Title:
GOLF-TRAINING BALANCE BOARD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In one embodiment, a method for a user to practice a golf swing. The method includes: (a) standing on a balance board; and (b) performing at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range. Other embodiments include balance boards for golf training.



Inventors:
Rosa, James (Brigantine, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/779947
Publication Date:
01/24/2008
Filing Date:
07/19/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MENDELSOHN DUNLEAVY, P.C. (PHILADELPHIA, PA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A balance board comprising: a body generally having length, width, and thickness dimensions, wherein: the thickness is substantially smaller than each of the length and the width; the body has top and bottom surfaces at opposite ends of the thickness of the body; the top surface has left and right portions at opposing sides of the length of the body; and the top surface has front and rear portions at opposing sides of the width of the body; and one or more rockers extending from the bottom surface of the body, wherein: the body is supported in a balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is positioned with the one or more rockers in contact with a substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) equally or unequally to the front and rear portions of the body up to a force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body; and the body is not supported in the balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is placed with at least one of the one or more rockers in contact with the substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) unequally to the front and rear portions of the body greater than the force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body.

2. The invention of claim 1, wherein the body is supported in the balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is positioned with the one or more rockers in contact with the substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) equally or unequally to the front and rear portions of the body up to the force-differential threshold value and (2) unequally to the left and right portions of the body with any force differential.

3. The invention of claim 1, wherein, if the balance board is placed with the one or more rockers in contact with the substantially horizontal ground surface in the balanced orientation, the one or more rockers contact the ground surface at least two different locations along the width of the body.

4. The invention of claim 3, wherein: the at least two different locations of contact along the width of the body define a foremost location and a rearmost location along the width of the body; and the width of the body extends forward beyond the foremost location and rearward beyond the rearmost location.

5. The invention of claim 4, wherein the one or more rockers comprise: a first rocker that, in the balanced orientation, contacts the ground surface at the foremost location; and a second rocker that, in the balanced orientation, contacts the ground surface at the rearmost location.

6. The invention of claim 5, wherein at least one of the first and second rockers has a curvilinear form having a longitudinal axis substantially parallel to the length of the body.

7. The invention of claim 4, wherein the one or more rockers comprise a single rocker that, in the balanced orientation, simultaneously contacts the ground surface at both the foremost location and the rearmost location.

8. The invention of claim 1, wherein the one or more rockers comprise first and second rockers that, in the balanced orientation, contact the ground surface at different locations along the width of the body.

9. The invention of claim 8, wherein at least one of the first and second rockers has a truncated cylindrical form having a longitudinal axis substantially parallel to the length of the body.

10. The invention of claim 8, wherein at least one of the first and second rockers comprises two or more aligned discontinuous segments, each segment contacting the ground surface, in the balanced orientation, at substantially the same location along the width of the body.

11. The invention of claim 1, wherein the one or more rockers comprise a single rocker that, in the balanced orientation, contacts the ground surface at different locations along the width of the body.

12. The invention of claim 1, wherein: the top surface has one or more sets of grooves; the body has an aperture defining a carrying handle; and the bottom surface has one or more recesses.

13. The invention of claim 1, wherein the one or more rockers define a rectilinear region of contact with the ground surface, the rectilinear region having a width substantially parallel to the width of the body and smaller than the foot length of an average human adult.

14. The invention of claim 13, wherein the rectilinear region has a length substantially parallel to and substantially equal to the length of the body.

15. A method for practicing a golf swing by a user, the method comprising: (a) standing on a balance board; and (b) performing at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board, wherein: if the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation; and if the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

16. The invention of claim 15, wherein the balance board maintains the balanced orientation independent of the user's left-to-right weight distribution.

17. A method for teaching a golf swing to a user, the method comprising: (a) having the user stand on a balance board; and (b) having the user perform at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board, wherein: if the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation; and if the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

18. The invention of claim 17, wherein the balance board maintains the balanced orientation independent of the user's left-to-right weight distribution.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. provisional application No. 60/831,771, filed on Jul. 19, 2006, the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to the game of golf, and, in particular, to a device for training a golfer in the correct technique for swinging a golf club.

