Title:
Golf ball dispensing and teeing device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A golf ball dispensing and teeing device is provided which allows a single golf ball to be metered from a supply tube and travel therefrom to rest atop an elevated ball tee.



Inventors:
Hogan, Dave W. (Murrells Inlet, SC, US)
Application Number:
11/900866
Publication Date:
03/19/2009
Filing Date:
09/13/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/137
International Classes:
A63B57/00; A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20170050095Golf Putting Game And Associated MethodsFebruary, 2017Burch
20150283430MULTIPLE COLORED GOLF BALLOctober, 2015Dykas
20130231203GOLF TEE AND METHOD OF PRODUCING A GOLF TEESeptember, 2013Phua
20150231462INTERCHANGEABLE GOLF CLUB GRIP AND GRIP ASSEMBLYAugust, 2015Chapin
20130337936GOLF CLUBDecember, 2013Saito
20130244806GOLF PUTTERSeptember, 2013Kim
20150080142System, Apparatus, And Method For Using Mobile Sporting GoodsMarch, 2015Kline
20080248902HOCKEY STICK-HANDLING DEVICEOctober, 2008Pittorf
20140243108ROTATION GAMES PLAYED ON A POOL TABLEAugust, 2014Tucker
20060178230PutterAugust, 2006Reahil
20080171611GOLF CLUBJuly, 2008Yeo



Primary Examiner:
BALDORI, JOSEPH B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
P. Jeff Martin of The McGougan Law Firm, LLC (Little River, SC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A golf ball dispensing and teeing device comprising: an elongated ball supply tube, said ball supply tube is adapted to hold a plurality of golf balls, said ball supply tube defines an open anterior end opposing an open posterior end, said ball supply tube is cylindrical and has an inner diameter being slightly larger than a diametrical measure of a golf ball; an anchor mechanism, said anchor mechanism is adapted to anchor said ball supply tube to a ground in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect to the ground so as to allow the plurality of golf balls to feed by gravity from said ball supply tube to a loading arm assembly; and a ball release mechanism, said ball release mechanism is adapted to permit a single golf ball to be metered from said ball supply tube, said ball release mechanism is welded or otherwise suitably mounted to an upper, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube proximal to said open anterior end thereof.

2. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 1, wherein said ball supply tube is fabricated of a lightweight, rigid material.

3. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 1, wherein said loading arm assembly comprises substantially parallel side rails having outer ends pivotally secured via a locking assembly to a front support bracket, said front support bracket is welded or otherwise suitably mounted to a lower, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube proximal to said open anterior end thereof, said parallel side rails are secured to said front support bracket in such a manner so as to extend outwardly from a lower plane of said open anterior end of said ball supply tube and be elevated above the ground in a declined position when said golf ball dispensing and teeing device is anchored to the ground.

4. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 3, wherein said parallel side rails having outer ends interconnected by an enlarged circular loop forming a ball seat, said enlarged circular loop defines a diameter being sufficient so as to allow a golf ball to rest immobilized thereatop, said parallel side rails are suitably spaced so as to allow the golf ball to roll downwardly there along towards said ball seat,

5. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 4, wherein said parallel side rails and said enlarged circular loop are fabricated of a flexible, semi-rigid material, said fabrication material is sufficiently rigid such that said parallel side rails maintain an elongated, rigid position while said ball seat supports the golf ball, and sufficiently flexible so as to nutate laterally upon striking the golf ball, said parallel side rails are adapted to resume an elongated, rigid position.

6. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 5, wherein said parallel side rails include a contractile member mounted therebetween, said contractile member being mounted proximal to said ball seat, said contractile member being adapted to hold said parallel side rails in a fixed, spaced relationship.

7. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 3, wherein said locking assembly comprises a wingnut-bolt and washer assembly adapted to pivotally secure said parallel side rails to an opposed lateral sidewalls of said front support bracket, wherein one end of said wingnut-bolt and washer assembly extends through a suitable aperture defined through said opposed lateral sidewalls of said front support bracket and is supported thereby, said wingnut-bolt and washer assembly allows said ball seat to be vertically adjusted and fixedly positioned to a desired, suspended height above the ground.

8. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 3, wherein said front support bracket defines an elongated body having a concave channel formed along an upper surface thereof, said upper surface opposing a generally flat lower surface, said concave channel is shaped so as to mount snugly against said lower, external circumferential surface of said ball supply tube.

9. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 1, wherein said anchor mechanism comprises an anterior C-shaped member and a posterior C-shaped member, said anterior C-shaped member and said posterior C-shaped member each defining a circular cross-section, said anterior C-shaped member and said posterior C-shaped member each defining a horizontal member having opposed ends from which legs extend integrally downward respectfully therefrom, each said legs taper into a lower pointed end so as to facilitate insertion into the ground, wherein said legs of said posterior C-shaped member define a greater length with respect to said legs of said anterior C-shaped member, thereby facilitating anchoring of said ball supply tube in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect to the ground.

10. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 9, wherein said anchor mechanism further comprises a rear support bracket welded or suitably mounted to said lower, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube, distal to said front support bracket.

11. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 10, wherein said rear support bracket defines an elongated body having a concave channel formed along an upper surface thereof, said upper surface opposing a generally flat lower surface, said concave channel is shaped so as to mount snugly against said lower, external circumferential surface of said ball supply tube, said rear support bracket includes a circular bore defined through a lateral sidewall thereof, said circular bore is sized so as to slidably receive in a snug-fit manner said posterior C-shaped member, said leg of said posterior C-shaped member is inserted through said circular bore and is extended therethrough until said horizontal member of said posterior C-shaped member is positioned centrally inside said bore of said rear support bracket, said posterior C-shaped member rotates in relation to said ball supply tube, thereby allowing said posterior C-shaped member to be rotatably positioned forward in order to facilitate compact storage and transport.

12. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 11, wherein said rear support bracket includes an internally threaded aperture defined through said lower surface thereof, wherein said internally threaded aperture extends into said circular bore of said rear support bracket, said internally threaded aperture is adapted to threadably receive a manually adjustable screw, said manually adjustable screw being tightened until a lower end thereof engages a flat contact surface of a recess defined in said horizontal member of said posterior C-shaped member, thereby securing said posterior C-shaped member into a locked position.

13. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 8, wherein said front support bracket includes a circular bore defined through said opposed lateral sidewalls thereof, posterior to said suitable aperture, said circular bore is sized so as to slidably receive in a snug-fit manner said anterior C-shaped member, said leg of said anterior C-shaped member is inserted through said circular bore and is extended therethrough until said horizontal member of said anterior C-shaped member is positioned centrally inside said circular bore of said front support bracket, said anterior C-shaped member rotates in relation to said ball supply tube, thereby allowing said anterior C-shaped member to be rotatably positioned rearward in order to facilitate compact storage and transport.

14. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 13, wherein said front support bracket includes an internally threaded aperture defined through said lower surface thereof, wherein said internally threaded aperture extends into said circular bore of said front support bracket, said internally threaded aperture is adapted to threadably receive a manually adjustable screw, said manually adjustable screw being tightened until a lower end thereof engages a flat contact surface of a recess defined in said horizontal member of said anterior C-shaped member, thereby securing said anterior C-shaped member into a locked position.

15. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 1, wherein said ball release mechanism comprises an upper elongated jaw portion hingedly attached via a spring to a lower elongated jaw portion, said lower elongated jaw portion has a bottom side welded or otherwise suitably mounted to said upper, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube proximal to said open anterior end thereof, said upper elongated jaw portion includes an anterior end opposing a posterior end, wherein said anterior end overhangs said lower elongated jaw portion, said posterior end of said upper elongated jaw portion includes a sleeve affixed therearound so as to protect an outer finish of a golf club head.

16. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 15, wherein said spring is urged in a manner such that said anterior end of said upper elongated jaw portion is biased downwardly in a resting position, thereby allowing said upper elongated jaw portion to pivot between a first generally declined position and a second generally horizontal position.

17. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 15, wherein said ball release mechanism further comprises: a stop member, said stop member is adapted to limits said second generally horizontal position of said upper elongated jaw portion, said stop member is mounted atop said lower elongated jaw portion, posterior to said spring and underneath said upper elongated jaw portion, said stop member is adapted to make contact with said upper elongated jaw portion when said upper elongated jaw portion is lowered a sufficient distance; and an elongated abutment member, said abutment member extends downward angularly from said upper elongated jaw portion along said anterior end thereof, said abutment member extends from said upper elongated jaw portion at an angle of approximately 10°, wherein said abutment member extends a linear distance through a circular opening defined through said upper, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube when said ball release mechanism is in a resting position, said circular opening is positioned fore of said lower elongated jaw portion, and wherein said abutment member engages a first golf ball of a series of golf balls positioned in single file and stacked formation within said ball supply tube, thereby preventing forward movement by the first golf ball when said ball release mechanism is in a resting position, said elongated abutment member functions as a stop to prevent the golf ball(s) from dispensing from the ball supply tube, and to facilitate release of a single golf ball through said open anterior end of said ball supply tube, said posterior end of said upper elongated jaw portion is depressed and quickly released, wherein depression of said posterior end of said upper elongated jaw portion concurrently urges said abutment member upwardly against an urging of said spring, and causing said abutment member to disengage from the first golf ball which allows the first golf ball to exit said open anterior end of said ball supply tube, roll slowly down said parallel side rails and into said ball seat, within which the first golf ball resides in a resting position, and wherein release of said upper elongated jaw portion allows said spring to urge said abutment member downwardly, thereby causing said abutment member to engage a subsequent golf ball of the series of golf balls and preventing the subsequent golf ball from dispensing from said ball supply tube.

18. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 1, further comprising: a ball retrieval mechanism, said ball retrieval mechanism is mounted to said open posterior end of said ball supply tube, said ball retrieval mechanism is adapted for picking up golf balls one at a time; and an end cap, said end cap is removably securable to said open anterior end of said ball supply tube, said end cap is adapted for securing a series of golf balls within said ball supply tube.

19. A golf ball dispensing and teeing device comprising: an elongated ball supply tube, said ball supply tube is adapted to hold a plurality of golf balls, said ball supply tube defines an open anterior end opposing an open posterior end, said ball supply tube is cylindrical and has an inner diameter being slightly larger than a diametrical measure of a golf ball; an anchor mechanism, said anchor mechanism is adapted to anchor said ball supply tube to a ground in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect to the ground so as to allow the plurality of golf balls to feed by gravity from said ball supply tube to a loading arm assembly being mounted to said ball supply tube, said anchor mechanism comprising a front support bracket welded or otherwise suitably mounted to a lower, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube proximal to said open anterior end thereof, said front support bracket having an anterior C-shaped member rotatably securable thereto, said anchor mechanism comprising a rear support bracket welded or suitably mounted to a lower, external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube, distal to said front support bracket, said rear support bracket having a posterior C-shaped member rotatably securable thereto; a ball retrieval mechanism, said ball retrieval mechanism is mounted to said open posterior end of said ball supply tube, said ball retrieval mechanism is adapted for picking up golf balls one at a time; and a ball release mechanism, said ball release mechanism comprises a U-bolt defining a horizontal member from which legs extend integrally downward from opposed ends respectfully therefrom, said horizontal member having an oval shaped club head engaging pedal welded or otherwise suitably mounted thereto, said legs terminate into threaded ends respectively, said legs are inserted through respective guide cylinders welded or otherwise suitably mounted in a vertical orientation along a lateral sidewalls of said ball supply tube at said open anterior end thereof, said threaded ends of said legs are inserted through respective apertures defined through a plate, said legs are secured to plate via a pair of nuts, said pair of nuts includes an upper nut threadedly engaging each said threaded ends above said plate, and a lower nut threadedly engaging each said threaded ends below said plate, said pair of nuts allowing for selective vertical adjustment of said U-bolt about said plate.

