Title:
Synthetic golf surface and hitting area
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A golf practice apparatus comprising a cavity used to hold synthetic and other types of recreational sports turf in place, the cavity having a plurality of openings to allow water to drain from the cavity, and said turf comprising interstitial spaces filled with sand to create an artificial hitting surface having a realistic feel.



Inventors:
Morris, Melissa Lou (Scott Depot, WV, US)
Application Number:
10/008267
Publication Date:
04/04/2002
Filing Date:
11/09/2001
Assignee:
MORRIS MELISSA LOU
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/36; (IPC1-7): A63B69/36
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GRAHAM, MARK S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Melissa Morris (Scott Depot, WV, US)
Claims:

That which is claimed:



1. An apparatus for practicing golf comprising: a base having a stabilizing cavity with walls and a floor bounding the cavity and a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor, said base having a plurality of passageways therethrough, said passageways dimensioned to allow a flow of water from the cavity out of the base; and a turf with interstices and a lower surface, said turf dimensioned to fit within the cavity with the lower surface engaging the protrusions.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the passageways are bores.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a container for receiving and holding golf balls, said container engaging the lower surface of said tray cavity.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the turf is a synthetic turf.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the interstices further comprise a particulate.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the particulate has an average grain size of from about 30 to about 100.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the particulate has an average grain size of from about 30 to about 60.

8. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the turf is made from a material selected from the group consisting of nylon, polypropylene, and combinations thereof.

9. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the turf is made from polypropylene.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the turf comprises upwardly extending tufts having an average height of from about ⅛″ to about 1″.

11. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the particulate is provided in the interstices to about ¼ inch from top of said synthetic turf.

12. A golf practice hitting apparatus comprising: a base having an outer surface and a stabilizing cavity with walls and a floor bounding the cavity and a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor, said base having a plurality of passageways therethrough, said passageways dimensioned to allow a flow of water from the cavity out of the base; and a synthetic turf having an upper tufted surface having interstices and a lower surface, said turf dimensioned to fit within the base cavity and engage the cavity protrusions; and a granular substrate provided to the interstices.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the upper tufted surface and lower surface are separate surfaces joined together.

14. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the base passageways are bores.

15. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the granular substrate is sand.

16. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the granular substrate has a grain size of from about 30 to about 100.

17. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the granular substrate compacts to support a tee in a vertical position.

18. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the base is made from a material selected from the group consisting of natural rubber, synthetic rubber, polypropylene, nylon, and combinations thereof.

19. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the upper tufted surface is made from a material selected from the group consisting of nylon, polypropylene, and combinations thereof.

20. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the lower surface is made from a material selected from the group consisting of synthetic rubber, natural rubber, and moldable polymeric materials.

21. The apparatus of claim 12, further comprising an attachment dimensioned to engage the base for receiving, holding, and delivering golf balls.

22. The apparatus of claim 12, further comprising a standing area and a hitting area.

23. The apparatus of claim 22, wherein the standing area is detachable from the hitting area.

24. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the turf comprises upwardly extending tufts having an average height of from about ⅛ to about 1″.

25. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the granular substrate is provided in the interstices to about ¼ inch from top of said synthetic turf.

26. The golf practice mat of claim 22, wherein said base and standing area are one piece.

27. A golf practice hitting apparatus comprising: a base having an outer surface and a stabilizing cavity with walls and a floor bounding the cavity and a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor, said base having a plurality of passageways therethrough, said passageways dimensioned to allow a flow of water from the cavity out of the base; a turf having an upper tufted surface having interstices and a lower surface, said turf dimensioned to fit within the base cavity and engage the cavity protrusions; a granular substrate provided to the interstices; and a standing area having an upper surface and a lower surface, said upper lower surface having a predetermined pattern.

28. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein the lower surface is a non-skid surface made from a material selected from the group consisting of natural rubber, synthetic rubber, polypropylene, and combinations thereof.

29. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein the upper surface is a non-skid surface having a surface comprising irregular depressions and protrusions.

30. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein the turf upper surface is made from a material selected from the group consisting of synthetic turf and natural turf.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to a hitting surface and system useful as an aid in practicing golf. More specifically, the present invention relates to an improved synthetic golfing surface having a realistic sand-filled shock-absorbing feature with a more realistic play feel.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Regular practice is essential to achieving competency in the game of golf. Golfing centers offering the golfer hitting areas to practice and improve are increasingly popular. Such practice areas, often called driving ranges, employ synthetic mats off of which a ball may be hit with a club. Unfortunately, such mats are very unforgiving during golf shots. A great deal of shock is transmitted through the club and into the golfer's arms, wrists and hands due to the club's impact with the mat. In short, the known artificial golf hitting areas do not give the golfer a realistic feel to compare with hitting from a natural surface.