2. Description of the Related Art

In the game of golf, the most direct influence upon a golfer's score is the golfer's ability to strike a golf ball with accuracy, both in terms of distance and direction. A golfer's ability to strike a golf ball with accuracy can be improved by correcting the golfer's swing. An important part of mastering the game of golf is learning how to swing the golf clubs properly. Each swing can be described as having five phases: address, backswing, downswing, impact, and follow-through.

Elements of a proper swing include (i) swinging the club so that the club head travels in a proper arc during the backswing and on the downswing and (ii) holding the club at a proper angle during the swing. Swinging the club head in the proper swing arc causes a struck golf ball to fly in the desired direction and path. With an improper arc, the golfer may produce a golf shot with an uncontrolled hook or slice, causing the ball to travel in an unintended direction.

Watching the flight of the golf ball after striking the ball provides visual feedback to the golfer as to whether his or her golf swing is proper, but the feedback is not specific to a particular element or phase of the swing. An improper flight may result from an improper stance while striking the golf ball, from holding the club at an improper angle, from an improper swing plane, from an improper backswing, and/or from a number of other causes. Without specific feedback, a golfer might not be able to make the proper correction to his or her swing technique. Moreover, striking a golf ball requires the golfer to focus visually on the ball, using hand-eye coordination to direct the club at the ball. Because the focus of the golfer is fixed exclusively on the ball, the golfer cannot readily observe the plane of his golf swing or the angle of his golf club while striking a golf ball.

Developing a proper swing technique requires repetitive practice so that the golfer develops a feel for a correctly-aligned swing. It is important that the elements of the golfer's swing be performed correctly during practice so that the feel developed during practice can be correlated with a proper swing, rather than a faulty swing. The player will then seek to generate the same feel when later playing an actual game of golf.

Many different golf-swing training devices, systems, and methods have been proposed in the art. For example, some devices include wrist guides or straps that are configured to be positioned on or attached to the hand or arm of a golfer and are designed to prevent the wrist from moving forward relative to the forearm during the swing. Such devices often prevent the user from freely hinging the wrist on the backswing and limit the ability for a golfer to practice a full, correct swing.

Other training devices focus on proper ball position in relation to a player's stance and include mats, measuring sticks, and/or aiming rods with various alignment or guide markings and/or lines thereon. Such devices are relatively bulky and often difficult to set up and transport, and many are impractical for use on a golf course. Furthermore, the markings or lines typically rely on the user's visual acuity for alignment to set up a swing initially and provide no feedback during or after the swing to indicate proper compliance.

Some prior-art golf-training systems provide a series of stripes disposed on a pair of golf shoes, whereby a golfer brings his or her feet close together so that the stripes on the left shoe are aligned with the stripes on the right shoe. However, the reference lines provided on such shoes provide only an alignment line that is as long as the width of the golfer's shoes. Thus, such alignment markings do not provide an overly accurate or helpful reference line for aligning the golfer with the target (e.g., the hole), and such markings still rely on a user's own visual acuity for alignment.

More-complex training systems exist, some of which monitor a player's movement when swinging a club. For example, some systems include a platform housing a tee manipulation mechanism which includes a plurality of transmitters for transmitting infrared beams along predetermined paths defining a three-dimensional space within the platform. The beams are positioned so that improper club or body position may be sensed by the system. The information may trigger a status light board, or it may be processed by a microprocessor for detailed computerized analysis of the golfer's swing. Some such systems also include a video camera for additional analysis of the golfer's form. Other systems include a laser source coupled to an optics system remote from a player. A line of light is produced which is then aligned with the target path. The player stands between the system and the target and aligns the ball and club using the line of light. While such systems may provide feedback for a golfer, they are complicated and expensive and cannot be readily used on a golf course.

