Title:
GOLF PUTTER WITH LASER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The golf putter has at least one and preferably three beams, preferably laser, projecting from the front face of the putter, spread vertically. In one embodiment, a single laser is centrally mounted, to project a beam over the top of a ball positioned at the desired impact point on the face of the putter. In another embodiment, two lasers are mounted to project parallel beams on either side of a ball positioned at the desired impact point on the face of the putter. In a preferred embodiment, there are three lasers, namely one projecting a beam over the top of the ball, and two projecting parallel beams on either side of the ball. Preferably there are two switches in the grip of the putter, with the light source(s) being powered only when both switches are pressed.



Inventors:
Fler, Jack P. (New Hamburg, CA)
Pawluczyk, Romuald (Conestogo, CA)
Application Number:
11/620115
Publication Date:
07/19/2007
Filing Date:
01/05/2007
Assignee:
U-Putt Inc. (New Hamburg, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/221
International Classes:
A63B69/36
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BORDEN LADNER GERVAIS LLP (OTTAWA) (OTTAWA, ON, CA)
Claims:
1. A golf putter having a head and a face on the head, the head incorporating at least one light source and an optical element producing at least one light beam from the light source which is collimated in a horizontal plane and spread in a vertical plane, the beam projecting forwardly from the face in a vertical plane and perpendicular to the front face of the putter in a horizontal plane.

2. A golf putter as in claim 1, wherein one said light beam is aligned with an intended golf ball impact point on the face of the putter, and is positioned sufficiently high for at least part of the light beam to project over the top of a golf ball positioned at the impact point and to show a light trace on the ball.

3. A golf putter as in claim 1, where there are at least two said light beams, namely at least one on either side of an intended golf ball impact point on the face of the putter, spaced apart by at least about the diameter of a golf ball.

4. A golf putter as in claim 1, where there are at least three said light beams, namely at least one light beam on either side of an intended golf ball impact point on the face of the putter, spaced apart by at least about the diameter of a golf ball, and one light beam aligned with the intended golf ball impact point on the face of the putter, the latter positioned sufficiently high for at least part of the light beam to project over the top of a golf ball positioned at the impact point and to show a light trace on the ball.

5. A golf putter as in claim 1, further comprising at least one switch means for activating the light source(s), mounted in a grip portion of the putter, for operation by a golfer gripping the putter at the grip portion.

6. A golf putter as in claim 5, comprising two said switches means, such that both must be operated for the light source(s) to be activated.

7. A golf putter as in claim 1, wherein there are at least two said light beams, produced by division of radiation from a single light source.

8. A golf putter as in claim 1, in combination with a putter of substantially identical size, shape, balance and weighting but without said light source(s).

9. A golf putter as in claim 1, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

10. A golf putter as in claim 2, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

11. A golf putter as in claim 3, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

12. A golf putter as in claim 4, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

13. A golf putter as in claim 5, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

14. A golf putter as in claim 6, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

15. A golf putter as in claim 7, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

16. A golf putter as in claim 8, wherein said at least one light source comprises at least one laser.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This is a formal application based on and claiming priority from U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/758,568, filed Jan. 13, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to golf equipment, and more particular to a putter which uses one or more light sources, preferably lasers, to assist in positioning and aiming.

It is well known that poor putting loses many golf games. While many misses can be attributed to natural causes such as wind or terrain configuration, or to striking the putt too softly or too hard, many if not most missed putts are simply as a result of poor aiming. Simple physical analysis shows that an aiming error of just 1 degree at a distance of 3 meters or 10 feet is sufficient for the ball to miss the hole.