20. The golf ball dispensing and teeing device of claim 19, wherein said ball release mechanism further comprises an elongated abutment element having a threaded lower end, said abutment element having an upper end inserted through a suitable hole defined centrally through said plate and extends through a suitable hole defined through a lower surface of said front support bracket of said anchor mechanism, and through a hole defined through said lower external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube proximal to said open anterior end thereof, said abutment element is secured to said plate via a pair of nuts, said pair of nuts includes an upper nut threadedly engaging said threaded lower end of said abutment element above said plate and a lower nut threadedly engaging said threaded lower end of said abutment element below said plate, said pair of nuts allowing for selective vertical adjustment of said abutment element about said plate, said U-bolt is biased upwardly by a spring suitably disposed between an upper surface of each said guide cylinder and an annular flange welded or otherwise suitably mounted below each a bend of said U-bolt, said spring is constructed to oppose linear compressional forces, and wherein said ball release mechanism is in a resting position said abutment element projects upwardly from said plate and protrudes vertically through said hole defined through said lower external circumferential sidewall of said ball supply tube and engages a first golf ball of a series of golf balls positioned in single file and stacked formation within said ball supply tube, said abutment element functions as a stop to prevent the golf ball(s) from dispensing from said ball supply tube, and wherein depression of said club head engaging pedal concurrently urges said abutment element downwardly against an urging of said spring, thereby causing said abutment element to disengage from the first golf ball, and allowing the first golf ball to exit said open anterior end of said ball supply tube, roll slowly down said loading arm assembly and into a ball seat of said loading arm assembly, within which the golf ball resides in a resting position, and wherein release of said club head engaging pedal allows said spring to urge said abutment member upwardly, thereby causing said abutment member to engage a subsequent golf ball of the series of golf balls and preventing the subsequent golf ball from dispensing from said ball supply tube.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

There are no previously filed, nor currently any co-pending applications, anywhere in the world.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to golf equipment and, more particularly, to a golf ball dispensing and teeing device.

2. Description of the Related Art

Numerous golf ball teeing devices and machines have been suggested in the past. Generally, the majority of such devices are complex, cumbersome, and are intended for permanent installation on a driving range or other large area.

Accordingly, a need has arisen for a lightweight, durable, portable golf ball dispensing and teeing device configured to allow a single golf ball to be metered onto an elevated tee in a manner which is quick, easy, and efficient. The development of the golf ball dispensing and teeing device fulfills this need.

A search of the prior art did not disclose any patents that read directly on the claims of the instant invention; however, the following references were considered related.

The following patents disclose various golf ball dispensers and teeing devices:

U.S. Pat. No. 5,529,307, issued in the name of Chang;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,335,953, issued in the name of Luther, Sr.;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,647,805, issued in the name of Tarbox, Jr.;

U.S. Pat. No. 1,940,321, issued in the name of Pagett;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,665,004, issued in the name of Vlahovic;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,673,812, issued in the name of Nelson;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,674,130, issued in the name of Egan;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,411,267, issued in the name of Burks et al.;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,844, issued in the name of Luther;

U.S. Pat. No. 6,328,659 B1, issued in the name of Peterson; and

U.S. Pat. No. 6,371,330 B1, issued in the name of Knez.

Internet publication provided at www.uprightgolf.com/practice-aids.html.

Consequently, a need has been felt for an improved golf ball dispensing and teeing device capable of housing a plurality of balls and configured to permit a single golf ball to be metered onto an elevated tee in a manner which is quick, easy, and efficient.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a device adapted to permit a single golf ball to be metered from a ball supply tube and travel therefrom into a ball seat.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a lightweight, rigid device constructed so as to be easily transportable.

It is another object of the present invention to provide an anchor means for anchoring the device securely to the ground.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a loading assembly having a ball seat configured to be elevated above ground during use.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a ball release mechanism adapted to permit a single golf ball to be metered from the ball supply tube.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide a ball retrieval mechanism configured for picking up golf balls one at a time.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a golf ball dispensing and teeing device adapted to be anchored to the ground in an elevationally-declined orientation so that golf balls feed by gravity from the ball supply tube to the ball seat.

Briefly described according to one embodiment of the present invention, a golf ball dispensing and teeing device is disclosed. The device comprises an elongated ball supply tube fabricated of a lightweight, rigid material and is adapted to hold a plurality of golf balls. The ball supply tube is cylindrical and has an inner diameter being slightly larger than a diametrical measure of a standard golf ball, thereby allowing a plurality of golf balls to feed into ball supply tube in single file and stacked formation prior to being released onto a loading arm assembly. The ball supply tube is anchored to the ground in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect thereto via an anchor mechanism so that golf balls feed by gravity from tube to a ball seat of the loading arm assembly.

The anchor mechanism comprises a pair of generally C-shaped members which includes an anterior member and a posterior member. Each C-shaped member includes a horizontal member having opposed ends from which legs extend integrally downward therefrom. Each leg tapers into a lower pointed end so as to facilitate insertion into the ground. The anterior member and posterior member are rotatably disposed within a front and rear support bracket respectively. The anterior and posterior members can be locked into a desired position via a manually adjustable screw.

