Title:
PUTTING PRACTICE AND GAME TABLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A putting game table housing a playing surface elevated from the surface on which it rests. The playing surface has at least one hole capable of receiving a golf ball. The table provides a floor collection area and a table surface collection area for the golf balls not in play. A mechanism which transports the golf balls from the floor collection area to the surface collection area is provided.



Inventors:
Duque, Antonio J. (Fishers, IN, US)
Application Number:
12/256584
Publication Date:
05/14/2009
Filing Date:
10/23/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GRAHAM, MARK S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A game playable with balls comprising: a playing surface including a plurality of holes extending through said playing surface to allow a ball to selectably move from said playing surface through one of said holes; an outer stop surrounding said playing surface to limit movement of balls off said playing surface; a ball collector area to receive balls from said playing surface; and, a plurality of return ball members extending downwardly from said holes and all terminating at said ball collector track to catch balls falling through said holes and directing the balls toward said ball collector area for storage of said balls.

2. The game of claim 1 wherein: said playing surface is flat and said outer stop includes an inclined surface extending upwardly from said playing surface to direct balls rolling thereon back to said playing surface, said outer stop further includes a stop surface extending upwardly from said inclined surface and surrounding said playing surface and said inclined surface to limit movement of balls off of the game.

3. The game of claim 2 wherein: said return ball members include pairs of mutually opposed and upwardly extending walls limiting movement of said balls off of said return ball members.

4. The game of claim 2 wherein: said return ball members include a tube having a diameter larger than the diameter of said balls.

5. The game of claim 1 wherein: said ball collector area includes a ball collector track to align said balls in sequential fashion, said ball collector track having a floor level portion, an inclined portion, and a playing surface portion, said inclined portion having a first end and a second end, said first end being connected to said floor level portion, said second end being connected to said playing surface portion, said playing surface portion being elevated with respect to said floor portion.

6. The game of claim 5 wherein: said playing surface portion includes a receiving gate, a first track and a second track having a common junction, said first track and said second track split from said inclined portion at said common junction, wherein said receiving gate is positioned at said common junction.

7. The game of claim 5 wherein: said playing surface portion has an exit gate and a distal end located near said playing surface, wherein said exit gate is positioned adjacent to said distal end.

8. The game of claim 7 wherein: said exit gate is comprised of a bias spring, a horizontal member and a vertical member, said horizontal member is connected to said bias spring.

9. The game of claim 1 further comprising: a plurality of legs supporting said playing surface and maintaining said playing surface at an elevated height.

10. The game of claim 9 further comprising: a wedge having a plurality of steps upon with said legs can rest.

11. The game of claim 1 further comprising: an inflatable air bag supporting said playing surface at an elevated height; and, a compressor in fluid communication with said inflatable air bag.

12. A game to be positioned on a supporting floor and playable with balls comprising: a playing surface including a plurality of holes extending through said playing surface to allow a ball to selectably move from said playing surface through one of said holes; an outer stop surrounding said playing surface to limit movement of balls off said playing surface; a floor collector track to receive balls from said playing surface and align said balls in sequential fashion; a raised collector track to align said balls in sequential fashion in order for the balls to be dispensed onto said playing surface; and, elevating means for moving said golf balls from said floor collector track to said raised collector track.

13. The game of claim 12 further comprising: a plurality of return ball tracks corresponding to each of said holes, said return ball tracks extending downwardly from said holes and terminating at said floor collector track.

14. The game of claim 12 wherein said elevating means include: a motor having an output; a sprocket fixedly connected to said output; a chain mechanically engaged with said sprocket; a plurality of fingers fixed to said chain, said fingers extending outwardly from said chain; and, an elevation track having a first end and a second end, said first end connected to said floor collector track, said second end connected to said raised collector track.

15. The game of claim 12 wherein said elevating means include: a motor having an output; a circular member fixedly connected to said output, said circular member having a first side and a second side, said first side being adjacent to said floor collector track and said raised collector track; a plurality of openings located around the peripheral edges of said circular member; and, a plurality of cages corresponding to each of said openings, said cages are attached to said circular member on said second side.