Further analysis leads to the conclusion that there are at least two basic errors which contribute to missed putts: poor aiming and incorrect orientation of the putter head in relation to the direction of the putter swing. If the face of the putter is exactly perpendicular to the direction of movement of the putter, then the ball moves in the same direction of movement after it is struck, and any error in the ball direction is equal to the aiming error. The situation is worse when the face of the putter is not perpendicular to the swing direction when the ball is struck. In this case the rule of reflection applies, which means that the angular error of the direction of movement of the ball is twice as large as the putter head orientation error when the ball is struck. Thus an error in angular orientation of the face of the putter when the ball is struck has a larger impact than an aiming error, and furthermore is usually harder to control. Therefore an ideal aiming means would address both factors: the orientation of the face of the putter when the ball is struck, and the movement direction of the putter during the swing and particularly at the point of impact.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Various prior art devices using lasers to address this problem have been proposed. Many are in the form of an attachment to the shaft of an ordinary putter, However, normal putter shafts are not designed to carry any attachment, and therefore they do not possess any features to ensure reliable, precise, repeatable and reproducible alignment of the laser from putter to putter. Furthermore, any shaft-mounted system does not automatically guarantee proper alignment relative to the face of the putter, without careful calibration in every case.

Other devices provide various laser arrangements in the head of the putter, including at least several which have dual laser beams. However, none of the prior art devices provide the combination of desirable features present in the current invention, which accordingly provides a superior solution.

For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,593,354 (Falossi et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 5,707,296 (Hodgson et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 5,810,674 (Falossi et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 5,980,393 (Molinaroli et al.) and U.S. Pat. No. 7,066,826 (Tsoi), show twin lasers on either side of a putter head, but do not show any vertical spreading of the laser beams.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,169,150 (Tindale) shows a single laser over the top of the golf ball, but again with no vertical spread.

Of patents known to the inventors, only U.S. Pat. No. 5,165,691 (Cook) appears to contemplate any laser beam other than a normal collimated one. Cook refers to a “rectangular” beam in one embodiment (see FIG. 3 thereof). It is not clear from the specification just what that means, but it appears to be something other than the vertically dispersed beam of the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the preceding, it is an object of this invention to provide an improved putter which incorporates one or more light sources, preferably lasers, to assist in positioning, alignment and aiming. Throughout the following description, the word “laser” will be used for convenience and clarity, but it should be understood that other light sources are intended to be included, except where the context clearly indicates otherwise.

Of course, use of any laser putter in competition would be against the current rules of golf. However, as a practice device, the putter is extremely useful in training the golfer to make a smooth, properly aligned putting stroke.

In the invention, one or more lasers are mounted in the putter head, to avoid the above-mentioned problems of those prior art devices which have shaft-mounted lasers. At least one laser is mounted with its beam directed perpendicular to the face of the putter. (All directions stated herein assume that the putter is upright, in a normal playing position, with its face perpendicular to the ground.)

In one embodiment, a single laser is centrally mounted, to project a beam over the top of a ball positioned at the desired impact point on the face of the putter.

In another embodiment, two lasers are mounted to project parallel beams on either side of a ball positioned at the desired impact point on the face of the putter.

In a preferred embodiment, there are three lasers, namely one projecting a beam over the top of the ball, and two projecting parallel beams on either side of the ball.

In yet another embodiment, there is a single laser, but the beam therefrom is divided in conventional fashion to produce two or three separate beams as desired.

In each embodiment, preferably the laser light is dispersed in a vertical plane by a lens, producing a vertical plane of laser light instead of a narrow beam. This results in a clearly visible line (or lines in the case of two or three lasers) extending across the ground or indoor surface.

To reduce the likelihood of accidental triggering of the laser(s), preferably there are two switches in the handle or grip portion of the putter, preferably where the player's two thumbs should be positioned in a conventional grip, with the laser(s) being powered only when both switches are pressed.

Additional details of the invention will be described or will become apparent in the course of the following detailed description and drawings of specific embodiments of the invention, as examples.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary and preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the attached drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view, showing just the putter head and part of the shaft, with lasers activated;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view identical to FIG. 2, but showing a golf ball as well;

FIG. 4 is a further perspective view of the putter head, from the rear, with the cover removed;

FIG. 5 is front view of the putter head;

FIG. 6 is bottom view of the putter head;

FIG. 7 is top view of the putter and golf ball; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a casting with the lasers mounted therein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIGS. 1-8 illustrate a preferred embodiment of the invention. FIG. 1 shows the overall putter 1, including a head 3, and a shaft 4 with a grip portion 5. The face 6 of the head has three vertical slots therein, namely two side slots 7 and one upper central slot 8. As seen in FIGS. 2 and 3, when actuated, there are two side laser beams 9 and one upper central laser beam 10 which are projected as vertical light sheets, i.e. in a form of narrow, well collimated beams in the horizontal direction and spread out beams in the vertical direction. FIG. 3 shows a ball 2 in addition to the putter itself.

