Title:
ADJUSTABLE STIFFNESS SHAFT STRUCTURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shaft structure with an adjustable stiffness is provided for golf clubs, fishing rods and like apparatuses. The shaft structure employs an inner and outer shaft structure. The golfer, in practice, configures the stiffness of a golf shaft, by adjusting the pressure of an inner shaft structure. The combination of outer and inner shaft structure stiffness results in an advantageous stiffness profile. The golfer can, at any time and very easily, change the stiffness profile of the golf shaft.



Inventors:
Qualizza, Gregory Keith (Orland Park, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/946515
Publication Date:
06/25/2009
Filing Date:
12/21/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B53/12
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BLAU, STEPHEN LUTHER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Gregory Qualizza (Orland Park, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An adjustable shaft structure comprising an inner shaft structure and outer st aft structure wherein the outside diameter of said inner shaft structure is less than the inside diameter of said outer shaft structure; said inner shaft structure being in mechanical communication with said outer shaft structure; said inner shaft structure having an axial tension generated by a biasing means in which said axial tension upon said inner shaft structure induces a stiffness of said inner shaft structure; said stiffness of said inner shaft structure being mechanically conveyed to said outer shaft structure in order to effect an overall stiffness of said adjustable shaft structure.

2. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 1 wherein said inner shaft structure is fastened, within said, outer shaft structure by a mechanical means.

3. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 1 wherein said biasing means is comprised of a fluid.

4. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 3, wherein said fluid is pressurized by an apparatus to adjust said axial tension.

5. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 4, wherein said apparatus includes a piston.

6. A shaft structure as in claim 5, wherein said apparatus includes a sleeve.

7. A shaft structure as in claim 1, wherein indication of said, stiffness of said inner shaft structure and said outer shaft structure is annunciated.

8. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 1, wherein said shaft structure is connected to a golf club.

9. An adjustable shaft structure as in claim 1, wherein said shaft structure is connected to a sports implement.

10. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness comprising in combination a first tube a stiffening apparatus

11. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 10 wherein said stiffening apparatus is contained within said first tube and said, stiffening apparatus resistance to bending is mechanically conveyed to said first tube.

12. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 11 wherein said stiffening apparatus is comprised of all elongated chamber.

13. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 12 wherein said elongated chamber is filled with a fluid.

14. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 13 wherein said fluid is under compression.

15. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 14 wherein said compression is effected by a piston.

16. A shaft structure having a configurable stiffness as in claim 10 wherein said stiffness is indicated.

17. A shaft structure being comprised of a plurality of nested tube structures wherein at least a first tube structure is contained within a second tube structure.

18. A shaft structure as in claim 17 wherein said first, tube structure has a characteristic of a first stiffness.

19. A shaft structure as in claim 17 wherein said second tube structure has a characteristic of a second stiffness.

20. A shaft structure as in claim 18 wherein said first stiffness of said first tube structure is generated by a stress that is applied to said first tube structure.

21. A shaft structure as in claim 20 wherein said stress is variable.

22. A shaft structure as in claim 20 wherein said stress is generated by an apparatus.

23. A shaft structure as in claim 22 wherein said apparatus is comprised of a piston and a sleeve wherein a seal is in communicative cooperation with said piston and said sleeve.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to shafts for golf clubs, fishing rods and like apparatuses and more particularly where the stiffness of these devices can be adjusted by the user in an advantageous manner to match their physical abilities.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Golf shafts are typically manufactured with a predetermined stiffness or flex. The stiffness of a golf shaft refers to its resistance to bend under load and is typically measured as the amount of deflection the shaft experiences when the shaft is positioned horizontally and subjected to a constant force. Presently, golf shafts are mass produced with a predefined stiffness or flex without regard for a golfer's individual swing mechanics. Typically, the flex is provide in discreet stiffness's such as A, R, S, X. These flex ranges are designed in an attempt to accommodate a vast multitude of golfers.

