Title:
Golf Ball Dispenser
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A golf ball dispenser includes a golf ball storage container and associated placement means for reception of a golf ball from the storage container and automatic placement of the golf ball on an associated tee for striking by a golfer. The golf ball storage container comprises a removable golf ball magazine which is demountably engagable with the placement means.



Inventors:
Egan, Leslie (County Clare, IE)
Mangan, Jonathan (CountyClare, IE)
Application Number:
12/992802
Publication Date:
03/17/2011
Filing Date:
05/15/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/132
International Classes:
A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Law Offices of Michael Crilly (Hatboro, PA, US)
Claims:
1. A golf ball dispenser including a golf ball storage container and associated placement means for reception of a golf ball from the storage container and placement of the golf ball on an associated tee characterised in that the golf ball storage container comprises a removable golf ball magazine which is demountably engagable with the placement means.

2. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein the golf ball magazine comprises a receptacle having a ball outlet with a ball retainer mounted at the outlet movable between an open position and a closed position, in the open position a golf ball being movable through the outlet and in the closed position the ball retainer preventing movement of the golf ball through the outlet.

3. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 2, wherein the ball retainer is biased into a closed ball-retaining position.

4. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 2, wherein the ball retainer is engagable and movable into the open position by a golf ball during movement of a golf ball through the outlet into the receptacle for loading the receptacle.

5. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 2, wherein the receptacle is an elongate tube having the ball retainer mounted at a lower outlet end of the tube.

6. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 2, wherein the ball retainer comprises at least one stop finger hingedly mounted at the outlet, each stop finger being hingedly movable between the open position which allows passage of a golf ball through the opening and the closed position projecting into the opening to block passage of a golf ball through the opening.

7. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 6, wherein a pair of stop fingers are provided disposed at opposite sides of the opening.

8. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 6, wherein the or each stop finger is biased into a closed position by means of an elastic band which is engaged therewith.

9. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein the outlet of the golf ball magazine is demountably engagable with an inlet of a ball feed chute of the placement means, said inlet of the feed chute engagable within the outlet to urge the ball retainer into the open position.

10. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein an internal diameter of the container is in the range of 5% to 10% greater than an outside diameter of a golf ball.

11. (canceled)

12. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein the feed chute has a cranked ramp having an inlet end and an outlet end, said inlet end being angled upwardly of the outlet end at an angle in the range of 20° to 30°.

13. (canceled)

14. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 12, wherein the outlet end of the ramp is angled at between 7° and 15° to the horizontal.

15. (canceled)

16. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein a leading ball retaining arm is mounted across an outlet of the chute, said retaining arm being engagable and movable from a ball engaging position into a disengaged position by the carriage when the carriage is in a raised position for releasing a leading golf ball on the chute onto a placement arm of the placement means.

17. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 16, wherein the ball retaining arm is pivotally mounted on a support for movement between the ball engaging position and the disengaged position.

18. (canceled)

19. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 17, wherein the arm is inclined downwardly from the pivoting inner end of the arm so that an outer end of the arm engages a leading golf ball below the pivot when the arm is in a lowered position.

20. (canceled)

21. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 19, wherein when the arm is in the lowered position the pivoting inner end of the arm is located above a centre of a golf ball engaged with the outer end of the arm.

22. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1, wherein the placement means includes the feed chute, a placement arm having an inner end and an outer end below said inner end, said placement arm being mounted on a carriage, the carriage having rollers engagable with associated upright rails for vertical movement of the carriage on the rails by drive means between a raised loading position in which the inner end of the placement arm is aligned with an outlet of the feed chute for reception of a golf ball therefrom, through an intermediate position for placement of a golf ball supported at the outer end of the placement arm on the tee, and a lowered inoperative stored position spaced below a top of the tee.

23. The golf ball dispenser as claimed in claim 1 in combination with a mat, said mat having a slot for reception of the placement arm of the placement means when it is in a lowered position.

24. The combination as claimed in claim 23 wherein the mat has three composite layers which are proportioned in height as follows 51:52:53=7.5:1.0:5.0 and the elongation ratios are proportioned as follows 51:52:53=3.79:1.16:1.00.

25. The combination as claimed in claim 23, further including a target net for reception of golf balls struck from the tee.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to PCT Application No. PCT/EP2009/055950 filed 15 May 2009, which in turn claims priority to Irish Patent Application No. S2008/0387 filed 16 May 2008, said applications being incorporated in their entirety herein by reference thereto

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

None.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a golf ball dispenser for the automatic placement of golf balls onto a tee for practice striking of the golf balls.