16. The game of claim 15 wherein: said cage has a front portion and a back portion, said front portion fixedly mounted to said circular member, said front portion is elevated from said back portion when said cage is positioned closest to said supporting floor and said back portion is elevated from said front portion when said cage is above said raised collector track.

17. The game of claim 12 wherein said elevating means include: an elevation track having a first end and a second end, said first end connected to said floor collector track, said second end connected to said raised collector track; a motor having an output; a rod fixedly connected to said output; and an auger blade fixedly connected to said rod, said blade creating a series of helical flightings sufficient to receive one of said balls, wherein said rod is positioned parallel with said elevation track.

18. A game table to be positioned on a surface and playable with golf balls, said game table comprising: a platform including a plurality of holes extending through said platform, said platform is flat; an outer portion surrounding said platform to limit movement of balls off the game table, said outer portion includes an inclined surface extending upwardly from said platform and a retaining wall extending upwardly from said inclined surface; a lower collector track to receive balls from said platform and align said balls in sequential fashion; an elevated collector track to align said balls in sequential fashion in order for said balls to be dispensed onto said platform; a plurality of ball returns extending downwardly from said holes and all terminating at said lower collector track to catch balls falling through said holes and directing the balls toward said lower collector track for storage of said balls; a motor having an output; a sprocket fixedly connected to said output; a chain mechanically engaged with said sprocket; a plurality of fingers fixed to said chain, said fingers extending outwardly from said chain; and, an inclined track having a first end and a second end, said first end connected to said lower collector track, said second end connected to said elevated collector track; and, a plurality of legs attached to said platform, said legs maintain said platform at an elevated height above said surface.

19. The game table of claim 18 further comprising: a wedge having a plurality of steps upon with said legs can rest.

20. The game table of claim 18 further comprising: an inflatable air bag mounted to said platform; and, a compressor in fluid communication with said inflatable air bag.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/987,223 filed on Nov. 12, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to the field of games of skill and knowledge, and more particularly to a putting game table.

BACKGROUND

Golf putting games and pool table games are both known in the art. One such example is U.S. Pat. No. 6,846,243 showing a putting pool game including a portable game frame to be placed upon the floor. A major disadvantage of the known putting and pool games is that they do not provide a way to conveniently collect the game balls into a central location, thereby requiring the user to manually collect the scattered balls. Because the user must take time to physically collect the golf balls, the user's time and energy must be diverted from the game play. Further, the golf or pool games of the prior art do not allow for the playing surface to be adjusted so as to change the game play characteristics of the game table, thereby making it virtually impossible to manipulate the level of difficulty. Thus, there is a need for an improved putting game table that addresses these disadvantages and others.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides an improved putting game table. The claims, and only the claims, define the invention.

One embodiment of the present invention is a game playable with balls comprising a playing surface including a plurality of holes extending through said playing surface to allow a ball to selectably move from the playing surface through one of the holes. The playing surface is surrounded by an outer stop to limit movement of balls off of the playing surface. A ball collector track is provided to receive balls from the playing surface and align the balls in sequential fashion. A plurality of return ball members extend downwardly from the holes and all terminating at the ball collector track to catch balls falling through the holes and directing the balls toward the ball collector track for storage of the balls.

One object of the present invention is to provide a putting game table that overcomes the shortcomings of the prior art devices.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a putting game table that collects the golf balls no longer in play.

Further, objectives and advantages of the present invention will appear as the description proceeds.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top view of a putting table according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged end view of a putting table according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged, fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1 and viewed in the direction of the arrows shown.

FIG. 4 is a top view showing the ball return portions and floor collection tray according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary side view looking in the direction of arrow 5-5 of FIG. 1 illustrating the floor collection area according to one aspect of the present disclosure.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged, fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 4 and viewed in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 7 is an elevated perspective view illustrating alternate collection tracks and conveyor system according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary side view of the collection tracks and conveyor system of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary top view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary top view of an exit gate according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 11 is a fragmentary perspective view of the exit gate of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a fragmentary side view of yet another embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 13 is a fragmentary end view of the embodiment of FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is a fragmentary side view of yet another embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 15 is an elevated view of one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 16 is an enlarged end view of one embodiment of the present disclosure that allows the user to adjust the game play.

