Title:
Golf club with adjustable-length shaft
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A secure golf club, of the “wood” or “iron” variety intended for high-speed impact of a golf ball, whose shaft may be lengthened or shortened in a relatively quick and easy manner. In a preferred embodiment, the shaft includes one or more shaft extension sections rigidly attached to the shaft or to each other by reverse-thread connections, to reduce the tendency of the shaft sections to loosen during play. Shaft locking mechanisms are also preferably employed for preventing relative axial movement along the shaft and between the shaft sections. Preferably, the shaft has a substantially continuous and substantially smooth outer periphery, substantially void of gaps or steps creating stress points within the shaft that might lead to fracture or breakage of the golf club during play.



Inventors:
Blattner, Robert William (Elmhurst, FL, US)
Franklin, Charles Alan (Westchester, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/025529
Publication Date:
06/30/2005
Filing Date:
12/28/2004
Assignee:
Eagle Holdings Corporation
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/306
International Classes:
A63B53/02; A63B53/16; (IPC1-7): A63B53/16; A63B53/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060154754Cheer batJuly, 2006Castro
20090082122Sporting club swing trainerMarch, 2009Kellogg
20070219020Golf ball having specific spin, moment of inertia, lift, and drag relationshipSeptember, 2007Sullivan et al.
20050250590Method for conducting a multi-golf course performance contestNovember, 2005Doaga et al.
20060154750Flex schedule playoff systemJuly, 2006Williams et al.
20040248677Tennis racquet with ballast urged preferred face positionDecember, 2004Vu
20080039239Method of repairing divotsFebruary, 2008Jolly
20050159252System providing location information in a sports gameJuly, 2005Fergestad et al.
20050044691Method for manufacturing a forged golf iron club headMarch, 2005Su
20090270197Putter shaft extensionOctober, 2009Holtzman
20080287209Rotational golf training aidNovember, 2008Novosel Sr.



Primary Examiner:
BLAU, STEPHEN LUTHER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL P. MAZZA, LLC (GLEN ELYN, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A swingable golf club whose shaft may be lengthened or shortened in a relatively quick and easy manner, comprising: a club head intended for high-speed impact of a golf ball; a shaft including a first shaft portion having a predetermined shaft length, the first shaft portion being permanently attached to the club head, the shaft also including at least a first shaft extension section removably attached by reverse-thread connections at a first connection location to the first shaft portion and removably attached at a second connection location to a shaft section carrying a grip; one or more locking mechanisms for preventing relative axial movement at the connection locations along the shaft; wherein the shaft has a substantially continuous and substantially smooth outer periphery, substantially void of gaps or steps at the connection locations that create stress points within the shaft leading to substantial instances of fracture or breakage of the golf club during play.

2. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the shaft comprises low-carbon steel.

3. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft extension may be substituted for another first shaft extension having a different length.

4. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the shaft further comprises at least first and second shaft extension sections, with the second shaft extension section being connected at opposing ends at further connection locations to the first shaft extension section and to the shaft section carrying the grip.

5. The golf club of claim 4, wherein either of the first or the second shaft extensions may be substituted for another shaft extension having a different length.

6. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft extension comprises one of a plurality of shaft extensions of predetermined lengths.

7. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft portion terminates in a first threaded end., and wherein the first shaft extension section terminates in a second threaded end, and wherein the first and second threaded ends may be quickly and easily threadably connected and disconnected using a reverse thread connection.

8. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft extension has a length which is greater than about 4 inches.

9. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft extension has a length which is greater than about 6 inches.

10. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the first shaft extension has a length in the range of about 2-14 inches.

11. The golf club of claim 4, wherein at least one of the first or second shaft extensions exceeds eight inches in length.

12. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the one or more locking mechanisms comprise an annular clip surrounding a portion of the shaft at a connection location.

13. The golf club of claim 12, wherein the clip includes a tab for engaging adjacent grooves at a connection location.

14. The golf club of claim 1, wherein the one or more locking mechanisms comprise a set screw.

15. The golf club of claim 14, wherein the set screw has a head only accessible by a non-standard fastening device.

16. The golf club of claim 15, wherein the non-standard fastening device comprises an Allen wrench.

17. The golf club of claim 1, wherein any adjacent shaft or shaft extension sections are attached using a reverse-thread connection.