2. Background

Many such golf ball dispensers and automatic teeing devices have been proposed previously for use in golf ranges and the like.

The invention is particularly concerned with a golf ball dispenser of the type described in EP-A-0676979 having a golf ball storage container and associated placement means for reception of a golf ball from the storage container and placement of the golf ball on an associated tee.

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved golf ball dispenser of simple construction which is reliable in operation and relatively cheap to manufacture.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the invention, there is provided a golf ball dispenser including a golf ball storage container and associated placement means for reception of a golf ball from the storage container and placement of the golf ball on an associated tee, characterized in that the golf ball storage container comprises a removable golf ball magazine which is demountably engagable with the placement means. Thus advantageously, the golf ball storage container can be removed from the dispenser to facilitate loading golf balls in the golf ball storage container.

In one embodiment of the invention, the golf ball magazine comprises a receptacle having a ball outlet with a ball retainer mounted at the outlet movable between an open position and a closed position, in the open position a golf ball being movable through the outlet and in the closed position the ball retainer preventing movement of the golf ball through the outlet.

Conveniently the ball retainer is biased into a closed ball-retaining position.

In another embodiment the ball retainer is engagable and movable into the open position by a golf ball during movement of a golf ball through the outlet into the receptacle for loading the receptacle.

In a further embodiment the receptacle is an elongate tube having the ball retainer mounted at a lower outlet end of the tube.

In another embodiment the ball retainer comprises at least one stop finger hingedly mounted at the outlet, each stop finger being hingedly movable between the open position which allows passage of a golf ball through the opening and the closed position projecting into the opening to block passage of a golf ball through the opening.

In a preferred embodiment, a pair of stop fingers are provided disposed at opposite sides of the opening.

In another embodiment, the or each stop finger is biased into a closed position by means of an elastic band which is engaged therewith.

In a further embodiment, the outlet of the golf ball magazine is demountably engagable with an inlet of a ball feed chute of the placement means, said inlet of the feed chute engagable within the outlet to urge the ball retainer into the open position.

In another embodiment an internal diameter of the container is in the range of 5% to 10% greater than an outside diameter of a golf ball.

In another embodiment the internal diameter of the container is 7.6% greater than the outside diameter of a golf ball.

In another embodiment the feed chute has a cranked ramp having an inlet end and an outlet end, said inlet end being angled upwardly of the outlet end at an angle in the range of 20° to 30°.

In another embodiment the inlet end is angled upwardly of the outlet end of the ramp at an angle of 25°.

In another embodiment the outlet end of the ramp is angled at between 7° and 15° to the horizontal.

In another embodiment the outlet end of the ramp is angled at 10° to the horizontal.

In another embodiment a leading ball retaining arm is mounted across an outlet of the chute, said retaining arm being engagable and movable from a ball engaging position into a disengaged position by the carriage when the carriage is in a raised position for releasing a leading golf ball on the chute onto a placement arm of the placement means.

In another embodiment the ball retaining arm is pivotally mounted on a support for movement between the ball engaging position and the disengaged position.

In another embodiment the ball retaining arm is pivotally mounted on the chute.

In another embodiment the arm is inclined downwardly from the pivoting inner end of the arm so that an outer end of the arm engages a leading golf ball below the pivot when the arm is in a lowered position.

In another embodiment the arm is inclined downwardly at an angle of 6° to the horizontal.

In another embodiment when the arm is in the lowered position the pivoting inner end of the arm is located above a centre of a golf ball engaged with the outer end of the arm.

In another embodiment, the placement means includes the feed chute, a placement arm having an inner end and an outer end below the inner end, said placement arm being mounted on a carriage, the carriage having rollers engagable with associated upright rails for vertical movement of the carriage on the rails by drive means between a raised loading position in which the inner end of the placement arm is aligned with an outlet of the feed chute for reception of a golf ball therefrom, through an intermediate position for placement of a golf ball supported at the outer end of the placement arm on the tee, and a lowered inoperative stored position spaced below a top of the tee.

In another aspect the invention provides a golf ball dispenser as previously described in combination with a mat, said mat having a slot for reception of the placement arm of the placement means when it is in a lowered position.

In another embodiment the mat has three composite layers 51, 52, 53 which are proportioned in height as follows 51:52:53=7.5:1.0:5.0 and the elongation ratios are proportioned as follows 51:52:53=3.79:1.16:1.00.

In another embodiment the combination further includes a target net for reception of golf balls struck from the tee.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be more clearly understood by the following description of some embodiments thereof, given by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a golf ball dispenser according to the invention.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged detail perspective view showing portion of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 3 is another enlarged detail perspective view of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the golf ball dispenser with an outer cover of the dispenser removed.