All three beams can be produced by three separate sources of light, of the same or different wavelengths, or can be produced by division of radiation (light) from one or two sources into a required number of beams. The beams are aligned in such a way that in the horizontal direction the beam axis to a large degree of precision is perpendicular to the front surface of the putter head, while in the vertical direction the axis of the beam may create an angle of up to several degrees normal to the front surface of the putter head. As a result of the angle and the vertical spread, in a ready-to-putt position, the beams create a light track on the grass or other putting surface used for training. These tracks show the corridor along which the ball will move on a flat surface if properly struck. The golfer can use these tracks as indicators of club orientation and direction of club movement and to use this information for correction of his or her action. Furthermore, after some experience these light tracks can be used for assessment of the putting surface flatness and can be used for corresponding directional correction, i.e. to allow for “break”.

The light beam can be spread vertically in either a continuous or discrete manner. When a continuous spread is used, the laser beam produces a continuously illuminated light track along the putting surface. This effect can be produced by any optical element which demonstrates continuous single dimensional variation of an optical path gradient across the light beam either through changes of geometrical thickness of some transparent material or through changes of the material's refractive index. Continuous spread is produced by an optical element 21 with a continuously changing gradient of optical properties, but may be produced by other known means, as discussed later below. Alternatively, when a discrete spread is used, the beam produces a set of spots, aligned along a line. Discrete spread is produced mostly by diffractive optical elements such as gratings, holograms, binary, multilevel or continuous periodical diffractive optical elements, cylindrical Fresnel lenses and similar components known to those skilled in the art. The manner of producing the vertical spread (discrete or continuous) is not part of the invention as such, being well known in laser art.

Since the laser light beams are dramatically spread out in one direction, the power density of the laser beam is reduced, hence the danger of eye damage to spectators is also reduced, and moderately powerful lasers can be used without danger for other users of the golf course.

The two side slots 7 are spaced apart on either side of the center of the putter face and intended impact point of the ball, by a distance preferably just slightly larger than a golf ball diameter, so as to graze a side of the ball if the ball is off center. In the preferred embodiment, that distance is approximately 4.7 cm, though obviously that could be varied somewhat as desired, including being slightly narrower so as to graze both sides of the ball.

The central slot 8 is aligned with the intended impact point, i.e. so that it will be centered on the ball.

Protective covers (not specifically illustrated), transparent to the light produced by the laser or other light source, are provided across the slots to keep dust and water out.

FIG. 7 shows the putter head, ball and laser beams as viewed from above. As can be appreciated, the golfer looking down on the putter head and golf ball will see three beams projecting towards the target, namely one which should be visible as a line or trace across the top center of the ball if the putter is positioned properly with respect to the ball, and one on either side of the ball. Due to the vertical spread of the laser beam, the golfer will see laser tracks along the ground as an aid in alignment.

In a further aspect of the invention, a putter incorporating the lasers may be sold in combination with a putter of identical appearance, shape and weighting, so that the laser version can be used in training, and the non-laser version in normal play or competition.

Although various on-off switch arrangements could be employed, in the preferred embodiment there is at least one grip switch 11 such that the lasers are not turned on until the golfer grips the shaft. Preferably, to reduce probability of accidental triggering when the putter is in the golf bag or otherwise, there are two such grip switches, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 7, such that the lasers are only turned on when the golfer grips the putter with both hands. Preferably, they may be incorporated in the grip as two buttons or pressure sensors which are more or less flush with the grip surface. As mentioned previously, they can be positioned, for example, where the player's two thumbs should be positioned in a conventional grip. Other suitable switch means for activating the laser(s) could be tactile sensors such as tensometers (strain gages), capacitance sensors, pressure gauges and any other similar devices and electronic circuits, which recognize grips by the golfer's hands and activate or deactivate the laser(s) accordingly.