Some systems include devices that are removably affixed to the player's clothes. One such device projects outwardly from the golfer a laser beam aligned with lines marked on a mat. Other such devices emit a laser beam toward the target. However, such devices are often inaccurate because they fail to provide a consistent reference line for the golfer. The orientation of the reference will change if the device is affixed to different positions on the golfer's clothes. Even if the device is affixed in the same position on the golfer's clothes each time, clothing such as pants and shirts typically move and flex as the golfer moves or due to environmental conditions such as wind. As such, the reference line emitted from the laser device tends to move as the golfer and his or her clothes move. Moreover, as discussed above, systems requiring a mat are bulky and impractical for use on a course, and all of these laser systems still rely on a user's own visual acuity for alignment.

Some golf-swing training systems include laser devices that are mounted over the club head or are integral with the club head, whereby the device projects a laser beam perpendicular to the striking face, such that the beam is aligned with the target. However, the beam tends to move as the club head moves. Such devices are inaccurate not only because of the movement of the club head, but also because, if the golfer is not properly gripping the club, then the reference line created by the beam will not be accurate. For example, if the club face is open, the beam will not be correctly aligned with the target.

Other laser-based systems provide a laser device that attaches to the player, such as on a golfer's hat, so that the laser beam is directed to a point on the ground in front of the golfer's feet. The beam is pointed at the ball or a reference point on the ground. Such devices attempt to aid the golfer in keeping his or her head down throughout the swing by providing the golfer a reference point on which to focus during the swing. However, such systems typically fail to provide a reference line for aligning the target. In addition, any movement of the golfer's head will change the position of the reference point. The golfer creates the reference point by simply positioning his or her head or moving the laser device. However, no guidance is provided as to whether the correct reference point is being created, whether the golfer is aligned with the target, or whether the golfer is maintaining a proper stance.

Other swing-training devices attempt to direct a golf club by means of a physical guide that actually has contact with the golf club, and some involve only a portion of the entire golf swing, e.g., only the follow-through, or only a bottom portion of the downswing. Some devices concentrate on the backswing and follow-through motions, but without providing any feedback indicating when a swing is off-plane. In order to work correctly, many of these devices must be set up by an instructor or other individual very knowledgeable in the game, with a few even requiring that stakes be driven into the ground to secure the device.

Another disadvantage of many of the aforementioned devices is that such devices are designed for only right-handed golfers and cannot properly be used for left-handed golf swings.

Most disadvantageous, however, is the fact that none of the aforementioned devices enables or assists the golfer to develop and recognize the proper feel of a correctly-aligned swing and instead typically rely on the golfer's own visual acuity to provide feedback as to the correctness of the swing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention provides a surface on which a golfer stands and balances while swinging a club in a usual manner. The balance board is elongated to provide sufficient longitudinal support for a golfer bringing his or her club rearward into a correct position for a backswing, then all the way through the downswing and follow-through portions of the swing in a correct position. The balance board remains stable while the golfer is correctly balanced. If the golfer shifts his or her weight too far forward or rearward, the board tips forward or rearward, providing instant feedback to the golfer that indicates an unbalanced swing. When using the balance board with a golf ball, the board can provide feedback to the golfer regarding the leftward or rightward direction in which the ball will travel after contacting the ball, i.e., if the golfer is on his or her toes, the golfer will be hitting a “fade” or “slice,” and if the golfer is on his or her heels, the golfer will be hitting a “draw” or “hook.” If the golfer remains balanced on the balance board, then the golfer will hit a substantially straight shot.