18. A secure, swingable golf club having a shaft capable of being lengthened or shortened, comprising: a club head; a shaft portion permanently attached to the club head; one or more shaft extension sections rigidly attached by reverse-thread connections to the shaft portion and to a shaft section carrying the grip; one or more locking mechanisms for preventing relative axial movement along the shaft; wherein the shaft has a substantially continuous and substantially smooth outer periphery, substantially void of gaps or steps at the connection locations.

19. The golf club of claim 18, wherein the locking mechanism comprises a tubular sleeve.

20. A golf club set including golf clubs whose shafts may be lengthened or shortened, comprising: a plurality of wood-type or iron-type golf clubs having club heads intended for high-speed impact of a golf ball; each of the golf clubs having a shaft portion permanently attached to a club head; each of the shaft portions being capable of attachment to at least one shaft extension section, opposing ends of the at least one shaft extension comprising connection locations; locking mechanisms at the connection locations for preventing relative axial movement along the shaft; wherein the shaft of each of the golf clubs has a substantially continuous and substantially smooth outer periphery.

21. The golf club set of claim 20,wherein the shaft is substantially void of gaps or steps at the connection locations that create stress points within the shaft leading to substantial instances of fracture or breakage of the golf club during play.

22. The golf club set of claim 20, wherein the at least one shaft extension is attached to other portions of the shaft at the connection locations using reverse-thread connections.

Description:

CONTINUATION INFORMATION

This application is a utility patent application which claims priority from, and is a continuation of, a U.S. provisional application, Ser. No. 60/532,815, filed Dec. 29, 2003, and titled “TRD Fit Junior Golf Club Shaft.”

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to golf clubs and, more specifically, to golf clubs whose shaft lengths may be adjusted.

There is a need for a competitively playable golf club with a shaft whose length maybe easily adjusted. For example, children have an obvious need for such clubs as they grow.

Collapsible and/or telescoping golf clubs are known. See, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 5,792,006 to Hesser; U.S. Pat. No. 5,029,860 to Ehrich; U.S. Pat. No. 5,282,619 to Napolitano; U.S. Pat. No. 6,623,372 to Beebe; U.S. Pat. No. 5,788,608 to Wilkinson; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,723,000 to Dombrowski. While such clubs may function suitably as putters, non-putter, swingable golf clubs exert a relatively large amount of centrifugal and torsional force on the shaft of a club, which may result in the fracture or other failure of collapsible and/or telescoping golf club shafts during play.

Even relatively skilled golfers may be conscious of swing weight and swing speed. Relatively small changes in the location of weight along the club shaft can affect these factors, and may be detected by golfers and possibly negatively influence play. Obstructions on the outer periphery of the golf club shaft, while not aesthetically appealing, may also disturb laminar flow and swingability of the club, as well as the golfer's concentration. The above-referenced patents, such as Napolitano (note collar 41) and Beebe (note thumbscrew 32), as well as other prior patents (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,664,382 to Palmer (note threaded cap 41) and U.S. Pat. No. 5,569,096 to Lee (note threaded locking sleeve 22) suffer from such deficiencies.

Still other prior patents disclose golf clubs with relatively complex mechanisms (U.S. Pat. No. 6,413,168 to McKendry, disclosing movable tooth and tooth rack assembly), or which are not intended for providing adjustable-length shafts for non-putters (U.S. Pat. No. 6,317,866 to Rivera, disclosing one shaft length for putters, and another for non-putters; U.S. Pat. No. 4,712,798 to Preato, directed to a putter).

One recent patent, U.S. Pat. No. 6,749,521, discloses a golf club with an extendable shaft similar to the present invention, but not one whose shaft may be shortened.

The shaft material used can be important, as well. Many modern golf clubs are made with graphite shafts. However, it was discovered that when used with the present invention, graphite shaft extensions more than a few inches in length form hairline fractures at the length-adjustment points in the shaft which, over time, can result in catastrophic failures.