FIG. 17 is an enlarged end view of another embodiment of the present disclosure that allows the user to adjust the game play.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated herein and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Such alterations and further modifications in the described processes, systems or devices, any further applications of the principles of the invention as described herein, are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates, now and/or in the future.

The language used in the claims is to only have its plain and ordinary meaning, except as explicitly defined herein. Such plain and ordinary meaning is inclusive of all consistent dictionary definitions from the most recently published Webster's dictionaries and Random House dictionaries.

Referring generally to FIGS. 1-3, the preferred embodiment of putting table 20 includes flat surface 22 and inclined peripheral walls 24. As shown, inclined walls 24 run along the peripheral edges of putting table 20. Holes 26 are placed at various locations within flat surface 22. According to one embodiment, four holes 26 are placed within flat surface 22. In one embodiment, the openings of holes 26 have a dimension of 4.25″ in diameter. Floor collection area 28, which is described in more detail below, is positioned adjacent to one edge of table 20. As illustrated, floor collection area 28 includes a floor collection tray 36. As shown by the dotted lines, each hole 26 is connected to a straight ball return portion 34, in which golf ball 38 may be gravity fed to the floor collection area 28. Retaining walls 30 are located around the outer edges of table 20. In one embodiment, retaining wall 30 is several inches tall, so as to ensure that the golf balls stay within the playing surface.

Specifically referring to FIG. 2, each hole 26 has an open end facing up from flat surface 22. Opposite to its open end, each hole 26 is connected to an angled ball return portion 32, which is connected to straight ball return portion 34. According to one embodiment, angled ball return portions 32 and straight ball return portions 34 are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Straight ball return portions 34 may be made of tubing, tracks, rails, or any other structure capable of allowing a ball to roll down it. For example, straight ball return portion 34 may have a structure similar to floor collection tray 36, in which a pair of mutually opposed walls limit the movement of the balls 38 off of the straight ball return portion 34. In the embodiment in which straight ball return portion 34 is made of tubing, the tubing has a diameter greater than the diameter of said golf balls 38. As illustrated, straight ball return portions 34 have one end attached to angled ball return portion 32 and an open, opposite end facing floor collection tray 36. As shown, straight ball return portions 34 are inclined relative to floor 48. In one embodiment, table 20 has horizontal dimensions of 8 feet×12 feet, though other dimensions are contemplated.

Now specifically referencing FIG. 3, table 20 generally includes matted material 40, angled platform portion 42, platform 44 and leg 46. Matted material 40 is affixed to the top portions of platform 44 and angled platform portion 42, as well as to the inside of retaining wall 30. Matted material 40 may be made of any commercially available synthetic putting green material, such as nylon. Angled portion 42 is affixed around the outer edges of platform 44 to create inclined peripheral walls 24. According to one embodiment, angled portion 42 is tilted up 150 relative to the horizontal surface created by platform 44. The upward tilt of angled portion 42 helps to ensure that the golf balls stay away from the outer edge of table 20. According to one embodiment, the upper surface of angled portion 42 has a horizontal dimension of 15 inches. The top surfaces of platform 44 and angled platform portions 42 define a playing surface upon which putting practice and various putting games can be played.

As demonstrated in FIG. 1, the inner points of angled portions 42 define the boundary of flat surface 22. Leg 46 is secured to platform 44, which provides stability and support to table 20, as well as maintain platform 44 at a certain height above floor 48. In one embodiment, angled portions 42, platform 44, and leg 46 are made of wood; however, the use of lighter materials may also be employed, such as aluminum. Depending on the materials used, table 20 may be constructed through the use of a variety of fasteners, such as adhesives, nails, staples, metal fasteners, and nuts and bolts. According to another embodiment, platform 44 is made of ¾ inch plywood or particle board.