FIG. 6 is a detail elevational view showing portion of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 7 is a detail sectional elevational view of the golf ball dispenser portion shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a detail perspective view showing portion of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 9 is a cross sectional view of a mat of the dispenser.

FIG. 10 is a detail perspective partially cut-away view of the golf ball dispenser.

FIG. 11 is an enlarged detail view showing a golf ball feed chute of the dispenser.

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 10 showing the dispenser in another position of use.

FIG. 13 is an enlarged detail perspective view showing portion of the dispenser.

FIG. 14 is an enlarged sectional elevational view of a golf ball storage container forming portion of the dispenser.

FIG. 15 is a side sectional elevational view of the dispenser.

FIG. 16 is an elevational view of a target net for use with the dispenser.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the drawings, there is illustrated a golf ball dispenser according to the invention indicated generally by the reference numeral 1. The dispenser 1 has a golf ball storage container 2 and an associated placement means 3 for reception of a golf ball 4 from the storage container 2 and placement of the golf ball 4 on an associated tee 5. The placement means 3 comprises a housing 6 within which is mounted a placement mechanism 7 which is operable for delivery of individual golf balls 4 from the storage container 2 along a placement arm 8 which is vertically movable for placement of the golf ball 4 on the tee 5. The golf ball storage container 2 comprises a removable golf ball magazine which is demountably engagable with the placement means 3.

The storage container 2 comprises an elongate tubular container of clear plastics material having a removable cap 10 at the top and a ball retainer 11 mounted at a lower end of the storage container 2 which has a ball outlet 12. The ball retainer 11 is best seen in FIG. 7. The ball retainer 11 has a generally tubular body 14 with a through bore 15 sized to allow through-passage of golf balls. An annular flange 16 is provided within the bore 15. A top surface of the flange 16 forms a land against which a lower end of the tubular body forming the storage container 2 engages. An underside of this flange 16 is engaged by an upper end of a feed chute 17 (see FIG. 5) for demountably securing the golf ball storage container 2 on the placement mechanism 7. A pair of stop fingers 18 are hingedly mounted at a lower end of the body 14 on a steel ring 19 and project inwardly into the bore 15 through complementary openings in the side wall of the body 14 to prevent through-passage of a golf ball. An elastic band 22 biases the stop fingers 18 into the closed position shown in FIG. 7. Each of the stop fingers 18 can pivot outwardly about the pivots 19 against elastic band 22 bias to allow through-passage of a golf ball 4 (see FIG. 14). When the ball retainer 11 is engaged with the feed chute 17, the feed chute 17 pushes the stop fingers 18 outwardly into the open position to allow free passage of golf balls 4 from the storage container 2 through the feed chute 17 to the placement mechanism 7. An upper end 24 of the ball retainer body 14 engages with an associated tapered opening 25 at a top of the housing 6 to hold the storage container 2 firmly in place when mounted on the placement means 3.

When all the golf balls 4 have been discharged from the storage container 2, the storage container 2 with ball retainer 11 attached at the lower end thereof is removed from the housing 6. The stop fingers 18 are snapped inwardly into the closed position by the elastic band 22. The storage container 2 can then be used to pick up golf balls 4 from the ground (see Hg. 14). The ball retainer 11 is simply pushed down over the golf ball 4 which pushes the stop fingers 18 outwardly against elastic band 22 bias and then the golf ball moves into the storage container 2. As soon as the golf ball 4 passes the stop fingers 18 they are snapped back inwardly into the closed position by the elastic band 22 to retain golf balls 4 within the storage container 2. It will be noted that the internal diameter D of the container 2 is 7.6% greater than the outside diameter of a golf ball.

The placement mechanism 7 is best seen in FIG. 5. This comprises a base 30. A vibrator bar 31 extends outwardly from the base 30. The tee 5 is mounted at an outer end of the vibrator bar 31. A vibration sensor 32 is mounted at an inner end of the vibrator bar 31. A support frame 35 is upstanding on the base 30. The support frame 35 includes a pair of spaced-apart vertical rails 36. A carriage 37 is vertically movable on the rails 36 by means of rollers 38 which engage the rails 36. A drive mechanism is operable to move the carriage 37 vertically on the rails 36 for placement of a golf ball 4 on the tee 5.

