Title:
Variable slope, golf course simulator
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved golf practice apparatus for use by a golfer who stands on the apparatus and practices hitting golf balls placed on it includes: (a) a platform having a plurality of portions, each of which has a differing simulated golf lie surface, wherein when the golfer takes a stance above a selected one of the simulated golf lie surfaces, the golfer's stance defines a desired direction in which the golfer plans to hit golf balls placed on the selected surface, (b) a plurality of actuators that are capable of providing any one of a plurality of prescribed slopes from horizontal to the platform, and (c) a universal joint and drive system for rotating the platform so that the golfer's stance-dictated, desired direction can be oriented to align with a specified golf ball hitting direction.



Inventors:
Betch Jr., Irvin (Monkton, MD, US)
Oberlander, William F. (Elkton, MD, US)
Application Number:
11/523355
Publication Date:
03/22/2007
Filing Date:
09/19/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/161
International Classes:
A63B67/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Larry J. Guffey (Towson, MD, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. An improved golf practice apparatus for use by a golfer who stands on said apparatus and practices hitting a golf ball placed on said apparatus, said apparatus comprising: a means for providing a platform on which said golfer may stand and have the option of taking a stance above any one of a plurality of simulated golf lie surfaces, wherein when said golfer takes said stance above a selected one of said simulated golf lie surfaces, said stance defines a desired direction in which said golfer plans to hit said golf ball placed on said selected surface, a means for providing any one of a plurality of prescribed slopes from horizontal to said platform, and a means for rotating said platform so that said stance-dictated, desired direction of said golfer can be oriented to align with a specified golf ball hitting direction.

2. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 1 wherein said plurality of simulated golf lie surfaces are chosen from the group consisting of surfaces denoted herein as fairway, putting green fringe, sand, rough or hard pan or any combination of said surfaces.

3. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 1 wherein said platform and sloping and rotation means are scaled and configured such that slopes from horizontal of up to 30 degrees may be imposed on said platform.

4. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 2 wherein said platform and sloping and rotation means are scaled and configured such that slopes from horizontal of up to 30 degrees may be imposed on said platform.

5. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 1, further comprising: a means for remotely controlling said means for providing slope and rotation.

6. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 2, further comprising: a means for remotely controlling said means for providing slope and rotation.

7. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 3, further comprising: a means for remotely controlling said means for providing slope and rotation.

8. The improved golf practice apparatus as recited in claim 4, further comprising: a means for remotely controlling said means for providing slope and rotation.

9. A method for providing an improved golf practice apparatus for use by a golfer who stands on said apparatus and practices hitting a golf ball placed on said apparatus, said method comprising the steps of: providing a platform on which said golfer may stand and have the option of taking a stance above any one of a plurality of simulated golf lie surfaces, wherein when said golfer takes said stance above a selected one of said simulated golf lie surfaces, said stance defines a desired direction in which said golfer plans to hit said golf ball placed on said selected surface, providing any one of a plurality of prescribed slopes from horizontal to said platform, and rotating said platform so that said stance-dictated, desired direction of said golfer can be oriented to align with a specified golf ball hitting direction.

10. The method as recited in claim 9 wherein said plurality of simulated golf lie surfaces are chosen from the group consisting of surfaces denoted herein as fairway, putting green fringe, sand, rough or hard pan or any combination of said surfaces.

11. The method as recited in claim 9 wherein said prescribed slopes from horizontal may be up to 30 degrees.

12. The method as recited in claim 10 wherein said prescribed slopes from horizontal may be up to 30 degrees.

13. The method as recited in claim 9, further comprising the step of: remotely controlling said sloping and rotation actions.

14. The method as recited in claim 10, further comprising the step of: remotely controlling said sloping and rotation actions.

15. The method as recited in claim 11, further comprising the step of: remotely controlling said sloping and rotation actions.

16. The method as recited in claim 12, further comprising the step of: remotely controlling said sloping and rotation actions.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of Provisional Patent Application No. 60/718,350, filed Sep. 19, 2005 by William F. Oberlander and Irving Betch. The teachings of this application are incorporated herein by reference to the extent that they do not conflict with the teaching herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to the game of golf. More particularly, this invention relates to an improvement for design of the practice surfaces that golfers utilize when practicing their swings and hitting the golf ball.

2. Description of the Related Art

In an effort to improve their golf game, golfers often visit driving ranges or practice at home. While such practice may help golfers to work out a particular aspect of their game or to warm up prior to actually playing on a course, it usually entails hitting the golf ball off a flat and fairly short cut grass surface. It does not, by any means, simulate the actual conditions encountered by a golfer on a real golf course. Hence, the need for a golfer to be able to practice hitting golf balls off of several types of surfaces and off of several types of slopes.

Golf-training devices that allow one to practice off hitting surfaces that are adjustable so as to provide varying amount of slope are well known. Such devices are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,358,251, 5,683,306, 5,820,478, 5,460,379 and 6,663,498 and in published U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2003/0109325, 2004/0142759, 2005/0090325, 2005/0113182, and 2005/0153787.

However, what such surfaces don't provide is a practice area from which a golfer may hit shots having any one of a variety of different simulated golf lies (e.g., the short cut grass of the fairway, the longer grass of the fringe of a putting surface, the still longer and entangled grass of the rough, or the sand of a bunker) which can then be further adjusted so as to add varying amounts of slope to the lie. These are the conditions that every golfer encounters on a real golf course: multiple lies with variable slopes. All golf courses have fairways, fringes, roughs, and sand traps that include mounds, hills, and depressions that challenge the golfer to take a stance and hit all length shots from a wide variety of lies with varying degrees of slope.