The loading arm assembly comprises substantially parallel side rails having outer ends pivotally secured via a locking assembly to a front support bracket welded or otherwise suitably mounted to a lower circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube proximal to the anterior end thereof. The parallel side rails are secured to bracket in such a manner so as to extend outwardly from a lower plane of the anterior end of ball supply tube and to be elevated above the ground in a declined position when the present invention is anchored to the ground. An enlarged circular loop forming a ball seat interconnects the outer ends of the side rails. The enlarged circular loop defines a diameter being sufficient so as to allow a standard golf ball to rest immobilized thereatop. The side rails are suitably spaced so as to allow a golf ball to roll downwardly there along towards ball seat. A contractile member is mounted between side rails in order to hold side rails in a fixed, spaced relationship. The side rails and enlarged circular loop are fabricated of a flexible, semi-rigid material. The fabrication material is sufficiently rigid such that side rails maintain an elongated, rigid position while ball seat supports a golf ball, and sufficiently flexible so as to nutate laterally upon striking the golf ball, after which side rails resume an elongated, rigid position.

A ball release mechanism is provided in order to facilitate controlled golf ball release from ball supply tube. The ball release mechanism is adapted to permit a single golf ball to be metered from the ball supply tube. The ball release mechanism comprises an upper elongated jaw portion hingedly attached via a spring to a lower elongated jaw portion. The lower elongated jaw portion has a bottom side welded or otherwise suitably mounted to the upper circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube proximal to the anterior end thereof. The spring is urged in a manner such that the front end of upper elongated jaw portion is biased downwardly in a resting position. This configuration allows the upper elongated jaw portion to pivot between a first generally declined position and a second generally horizontal position.

The front end of upper elongated jaw portion overhangs the lower elongated jaw portion so as to allow an elongated abutment member to extend downwardly through a circular opening in ball supply tube. The elongated abutment member extends downward angularly from the upper elongated jaw portion along the front end thereof. In a resting position, elongated abutment member extends a linear distance through the circular opening defined through the upper circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube, wherein circular opening is positioned fore of lower elongated jaw portion. When ball release mechanism is in a resting position, the elongated abutment member thereof engages a first golf ball of a series of golf balls positioned in single file and stacked formation within ball supply tube, and prevents forward movement by the first golf ball. Elongated abutment member functions as a stop to prevent a golf ball(s) from dispensing from the ball supply tube. In order to release a single golf ball through the anterior end of ball supply tube, the rearward end of upper elongated jaw portion is depressed using the club head of a golf club, thereby concurrently urging elongated abutment member upwardly and causing abutment member to disengage from the first golf ball which allows first golf ball to exit the ball supply tube, roll slowly down the side rails and into the ball seat, within which golf ball resides in a resting position.

The ball release mechanism further comprises a stop member which limits the second generally horizontal position of upper elongated jaw portion. The stop member is mounted atop the lower elongated jaw portion, posterior to spring and underneath upper elongated jaw portion. The stop member is configured to make contact with upper elongated jaw portion when upper elongated jaw portion is lowered a sufficient distance.

An alternate embodiment of the present invention is provided, wherein ball release mechanism comprises a spring-biased U-bolt assembly operable by the depression of a club head engaging pedal. Depression of the club head engaging pedal concurrently urges an abutment element downwardly, thereby causing abutment element to disengage from a first golf ball, and allowing first golf ball to exit the anterior end of ball supply tube, roll slowly down the side rails and into ball seat, within which golf ball resides in a resting position.

A ball retrieval mechanism is provided, wherein ball retrieval mechanism is mounted to the open posterior end of ball supply tube. The ball retrieval mechanism is configured for picking up golf balls one at a time. Once a golf ball is retrieved using the mechanism, the golf ball is released therefrom into the hollow interior of ball supply tube.

The use of the present invention allows a single golf ball to be metered from a supply tube and travel therefrom to rest atop an elevated ball seat in a manner which is quick, easy, and efficient.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The advantages and features of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following more detailed description and claims taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like elements are identified with like symbols, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a golf ball dispensing and teeing device, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a partial side perspective view of the present invention illustrating the loading arm assembly, according to the preferred embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a front side elevational view of the present invention showing the loading arm assembly and locking assembly, according to the preferred embodiment;

FIG. 4 is a bottom side perspective view of the front support bracket, according to the preferred embodiment;

FIG. 5 is a bottom side perspective view of the rear support bracket, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a top side perspective view of the front support bracket, according to the preferred embodiment;

FIG. 7 is a top side perspective view of the rear support bracket, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a front side elevational view of the pair of generally C-shaped members, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of telescopically adjustable C-shaped members, according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a partial side elevational view of the present invention illustrating the ball release mechanism, shown with front support bracket and loading arm assembly removed for clarity, according to the preferred embodiment;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a partial front side perspective view of the alternate embodiment depicted in FIG. 11, shown with loading arm assembly removed for clarity;

FIG. 13 is a bottom perspective view of a front support bracket adapted for use with the alternate embodiment depicted in FIGS. 11 and 12;

FIG. 14 is a bottom plan view of the ball retrieval mechanism, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 15 is a bottom plan view of the end cap, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

1. Detailed Description of the Figures

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3, a golf ball dispensing and teeing device 10 is shown, according to the present invention, comprised of an elongated ball supply tube 20 adapted to hold a plurality of golf balls 12. The ball supply tube 20 defines an open anterior end 22 opposing an open posterior end 24 and is fabricated of a lightweight, rigid material such as plastic, plastic polymer, wood, or metal. Preferably, ball supply tube 20 is fabricated of a translucent plastic or plastic polymer material. The ball supply tube 20 is cylindrical and has an inner diameter being slightly larger than a diametrical measure of a standard golf ball 12, thereby allowing a plurality of golf balls 12 to feed into ball supply tube 20 in single file and stacked formation prior to being released onto a loading arm assembly 60 (to be described later in greater detail).