In one embodiment, the present invention provides a balance board including a body generally having length, width, and thickness dimensions, and one or more rockers extending from the bottom surface of the body. The thickness is substantially smaller than each of the length and the width. The body has top and bottom surfaces at opposite ends of the thickness of the body. The top surface has left and right portions at opposing sides of the length of the body. The top surface has front and rear portions at opposing sides of the width of the body. The body is supported in a balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is positioned with the one or more rockers in contact with a substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) equally or unequally to the front and rear portions of the body up to a force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body. The body is not supported in the balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is placed with at least one of the one or more rockers in contact with the substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) unequally to the front and rear portions of the body greater than the force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for practicing a golf swing by a user. The method includes: (a) standing on a balance board; and (b) performing at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides a method for teaching a golf swing to a user. The method includes (a) having the user stand on a balance board; and (b) having the user perform at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other aspects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following detailed description, the appended claims, and the accompanying drawings in which like reference numerals identify similar or identical elements.

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 2 and 3 are bottom perspective views of the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side perspective view of the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of a user standing on the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1, with the balance board resting on a ground surface in a balanced position;

FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of a user standing on the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1, with the user beginning to lean or otherwise shift the user's weight forward;

FIG. 7 is a side perspective view of a user standing on the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1, with the user continuing to lean or otherwise shift the user's weight forward;

FIG. 8 is a side perspective view of a user standing on the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1, with the user leaning or otherwise shifting the user's weight rearward;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a user using the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1 at the address phase of the golf swing;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a user using the golf-training balance board of FIG. 1 at the follow-through phase of the golf swing;

FIG. 11 is a side perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a first alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a side perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a second alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a side perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a third alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a side perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a fourth alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a side perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a fifth alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 16 is a bottom perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a sixth alternative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 17 is a bottom perspective view of a golf-training balance board consistent with a fifth alternative embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 18 is a graph illustrating weight distribution for a golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1-4 illustrate views of an exemplary golf-training balance board 100 consistent with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a top perspective view of balance board 100. As shown, balance board 100 includes a body 111 that has an elongated, generally planar upper surface 101 adjacent to a pair of opposing elongated parallel planar sides 102 and a pair of opposing arcuate convex sides 103. Upper surface 101 has a modified rectangular profile defined by the interface between (i) upper surface 101 and (ii) both planar sides 102 and convex sides 103.

Upper surface 101 of body 111 also has a plurality of grooves 104 formed therein, over the majority of upper surface 101, defining a pair of non-slip regions 105 on which a user stands while using balance board 100, with one foot in each of non-slip regions 105. As shown, each non-slip region 105 includes two sets of parallel grooves 104, each set of grooves 104 formed in a different orientation. Thus, when a user stands on balance board 100 with the user's shoes contacting non-slip regions 105, grooves 104 of two different directions abut each of the user's shoes, to provide additional non-slip functionality.

Body 111 also has an aperture defining a carrying handle 106 formed therein, near one of elongated parallel planar sides 102.

FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate bottom perspective views of balance board 100, and FIG. 4 illustrates an end view of balance board 100. As shown, body 111 has a lower surface 107 having substantially the same modified rectangular profile as that of upper surface 101, since the profile of lower surface 107 is defined by the interface between (i) lower surface 107 and (ii) both planar sides 102 and convex sides 103. Lower surface 107 has a plurality of recesses 108 formed therein and arranged to maintain sufficient structural support for balance board 100, while reducing the overall weight of balance board 100 to facilitate portability and reduce manufacturing cost. Lower surface 107 also has a pair of parallel elongated rockers 109 formed thereon, which protrude from lower surface 107 near a central portion thereof and are arranged to be substantially parallel to parallel planar sides 102. Each rocker 109 has a curvilinear form, such as a truncated cylindrical form, with a substantially semicircular cross-section.

In one embodiment, body 111 has a thickness of approximately 1.38 inches, a width of approximately 10.83 inches at the widest portion of body 111, and a length of approximately 32.09 inches, and each rocker 109 is approximately 29.89 inches in length, approximately 0.86 inches in height, and approximately 2.11 inches wide, and rockers 109 are spaced approximately 0.5 inches apart from each other.