The correct stiffness of a golf shaft plays a pivotal role in proper club performance. A golf shaft that is too flexible tends to promote a hook whereas a golf shaft that is too stiff tends to cause the golf ball to slice. As an alternative to off the shelf golf clubs golfers have often sought out experienced professional club makers in order to have their golf clubs fitted to the proper stiffness. Typically, the process is time consuming and involves numerous pieces of equipment, expertise and expense. Ultimately the attempt is to fine tune the stiffness of the golf shaft to match the golfer's swing dynamics and physical performance. However, a golfer's performance can dramatically change over time.

Prevailing weather conditions can also dictate the stiffness required of a golf shaft. For example, on a windy day, a golfer might choose to readjust their shaft for a stiffness that promotes a lower, penetrating ball flight which reduces the affects of the wind. Conversely, on a day with little or no wind, a golfer may choose to readjust the stiffness to promote a higher launch angle.

Course conditions will also dictate what type of shaft stiffness is required. For instance, on a golf course with narrow fairways accuracy is at a premium whereas a wide open fairway would be more forgiving. Longer courses require a greater distance off the tee. Accuracy in a golf shot calls for a stiffer shaft whereas achieving more distance is a benefit derived from a more flexible golf shaft.

Various proposals to provide variable stiffness for a golf Club shaft (or even a fishing pole) have previously been made that involve using a hollow shaft charged with a gas or liquid fluid that can be pressurized and by mechanical devices such as rods, jackscrews and the like. Increasing the fluid pressure in the shaft increases the shaft stiffness. Increasing the length, of the rod increases the tension and, hence shaft stiffness.

Such pressurizable shafts are illustrated, for example, by Menzies U.S. Pat. No. 1,831,255, Sears U.S. Pat. No. 2,432,450, Busch U.S. Pat. No. 3,037,775, Burrough U.S. Pat. No. 4,800,668 (a fishing rod), Simmons U.S. Pat. No. 5,316,300, Koch et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,540,625, Painter U.S. Pat. No. 5,632,693, Qualizza U.S. Pat. No. 7,226,365.

So far as is known, these variable stiffness, hollow shaft structures of attempt to change the stiffness of golf shaft by pressurizing a fluid which introduces an axial stress on the golf shaft. All suffer from several significant shortcomings. Hollow golf shafts that are filled with a liquid are dramatically heavier as compared to conventional golf shafts. For example, a, standard golf shaft filled with a liquid is two to three times heavier than a standard golf shaft. The heavier, liquid filled golf shaft will profoundly slow down a golfer's swing speed thereby resulting in an unacceptable loss of distance which would, of course, have a, detrimental effect. Golf shafts that are filled with a compressible gas such helium cannot possibly provide a force great, enough to affect a stiffness change without requiring extremely high pressures due to the high Young's modulus of the material used in modern golf shafts such as graphite composites. These high pressures are most assuredly unachievable and absolutely unacceptable from a safety standpoint. The anticipated high pressures would create a potentially serious situation if the golf shaft were to rupture such as would be the case when all irate golfer would strike the ground with their club or strike a tree.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In order for a golf club to be effective and ultimately configured for a golfer by the golfer without requiring the golfer to have intimate knowledge or club-building skills, the present invention provides for a device that can be easily changed to accommodate the golfer's abilities for any given day any given weather condition and course conditions as well. The invention allows the golfer the unique ability to tune a golf club from observations of ball flight while they are using the golf club rather than having to seek out a club-maker and use misleading equipment which is time consuming and costly.

The present invention overcomes the inability of prior art shafts in providing the ability to change the stiffness of a golf shaft. A shaft structure is provided which can be easily and safely tuned, to match the golfer's abilities so as to maximize both shot accuracy and distance while maintaining an acceptable weight.