The ball supply tube 20 is anchored to the ground 14 in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect thereto via an anchor mechanism 30 (to be described later in greater detail) so that golf balls 12 feed by gravity from tube 20 to a ball seat 66 of the loading arm assembly 60.

The loading arm assembly 60 comprises substantially parallel side rails 62 and 63 having outer ends pivotally secured via a locking assembly 80 to a front support bracket 70 (shown more clearly in FIG. 4) welded or otherwise suitably mounted to a lower, external circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20 proximal to the anterior end 22 thereof. Bracket 70 defines an elongated body 72 having a concave channel 74 formed along the upper surface thereof opposing a generally flat lower surface 75. The concave channel 74 is shaped so as to mount snugly against the lower, external circumferential surface of ball supply tube 20.

The parallel side rails 62 and 63 of loading arm assembly 60 are secured to bracket 70 in such a manner so as to extend outwardly from a lower plane of the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20 and to be elevated above the ground 14 in a declined position when the present invention is anchored to the ground 14, as illustrated in FIG. 1. An enlarged circular loop 64 forming a ball seat 66 interconnects the outer ends of the side rails 62 and 63. The enlarged circular loop 64 defines a diameter being sufficient so as to allow a standard golf ball 12 to rest immobilized thereatop. The side rails 62 are suitably spaced so as to allow a golf ball 12 to roll downwardly there along towards ball seat 66. A contractile member 65 is mounted perpendicularly between side rails 62 and 63 in order to hold side rails 62 and 63 in a fixed, spaced relationship. Contractile member 65 is mounted proximal to the ball seat 66. The side rails 62, 63 and enlarged circular loop 64 are fabricated of a flexible, semi-rigid material selected from the group which includes but is not limited to nylon, leather, rubber, plastic, and plastic polymer. The fabrication material is sufficiently rigid such that side rails 62, 63 maintain an elongated, rigid position while ball seat 66 supports a golf ball 12, and sufficiently flexible so as to nutate laterally upon striking the golf ball 12, after which side rails 62, 63 resume an elongated, rigid position.

The locking assembly 80 comprises a wingnut-bolt and washer assembly 82 adapted to pivotally secure side rails 62, 63 to opposed lateral sidewalls of bracket 70. As shown in FIG. 1, and more particularly FIG. 3, one end of the wingnut-bolt and washer assembly 82 extends through a suitable aperture 76 defined through the lateral sidewall of bracket 70 and is supported thereby. The wingnut-bolt and washer assembly 82 allows the ball seat 66 to be vertically adjusted and fixedly positioned to a desired, suspended height above ground 14. The wingnut-bolt and washer assembly 82 further allows the ball seat 66 to be vertically adjusted so as to rest atop the ground 14, in the event user so desires.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 4-8, the anchor mechanism 30 comprises a pair of generally C-shaped members 31, namely an anterior C-shaped member 32 and a posterior C-shaped member 32a, each defining a circular cross-section. Each C-shaped member 32, 32a defines a horizontal member 33 having opposed ends from which legs 34, 35 and 34a, 35a, respectively, extend integrally downward respectfully therefrom. Each leg 34, 35, 34a, 35a tapers into a lower pointed end 36 so as to facilitate insertion into the ground 14. Legs 34a, 35a of posterior C-shaped member 32a define a greater length with respect to legs 34, 35 of anterior C-shaped member 32 so as to facilitate anchoring of ball supply tube 20 in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect to the ground 14.

In order to support the ball supply tube 20 in an elevated position above ground 14, front support bracket 70 includes a circular bore 78 defined through the lateral sidewall thereof, posterior to aperture 76. The circular bore 78 is sized so as to slidably receive in a snug-fit manner anterior C-shaped member 32. More specifically, the leg 35 of anterior C-shaped member 32 is inserted through bore 78 and is extended therethrough until the horizontal member 33 portion is positioned centrally therein. The anterior C-shaped member 32 rotates in relation to ball supply tube 20, thereby allowing anterior C-shaped member 32 to be rotatably positioned rearward such that the lower pointed ends 36 of legs 34, 35 are directed toward the open posterior end 24 of ball supply tube 20, hence facilitating compact storage and transport. In order to lock anterior C-shaped member 32 such that the legs 34, 35 thereof are directed downward for insertion into the ground, front support bracket 70 is provided with an internally threaded aperture 79 defined through the lower surface 75 thereof and which extends into circular bore 78, wherein threaded aperture 79 is adapted to threadably receive a manually adjustable screw 100, such as a thumb screw 102. Thumb screw 102 is tightened until a lower end thereof engages a flat contact surface 33b of a recess 33a defined in horizontal member 33, thereby securing anterior C-shaped member 32 into a locked position. The recess 33a is formed centrally along the lower sidewall of horizontal member 33. Loosening of thumb screw 102 allows anterior C-shaped member 32 to freely rotate about circular bore 78.