The preceding double-switch arrangement, regardless of how specifically configured, reduces unintentional draining of the battery, and reduces the risk of the accidental exposure of spectators to laser light. The putter shaft 4 is made of a hollow tube of any material, such as steel, aluminum or glass or carbon fiber enhanced composite, and is used as a conduit for electrical wires 12 between the switches 11 and the battery and lasers in the head.

As seen best in FIG. 4, the putter head 3 has a main body 15, of cast metal for example, and a cover 16, of plastic for example. The cover is preferably hinged or otherwise mounted via front edges 17 and 17′ (for example with a plastic bead which fits under a lip to act as a hinge), and is secured to the main body by a closing latch elements 18 and 18′, for example. Opening the cover exposes the interior, where the lasers and battery 25 are installed, so that the battery can be replaced when necessary. When in place, the cover of course provides protection for the internal components, preferably not only against impact, but also against dust and water. Preferably, it snaps shut via a catch, as in the preferred embodiment, though other securing means could be used, such as small screws or bolts for example.

Although the precise manner in which the lasers and battery or batteries are mounted may be varied, in this exemplary embodiment the lasers are mounted in a casting 19, most clearly shown in FIG. 8. The three lasers 20, preferably diode lasers, and their optical elements 21 are precisely secured by any suitable means in three correspondingly shaped holes in the casting (in this case generally cylindrical), which ensures proper alignment of the lasers relative to the casting. The casting is in turn secured to the main body 15 by any suitable means which ensures alignment, for example by four screws 22 (see FIG. 6) passing from the bottom of the main body up into holes the underside of the casting (not shown).

Alternatively, in an earlier embodiment of the invention, the lasers can be individually mounted in the head by any suitable means, rather than being installed in a separate casting, but use of the separate casting is preferable for ease of manufacturing and assembly, and for more reliable alignment of the laser beams relative to the face of the putter.

The battery 25 (a standard 9-volt battery, for example) is mounted in any conventional fashion, for example via battery clips (not shown), or via a friction fit or compressible element, in opening 26 in the casting. Again, the specific manner in which the battery as mounted, as well as the type of battery, is not essential to the invention.

Rechargeable batteries can be used if desired. They can be recharged by removing them from the putter head and recharging in an external charger, or the putter head could be provided with a connecting socket for charging in place. In one possible embodiment, the battery could be recharged by an attachable solar panel, or by a solar panel permanently secured to or being part of the putter head or shaft.

In a further alternative embodiment, a casting in which the lasers are installed can be used as an installable bottom of the putter head, equipped with construction features such as notches, markings, reference contact points or surfaces for precise installation of the base for proper positioning and alignment relative to the face of the putter.

The laser beams may be shaped by any optical means known to those skilled in the art, including but not limited to:

    • a) an ordinary spherical or aspheric lens or system of lenses, using natural differences in divergence in two perpendicular direction of the laser beams produced by the face emitting laser diodes,
    • b) using single axis or dual axis cylindrical lenses, possibly in combination with spherical and/or aspheric lenses;
    • c) using optical components with transversal gradient of optical path realized as either gradient of the thickness or gradient of refractive index;
    • d) diffractive optical elements;
    • e) holograms;
    • f) liquid crystal dispersive elements; or
    • g) any combination of the above components.

All lasers may have the same or different wavelengths (colors). If desired, super luminescent LEDs can be used to replace all or selected laser sources of light.

Glasses with narrow band transparency peak around laser emission wavelength can be used as needed for laser beam track visibility improvement under extremely bright lighting conditions.

Preferred and exemplary embodiments of this invention are described herein. Variations of those embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. It is expected that skilled persons will employ such variations as appropriate, and it is expected that the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.