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Publication numberUS20010021673 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/834,685
Publication dateSep 13, 2001
Filing dateApr 13, 2001
Priority dateJul 21, 1998
Also published asWO2000004961A2, WO2000004961A3, WO2000004961A9
Publication number09834685, 834685, US 2001/0021673 A1, US 2001/021673 A1, US 20010021673 A1, US 20010021673A1, US 2001021673 A1, US 2001021673A1, US-A1-20010021673, US-A1-2001021673, US2001/0021673A1, US2001/021673A1, US20010021673 A1, US20010021673A1, US2001021673 A1, US2001021673A1
InventorsKenneth Cleveland
Original AssigneeCleveland Kenneth R.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Hole-in-one golf video registration system
US 20010021673 A1
Abstract
Charitable donations may be made by purchasing hole-in-one insurance and verified by recorded video images derived from appropriately situated cameras. Often, especially with respect to charitable functions in association with golf tournaments, hole-in-one insurance is purchased that pays the person insured if a hole-in-one is made on the hole for which the insurance is purchased. The purchase of such insurance generates proceeds for a selected charity, the purchase price exceeding that needed to purchase the insurance policy. The present invention provides geographically local and convenient purchase of such insurance on a hole-by-hole basis. A central unit acts as a control where ATM, credit card, or specially purchased magnetic cards or the like may be used to purchase or indicate the purchase of such insurance. The transaction is validated with appropriate displays presented to the user. The keypad may also be used for data input, such as ATM personal identification numbers (PIN). Video cassette recorders and video editing equipment may provide means by which the resulting golf shot may be recorded. A certain adequate but limited amount of time may be given to the golfer in order to complete the shot. Financial transaction verification processes may be engaged so that the transactions are validated and the appropriate charity is credited with the donation for the purchase of the insurance.
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Claims(41)
What is claimed is:
1. A golf video hole-in-one registration and verification system, comprising:
user-accessible database means for registering a hole-in-one shot attempt code in association with a specific golfer, said database means further including means for electronically receiving a financial contribution and for validating said shot attempt code upon receipt of said financial contribution;
an activation unit positioned generally adjacent the tee of a selected golf course hole, said activation unit including means for inputting a registered and validated shot attempt code and for responding thereto to activate at least one tee camera and at least one green camera positioned respectively at the tee and green of the selected golf course hole, said at least one tee camera producing a video record of activity on the tee and said at least one green camera producing a video record of activity on the green to record a hole-in-one shot attempt;
at least one processor unit coupled to said tee and green cameras for digitally storing the video records produced by said tee and green cameras; and
verification means coupled to said at least one processor unit for accessing the video record of each hole-in-one shot attempt to permit review and verification of a successful hole-in-one shot attempt.
2. The system of
claim 1
wherein said database means is user-accessible via an Internet web site.
3. The system of
claim 1
wherein said database means is user-accessible via a remote access terminal.
4. The system of
claim 1
wherein said database means includes means for receiving and registering a shot attempt number, and for prompting a user to enter a unique and user-selected personal identification number (PIN) in association with said shot attempt number, said shot attempt number and PIN collectively comprising said shot attempt code.
5. The system of
claim 1
wherein said means for electronically receiving a financial contribution comprises means for receiving said contribution by credit/debit card payment.
6. The system of
claim 1
wherein said user-accessible database means further includes means for user-selection of at least one entity from a list of multiple entities to receive a portion of said financial contribution.
7. The system of
claim 6
wherein said database means includes means for spreading said financial contribution among a plurality of different financial accounts.
8. The system of
claim 1
wherein activation unit includes keypad means for inputting a registered and validated shot attempt code.
9. The system of
claim 8
wherein said activation unit further includes a user-viewable video display screen.
10. The system of
claim 1
wherein said activation unit includes a card reader for automatically reading information on a game card.
11. The system of
claim 1
wherein said activation unit is coupled to said database means.
12. The system of
claim 1
wherein said activation unit includes a substantially weatherproof housing having said at least one processor unit container therein.
13. The system of
claim 1
wherein said at least one tee camera comprises a pair of tee cameras for providing redundant video records of activity on the tee.
14. The system of
claim 1