Accordingly, it would be advantageous to provide a golfclub with a shaft that maybe quickly and easily lengthened or shortened while overcoming these problems.

DEFINITION OF CLAIM TERMS

The following terms are used in the claims of the patent as filed and are intended to have their broadest meaning consistent with the requirements of law. Where alternative meanings are possible, the broadest meaning is intended. All words used in the claims are intended to be used in the normal, customary usage of grammar and the English language.

“High speed” means a speed substantially faster than the conventional speed at which the club head of a putter impacts a golf ball and, for purposes of this application, is intended to reference golf club head speeds at ball impact in excess of 50 miles/hr or about 73 ft/sec.

“Relatively quick and easy manner” means adjusting the golfclub shaft length within minutes or less, using the dexterity of a normal lay adult, and not requiring special skills or tools only possessed by golf experts, golf designers or golf mechanics.

“Reverse-thread connection” means a threaded connection in which tightening occurs through a rotation opposite to the normal direction, i.e., for a right-hand club, tightening is accomplished by a counterclockwise turn, while for a left-hand club, a standard threaded connection may be used such that tightening is accomplished by a clockwise turn.

“Secure” means a golf club having a shaft which will not substantially loosen during play in a manner that might substantially affect play or lead to fracture or breakage of the golf club.

“Swingable” refers to a golf club whose club head is swung above the shoulder, i.e., an “iron” or “wood” type golf club, as opposed to a putter.

“Substantial instances” refers to fracture or breakage of golf clubs in the shaft at the connection locations which occurs, statistically, substantially more often than occurs generally within the golf club industry.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The objects mentioned above, as well as other objects, are solved by the present invention, which overcomes disadvantages of prior golfclubs capable of adjusting shaft length, while providing new advantages not believed currently available with such golf clubs.

In a preferred embodiment, a swingable, secure “wood”-type or iron-type golf club is provided whose shaft may be lengthened or shortened in a relatively quick and easy manner. The golf club of this embodiment includes a club head intended for high-speed impact of a golf ball, and a shaft. The shaft includes a first shaft portion having a predetermined shaft length. The first shaft portion is permanently attached to the club head. The shaft may include at least a first shaft extension section removably attached by reverse-thread connections at a first connection location to the first shaft portion, and removably attached at a second connection location to a shaft section carrying a grip. Different shaft extensions may be substituted having different lengths, as desired. Additional shaft extensions, having predetermined lengths for example, may also be added or removed, as desired, to change the length of the golf club. When made according to the present invention using a suitably strong material, the shaft extensions may be in the range of about 2-14 inches, for example, such as 4 inches, 6 inches, 8 inches, etc.

One or more locking mechanisms may be provided for preventing relative axial movement at the connection locations along the shaft. One preferred locking mechanism includes a tubular sleeve or annular clip surrounding a portion of the shaft at a connection location; the clip may include a tab for engaging adjacent grooves at the connection location. Alternatively, the locking mechanism may consist of a set screw (preferably accessible by a non-standard fastening device such as an Allen wrench, for example), a spring roll pin, a mechanical spring locking device, or a detent or other mechanism.

The shaft so constructed preferably forms a substantially continuous and substantially smooth outer periphery, substantially void of gaps or steps at the connection locations that create stress points within the shaft leading to substantial instances of fracture or breakage of the golf club during play.

Preferably, the shaft and any extension(s) are made of a relatively high-strength material such as a low-carbon steel.

Each shaft section may terminate in a threaded end, with adjacent threaded ends being, alternatively, internally and externally threaded ends configured for mating connection. These threaded ends are preferably quickly and easily threadably connected and disconnected, preferably using a reverse thread connection.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features which are characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself, however, together with further objects and attendant advantages thereof, will be best understood by reference to the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings. The drawings illustrate currently preferred embodiments of the present invention. As further explained below, it will be understood that other embodiments, not shown in the drawings, also fall within the spirit and scope of the invention.