FIG. 5 illustrates a side perspective view of balance board 100 resting on a ground surface 110 in a balanced position, such that both rockers 109 contact ground surface 110, with a user standing on balance board 100. The position of balance board 100 shown in FIG. 5 is the balanced position that the user should attempt to maintain during use of balance board 100 for golf-swing training.

FIG. 6 illustrates the result of the user in FIG. 5 beginning to lean or otherwise shift the user's weight forward (i.e., towards the user's toes). As shown, balance board 100 begins to rotate on one rocker 109 in a counter-clockwise direction, while the other rocker 109 lifts completely off of ground surface 110, causing balance board 100 to begin to tilt forward. At this point, the user may be able to perceive the beginning of the forward-pivoting motion of balance board 100 as feedback, indicating that the user should shift the user's weight more rearward (i.e., towards the user's heels) to return to the balanced position shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 illustrates the result of the user in FIG. 6 continuing to lean or otherwise shift the user's weight forward, instead of returning to the balanced position shown in FIG. 5. As shown, balance board 100 continues to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction until lower surface 107 and/or planar side 102 contacts ground surface 110, which stops the rotation of balance board 100. At this point, the user is able to perceive as feedback that balance board 100 has pivoted forward (and the user's toes might even rise from and lose contact with balance board 100, as shown), indicating that the user should shift the user's weight more rearward to return to the balanced position shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 illustrates the result of the user in FIG. 5 leaning or otherwise shifting the user's weight rearward. As shown, balance board 100 rotates on one rocker 109 in a clockwise direction, while the other rocker 109 lifts completely off of ground surface 110, causing balance board 100 to begin to tilt rearward, until lower surface 107 and/or planar side 102 contacts ground surface 110, which stops the rotation of balance board 100. At this point, the user is able to perceive as feedback that balance board 100 has pivoted rearward (and the user's heels might even rise from and lose contact with balance board 100, as shown), indicating that the user should shift the user's weight more forward to return to the balanced position shown in FIG. 5.

During golf-swing training, balance board 100 can be used during all five phases of the swing: address, backswing, downswing, impact, and follow-through. To begin, the user places balance board 100 on a ground surface, such that elongated parallel planar sides 102 (and hence, rockers 109) are aligned with the target (e.g., the hole), such that planar sides 102 are parallel to the intended direction of travel of the ball. Although the following description includes the use of a ball, it should be recognized that balance board 100 can be used by a golfer to practice his or her swing either with or without hitting a ball. If a ball is used, then the ball can be placed either on a tee or directly on the ground. Since, due to its thickness and the height of rockers 109, balance board 100 may raise the height of the golfer slightly above the ground, a golfer using balance board 100 might compensate for the additional height, e.g., by (i) increasing the distance between the ball and the ground during practice with balance board 100 (e.g., using a tee of sufficient height), (ii) decreasing the distance between the ball and the golfer during practice with balance board 100, or (iii) recognizing the additional height during practice with balance board 100 and compensating manually during practice without balance board 100 or during actual game play.

FIG. 9 illustrates the use of balance board 100 at the address phase. The user stands on balance board 100 in an ordinary stance, with the user's club extended, to address the ball. In this stance, the user's body weight should be evenly distributed on both feet, and the user's knees should be relaxed or flexed to center the user's body weight over the user's feet. If the user's body weight is not properly centered (i.e., toe-to-heel) over the user's feet, balance board 100 will pivot either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that an adjustment should be made.

For a right-hand user, during the backswing (not shown), the club is drawn back to its highest point in the swing, and, although the user's body weight is shifted to the right foot, the user's weight should still remain centered over the user's feet, rather than forward or rearward, and balance board 100 will pivot either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that an adjustment should be made in this regard.

During the downswing (not shown), the right-handed user's weight is shifted to the left foot, while the user's knees, hips, and trunk all rotate together to the left. As during the address and backswing, the user's weight should still remain centered over the user's feet, rather than forward or rearward, and balance board 100 will pivot either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that an adjustment should be made in this regard.