wherein said at least one green camera comprises a pair of green cameras for providing redundant video records of activity on the green.
15. The system of
claim 14
wherein said pair of green cameras provide said redundant video records at different recording speeds.
16. The system of
claim 1
wherein said at least one processor unit comprises a computer having a disk drive for storing the video record provided by said tee and green cameras.
17. The system of
claim 16
wherein said at least one processor unit is programmed for deleting the video record provided by said tee and green cameras at the end of a predetermined time interval.
18. The system of
claim 1
wherein said activation unit is responsive to input of a registered and validated shot attempt code to activating said tee and green cameras for a predetermined limited time interval.
19. The system of
claim 18
wherein said activation unit further including means for communicating the conclusion of said predetermined limited time interval to a user.
20. The system of
claim 1
further including shot reporting means coupled to said verification means for user-reporting of a successful hole-in-one shot attempt.
21. The system of
claim 20
wherein said shot reporting means comprises a reporting terminal coupled to said verification means and including means for inputting a registered and validated shot attempt code.
22. The system of
claim 1
wherein said verification means is located remote from said at least one processor unit.
23. The system of
claim 1
wherein said activation unit comprises a plurality of activation units each respectively positioned generally adjacent a different selected tee of a corresponding plurality of selected golf course holes.
24. The system of
claim 23
wherein said user-accessible database means includes means for registering and validating a shot attempt code to permit a plurality of hole-in-one shot attempts.
25. A golf video hole-in-one registration and verification method, comprising the steps of:
user-accessing a database for registering a hole-in-one shot attempt code in association with a specific golfer, and for electronically making a financial contribution;
database-validating the shot attempt code upon receipt of the financial contribution;
inputting a registered and validated shot attempt code to an activation unit positioned generally adjacent the tee of a selected golf course hole;
responding to the inputted registered and validated shot attempt code to produce separate video records of activity on the tee and activity on the green associated with a hole-in-one shot attempt;
digitally storing the separate video records; and
subsequently accessing the separate video records to permit review and verification of a successful hole-in-one shot attempt.
26. The method of
claim 25
wherein said database user-accessing step comprises accessing an Internet web site.
27. The method of
claim 25
wherein said database user-accessing step comprises accessing a remote database access terminal.
28. The method of
claim 25
wherein said database user-accessing step comprises user-input of a shot attempt number, and database-prompting the user to enter a unique and user-selected personal identification number (PIN) in association with said shot attempt number, said shot attempt number and PIN collectively comprising said shot attempt code.
29. The method of
claim 25
wherein electronic contribution step comprises a credit/debit card payment step.
30. The method of
claim 25
wherein said database user-accessing step further comprises user-selection of at least one entity from a list of multiple entities to receive a portion of said financial contribution.
31. The method of
claim 25
wherein said activation unit is coupled to said database.
32. The method of
claim 25
wherein said step of producing separate video records comprises providing redundant video records of activity on the tee and on the green.
33. The method of
claim 32
wherein said step of providing redundant video records of activity on the green comprises producing said redundant video records with a least a pair of green cameras operated at different recording speeds.
34. The method of
claim 25
wherein said of digitally storing said video records comprises storing the video records on a computer disk drive.
35. The method of
claim 34
further including the step of deleting the stored video records at the end of a predetermined time interval.
36. The method of
claim 25
wherein said step of responding to an inputted registered and validated shot attempt code to produce said video records comprises the step of activating tee and green cameras for a predetermined limited time interval.
37. The method of
claim 25
further including step of reporting a successful hole-in-one shot attempt to verification staff.
38. The method of
claim 37
wherein said shot reporting step comprises user-accessing a reporting terminal.
39. The method of
claim 37
further including the step of remotely accessing the stored video records for verifying a successful hole-in-one shot attempt.
40. The method of
claim 25
wherein said activation unit comprises a plurality of activation units each respectively positioned generally adjacent a different selected tee of a corresponding plurality of selected golf course holes.
41. The method of
claim 40
wherein said database user-accessing step comprises registering and validating a shot attempt code to permit a plurality of hole-in-one shot attempts.
Description