[0003] In addition, golf fairway type shots require the golf club to be swung so that the head passes through the portion of the ball and ground surfaces so as to displace a portion of the turf similarly known as a “divot.” Therefore, to approximate the feel of a natural fairway, artificial practice surfaces for fairway shots should deform to allow the passage of the club head through the turf, and yet provide sufficient resistance to give the golfer the feel of taking a divot. This should be accomplished without giving the golfer the shock of hitting a hard surface.

[0004] Golf drives from a tee require the club to be swung “through and up” so that the club passes through the ball without impacting the ground surface. Practice surfaces used at driving ranges for tee shots should, however, deform to allow passage of the club head should the golfer strike the ball incorrectly and the club head inadvertently make contact with the practice surface. Further, the surface should remain mostly undamaged so that a golfer doesn't damage his clubs or his person.

[0005] Known synthetic golf mats often have a hole through which a rubber support is placed to act as a tee. However, the rubber support stays at a fixed height as it supports the ball for the golfer. The fixed height may or may not be the ideal height for the individual golfer. The lack of tee adjustability and the lack of shock-absorption in the golf mat, makes the driving range experience fall far short of the goal of providing a useful, realistic artificial golfing surface.

[0006] Synthetic golf mats use artificial turf installed on a rectangular base plate or other shape. Such golf mats allow the golfer to stand on the same surface or similar surface to that from which he is hitting. A large portion of the surface of the mat is never used, and, not surprisingly, the portion to first wear out surrounds the tee. However, the relatively unused portion of the mat is wasted and discarded along with the used portion.

[0007] Known artificial surfaces have been developed over the years attempting to solve the above-identified problems and duplicate the feel of the natural grass. Previously disclosed artificial mats have suspendable portions that can move in response to a blow from a swing of the golf club. Such mats use springs, elastic, rubber bands or the like to provide a movable surface. Other golf mats have artificial turf surfaces made of belts that move along the same path along which the club head travels. These types of mats have achieved some success, but in general are too expensive, unreliable, cumbersome and, in effect, too artificial.

[0008] Other known mats use a simple rubber mat, some of which have pile surfaces or textured rubber surfaces. The pile-type surfaces are, in essence, a carpet construction. Polyurethane and other polymers have been used to affix the pile to the back of the tufted carpet material. These arrangements have not been satisfactory because the polyurethane and other materials easily de-laminate, leading to mat failure due to the continuing blows from the golf club. Still other known golf practice mats have turf surfaces bonded to a base of foam rubber or other multi-layered materials. These mats are less complex than those having movable portions, but still don't simulate the feel of natural golfing turf.

[0009] In addition, all known synthetic golf mats suffer to some extent from excessive premature wear from club impact and environmental weathering from rain and sun exposure. For example, open-celled materials can absorb water when exposed to the elements, resulting in premature degradation.

[0010] A need, therefor, exists for a durable golf practice mat that maintains the feel of a real fairway. A need also exists for a golf practice mat that will hold a freestanding tee, but that also will absorb the shock of a golf swing and is sturdy enough to withstand certain weather elements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] In one embodiment, the present invention relates to an apparatus for practicing golf comprising a base having a stabilizing cavity. The cavity has walls and a floor. The floor has a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor. The base further has a plurality of bores, or passageways, through the walls and floor of the base cavity to drain away water that can collect in the cavity. A turf is dimensioned to fit into the base. The turf may be synthetic or natural. If synthetic, the turf comprises an upper tuft surface having interstices and an underside or mat surface that engages the protrusions of the cavity.

[0012] In a further embodiment, the present invention relates to a golf practice hitting apparatus comprising a base having an outer surface in contact with the ground, and a stabilizing cavity having walls and a floor. The cavity has a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor and a plurality of passageways therethrough dimensioned to allow a flow of water from the cavity out of the base.

[0013] A synthetic turf is dimensioned to fit into the cavity. The turf has an upper tufted surface having interstices and a lower mat surface that is dimensioned to fit within the base cavity. The lower mat surface engages the protrusions and thereby holds the turf in place. A granular substrate, such as sand is provided to fill the interstices.

[0014] In a still further embodiment, the present invention relates to a golf practice hitting apparatus comprising a base having an outer surface and a stabilizing cavity with walls and a floor bounding the cavity and a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions extending from the floor. The base has a plurality of passageways extending through the walls and floor, with the passageways dimensioned to allow a flow of water from the cavity out of the base. The apparatus has synthetic turf having an upper tufted surface having interstices and a lower mat surface dimensioned to fit within the base cavity and engage the cavity protrusions. A granular substrate such as silica sand is provided to the interstices. The apparatus further has a standing area having an upper surface and a lower surface. The lower surface has a predetermined pattern of protrusions to effect a non-skid surface to give cushioning and stability to the golfer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0015] FIG. 1 is a side view of the present invention with cut away sections.