During impact with the ball, the right-handed user's wrists and hands complete the acceleration of the club head as the club head makes contact with the ball, and the user's wrists unhinge in a whip-like motion as the user's right hand rotates over the left after the ball is hit. During this process, although the user's body weight shifts to the left, the user's weight should still remain centered over the user's feet, rather than forward or rearward, and balance board 100 will pivot either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that an adjustment should be made in this regard.

FIG. 10 illustrates the use of balance board 100 during the follow-through phase of the swing. After striking the ball, the club gradually decelerates during the follow-through. The right-handed user's body rotates to the left around the spine, the user's wrists rotate about each other to create a roll-over motion of the hands, and the user's hips and shoulders continue to rotate until the user's body is facing the target. During this process, the spine hyperextends, and the user's body weight completely shifts to the left side. Once again, although the user rotates to face the target, with the user's body weight shifting to the left, the user's weight should still remain centered over the user's feet, rather than forward or rearward, and balance board 100 will pivot either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that an adjustment should be made in this regard.

Using balance board 100, the user can choose to practice only one phase of the swing, more than one phase, or all phases of the swing, depending on the skill level of the user. The eventual goal of training using balance board 100 is for balance board 100 to remain in a balanced position, e.g., as shown in FIG. 5, during all five phases of the swing. Once the user has properly trained using balance board 100, the user will have developed and recognized the proper feel for a correct swing.

FIGS. 11-17 illustrate exemplary golf-training balance boards consistent with alternative embodiments of the present invention, which employ rockers having alternative numbers, configurations, curvatures, and/or cross sections.

FIG. 11 shows balance board 1100, which is similar to balance board 100 (of FIG. 1), except that only a single rocker 1109 is used. In this embodiment, maintaining a balanced position is more difficult and may involve a higher skill level for the user than balance board 100, because single-rocker balance board 1100 is less stable than dual-rocker balance board 100 and does not remain balanced as easily when resting on the ground.

FIG. 12 shows balance board 1200, which uses a single rocker 1209 and is similar to balance board 1100 (of FIG. 1), except that maintaining a balanced position is less difficult, because, as with balance board 100 (of FIG. 1), balance board 1200 easily remains balanced by itself when resting on the ground, due to the flat contour of the ground-contacting portion of rocker 1209.

FIG. 13 shows balance board 1300, which uses a single rocker 1309 and is similar to balance board 1100 (of FIG. 1). In this embodiment, maintaining a balanced position is even more difficult, because balance board 1300 cannot remain balanced by itself when resting on the ground, and further, because the pivoting of balance board 1300 is not gradual as in the cases of balance boards 100 (of FIG. 1), 1100, and 1200 (of FIG. 12), due to the triangular cross-section of rocker 1309.

FIG. 14 shows balance board 1400, which uses dual rockers 1409 and is similar to balance board 100 (of FIG. 1), except that rockers 1409 have a triangular cross-section. In this embodiment, maintaining a balanced position is of substantially the same difficulty as with balance board 100, because the contact of both rockers 1409 with the ground causes balance board 1400 to be relatively stable in a balanced position. However, once the user's weight begins to shift forward or rearward, it is more difficult for the user to return to a balanced position, because the pivoting of balance board 1400 is not gradual as in the cases of balance boards 100, 1100 (of FIG. 1), and 1200 (of FIG. 12).

FIG. 15 shows balance board 1500, which uses dual rockers 1509 and is similar to balance board 100 (of FIG. 1), except that maintaining a balanced position may be slightly less difficult, because, balance board 1500 easily remains balanced by itself when resting on the ground, due to the flat contour of the ground-contacting portions of rocker 1509.

FIG. 16 shows balance board 1600, which is similar to balance board 100 (of FIG. 1), except that balance board 1600 uses two sets of two rockers 1609, instead of a single set of rockers 109. The arrangement of balance board 1600 reduces weight and manufacturing cost and illustrates that it is not necessary to have a single pair of elongated rockers or a single elongated rocker spanning the length of a balance board.