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of copending U.S. Ser. No. 09/120,489, filed Jul. 21, 1998.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] This invention relates to golf shot surveillance systems and more particularly to a pay-per-shot surveillance system for use in conjunction with “hole-in-one” insurance for charitable or other purposes.

[0004] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0005] The game of golf is generally known from Scottish days of yore. In golf, clubs are used to drive small balls great distances into a small hole or cup. Challenges in the game of golf arise from terrain that tends to work against the golfer from delivering the ball to the cup. Such obstacles include dog legs, rough grass, trees, sand traps, and difficult inclines and slopes.

[0006] Generally, most holes on a golf course are par three or more. In other words, it takes at least three shots or strokes to get the ball into the cup. Good or great golfers often go below par and sink the ball into the cup by taking fewer than the par number of shots for the hole. A score that is one below par for a hole is known as a birdie and two below par is an eagle.

[0007] While birdies may be common for strong golfers, eagles are less so. Far more rare is the hole-in-one. Holes-in-one occur so infrequently that they are often subject to television rebroadcast when they are captured on video. The hole-in-one in golf is much like the triple play in baseball in that it occurs rarely and is an example of exceptional play.

[0008] The rarity of a hole-in-one golf shot is widely known. Some estimate the probability at approximately 1 in 10,000. Consequently, there has arisen in some golfing communities fund-raising activities centered upon this small but actual chance of sinking a hole-in-one. Any player who can drive the golf ball from the tee to the green has the possibility of making a hole-in-one. Many golf courses have holes of distances on the order of 200 yards, making the hole-in-one a distinct, but rare, possibility for all players.

[0009] One means of such fund-raising is the payment of “insurance” that pays off in the unlikely circumstance that a hole-in-one is made. Such insurance may pay off not only to the golfer as a reward for his lucky shot, but also to a charity of his or her choice. Generally, a payment on the order of ten percent is made to the golfer while eighty or ninety percent goes to the charity. The remaining portion may go to administration of the insurance with (as set forth in more detail below) the accompanying necessary equipment required for validation of the hole-in-one. Alternatively, the golfer may pay a higher fee for the insurance, with the surplus over the necessary insurance payment and cost of the necessary equipment required for validation of the hole-in-one going to charity. In this way, the charity benefits with every participant and a person sinking a hole-in-one receives a much higher reward. However, there are limitations to this type of fund raising activity. For example, since a hole-in-one must be adequately witnessed before the prize is paid, such fund raising activity is normally used in conjunction with a one-day tournament sponsored by a particular charity. As a result, the golfer is normally restricted to contributing to the particular charity sponsoring the tournament, and is unable to contribute to other charities.

[0010] Currently, a prior patent to Vincent (U.S. Pat. No. 5,102,140 issued Apr. 7, 1992) provides a basic means by which recording a hole-in-one may be automated, thereby eliminating the requirement for a witness. In the Vincent '140 patent, coin-operated controls activate a camera and a recording system. However, the camera must focus along the entirety of the golf course hole, something very difficult for a camera to do, as the focal point is generally not along the 100 to 300 yard distance the hole must take in order for there to be a hole-in-one. Additionally, certain inconveniences arise in the Vincent '140 patent with respect to spontaneous payment and the like in that a golfer may not necessarily have coins or tokens or prepaid slips or the like in his pockets which would activate the recording system.

[0011] Consequently, there are improvements to be made in the recording of golf shots that might result in the rare hole-in-one. By improving upon and advancing the art as it is currently known, the present invention provides advantageous and useful means by which such charity funds may be raised and video recordation of a hole-in-one may occur.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] The present invention resides in an improved hole-in-one golf video registration system that provides better coverage of the hole shot by the golfer as well as more convenient and proficient means by which the possible hole-in-one may be recorded for subsequent verification. The present invention further provides a new and improved system for the collection and pay-out of funds donated to charities, including a new and improved system for tracking and auditing all transactions to deter and eliminate fraudulent activities.