Referring now generally to FIGS. 4-6, straight ball return portions 34 as described above, are inclined relative to floor 48. Therefore, as shown by the direction arrows in FIG. 4, after the player hits a golf ball 38 into hole 26, the golf ball 38 is gravity fed into floor collection tray 36. As shown in FIG. 5, collection tray 36 is also inclined relative to the floor 48. The portion of floor collection tray 36 which receives the balls from straight ball return portions 34 is raised with respect to its opposite end. Therefore, as illustrated by the arrow in FIG. 5, golf balls 38 are gravity fed to the end of floor tray 36 opposite of straight ball return portions 34. FIG. 6 illustrates that floor collection tray 36 is wide enough to easily receive return golf ball 38 from straight golf ball return portion 34. After exiting straight golf ball return portion 34, golf ball 38 hits the opposite wall of tray 36 to stop its momentum, in which it will then be fed down the collection tray 36. The opposing walls of floor collection tray 36 align the golf balls 38 in a sequential fashion. In one embodiment, floor collection tray 36 is approximately 43 inches in length and has a width of approximately 2.5 inches. Alternatively, floor collection tray 36 of floor collection area 28 can be replaced by a retaining area positioned adjacent to the ends of straight ball return portions 34. Though the retaining area holds the returned golf balls 38 in a random fashion, such an area still provides the benefit of conveniently collecting the returned balls to a central location.

According to one aspect of the present disclosure, as shown in FIG. 7, putting table 20 can include floor collection area 28, a conveyor belt system 60 and a surface collection area 66. Unlike the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7 provides a mechanism to elevate balls from floor collection area 28 to surface collection area 66. As previously discussed, straight ball return portions 34 feed the balls 38 hit into holes 26 into collection tray 36, which are then gravity fed down to the collection tray 36 opposite the ends of straight ball return portions 34.

Conveyor belt system 60 guides the golf ball 38 up from the floor collection area 28 along track 62 up into surface collection area 66. As shown in FIGS. 8-9, conveyor belt system 60 comprises a two railed track 62 configured to receive a golf ball 38 between the two tracks. As shown, track 62 diverges at a point and splits into two separate tracks 67, thereby sharing a common junction. According to one embodiment, each track 67 has a length capable of holding 15 golf balls. Receiving gate 64 is positioned at the vertex, or junction, of tracks 67 and can be positioned by the user (for example, to the left or right) to force a returned golf ball 38 into one track or the other as shown. Receiving gate 64 is fixed to and can rotate about pivot 65. Stops 78 are positioned adjacent to pivot 65 on each track 67. Stops 78 help maintain receiving gate 64 in the desired position, thus forcing the receiving gate 64 to properly direct the balls one way or the other.

Looking now more particularly to the conveyor system, as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, sprocket 70 is engaged with chain 72, and a series of cleats 74 are intermittently placed along chain 72. An output 77 of motor 76 is fixably connected to sprocket 70, such that rotation of the output 77 of motor 76 forces the rotation of sprocket 70. Due to the mechanical engagement between the teeth of sprocket 70 and the links of chain 72, the activation of motor 76 causes the rotation of chain 72 which in turn causes the movement of cleats 74. As shown, cleats 74 are spaced sufficiently to allow a golf ball 38 to lie between adjacent cleats 74 within track 62. When motor 76 is activated, cleats 74 push golf ball 38 up along track 62, at which point it may then pass receiving gate 64 to be placed along the appropriate track 67. Because floor collector track 36 maintains the balls 38 in a sequential fashion, cleats 74 are able to receive a single golf ball 38 at a time.

As shown in FIG. 7, at the end of track 67 are located exit gates 68. According to one embodiment, tracks 67 are inclined slightly, such that the lowest point of each track 67 is at exit gate 68. FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate exit gate 68 in greater detail. Exit gate 68 is comprised of a horizontal member 80 and vertical member 82. As shown, one end of horizontal member 80 is connected at one end to vertical member 82, while the opposite end of horizontal member 80 is connected to pivot 69. Additionally, horizontal member 80 is connected to bias spring 84, which is connected to support 86. According to one embodiment, horizontal member 80 is composed of a ¼″ to ⅜″ diameter metal rod. The horizontal member 80 rests across the path of golf balls 38 resting within track 67, preventing them from rolling onto the putting surface of table 20.

In operation, as illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11, an individual can use his or her putter 88 to contact and push vertical member 82, rotating horizontal member 80 about pivot 69. Because exit gate 68 is located near the playing surface of putting table 20, golf balls 38 enter the playing surface of putting table 20 after a sufficient gap is created between horizontal member 80 and the end of track 67. Upon the user removing pressure from vertical member 82, bias spring 84 will return horizontal member 80 back to its original position, thereby not allowing additional golf balls 38 to enter the playing surface.

FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate yet another embodiment which provides another way to transport golf balls 38 from the floor collection area 28 to the surface collection area 66. As shown, Ferris wheel assembly 90 includes floor track 92, a center rod 94, circular board 96, holes 98 and surface track 100. Located around the perimeter of circular board 96 are a series of holes 98. Located adjacent to each hole 98 is a cage 104, which has a front portion 105 and an opposed back portion 107. Front portion 105 is mounted to circular board 96 around the particular hole 98. As illustrated in FIG. 13, front portion 105 is elevated with respect to back portion 107 when cage 104 is positioned closest to floor 48. Alternatively, back portion 107 is elevated with respect to front portion 105 when cage 104 is positioned above surface track 100. Though not shown, surface collection track 100 is connected to surface collection area 66 of FIGS. 7 and 9.

In the embodiment shown, golf balls 38 are gravity fed from floor collection tray 36 into cage 104. The output of a motor 102 is fixedly connected to rod 94, which in turn is fixedly connected to circular board 96. When motor 102 is activated, motor 102 causes the rotation of rod 94, thereby causing circular board 96 to rotate in the same direction. Once golf ball 38 enters cage 104, both the ball 38 and cage 104 are circularly rotated up about rod 94. The tilt of the cage 104 keeps the ball 38 within the cage 104, until the circular board 96 rotates to such a degree that the tilt of the cage 104 becomes inverted and the ball 38 drops back out onto surface track 100. In one embodiment, the circular board 96 is large enough so that the point where the golf ball 38 falls from the cage 104 is at or near the highest point of a surface track 100.

As shown in FIG. 14 an auger system 109 is shown. According to this system, Auger system 109 includes track 110, rod 112, and auger blade 114. Rod 112 is connected to a motor (not shown), the output of which rotates rod 112 when activated. The rotation of rod 112 causes the rotation of helical flightings of auger blade 114. In this embodiment, the spacing between flights is sufficient to hold a golf ball. Therefore, during operation and activation of the motor, the rotating helical flightings of auger blade 114 receive a gravity fed golf ball 38 from floor collection tray 36. Through subsequent rotations of the auger blades 114, the golf ball 38 is transported up between the rods of track 110, as denoted by the arrow shown in FIG. 14.

According to one embodiment, the height of each of the four corners of the putting table 20 should be made level so that from any point on the horizontal plane of flat surface 22, a putted golf ball 38 will travel in a straight line. However, according to further embodiments, the platform 44 may be lifted, causing the entire putting surface to tilt. As illustrated in FIG. 15, the tilt results in breaking puts of varying amounts depending on the height the platform is lifted. This tilting allows the user to manipulate the game play of the table's putting surface.

Specific reference will now be made to FIG. 16. In the embodiment shown, various methods may be employed to raise one side of table 20 to the desired height, such as through the use of a car jack or by manually lifting the table. When one side of the platform 44 reaches the desired height, a wedge block 120 is pushed against the legs 46 of the table 20. The legs 46 are then able to rest upon one of the level surfaces of the block 120. The wedge block 120 has multiple steps 122 upon which the leg 46 can rest. In one embodiment, wedge block 120 has steps 122 having approximately 1 inch of rise and 1 inch of run.

As shown in FIG. 17, a low rider assembly 130 may also be employed to create a tilt in platform 44. In this instance, the low rider assembly 130 replaces two of the legs 46. The assembly 130 comprises one or more inflatable air bags 132, which are in fluid communication with a compressor 134. In one embodiment, the low rider assembly 130 is positioned along the long side of table 20. The inflation/deflation of air bags 132 is controlled by switch 136, which operates a valve letting air in or out of air bags 132, resulting in the raising or lowering of platform 44.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the invention are desired to be protected. It is also contemplated that structures and features embodied in the present examples can be altered, rearranged, substituted, deleted, duplicated, combined, or added to each other. The articles “the”, “a” and “an” are not necessarily limited to mean only one, but rather are inclusive and open ended so as to include, optionally, multiple such elements.