[0016] FIG. 1a is an overhead plan view of the turf in the base with one edge peeled back to expose the mat section of the turf and the base cavity.

[0017] FIG. 2 is a top view of one embodiment of the present invention wherein the mat comprises separate hitting and standing areas.

[0018] FIG. 3 is a side view of yet another embodiment of the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 4 is a top view of the same embodiment shown in FIG. 3.

[0020] FIG. 5 is a side, cut-out view of the present invention showing the position of a golf ball relative to the invention.

[0021] FIG. 6 is a cross section view taken along line 1′ in FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0022] The present invention now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

[0023] The golf practice mat of the present invention successfully balances the need for durability and cost-efficiency with a natural feel, shock absorbing turf practice mat. The mat of the present invention includes a base and a synthetic turf. The base forms a cavity with upwardly extending protrusions. The synthetic turf fits directly into the cavity, with the protrusions engaging the turf to hold the turf in place. The turf has multiple tufts extending upwardly, between which are found a multitude of interstices. The interstices are filled with a particulate such as sand having an appropriate grain size to allow for water filtration and also to render sufficient support to the mat. The base has incorporated drainage features to provide drainage after the mat becomes wet, such as after rainfall.

[0024] Preferably, the present invention, in addition to having the hitting area as described above, also has a standing area. The standing area and the base of the hitting area are preferably one piece of a molded material. The molded material may be a rubber, polymer, or other material. The standing area contains upper and lower resilient surfaces. The upper surface is preferably formed by molding, extrusion/molding, etc. with random deformations and protrusions forming a rough, non-slip surface. The lower surface is preferably formed with deformations and protrusions to give the area a stable, but also spring-like feel.

[0025] A golf tee may be employed with the present invention for holding a golf ball. The tee is placed directly into the turf, and is stabilized by the granular substrate and turf. A container may also be used with the present invention for holding spare golf balls. The container, most preferably a wire basket, engages the mat so that golf balls can be raked directly onto the surface.

[0026] The golf practice mat of the present invention therefore enables one to practice driving a golf ball while maintaining the feel and swing as if the golfer is on a natural golfing surface, i.e. a fairway or tee area. The present invention provides a practice surface that is practical, cost efficient and realistic, but one that can be used indoors, outdoors on driving ranges or on most any other type of surface. Thus, the golfer can practice without worry of damage to his clubs or his body while being as aggressive, using the same swing, as he would on the course by utilizing the practice mat of the present invention.

[0027] FIGS. 1, 1a and 6 show one embodiment of the present invention. The golfing apparatus 10 includes a base portion 11 that forms a cavity 34 within its side and lower edges or walls 13. On the lower surface, or floor 15, of the cavity 34, there is a plurality of protrusions 14. These protrusions 14 engage and anchor the synthetic turf 22. The turf 22 preferably comprises an upper tufted section of tufts 12 and a lower mat section 23. A piece of synthetic turf 22 is dimensioned to fit directly in the cavity 34 of the base 11. Once the synthetic turf is in place, a granular substrate 18 is provided to the turf. The substrate 18 fills the interstices between the blades, or tufts 12 of the turf 22.

[0028] The mat section 23 of the turf may be constructed from rubber, polymers, plastic or other suitable molded materials. Preferably, the mat section and turf section are made from or constructed into one piece of molded material. The depth of the cavity 34 varies depending on the type of manufacturing process and the type of synthetic turf used. It is preferable that the blades or tuft 12 of the turf 22 extend approximately ¼ inch beyond the top edge of the cavity 34. The synthetic turf 22 is held into place by the protrusions 14 extending upward from the surface of the floor 15 of cavity 34. These protrusions 14 may be in the form of spikes that could penetrate the backing or mat material, or frictionally engage the mat material 23 attached to the turf 22. In addition to the turf being secured by the protrusions 14, the weight of the granular substrate 18 also holds the turf 22 in place.

[0029] In one preferred embodiment, the granular substrate 18 is a compacted sand, which could be standard river sand, or silica sand. The sand may be of any suitable size to allow compaction within the interstices. Preferably, the size of the sand is 30-100 mesh or less. The granular substrate 18 acts to aid the tufts 12 of the turf in staying upright, and provides the feel of a natural surface during a golf swing. As discussed earlier, when a golfer swings his club to drive the ball, the natural swing of the club takes the head through a portion of the ball and the ground surfaces, causing a displacement of a portion of the turf or divot. When the club is swung on the practice mat of the claimed invention, it strikes the turf, with the granulated substrate in its interstices. This gives the golfer the feel of taking a divot. The substrate may move and be deformed from its original position, but this is desirable since its movement absorbs the shock from the strike of the club, reducing the potential for the golfer to feel the shock in his wrists. The movement of the substrate also creates a more realistic hitting surface.