[0013] In the preferred form, first and second cameras are located at the tee and the hole, respectively. An activation unit, possibly associated with the tee camera, receives input as by swiped magnetic striped card in order to activate the camera and recording system. The video signals from the cameras may be combined in a split screen fashion in order to provide temporal coordination between the golfer's shot and the ball's landing on the tee. Additionally, a clock or the like can time the ball's flight in order to ensure that the ball hit by the golfer is the one that sinks in the cup. Additionally, other cameras could also be used to focus upon different aspects of the golf ball's flight, particularly that of the golf ball as it soars over the fairway.

[0014] In one embodiment, a financial transaction station effects the charitable transaction via an electronic signal transceiver or the like. Upon confirmation of the transaction, the golfer may select the charity of choice. A receipt memorializing the transaction for tax purposes may be printed. Initiated by an activation signal, the ensuing golf shot may be recorded to evidence a hole-in-one, substantiating the golfer's right to collect upon the paid insurance.

[0015] In other embodiments, a golfer may obtain a game card bearing a unique game card number, or otherwise obtain a game or shot attempt number, and then activate the game number in association with a personal identification number (PIN) as by accessing a system web site on the Internet. The appropriate contribution may be collected electronically at the time of game number activation, conveniently by credit or debit card payment and in a manner permitting the golfer to select one or more designated charitable organizations to receive a portion of the contribution. An activation unit at the golf course tee is then accessed as by entry of a code including the shot attempt number and PIN to indicate that the golfer is ready to make an attempt at achieving a hole-in-one on a participating golf course hole. Tee and green cameras are activated for a defined time interval to provide a video record, preferably with redundant back-up, linked to a processor unit such as a computer which records and stores the video record in digital form on a hard disk. In the event that a successful hole-in-one is achieved, a reporting terminal may be provided at the golf course such as in a pro shop or clubhouse facility for automated report, after which the video record of the purported winning shot is accessed and retrieved remotely for review by administrative staff personnel before prize money is awarded.

[0016] It is an object of the present invention to provide a hole-in-one golf video registration system that provides focused inspection of the golf shot at the tee and the cup.

[0017] It is an additional object of the present invention to provide an improved hole-in-one golf video registration system.

[0018] It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a hole-in-one golf video registration system that uses a convenient payment means for activation.

[0019] These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from a review of the following specification and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] The accompanying drawings illustrate the invention. In such drawings:

[0021]FIG. 1 shows a schematic view of a camera in a housing with its angular view of the tee;

[0022]FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a camera in a housing with its angular view of the green and cup;

[0023]FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic view of the hole-in-one golf video registration system of the present invention;

[0024]FIG. 4 is an upper perspective view of an equipment housing for a video camera and/or activation circuitry for the present invention;

[0025]FIG. 5 is a side plan view of the housing of FIG. 4;

[0026]FIG. 6 is a front plan view of the housing of FIG. 4;

[0027]FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of the housing of FIG. 4;

[0028]FIG. 8 is a side plan view of the housing of FIG. 4 shown with a partial cut away section;

[0029]FIG. 9 is a front perspective detailed view of the housing of FIG. 4 showing a microphone, an LCD monitor (both partially in phantom), and a card reader;

[0030]FIG. 10 is a diagrammatic flow chart of the keypad or card swipe video activation process;

[0031]FIG. 11 is a diagrammatic flow chart of the card processing procedure confirming the transaction;

[0032]FIG. 12 is a diagrammatic flow chart depicting golfer registration in accordance with an alternative preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0033]FIG. 13 is a continuation of the registration flow chart of FIG. 12;

[0034]FIG. 14 is a diagrammatic flow chart illustrating process flow of the financial transaction associated with the embodiment of FIG. 12;

[0035]FIG. 15 is a perspective view showing a preferred activation unit for installation generally at a tee on a selected golf course hole;

[0036]FIG. 16 is a diagrammatic flow chart depicting process steps implemented by the activation unit of FIG. 15;