FIG. 17 shows balance board 1700, which is similar to balance board 1600 (of FIG. 16), except that balance board 1700 uses rockers that are generally cylindrical and peg-like in form, with the face of the cylinders generally parallel to body 1711. This arrangement demonstrates that the ground-contacting surfaces of rockers in a golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention can have a variety of different shapes, so long as there are four points of contact between the rocker(s) and a ground surface when weight is evenly distributed on the board, which points define the vertices of a rectilinear region of contact.

In FIG. 17, the free ends of each of the four rockers 1709 contact the ground and constitute the four points of contact that define region of contact 1750 (shown in dashed lines). In FIG. 16, each of the four rockers 1609 has at least one point of contact with the ground, and the four points of contact define region of contact 1650 (although the region of contact is not shown in FIG. 14, the four rockers 1409 define a region of contact in a similar manner to rockers 1609 of FIG. 16). In FIG. 2, each of the two rockers 109 has at least two points of contact, one at each end (i.e., the left and right ends) of the rocker, which define region of contact 150 (although the region of contact is not shown in FIG. 14, the two rockers 1409 of FIG. 14 define a region of contact in a similar manner to rockers 109 of FIG. 2, and the same is true for rockers 1509 of FIG. 15). In FIG. 12, the single rocker 1209 has at least four points of contact that define a rectilinear region of contact, which is the same as the contiguous rectilinear region at which rocker 1209 interfaces with a ground surface when in a balanced position. It is specifically noted, however, that the term “region of contact” does not necessarily mean a contiguous region at which the rocker(s) contact a ground surface at all locations within the region (as in FIG. 12) and can also include a region bounded by only four points that actually contact the ground surface (e.g., as in FIG. 17), two lines that actually contact the ground surface (e.g., as in FIG. 2), and so forth.

When a user stands on a balance board consistent with embodiments of the invention, the user's feet should overhang the region of contact, i.e., the toe-to-heel distance is greater than the distance between points of contact along the width of the board. Thus, a balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention may be sized differently, and the rockers may be located differently, to accommodate users of different foot lengths. For example, children and other golfers with shorter foot lengths may be better suited with the rockers closer together, creating a region of contact having a reduced area.

FIG. 18 is a weight-distribution graph for a golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention. The horizontal axis represents the length of the body from left to right, and the vertical axis represents the width of the body from front to rear. If, when a user stands on the board, weight is distributed evenly along both axes (as represented by origin 1800 of the graph), then the board is balanced. The board is also balanced if the user's weight is distributed front-to-rear within a given zone of stability (represented by shaded area 1810), regardless of how weight is distributed left-to-right. However, if the user's weight shifts forward beyond a given forward threshold (represented by dashed line 1820), then instability results, causing the board to tilt forward. Likewise, if the user's weight shifts rearward beyond a given rear threshold (represented by dashed line 1830), then instability results, causing the board to tilt rearward.

Thresholds 1820 and 1830 correspond with and are dependent on the locations of the rockers on the underside of the board. Having the rockers closer together along the width of the board reduces the area of the zone of stability, and thresholds 1820 and 1830 will be closer together. Likewise, having the rockers farther apart along the width of the board increases the area of the zone of stability, and thresholds 1820 and 1830 will be farther apart. In the balance boards of FIGS. 1 and 11-17, stability along the length of the board, i.e., from left to right, is always maintained, since the rockers inhibit the board from tilting left to right. This left-to-right stability is achieved by having the rockers disposed at or substantially near the left and right ends of the length of the board's body (e.g., at or near convex sides 103 of FIG. 1). Thus, the board is stable enough for a golfer to shift his or her weight from the golfer's left foot to the golfer's right foot and vice-versa, as naturally occurs during the swinging of a club, yet the board still permits the forward and rearward tilting that provides feedback to the golfer if the golfer improperly leans forward or rearward so that his or her weight is shifted outside the zone of stability.