[0030] Another advantage of the granular substrate 18 is that it is compacted and therefore a golfer can insert a tee 20 for tee shots, directly into the tufts 12 and sand without additional support. When a tee is not used, the compacted sand causes the tufts to stand erect thereby supporting the weight of the ball. The tee 20 will stand on its own with the support of the granular substrate 18 being interspersed among the tufts 12 of the turf 22. The substrate provides the strength to support the tee, while the fibers in the tufts further provide a web-like support structure.

[0031] As stated above, in one embodiment of the invention, a golfer may choose not to use a golf tee. FIG. 5 shows the present invention with only the golf ball 24. Because the granular substrate 18 gives the feel of real turf, one may choose not to use a tee 20 and hit the ball directly. Again, the apparatus of the present invention will also provide the golfer with a more natural swing and response feel as compared to known golf instructional surfaces.

[0032] In yet another embodiment, as shown in FIG. 1, the cavity 34 may have drainage holes, bores or passageways 16, on the lower surface of the cavity 34. It may also have passageways along the walls 13. This allows water to drain from the cavity of the apparatus. These passageways 16 allow the turf to drain in a natural manner as well as keeping water away from the turf, thereby reducing the potential for failing or degradation. By allowing water to drain, it also prevents the mat and base from retaining and freezing water in the winter. As a result of the compaction of the granular substrate, the stabilizing effect of the tufts, and the dimension of the passageways, the granular material does not wash away through the drainage passageways 16. The passageways 16 also allow the water to sift through the substrate 18, recompacting it in a natural manner throughout the useful life of the apparatus.

[0033] In one particularly advantageous embodiment, the apparatus 10 contains separate hitting and standing surfaces. This is shown in FIGS. 2, 4 and 6. In the hitting area 28, a cavity 34 is formed in the mat. The cavity 34 here serves the same purpose as in the embodiment described above. In this particular embodiment, the cavity 34 is deep enough such that when the synthetic turf 22 is placed inside, its maximum height is the same as the standing surface 26. The standing surface 26 is preferably a molded rubber or soft plastic with a rough and random “non-skid” surface 36. This creates a non-slip surface which keeps the golfer from sliding during his swing and keeps his feet planted and stable. It also keeps the water from forming a plane which may create a slippery surface. The lower surface or underside 38 of the standing surface 26 contains an uneven pattern, as illustrated in FIG. 6. This pattern of raised sections, such as bubbles or hemispheres, or any useful cushioning geometric pattern, is designed to give the golfer a cushioned effect when standing on the mat. By providing separate hitting and standing areas, the turf of the hitting area can be easily changed when needed without disposal of the entire hitting apparatus surface. This provides a more natural feel, giving the effect of standing on a natural fairway. In an alternate embodiment which is not illustrated, the present invention further contemplates the use of turf similar to the hitting surface 22, for use in the standing area. In this way, the turf in the hitting area and the standing area still may be replaced separately as needed.

[0034] In another preferred embodiment, an attachment feature, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, may also be used with the present invention. A portion of container 30, preferably a wire basket, may engage the wall or edge of the apparatus adjacent the hitting area. In one embodiment, this container slides underneath the bottom of the mat and protrudes outward. It is useful for holding golf balls, which may be raked by the golfer directly onto the surface of the mat. In a preferred embodiment, the underside of the mat has a slotted area 42 in which a wire basket easily slides, securing it in place.

[0035] According to the present invention, the turf material is preferably made from molded or extruded materials such as nylon, polypropylene, and combinations thereof. The turf may be molded, extruded, or otherwise fashioned as a one-piece unit with tuft features and a mat backing feature. Alternatively, the tuft material can be separate and affixed to a separate backing, or may be otherwise interwoven into the backing as is well known in the carpet industry. When the backing is a separate material, the backing material may be any flexible and economical natural or synthetic rubber, plastic or other polymeric material.

[0036] When the standing area is made from a material other than the turf material used in the hitting area, the standing area may be made from a natural or synthetic rubber or other suitable resilient material. Most preferably, the base and standing area are molded or extruded/stamped in a one-piece construction. Alternately, the standing area may be manufactured separately and joined to the base unit. The pattern placed on the underside of the apparatus may extend throughout the entire underside, or may be concentrated solely under the standing area. The pattern may be any pattern that imparts a cushioned non-skid feel to the standing area. Preferred patterns are any geometric pattern resulting in a cushioned or comfortable feel. Particularly preferred patterns include bubbles or hemispheres.

[0037] The particulate, granular material used to fill the interstices of the tufted turf is any suitable granular material that can compact, but which has a suitable grain size to assist the turf tufts in supporting a tee pushed through the turf and into the sand. The granular particulate material may by a synthetic material of a large enough grain size, but is preferably silica sand having a grain size of from about 30 to about 100, and more preferably from about 30 to about 60.

[0038] Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which this invention pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.