A rear support bracket 110 is welded or suitably mounted to the lower, external circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20, distal to front support bracket 70. The rear support bracket 110 defines an elongated body 112 having a concave channel 114 formed along the upper surface thereof opposing a generally flat lower surface 115. The concave channel 114 is shaped so as to mount snugly against the lower, external circumferential surface of ball supply tube 20. The rear support bracket 110 includes a circular bore 118 defined through the lateral sidewall thereof. The circular bore 118 is sized so as to slidably receive in a snug-fit manner posterior C-shaped member 32a. More specifically, the leg 35a of posterior C-shaped member 32a is inserted through bore 118 and is extended therethrough until the horizontal member 33 portion is positioned centrally therein. The posterior C-shaped member 32a rotates in relation to ball supply tube 20, thereby allowing posterior C-shaped member 32a to be rotatably positioned forward such that the lower pointed ends 36 of legs 34a, 35a are directed toward the open anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, hence facilitating compact storage and transport. In this configuration, and when the lower pointed ends 36 of legs 34, 35 are directed toward the open posterior end 24 of ball supply tube 20, legs 34, 35 can be inserted within the upper opening of a golf bag (not shown) to facilitate quick, easy, and efficient transport of the present invention. In order to lock posterior C-shaped member 32a such that the legs 34a, 35a thereof are directed downward for insertion into the ground, rear support bracket 110 is provided with an internally threaded aperture 119 defined through the lower surface 115 thereof and which extends into circular bore 118, wherein threaded aperture 119 is adapted to threadably receive the manually adjustable screw 100, or thumb screw 102. Thumb screw 102 is tightened until a lower end thereof engages a flat contact surface 33d of a recess 33c defined in horizontal member 33, thereby securing posterior C-shaped member 32a into a locked position. The recess 33c is formed centrally along the lower sidewall of horizontal member 33. Loosening of thumb screw 102 allows posterior C-shaped member 32a to freely rotate about circular bore 118. Referring now to FIG. 9, it is envisioned that the pair of generally C-shaped members 31 are telescopically adjustable. In this particular embodiment, the pair of C-shaped members 31 comprises an anterior C-shaped member 232 and a posterior C-shaped member 232a. Each C-shaped member 232, 232a comprises a tubular horizontal member 233 having opposing ends from which a first tubular arm 235 and a second tubular arm 237 extend integrally downward therefrom respectfully. The first tubular arm 235 and the second tubular arm 237 are adapted to telescopically receive a first leg 240 and a second leg 242, respectively. The legs 240, 242 are adapted to be locked at a desired vertical position via a locking mechanism 250, such as a spring-biased pin assembly 252, mounted along an outer side wall of both the first tubular arm 235 and the second tubular arm 237. Each tubular arm 235, 237 includes a hole 239 defined through the outer sidewall thereof for receiving the pin 253 of spring-biased pin assembly 252. The legs 240, 242 each include a series of holes 243 defined along an outer sidewall thereof, holes 243 being adapted to receive the pin 253 of the spring-biased pin assembly 252. Thus, pin 253 is inserted through hole 239 of arm 235, 237 and extends therefrom to a selected hole 243 of leg 240, 242, thereby allowing anterior C-shaped member 232 and posterior C-shaped member 232a to be vertically adjustable and securable at a desired vertical position. The legs 240, 242 taper into lower pointed ends 244 so as to facilitate insertion into the ground 14.

Referring now more specifically to FIGS. 1 and 10, in order to facilitate controlled golf ball 12 release from ball supply tube 20, a ball release mechanism 90 is provided. The ball release mechanism 90 is adapted to permit a single golf ball 12 to be metered from the ball supply tube 20. The ball release mechanism 90 comprises an upper elongated jaw portion 92 hingedly attached via a spring 95 to a lower elongated jaw portion 94. The lower elongated jaw portion 94 has a bottom side welded or otherwise suitably mounted to the upper, external circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20 proximal to the anterior end 22 thereof. Upper elongated jaw portion 92 includes an anterior end 92a opposing a posterior end 92b. The anterior end 92a of upper elongated jaw portion 92 overhangs the lower elongated jaw portion 94 so as to allow an elongated abutment member 96 to extend downwardly through a circular opening 27 in ball supply tube 20, as will be described later in greater detail. Posterior end 92b includes a plastic or rubber sleeve 98 affixed therearound so as to protect the outer finish of a golf club head (not shown). Spring 95 is urged in a manner such that the anterior end 92a of upper elongated jaw portion 92 is biased downwardly in a resting position. This configuration allows the upper elongated jaw portion 92 to pivot between a first generally declined position (resting position) and a second generally horizontal position. The upper and lower elongated jaw portions 92, 94 are fabricated of a lightweight, rigid material such as plastic, plastic polymer, or metal.

The ball release mechanism 90 further comprises a stop member 99 which limits the second generally horizontal position of upper elongated jaw portion 92. The stop member 99 is mounted atop the lower elongated jaw portion 94, posterior to spring 95 and underneath upper elongated jaw portion 92. The stop member 99 is configured to make contact with upper elongated jaw portion 92 when upper elongated jaw portion 92 is lowered a sufficient distance.

The stop member 99 can be of any suitable configuration. In one embodiment, the stop member 99 is generally circular in a cross section and extends upwardly from the lower elongated jaw portion 94 towards the lower side of upper elongated jaw portion 92.

top member 99 is fabricated of the same material utilized for constructing upper and lower elongated jaw portions 92, 94 or may be covered with any other suitable material in order that contact of upper elongated jaw portion 92 on stop member 99 is blunted, thereby preventing damage to upper elongated jaw portion 92 by such contact.