Thus, despite the prior art, there still exists a continuing need for improvements in the design of golf practice surfaces that can better simulate the actual playing conditions that one encounters on a golf course.

3. Objects and Advantages

Recognizing the need for the development of improved golf training devices, the present invention is generally directed to satisfying the needs set forth above and overcoming the disadvantages identified with prior art devices.

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved golf ball hitting surface which better simulates the conditions that a golfer encounters on a golf course and which the golfer may use to practice their swings and hitting a golf ball under more accurately simulated, real golf conditions.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a remotely operated, fully rotational, golf hitting surface that presents a golfer with a variety of lies, each of which may have applied to it a desired amount of slope.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent as the invention is better understood by reference to the accompanying drawings and the detailed description that follows.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, a first embodiment of it take the form of an improved golf practice apparatus for use by a golfer who stands on the apparatus and practices hitting golf balls placed on it. This embodiment includes: (a) a platform having a plurality of portions, each of which has a differing simulated golf lie surface, wherein when the golfer takes a stance above a selected one of the simulated golf lie surfaces, the golfer's stance defines a desired direction in which the golfer plans to hit golf balls placed on the selected surface, (b) a plurality of actuators that are capable of providing any one of a plurality of prescribed slopes from horizontal to the platform, and (c) a universal joint and drive system for rotating the platform so that the golfer's stance-dictated, desired direction can be oriented to align with a specified golf ball hitting direction.

Included among the plurality of simulated golf lie surfaces that can be used on this platform are surfaces denoted herein as fairway, putting green fringe, sand, rough, hard pan or any combination of these surfaces. By properly scaling and configuring these components of a preferred embodiment, slopes from horizontal of up to 30 degrees may be imposed on the platform.

Thus, there has been summarized above, rather broadly and understanding that there are other preferred embodiments which have not been summarized above, the present invention in order that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims to this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a partially exploded view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the hitting platform portion of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the slope and rotation assembly portion of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Before explaining at least one embodiment of the present invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

A first preferred embodiment of the present invention 2 is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 in the form of an improved golf practice apparatus. FIGS. 1-2 give an overall perspective view of a remotely operated, fully rotational, hitting platform 4 which has the means for providing a golfer with multiple hitting surfaces or lies. Because these differing lies present unique challenges to a golfer's shot-making abilities, most golfers will find it advantageous to develop their skill in hitting off each of the differing lies.

The embodiment shown in FIG. 1 has five surfaces 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 that can simulate different golf ball lies and for which a designated amount of ground or surface slope a from the horizontal may be added to the various lies. To fully utilize the present invention, the number of lie surfaces utilized on the hitting platform can obviously be as few as two or as many as the size of the platform will allow to be accommodated. The slope and rotation are applied to the platform 4 by a variable slope and rotation assembly 16.

The assembly's rotational capabilities are especially noteworthy and useful as it is expected to be the case that the invention will be used in an area in which it is possible to hit the balls from the platform 4 in only a single direction (e.g., at a golf driving range). This being the case, it is advisable to rotate the platform such the lie surface from which it is desired to hit is oriented such that its lengthwise direction is oriented with the required hitting direction.

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of the hitting platform 4 of FIG. 1 with its five types of lies: fairway grass 6, putting green fringe grass 10, sand 12, rough grass 14 and a hard pan area 8 on which the golfer normally stands when using the device but from which some shots may also be hit. Such golf lie terminology is well known among golfers and thus will not be further described herein. Similarly, the technology for forming such representative lie surfaces 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 is well known in the art and thus also will not be discussed further herein. For example, see U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0253390.

FIG. 4 shows a perspective of a means for providing the hitting platform with its rotational and sloping capabilities. Shown is a variable slope and rotation assembly 16. The hitting platform 4 is attached to the assembly 16 via a mounting plate 18. This plate has an attached flange 20 that is coupled to a universal joint 22 via a shaft 24. Attached to the universal joint 22 are two devises 26, 28 to which one end of a pitch actuator 30 and a yaw actuator 32 are attached. The other ends of the actuators are attached to actuator clevis mounting brackets 34, 36 that are mounted on an actuator mounting plate 38. The actuator mounting plate 38 is coupled to the universal joint 22 with an adapter 40 that is attached to a motor 42 which is used to rotate the platform about the universal joint. The motor 42 is secured to a base plate 44 with a motor mounting bracket 46. A remotely operated control assembly can be used to control the power to the motor and the actuators. A flexible skirt can be attached to the platform's outer edges to prevent unwarranted access to the assembly's various parts.

With moderate size hitting platforms (e.g., 5′ diameter) and the height of the slope and rotation assembly scaled such that the hitting platform stands 16″ above an underlying flat surface on which the apparatus is mounted, the slope and rotation assembly has demonstrated the capability to easily impose slope angles a of greater than 30° on the hitting platform. If greater slopes were desired, one could easily use a jack to raise the platform so that its perimeter would not strike the underlying surface when such greater slopes were imposed. Alternatively, one could reduce the overall size of the platform. Meanwhile, the motor and its controller can impose rotational or angular movements of any desired measure, e.g., 90° increments for the hitting platform shown in FIGS. 1-3 which has four distinct hitting surfaces or lies arranged around its perimeter.

It should be recognized that other embodiments of the present invention can be created by adding further elements or components to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4. For example, one can use various sensor and computer technology to add sensors to the various lie surfaces so as to enable appropriate data to be collected that would enable a golfer to analyze his/her golf clubface's contact with the ball. Various well known systems exist for analyzing and presenting this data. All such embodiments are considered to come within the scope of the current invention.

With respect to the above description then, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the invention, to include variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use, are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention that is hereinafter set forth in the claims to this invention.