In other words, the body of the board is supported in a balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is positioned with the (one or more) rockers in contact with a substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) equally or unequally to the front and rear portions of the body up to a force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body. The body is not supported in the balanced orientation if (a) the balance board is placed with at least one of the (one or more) rockers in contact with the substantially horizontal ground surface and (b) force is applied (1) unequally to the front and rear portions of the body greater than the force-differential threshold value and (2) equally or unequally to the left and right portions of the body.

A balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention may be sized differently, and the rockers may be located differently, to accommodate users of different weights. For example, lighter golfers, such as some women and children, may be better suited with the rockers closer together, creating a zone of stability having a reduced area.

A golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention is desirably constructed of a rigid material that can withstand the weight of a user and, in a preferred embodiment, is constructed from one or more molded plastics, such as polyethylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and/or polyurethane. Other suitable materials may include, e.g., other plastics, wood, metal, ceramic, stone, fiberglass, glass, concrete, brick, cement block, and combinations of any of the foregoing materials.

It should be understood that a golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention can be used by both left-handed and right-handed golfers alike. Such a balance board can be used to train a golfer to align his or her golf swing along a certain axis or plane and to assist a golfer in balancing his or her golf swing. A golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention also permits a golfer to practice his or her swing either with or without hitting a golf ball and can be used on a variety of indoor and outdoor surfaces, including grass, artificial turf, dirt, sand, clay, wood, rubber, and concrete. A golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention can also be used for balance training with chipping, pitching, and putting clubs and is suitable for use on a golf course, not only on the fairway and greens, but also in sand traps and other hazard areas.

Advantageously, a golf-training balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention permits a golfer to receive instant feedback based on the feel of his or her swing, while the club is being swung. Thus, once the balance board is placed on the ground and aligned with a target, the golfer does not need to lift his or her head to look in any particular direction, as in the case of prior-art devices that rely on a golfer's own visual acuity, and can keep his or head in a proper position facing down, fixed on the ball.

An exemplary method for practicing a golf swing consistent with one embodiment of the present invention involves the user standing on a balance board and performing at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

An exemplary method for teaching a golf swing to a user involves having the user stand on a balance board and having the user perform at least a portion of the golf swing while standing on the balance board. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing while maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within a threshold range, then the balance board maintains a balanced orientation. If the user performs the portion of the golf swing without maintaining the user's front-to-rear weight distribution within the threshold range, then the balance board tilts either forward or rearward to indicate to the user that the user's front-to-rear weight distribution is outside the threshold range.

In alternative embodiments of balance board 100, a carrying handle could be formed near a different one of elongated parallel planar sides 102 (or at some other location), or handles could be formed near both of elongated parallel planar sides 102.

A balance board consistent with embodiments of the present invention, as described herein, may have utility for applications and physical activities other than golf, and the use of such a balance board should not be construed as limited to golf-swing training.

It should be understood that the steps of the exemplary methods set forth herein are not necessarily required to be performed in the order described, and the order of the steps of such methods should be understood to be merely exemplary. Likewise, additional steps may be included in such methods, and certain steps may be omitted or combined, in methods consistent with various embodiments of the present invention.

Although the elements in the following method claims are recited in a particular sequence with corresponding labeling, unless the claim recitations otherwise imply a particular sequence for implementing some or all of those elements, those elements are not necessarily intended to be limited to being implemented in that particular sequence.

Reference herein to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment can be included in at least one embodiment of the invention. The appearances of the phrase “in one embodiment” in various places in the specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, nor are separate or alternative embodiments necessarily mutually exclusive of other embodiments. The same applies to the term “implementation.”

It should be understood that various changes in the details, materials, and arrangements of the parts which have been described and illustrated in order to explain the nature of this invention may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention as expressed in the following claims.