FIGS. 1-4 are perspective views of golf clubs showing various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 1A is a partial, enlarged perspective view of a preferred locking mechanism of the present invention, for preventing relative axial movement in the connection location between adjacent shaft sections;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged, exploded view of the golf club shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an exploded view of various components of the shaft connection and locking mechanisms according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged, perspective view of the currently preferred locking mechanism of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged, perspective view of a wood-type golf club head which may be used with the present invention;

FIG. 9 is an enlarged, exploded view of a preferred embodiment in which one shaft extension section is interconnected between grip and club head shaft sections to form a golf club with an adjustable-length shaft according to the present invention;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged, perspective view of a shaft extension connection mechanism and an alternative locking mechanism according to the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the components shown in FIG. 10;

FIGS. 12-14 are top, side and rear perspective views of a locking mechanism component shown in FIG. 10; and

FIGS. 15-18 are elevation and perspective views of an alternative connecting and locking mechanism of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Set forth below is a description of what are currently believed to be the preferred embodiments and/or best examples of the invention claimed. Future and present alternatives and modifications to these preferred embodiments are contemplated. Any alternatives or modifications which make insubstantial changes in function, in purpose, in structure or in result are intended to be covered by the claims of this patent.

Referring first to FIG. 1, reference numeral 20 generally designates a golf club with length-adjustment capabilities according to the present invention. In FIG. 1, golf club 20 includes a shaft, generally designated as 25, having a shaft section 25a connected to a second shaft section 35a largely covered by tubular grip 35. Shaft section 25a may be permanently attached to hosel or neck portion 30a of club head 30 in any suitable manner as is well known in the art.

As shown in FIGS. 2-4, additional, separate shaft extension sections may be employed to form the overall shaft length 25, thereby allowing selective adjustment of the shaft length of the golf club. For example, FIGS. 2 and 3 show golf clubs 20 with identical shaft portions 25a but differently-sized shaft extension sections 25b. FIG. 4 shows a golf club similar to FIG. 3 but with an additional shaft extension section 25c. While shaft extensions of predetermined length are preferred for manufacturing convenience, any of these shaft extension sections may be provided in varying sizes.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, for ease of manufacture and simplicity, only one shaft extension section, available in predetermined, varying sizes, may be used. However, in other embodiment, two or more separate shaft extension sections may be employed, depending upon the shaft materials used, the desired shaft length ranges, player ability and corresponding swing speed ranges, and other parameters identified below.

Referring now to FIGS. 5-8, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, the upper shaft section 35a largely covered by grip 35 may terminate in an outer threaded male end 42. Male threaded end 42 may be permanently attached to shaft section 35a, as further explained below. Likewise, the end of shaft section 25a opposing hosel 30a of club head 30 may terminate in a female threaded end 46. Ends 42 and 46 may be threadably attached to removably attach shaft sections 25a and 35a.

The shaft and shaft extension sections are preferably made of a suitable material which will withstand the torque of a swing sweep for a conventional golf swing, as well as the torque of ball impact at a normal swing speed. One such suitable material is low carbon steel, such as an alloy-type 4140, though other materials, such as aluminum, graphite or other composites, may be used.

Referring now to FIG. 9, in a preferred embodiment golf club 20 may be designed so that its shaft length is adjustable for any age junior golfer, from ages 4-14, for example. Preferably, it is unnecessary to change or adjust the grip end or the head end to effectuate a shaft length adjustment. To accomplish this, an appropriately-sized shaft extension section 25b may be used. The extension sections may be made of the same steel material that shaft 25 is made of. As shown in FIG. 9, each opposing end of extension section 25b may include threaded fastener ends 42, 46. These threaded fastener ends may be made as one piece with the shaft extension sections, or may be permanently attached to the sections by adhesives such as epoxy.

