventional wooden tees are still vulnerable to easy breakage on impact by the golf club.

The problem of maintaining a consistent tee height can be addressed by using a tee assembly of the kind disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,492,323 to Lee. The patent discloses a ball support, specially designed for golf practice, which includes a disc-like base, anchored to the ground by a plurality of pins, and a rubber ball holder received in the base. The ball holder maintains the ball at a consistent height, but the size of the base assembly, and the manner in which the disc-like base is anchored, prevent the assembly from being suitable for course play. Furthermore, since the ball support is made of rubber, its stiffness can cause it to absorb a significant portion of the kinetic energy imparted to the golf ball by the club, resulting in a shorter tee shot distance. Lee also describes an embodiment in which the waist portion of the ball support is in the form of a spring for increased resiliency. However, the spring makes the ball holder still more structurally complex.

Another form of golf tee, intended to address the problem of maintaining consistent tee height and avoiding excessive absorption of club energy is the so-called “brush tee,” a tee in which the golf ball is supported by a brush-like structure composed of many, relatively thin, bristles of plastic material. Because the bristles become damaged as a result of impact by the head of a golf club, the brush tee must be replaced frequently.

Various other forms of golf tees have been designed to address the problems of inconsistent tee height, unwanted absorption of club energy, loss and breakage of tees, and excessive complexity. However, until now, existing golf tees are all believed to be subject to one or more of these problems.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is a new golf tee which addresses one or more of the above-mentioned problems, and in its preferred embodiments, addresses all of them.

The golf tee according to the invention comprises a tubular member composed of a resilient polymeric material, preferably rubber or another suitable resilient polymer having rubber-like properties. For example a synthetic elastomer such a polyurethane elastomer can be used. The tubular member has upper and lower ends, and a side wall having an annular cross-section extending from the upper end toward the lower end. Preferably the side wall of the tubular member has substantially cylindrical inner and outer faces throughout at least the portion thereof in which the slits are formed.

A circular opening is formed at the upper end, the opening having a diameter in the range from about 0.3 cm to 2 cm, making the tubular member suitable for supporting a golf ball at its upper end. An opening is also formed at the lower end of the tubular member for receiving an earth-penetrating element, such as a conventional wooden or plastic golf tee, used to anchor the tubular member to the ground. When the tee is set on the ground, the earth penetrating element extends through the opening at the lower end of the tubular member.

Preferably, a bottom wall is formed in the tubular member at the lower end thereof, and the opening at the lower end of the tubular member is an opening in the bottom wall. The bottom wall can be, and preferably is, formed as a unit with the side wall of the tubular member.

A plurality of slits is formed in the side wall of the tubular member. These slits extend from the upper end toward the lower end, and terminate at an intermediate location between the upper and lower ends. The tube has sufficient rigidity, even though the slits are present, to support a golf ball without substantial deformation, but is sufficiently flexible that the slits can open temporarily as a result of impact imparted to the tubular member when a golf ball supported thereon is struck by a golf club. In a preferred embodiment, the slits are disposed at uniform intervals about the circumference of the tubular member, and their lengths are in the range from approximately 1/10th to ¾th the distance from the upper end to the lower end of the tubular member.

Preferred dimensions of the tubular member are as follows. The opening at the upper end of the tubular member should have a diameter in the range from about 0.5 cm to about 1.7 cm., but the diameter is preferably in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 1.5 cm. The outer diameter of the tube at its upper end should be in the range from about 0.4 cm to about 3, and is preferably in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 2.5 cm, and even more preferably in the range from about 0.95 cm to about 1.7 cm. The length of the tubular member should be in the range from about 0.5 cm to about 20 cm., but is preferably in the range from about 0.75 cm to about 10 cm, and even more preferably in the range from about 1 cm to about 5 cm. The opening at the lower end should have a maximum transverse dimension not greater than about 1 cm, and the maximum transverse dimension of this opening is preferably not greater than about 0.7 cm, and even more preferably not greater than about 0.5 cm. The maximum dimension of the opening can be as small as 0.01 cm, but is preferably at least 0.1 cm, and even more preferably at least 0.2 cm. In a preferred embodiment, the opening at the lower end is a substantially circular opening having a diameter in the range from approximately 0.2 cm to approximately 0.5 cm.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a golf tee according to the invention, as viewed from above;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the golf tee of FIG. 1, as viewed from below:

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the golf tee, showing the tee anchored in place in a tee box;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the golf tee, showing the tee anchored in place in a tee box, and supporting a golf ball;