The grass mat 41 is a composite construction of rubber, polyurethane, yarn and nylon proportioned in a particular elongation and thickness ratio (FIG. 9) which provides damping for the vibration arm 31 and therefore helps with the sensitivity adjustment 50 of the ball placement mechanism 3. The mat 41 has three composite layers 51, 52, 53 which are proportioned in height as follows 51:52:53=7.5:1.0:5.0 and the elongation ratios are proportioned as follows 51:52:53=3.79:1.16:1.00. This ‘soft’ composite construction also gives the user a ‘real’ grass feel when striking from the surface of the mat 41 as well as reducing the reaction force when the club strikes the surface therefore reducing joint strain for the user.

It will be noted also that an internal diameter of an inlet 59 of the chute 17 is also 7.6% greater than the outside diameter of a golf ball. The feed chute 17 has a cranked ramp 60 having an inlet end 61 and an outlet end 62. The inlet end 61 is angled upwardly of the outlet end 62 at an angle of 25° as shown in FIG. 11. Also, it will be noted from FIG. 12 that the outlet end 62 of the ramp 60 is angled at 10° to the horizontal. This arrangement stops the golf balls from binding or sticking together and ensures a smooth flow of golf balls through the chute 17.

A retaining arm 65 is engagable with a leading golf ball 69. This retaining arm 65 is generally C-shaped having an inner end 67 which is pivotally mounted on the chute 17 and an outer end 68 which extends across the outlet 66 to retain a leading golf ball 69 at the outlet 66 ready for release. The outer end 68 engages the leading golf ball just below the equator as shown in FIG. 15. As the carriage 37 is moved upwardly a release finger 70 engages and lifts the arm 65 against spring 73 bias as shown in FIG. 13 to release the leading golf ball 69 onto the arm 8. The spring 73 extends between the arm 65 and a lug 74 on the frame 35. It will be noted also that a secondary ball retainer 72 mounted on the carriage 37 has a pair of upstanding arms which position between the leading golf ball 69 and the next golf ball to retain the remaining golf balls on the chute 17 when the carriage 37 is moved into the raised position so only the leading ball is released onto the arm 8. A motor 76 is operable to raise and lower the carriage 37. Power for the motor 76 is provided by a battery 77. A micro switch 55 senses movement of the golf balls along the chute 17. A control board 57 is housed within the base 30.

Referring to FIG. 15 it will be noted that the ball retaining arm 65 is inclined downwardly between the inner end 67, which forms a pivot, and the outer end 68 which engages the leading golf ball 69 when the arm 65 in the lowered ball retaining position. The inclination is about 6° to the horizontal. It will also be noted that in this position, the inner end 67 (i.e. the pivot) is located above a centre 80 of the leading golf ball 69 at the outlet end of the chute 17 by a distance of about 12.5 mm.

FIG. 16 shows a target net 90 for use with the dispenser comprising a collapsible frame 91 supporting netting 92. In use a golfer hits golf balls from the tee 5 into the target net 90.

In use, the storage container 2 forms a magazine of golf balls 4 which is mounted on the feed chute 17 of the placement mechanism 7. The placement mechanism 7 is operable to roll a first golf ball along the placement arm 8 to an outer end of the placement arm 8 for placement on the tee 5. The placement arm 8 is movable downwardly by moving the carriage 37 downwardly on the rails 36 to position the golf ball 4 on the tee 5 and move the arm 8 downwardly out of the way into a lowered position. In the lowered position the arm 8 is housed within a complementary slot 40 in a mat 41 (see FIG. 1), the tee 5 projecting upwardly of the mat 41. The golfer strikes the golf ball 4 on the tee 5. This causes the tee 5 and the vibrator bar 31 to vibrate, this vibration being detected by the vibration sensor 32. This activates the placement mechanism 7 to raise the placement arm 8 for reception of another golf ball 4 from the storage container 2, delivered along the chute 17 for placement on the tee 5. This cycle can be repeated until all the golf balls 4 are discharged from the storage container 2. Then the storage container 2 can be removed from the placement mechanism 7 and used to pick up all the golf balls 4. After reengaging the storage container 2 with the placement mechanism 7, the recovered golf balls 4 can then be individually placed on the tee 5 again by the dispenser for further practice.

The sensitivity of the vibration sensor is adjustable via a control switch 50 on the housing 6 to accommodate the different surfaces on which the golf ball dispenser 1 is mounted in use.

In this specification, the terms “comprise”, “comprises”, “comprised” and “comprising” and the terms “include”, “includes”, “included” and “including” are deemed totally interchangeable and should be afforded the widest possible interpretation.

The invention is not limited to the embodiments hereinbefore described which may be varied in both construction and detail within the scope of the appended claims.