Preferably, the young junior golfer starts playing with a golf club with no shaft extension section that is properly sized for him or her, as shown in FIG. 1. As the junior player grows and the golf club becomes too short for proper use, an appropriately-sized shaft extension section may then be added to the golf club, as shown in FIG. 2. Continuing player growth may require substitution of a longer shaft extension section, as shown in FIG. 3 or, if preferred, stacking of shaft extension sections as shown in FIG. 4. Additionally, with the present invention, because these shaft extension section interconnections are not permanent, shaft extension sections may be removed and/or substituted for shorter shaft extension sections, quickly and easily, allowing the same golf club set to be used by children of different ages and sizes, for example.

The shaft 25 thus constructed is a substantially continuous piece with a relatively smooth outer periphery, substantially void of gaps or steps at the connection locations that may create stress points within the shaft length that may lead to shaft fracture or breakage. (The overall shaft may and preferably does have gradual increments or steps of increased width along its length, to allow for a gradual change from the grip diameter to the hosel portion that is inserted into the golf club head. However, such increments are gradual, not localized at the connection locations, so that they do not cause undue stresses during play.)

Accordingly, it will now be understood that the present invention allows adjacent shaft and shaft extensions to be quickly and easily interconnected, without introducing substantial stress points within or along the shaft length. The shaft extension sections may also be easily assembled or disassembled to allow lengthening or shortening of the golf club, as desired. Also, once an adjustment is made, the golf club may be immediately used.

The shaft extension sections are also preferably self-tightening and will not loosen during play, as now explained below, to restrict relative axial movement of the various shaft sections during play. It was found that playing with golf clubs having conventionally threaded shaft extensions causes the shaft extensions to loosen during ball impact, due to rotational forces exerted on the lower shaft as a result of ball impact forces on the club head. To counter this, reverse threads are preferably used, so that these rotational forces will actually cause adjacent shaft sections to tighten during play.

However, it was also discovered that during the portions of the golf swing both prior to and after ball impact, a reverse rotational force counter to that experienced at ball impact can be exerted on the shaft which may cause adjacent shaft sections connected by reverse threads to loosen during play. To prevent this, two alternative locking mechanism were devised, as now described, which are designed to prevent relative rotational movement between adjacent shaft sections and/or shaft extension sections and, thus, prevent relative axial movement along the entire shaft length.

Referring now to FIGS. 6-7, a first, preferred mechanism for locking adjacent, connected shaft sections is shown. In this embodiment, threaded ends 42, 46 may again be permanently attached to the shaft sections as explained above. To prevent relative rotational movement, and thus relative axial movement, between adjacent shaft sections, a locking mechanism 40, in the preferred embodiment taking the form of a generally C-shaped clip, maybe used. Annular clip 40, which may be made of steel or another suitable material, includes a sleeve 40a with edges 40b and a tab 41. Clip 40 is designed to surround and hug shaft 25 in the area of interconnection or connection location between adjacent shaft sections. Threaded ends 42, 46 may include flanges or stops 38, 47, respectively, having longitudinal spaces or grooves 43,49, respectively. When threaded ends 42,46 are connected, tab 41 is designed to fit within the open area formed by adjacent grooves 43,49 between stops 38, 47, as shown in FIG. 1A. In this manner, adjacent shaft extensions may be securely interconnected and retained by locking clip 40 such that relative rotation between adjacent shaft sections and, thus, their relative axial movement, will be prevented. The space in C-shaped clip 40 allows a finger or instrument to enter this area; by pushing on the edge of the groove and applying a rotational force, the clip will expand and can be removed from the shaft.

If desired, adjacent shaft sections in the connection location may be designed with a slightly smaller outer diameter such that, when fitted with clip 40, the exterior surface 40a of clip 40 will smoothly merge, without any bumps or protuberances, into the outer shaft periphery. However, because clip 40 may be designed with a thickness of only about {fraction (1/64)} of an inch, this may not be necessary.

Referring now to FIGS. 10-14, an alternative locking mechanism is shown. In a preferred embodiment of this locking mechanism, after adjacent shaft sections are connected by a reverse thread connection as explained above, a set screw 60 may be threadably inserted into internally threaded end 46. For this purpose, threaded end 46 may include a threaded passage 63 (FIG. 11) designed to accommodate set screw 60. Frictional impact of the end of set screw 60 on threads 45 of externally threaded end 42 will now prevent relative rotation between threads 45 of end 42 and threads 37 of end 46, and thus prevent relative axial movement between adjacent shaft sections such as 35a and 25a.