The elongated abutment member 96 extends downward angularly through an aperture 93 defined through the upper elongated jaw portion 92 along the anterior end 92a thereof. Elongated abutment member 96 may be in the form of screw 97 being secured to upper elongated jaw portion 92 via a nut and washer assembly 98a. Alternatively, elongated abutment member 96 may be suitably mounted to the lower surface of upper elongated jaw portion 92 along the anterior end 92a thereof, or formed integral thereto. Elongated abutment member 96 extends at an angle of approximately 10° through the upper elongated jaw portion 92 as measured along horizontal axis X. In a resting position, elongated abutment member 96 extends a linear distance through a circular opening 27 defined through the upper circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20, wherein circular opening 27 is positioned fore of lower elongated jaw portion 94. When ball release mechanism 90 is in a resting position, the elongated abutment member 96 thereof engages a first golf ball 12 of a series of golf balls 12 positioned in single file and stacked formation within ball supply tube 20, and prevents forward movement by the first golf ball 12. Elongated abutment member 96 functions as a stop to prevent a golf ball(s) 12 from dispensing from the ball supply tube 20. In order to release a single golf ball 12 through the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, the posterior end 92b of upper elongated jaw portion 92 is depressed using the club head of a golf club (not shown), thereby concurrently urging-elongated abutment member 96 upwardly against the urging of spring 95, and causing abutment member 96 to disengage from the first golf ball 12 which allows first golf ball 12 to exit the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, roll slowly down the side rails 62, 63 and into ball seat 66, within which golf ball 12 resides in a resting position. In order to ensure a single golf ball 12 is metered from ball supply tube 20, the posterior end 92b of upper elongated jaw portion 92 is depressed and quickly released. Release of upper elongated jaw portion 92 allows spring 95 to urge elongated abutment member 96 downwardly, thereby causing abutment member 96 to engage a second golf ball 12 or golf ball 12 being next in line of the series of golf balls 12 and preventing the second golf ball 12 from dispensing from the ball supply tube 20.

In order to load golf balls 12 into the ball supply tube 20, according to the preferred embodiment, the upper elongated jaw portion 92 is pressed downwardly and held in such position as golf balls 12 are fed through the open anterior end 22 and into the hollow interior of ball supply tube 20, within which golf balls 12 are stored in single file and stacked formation.

Referring now to FIGS. 11-13, an alternate embodiment of the present invention is provided, wherein ball release mechanism 290 comprises a U-bolt 292 defining a horizontal member 293 from which legs 294, 295 extend integrally downward from opposed ends respectfully therefrom. An upper surface of horizontal member 293 includes an oval shaped club head engaging pedal 298 welded or otherwise suitably mounted thereto. The club head engaging pedal 298 is mounted so as to be positioned in a generally flat or slightly angled orientation atop horizontal member 293. Club head engaging pedal 298 is provided with a plastic or rubber shield 299 mounted thereatop so as to protect the outer finish of a golf club head (not shown). Shield 299 defines a configuration matching club head engaging pedal 298.

The legs 294, 295 terminate into threaded ends 294a, 295a, respectively. Legs 294, 295 are inserted through respective guide cylinders 320 welded or otherwise suitably mounted in a vertical orientation along the lateral sidewalls of ball supply tube 20 at the anterior end 22 thereof. The threaded ends 294a, 295a of legs 294, 295 are inserted through apertures 322, 323, respectfully, defined through a plate 326. A pair of nuts 327 is provided for securing each of the legs 294, 295 to plate 326. The pair of nuts 327 includes an upper nut 328 threadedly engaging the threaded ends 294a, 295a above plate 326, and a lower nut 329 threadedly engaging the threaded ends 294a, 295a below plate 326. Being threadedly adjustable, the pair of nuts 327 allows for selective U-bolt 292 vertical adjustment about plate 326.

The ball release mechanism 290 further comprises an elongated abutment element 330 having a threaded lower end 332. An upper end of abutment element 330 is inserted through a suitable hole 326a defined centrally through plate 326 and extends through a suitable hole 77 defined through the lower surface 75 of bracket 70, and through a hole 20a defined through the lower external circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20 proximal to the anterior end 22 thereof. A pair of nuts 334 is provided for securing abutment element 330 to plate 326. The pair of nuts 334 includes an upper nut 335 threadedly engaging the threaded end 332 of abutment element 330 above plate 326, and a lower nut 336 threadedly engaging the threaded end 332 of abutment element 330 below plate 326. Being threadedly adjustable, the pair of nuts 334 allows for selective vertical adjustment by abutment element 330 about plate 326.

U-bolt 292 is biased upwardly by a spring 338 suitably disposed between an upper surface of each guide cylinder 320 and an annular flange 339 welded or otherwise suitably mounted below each bend 397 of U-bolt 292. The spring 338 is defined as a compression spring 338a or an open-coil helical spring constructed to oppose linear compressional forces. Alternatively, elongated abutment element 330 may be welded or otherwise suitably mounted centrally atop plate 326.

In a resting position, abutment element 330 projects upwardly from plate 326 and protrudes vertically through hole 20a defined through the lower external circumferential sidewall of ball supply tube 20 and engages a first golf ball 12 of a series of golf balls 12 positioned in single file and stacked formation within ball supply tube 20. Abutment element 330 functions as a stop to prevent a golf ball(s) 12 from dispensing from the ball supply tube 20. Depression of club head engaging pedal 298 concurrently urges abutment element 330 downwardly against the urging of compression spring 338a, thereby causing abutment element 330 to disengage from the first golf ball 12, and allowing first golf ball 12 to exit the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, roll slowly down the side rails 62, 63 and into ball seat 66, within which golf ball 12 resides in a resting position. Release of the club head engaging pedal 298 allows the spring 338 to urge abutment element 330 upwardly, thereby causing abutment element 330 to engage a subsequent golf ball 12 of the series of golf balls 12 and preventing the subsequent golf ball 12 from dispensing from the ball supply tube 20. In order to ensure a single golf ball 12 is metered from ball supply tube 20, the club head engaging pedal 298 is depressed and quickly released.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 14, a ball retrieval mechanism 140 is provided, wherein ball retrieval mechanism 140 is mounted to the open posterior end 24 of ball supply tube 20. The ball retrieval mechanism 140 is fabricated of a semi-rigid, flexibly resilient material, such as plastic, plastic polymer, or rubber. Ball retrieval mechanism 140 is shown herein as comprising a collar 142 having a plurality of impingement members 144 formed integral and spaced equally along an interior circumferential sidewall thereof. The impingement members 144 are spaced by a plurality of recesses 145. The impingement members 144 collectively form a circular configuration sizably adapted to flexibly conform to a spherical configuration of a golf ball 12. The collar 142 includes an annular opening 146 extending into a hollow interior of ball supply tube 20. In order to facilitate golf ball 12 retrieval, the impingement members 144 are pressed downwardly over a golf ball 12 resting on the ground 14, whereupon impingement members 144 protract outwardly to slide over and conform tightly to the spherical configuration of golf ball 12, so as to hold golf ball 12 between impingement members 144. Contact by outer end of collar 142 with the ground 14 causes golf ball 12 to slide past impingement members 144 and to release into the hollow interior of ball supply tube 20. As golf ball 12 passes impingement members 144, impingement members 144 flexibly return or contract to their natural configuration, thus preventing golf ball 12 from releasing or escaping through ball retrieval mechanism 140.