More particularly, this invention relates to a shaft structure for golf clubs, fishing poles and like apparatuses incorporating an innovative variable stiffness shaft-in-a-shaft structure without compromising other performance characteristics such as weight or structurally integrity and safety as well. Additionally, the present invention does not serve to change the stiffness of shaft structure by imposing an axial stress or compression force upon the shaft but rather provides for a device which allows for the changing of the stiffness of shaft structure by virtue of a shaft-in-a-shaft structure wherein the absolute overall stiffness is born from the compounded stiffness of both the inner and outer shaft structure stiffness acting in a total harmonious arrangement. As such, existing golf shafts can be easily retrofitted with the present invention.

One object of the present invention is to provide a shaft structure which allows a golfer to change the stiffness of a shaft structure in order to match their athletic abilities while maintaining structural integrity and safety.

One object of the present invention is to provide a shaft structure which allows a golfer to change the stiffness of a shaft structure in order to match the course conditions of the day. Course condition plays a huge part of being able to score well. For instance, on a course that has very tight fairways a golf shaft should be stiffer so as to improve accuracy. On courses that are more open and longer it is beneficial to have a golf shaft that is less stiff so as to gain more distance.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a shaft structure that has a selectable stiffness. Hence, a single shaft structure can replace many different combinations and permutations of golf shafts, golf clubs, and manufacturing procedures and can avoid the need for large inventories of golf clubs with golf club shafts pre-set to different stiffness values, thereby generating a savings of what would otherwise be an expenditure of substantial amounts of money.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a device which allows manufactures to utilize their current stock of golf shafts so as to provide adjustability to the stock golf shafts.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a golf club shaft structure which allows a golfer to customize the stiffness of each shaft of a set of clubs, or of a, fishing pole, according to his ability or wishes without being dependent upon the shaft stiffness that happens to result from purchasing a set of clubs such as woods or a set of irons.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a golf club shaft structure which allows a golfer to customize the stiffness of an existing golf club or clubs. The present invention easily adapts to a golfer's existing golf club and provides the ability to enhance both the stiffness of a set of clubs, fishing poles and like apparatuses.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a golf club shaft structure that requires minimum force to adjust the stiffness of golf shaft Seniors especially need to be able to adjust their club stiffness without requiring an extraordinary amount of physical effort.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a golf club shaft that would drastically reduce the probability that a rupture would occur were the fluid would leak out. Given the shaft-in-a-shaft structure it is unlikely that the inner shaft structure would be damaged as well when the overall golf shaft is subjected to a blunt force.

Another object of the current invention is to provide a golf club shaft structure that provides a significant safety factor by providing a device which utilizes the compounded action of a shaft-in-a-shaft, structure such that the inner shaft can be made from material with a low Young's modulus such as plastics and, as such requires significantly lower and safe pressures to effect a stiffness change.

Other and further objects, aims, features, advantages, applications, embodiments and the like regarding the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the present specification, attached drawings, and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention may be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals identify like elements, and in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of a golf club which incorporates a shaft structure of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a diagrammatical view of the inner shaft structure of the shaft structure of FIG. 1;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 reveals an illustrative golf club 2 that incorporates an embodiment of a shaft structure 4 of the present invention. In the preferred embodiment, shaft structure 4 includes an inner shaft structure 6 and outer shaft structure 8. Outer shaft structure 8 is fashioned as a conventional golf shaft with an associated stiffness. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a multitude of materials may be used for both the inner and outer shaft structure and that using alternative materials does not deviate from the scope or spirit of the present invention. Stiffness is indicated by stiffness indicator 5 which is affixed firmly to the butt and of the grip. Indication of stiffness is demonstrated by the dial markings of stiffness indicator 5 and by the relative position of the capstan 20.