In a preferred embodiment, and still referring to FIGS. 10-14, set screws 60, for example, may include a head 61 (FIG. 12) only accessible using an Allen-type wrench, for example. A set screw head turnable using a conventional screw driver may not be preferred, to prevent non-owners from disassembling the golf club. Threaded passage 63 may include an enlarged opening (not shown) to accommodate head 61 of set screw 60, allowing the set screw to be sunk within the outer periphery of end 50 or 51, to further streamline the outer periphery of the club, for functional and/or aesthetic reasons.

Referring now to FIGS. 15-18, yet another alternative connecting and locking mechanism is shown. In this embodiment, externally threaded insert 42 again connects to internally threaded insert 46 (threads not shown). Here, apertures 70, 75 on the inserts accept a spring roll pin 73 that may be inserted by tapping it into these apertures. As with the slot/groove, described above, the holes may be drilled into the inserts after the externally and internally threaded inserts are threaded together, to insure proper alignment for the roll pin. Instead of a spring roll pin, a mechanical spring locking device may be used, as may be envisioned by those of ordinary skill in the art.

Other types of locking mechanisms positioned at the connection locations between adjacent shaft sections may be employed to prevent relative axial movement, while still allowing the shaft sections to be quickly and easily connected and disconnected.

Regarding manufacturing of the threaded ends or inserts 42, 46, in a preferred embodiment these internally and externally inserts may be machined without slots. One set of male and female inserts may then be threaded fully onto each other and slotted as an assembly. These first slotted inserts may then be used as “masters” for slot alignment of all subsequent inserts for a complete set of clubs. The male threaded insert may be fixtured solidly and all female inserts may be threaded fully onto the fixtured male insert and slotted. The female insert may then be fixtured solidly and the male insert may then be threaded fully onto it and slotted. These steps ensure that the indexing of the slot is similar regardless of the start point of the threads on both the male and female inserts. (Inserts 42, 46 may be fabricated having grooves or spaces 43, 49 which, alternatively, only run the width of the stops 38,47, or which run the length of the inserts as shown in FIG. 8; the latter may be easier to manufacture.) The inserts may then be plated bright zinc to better match a steel shaft and to avoid rusting.

Regarding manufacturing of the club/shaft assembly, each of the separate grip end shaft section, head end shaft section, and shaft extension sections may first be cut to length. The inserts may then be fixed permanently into the shaft sections. The ends of the inserts that will be fixed into the shaft should have the plating removed (light sanding is adequate). The preferred method for assembly is to use the same epoxy that affixes the golf club head to the shaft in the hosel region. After all inserts are affixed to the shaft sections, the grip end shaft section and the head end shaft sections may be assembled and locked with suitable locking mechanisms such as locking clips or set screws. The club head may then be affixed permanently to the shaft (hosel portion) and allowed to set. Finally, the grip may be attached to the shaft using the standard method of affixing a golf grip (e.g., the use of a two-sided grip tape).

Using a low carbon steel alloy-type 4140, the designs and manufacturing methods described here, extensions of relatively widely varying lengths may be provided, while still providing a sturdy golf club substantially free of shaft fracture or breakage concerns during normal play. For example, a conventional adult golf club may have a length of between about 40-45 inches, with the grip end having a length of 10.5 inches, the shaft end including the club head having a length of about 18 inches, and the hosel portion having a length of about 1.5 inches. A single shaft extension section made according to the present invention may be provided in the useable range of about 1-14 inches, and more preferably 4-10 inches, while still providing a sufficiently sturdy club with removably attached shaft section(s).

It will be understood that various modifications to the preferred embodiment disclosed above may be made. The above description is not intended to limit the meaning of the words used in the following claims that define the invention. Rather, it is contemplated that future modifications in structure, function or result will exist that are not substantial changes and that all such insubstantial changes are intended to be covered by the following claims.





 
Previous Patent: Golfing aids

Next Patent: Golf club having stepped grooves