In order to load golf balls 12 into the ball supply tube 20, according to the alternate embodiment, the club head engaging pedal 298 is pressed downwardly and held in such position as golf balls 12 are fed through the open anterior end 22 and into the hollow interior of ball supply tube 20, within which golf balls 12 are stored in single file and stacked formation.

Finally, referring to FIGS. 10 and 15, an end cap 120 is provided for securing a series of golf balls 12 within ball supply tube 20 so as to ensure golf balls 12 are not released therefrom due to inadvertent activation of ball release mechanism 90. The end cap 120 is fabricated of a rubber, plastic, or plastic polymer material. End cap 120 defines a generally circular configuration having a cylindrical body 122 extending integrally upward from a lower side 121 thereof. Cylindrical body 122 includes a closed top portion 123. Cylindrical body 122 and lower side 121 of end cap 120 are integrally connected at an interface 124 from which extends a peripheral edge 126. A bulbous tab 128 extends integrally outward from the peripheral edge 126. In order to removably secure end cap 120 to the open anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, an annular collar 129 is affixed to the open anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20 via a plurality of fasteners 130. The cylindrical body 122 of end cap 120 is adapted to mate with annular collar 129. More specifically, end cap 120 engages annular collar 129 in a manner such that the external circumferential sidewall of cylindrical body 122 intimately mates with an inner circumferential sidewall of annular collar 120. Cylindrical body 122 and annular collar 129 have a snug-fit relationship. End cap 120 is urged forward until an outer end of annular collar 129 contacts an upper surface of the peripheral edge 126 of end cap 120, thus removably securing end cap 120 to annular collar 129 via frictional or mechanical interference. The bulbous tab 128 provides a gripping means to facilitate easy manual removal of end cap 120 from annular collar 129.

An elongated tether 132 is provided which extends integrally from the peripheral edge 126 of end cap 120, opposing bulbous tab 128. An outer end of elongated tether 132 is fastened to the external circumferential sidewall of annular collar 129 via a fastener 130.

2. Operation of the Preferred Embodiment

To use the present invention, user depresses the upper elongated jaw portion 92 of the ball release mechanism 90 and holds the jaw portion 92 in such downward position in order to feed golf balls 12 through the open anterior end 22 and into the hollow interior of ball supply tube 20, within which the golf balls 12 are stored in single file and in stacked formation. Once the ball supply tube 20 is filled with a desired number of golf balls 12, user releases the upper elongated jaw portion 92, thereby preventing golf balls 12 from dispensing from the ball supply tube 20. User next rotates the anterior and posterior C-shaped members 32 and 32a in a manner whereby the legs 34, 35 and 34a, 35a, respectively thereof are directed downward for insertion into the ground 14. To lock the C-shaped members 32 and 32a in a downward position, user tightens thumb screw 102 within threaded aperture 79 and 119, respectively. User then inserts C-shaped members 32 and 32a into the ground 14 in such a manner that the present invention is positioned in an elevationally-declined orientation with respect to the ground 14. The posterior end 24 of ball supply tube 20 is positioned so as to be oriented at a higher elevation than the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, thereby allowing golf balls 12 to feed by gravity from tube 20 to the ball seat 66 of the loading arm assembly 60. Finally, user depresses the posterior end 92b of the upper elongated jaw portion 92 of the ball release mechanism 90 using the club head of a golf club, thereby concurrently urging the elongated abutment member 96 upwardly against the urging of spring 95, and causing abutment member 96 to disengage from the first golf ball 12 which allows the first golf ball 12 to exit the anterior end 22 of ball supply tube 20, roll slowly down the side rails 62, 63 and into ball seat 66, within which golf ball 12 resides in a resting position. In order to ensure a single golf ball 12 is metered from ball supply tube 20, the posterior end 92b of upper elongated jaw portion 92 is depressed and quickly released. User then drives the golf ball 12 off of ball seat 66 or tee. User actuates the ball release mechanism 90 each time user desires to drive a golf ball 12 from ball seat 66.

The use of the present invention allows a single golf ball to be metered from a supply tube and travel therefrom to rest atop an elevated ball seat in a manner which is quick, easy, and efficient.

Therefore, the foregoing description is included to illustrate the operation of the preferred embodiment and is not meant to limit the scope of the invention. As one can envision, an individual skilled in the relevant art, in conjunction with the present teachings, would be capable of incorporating many minor modifications that are anticipated within this disclosure. The foregoing descriptions of specific embodiments of the present invention have been presented for purposes of illustration and description. They are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed, and obviously many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical application, to thereby enable others skilled in the art to best utilize the invention and various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the Claims appended hereto and their equivalents. Therefore, the scope of the invention is to be broadly limited only by the following Claims.