With reference to FIG. 2 inner shaft structure 6 is comprised of a proximal end and a distal end. Proximal end of inner shaft structure 6 is further comprised of pressurization unit 9. Distal end of inner shaft structure 6 outside diameter is received by the inside diameter of the outer shaft structure 8. Distal end of inner shaft structure 6 is sealed in order to form a seal-tight compartment. Spacers 12, 14 and 16 serve to mechanically communicate the bending behavior of the outer shaft structure 8 to the inner shaft structure 6. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a plurality of spacers may be used as well as choosing different locations for the spacers in a more advantageous manner and in doing so does not deviate from the spirit or scope of the present invention. In turn the resistance to the load imposed upon outer shaft structure 8 during a golf swing is influenced by both the stiffness of the inner shaft structure 6 and the stiffness of the outer shaft structure 8. When outer shaft structure 8 is under load the unique bending profile is transferred to the inner shaft structure 6 via spacers 12, 14 and 16. Inner shaft structure 6 then has an opportunity to influence the resistance to bending of outer shaft structure 8. Since the stiffness of inner shaft structure 6 is adjustable so then is the overall shaft structure 4. Due to the shaft-in-a-shaft structure inner shaft structure 6 is isolated from potential damage that may occur from damage to the outer shaft structure 8. Additionally, due to the shaft-in-a-shaft structure and due to the lack of need of extreme force in order to affect a change in stiffness inner shaft structure 6 can be fashioned from plastics which require very low forces to enact a stiffness change.

Pressurization unit 9 is comprised of piston 10, seal 12, jackscrew 16, bulkhead 18 and capstan 20. Capstan 20 has at one end a hex cap that allows for the inserting of a hex wrench in order to facilitate the turning of jackscrew 16. Fluid 22 resides within the entire length of inner shaft structure 6. Fluid 22 many be a gas such as helium or a liquid, or the like. It should be noted that relatively speaking inner shaft structure 6 is small in comparison to the outer shaft structure 8. The small diameter of inner shaft structure 6 requires a minimal amount of fluid 22 to effect a relatively large change in the overall stiffness of shaft structure 4. The combination of the outer shaft structure 8, inner shaft structure 6 and fluid 22 results in an overall shaft 4 weight that is comparable to conventional shaft structures. Additionally, inner shaft structure 6 can be fashioned from materials with a very low Young's modulus since the overall structural integrity of shaft structure 4 is not dependent upon the structural integrity of inner shaft structure 6 but rather it is dependent upon the outer shaft structure 8. The very low Young's modulus provides the opportunity to use materials that would otherwise not be considered such, thermoplastics.

Clockwise rotation of jackscrew 16 causes piston 10 to traverse longitudinally downward thereby reducing the volume and hence increasing the pressure of fluid 22. The increase in pressure of fluid 22 promotes an axial stress upon inner shaft structure 6 causing inner shaft structure 6 to stiffen. The axial stress provided, by the pressure of fluid 22 is accommodated by the sealed distal end of inner shaft structure 6 and by bulkhead 18 at the proximal end of inner shaft structure 6. By working in tandem, the increase in stiffness of inner shaft structure 6 complements the static stiffness of outer shaft structure 8 by virtue of the mechanically cooperative nature of spacers 12, 14 and 16. Counter-clockwise rotation of jackscrew 16 causes piston 10 to travel longitudinally upward thereby decreasing the pressure of fluid 22. Reduction in pressure of fluid, 22 reduces the axial stress imposed upon inner shaft structure 6 and thereby reduces the overall stiffness of shaft 4 due to the compounded nature of the stiffness of both the inner shaft structure 6 and the outer shaft structure 8. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a multitude of other materials may be used as fluid 22 and that using other materials does not deviate from the scope or the intention of the current inventions.

While at practice, a golfer would evaluate the performance of the golf club 2. While hitting practice shots the golfer would notice ball flight and would tune the golf shaft 4 according to their preference which is predicated upon their physical limitations, course and weather conditions for the day. If a more tighter shot dispersion is needed, the golfer would, turn jackscrew 16 via hex capstan 20 clockwise causing piston 10 to move downward thereby compressing fluid 22 and enacting a greater axial stress upon inner shaft structure 6. Conversely, if more distance is needed the golfer would turn jackscrew 16 via hex capstan 20 counter-clockwise causing piston 10 to move upward thereby decompressing fluid 22 and enacting less axial stress upon inner shaft structure 6.