FIG. 5 is an elevational view of the golf tee, showing its condition immediately following a stroke by a golf club.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The principal component of the tee in accordance with the invention is a tubular member 10 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The tubular member 10 is composed of a resilient polymeric material, preferably natural rubber or another suitable resilient polymer having rubber-like properties. For example a synthetic elastomer such a polyurethane elastomer, silicone rubber, or any of a variety of other resilient polymeric materials can be used as an alternative to natural rubber. The tubular member has an upper end 12, a lower end 14, and a side wall 16. A circular opening 18 at the upper end has a diameter preferably in the range from about 0.3 cm to 2 cm, so that a standard golf ball 20, which has a diameter of 4.267 cm, can be supported by the tubular member at the upper end, as shown in FIG. 4, in a position such that at least about 4 cm of the full 4.267 cm ball diameter is above the upper edge of the inner face 22 of the tubular member. The upper edge 24 of the tubular member is preferably beveled as shown in FIGS. 1, 3 and 4, and, optionally, the bevel can be curved to conform to the surface of a 4.267 cm sphere.

The inside and outside faces of the side wall of the tubular member are preferably coaxial cylinders, and the wall of the tubular member should have a thickness in the range from about 0.05 cm to 0.5 cm, although a thickness of 0.1 to 0.3 cm is preferred for rubber and most other similar materials.

The tubular member preferably has a bottom wall 26, as seen in FIGS. 2 and 3, and the bottom wall is preferably formed as a unit with the side wall 15 by molding. The bottom wall has an central opening 28 (FIG. 2), through which an anchoring member can protrude. In the case shown in FIG. 3, the anchoring member is a conventional wooden or plastic tee 30, which penetrates the ground 32, holding the tubular member firmly against the ground, with its upper end 12 at a height corresponding to the distance between its upper and lower ends. The maximum dimension of the hole 28, which is its diameter in the case of a circular hole, should be in the range from about 0.01 cm to 1 cm. If the anchoring member is a conventional wooden or plastic tee, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the maximum dimension of the hole 28 should be in the range from about 0.1 cm to 0.7 cm so that the lower part of the tee will readily fit through the hole but the upper part of the tee will not fit through the hole. Some distortion of the hole 28 and the bottom wall 26 will occur if the hole is in the lower part of the 0.1 cm to 0.7 cm range. If the hole diameter is in the range from 0.2 to 0.5 cm, a conventional tee can be used as an anchoring member with little distortion of the hole or the bottom wall.

As shown in FIG. 1, the side wall 16 of tubular member 10 is provided with four slits, 34, 36, 38 and 40, extending from the upper end 12 to an intermediate location, preferably through about ¾ of the total length of the tube, leaving the bottom ¼ of the tubular member uncut. The slits extend through the thickness of the wall, are of uniform length, and are uniformly spaced from one another so that they divide the upper portion of the tubular member into four independently flexible parts.

Although the slits are preferably four in number, and extend ¾ the height of the tubular member, a smaller or larger number of slits can be used. If the tubular member has only one slit, it tends to absorb club energy differently, depending on its orientation. The same is true with two slits. However, with three or more slits, club energy absorption becomes orientation-independent. The lengths of the slits can be as little as 1/10 the total length of the tubular member. However, a greater length is preferred not only for reduced energy absorption, but also because longer slits make it easier for the golfer to insert a finger into the tubular member in order to press down manually on the conventional tee 30 and thereby anchor the tubular member in the ground, as illustrated in FIG. 3.

As shown in FIG. 5, when teeing off, a golf club 42 is swing into contact with a ball 20. The golf club head 44 follows an arcuate path indicated by arrow 46, and, the movement of the ball, when struck, will cause distortion of the tee. In almost all cases, the club head 44 will strike a part of the tee. Because the slits 34-40 can open, the parts of the tubular member separated by the slits can flex independently, and present very little resistance to the club head. Consequently, only a minimal absorption of club head energy occurs, and a greater average ball flight can be expected.

Following the tee shot, the slits close and the independently flexible parts of the tubular member return to the configuration shown in FIG. 3 as a result of their resilience. The tubular member can be pulled manually and removed from the tee box for reuse along with the anchoring tee 30.

The golf tee according to the invention has many potential advantages, including simplicity of structure and manufacture, low cost, reusability, resistance to breakage, long life, minimal absorption of club energy, consistent ball height, and ease of use. In addition, the golf tee according to the invention has some environmental benefits in that, because the tee can be reused many times, it becomes unnecessary to obtain and carry large numbers of conventional tees. Moreover, the littering of golf courses with lost or broken conventional tees can be significantly reduced.

The tee according to the invention can be modified in various ways. For example, the number and configuration of the slits can be varied, and the slits need not be fully closed when the tubular member is relaxed. The tubular member, although preferably generally cylindrical, can have any of various shapes, as long as its upper end is of a size suitable to support a golf ball. The tubular member can be made from various materials, such as natural rubber, synthetic rubber, and other polymers, provided that the material exhibits sufficient strength to support a golf ball without significant distortion due to the weight of the ball, and sufficient resilience to return to its original condition following a tee shot.

Still other modifications may be made to the apparatus and method described above without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.