[0037]FIG. 17 is a schematic diagram similar to FIG. 1, but illustrating an alternative embodiment including a pair of cameras at the tee for recording a golf shot;

[0038]FIG. 18 is a schematic diagram similar to FIG. 2, but illustrating an alternative embodiment including a pair of cameras at the green for recording a golf shot;

[0039]FIG. 19 is a diagrammatic representation similar to FIG. 3, showing operation of the cameras and the tee and green for recording a golf shot;

[0040]FIG. 20 is a diagrammatic flow chart depicting actions for reporting a winning golf shot in accordance with an alternative preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0041]FIG. 21 is a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 20; and

[0042]FIG. 22 is a diagrammatic flow chart showing process steps for verifying a winning golf shot in accordance with the alternative preferred form of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0043] The detailed description set forth below in connection with the appended drawings is intended as a description of presently preferred embodiments of the invention and is not intended to represent the only forms in which the present invention may be constructed or utilized. The description sets forth the functions and the sequence of steps for constructing and operating the invention in connection with the illustrated embodiments. It is to be understood, however, that the same or equivalent functions and sequence may be accomplished by different embodiments that are also intended to be encompassed within the spirit and scope of the invention.

[0044]FIGS. 1 through 11 show pertinent portions of the present invention that achieves a hole-in-one golf video registration system in a reliable and user-friendly manner.

[0045] As shown in FIG. 3, two cameras may be used to provide the recordable video signal necessary for confirming holes-in-one. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the present invention 30 may use a pair of cameras in order to respectively monitor and temporally coordinate activity at the tee and the green. The tee camera 32 is positioned so that it can visually monitor the activities on the tee, a limited playing area at the beginning of every golf course hole. Similarly, the green camera 34 is situated so that it can monitor activity on the green, particularly in the area of the cup or hole. Like the tee, the green is also a limited playing area that is generally easily monitored by video cameras. In order to make the cameras less obtrusive, they may be positioned in trees or other natural objects present on the golf course so that they do not distract from the pastoral surroundings. Both the tee camera 32 and the green camera 34 may be of known construction, but should be shielded from the elements as the electronic components may be detrimentally subject to wind, rain, and the weather.

[0046] The tee camera 32 is supplied with power from a camera power supply 40. The output from the tee camera 32 is transmitted by a video distribution amp 42 to a video splitter 44 and a video switcher 46. The video splitter 44 may be in series with or parallel to the video switcher 46.

[0047] The same is similarly true for the power supply and video output stream of the green camera 34. A green camera power supply 50 supplies the green camera 34 with operating power. The video output stream from the green camera 34 is transmitted to a green camera video distribution amp 52 which signal is subsequently split and transmitted to the video splitter 44 and the video switcher 46.

[0048] The video splitter 44 combines the two images recorded by the cameras 32, 34 so that they appear side by side on the same screen. In order to ensure coordination of the video streams, timing stamps or the like can be incorporated into the video streams to ensure that they are recording at the same time. A first video recorder 60 times both cameras so that an exact comparison can be made of the times associated with each camera. The timing stamp, time-date generator, or the like is built into the video recorder 60 that is used simultaneously by all cameras.

[0049] The video output from the video splitter 44 is transmitted to a first video cassette recorder 60 (VCR1). A separate signal is transmitted to a second video cassette recorder 62 (VCR2) in order to provide two copies of the rare hole-in-one event. Each VCR is equipped with auto-repeat recording capability such that when the tape reaches its end, it will rewind automatically to the beginning and starts recording again. Furthermore, when the administrator of the system is informed that a hole-in-one has been made, the tapes are immediately retrieved for verification and confirmation purposes, and replacement tapes are inserted into each VCR unit for continued operation.

[0050] The video switcher 46 may exercise power control over the cameras 32, 34 by regulating and controlling the state of the associated power supplies 40, 50. A microphone 64 may be present in association with the tee camera 32. The signal from the microphone 64 may be passed to a microphone mixer 66 which signal is subsequently transmitted to the video switcher 46. A card swipe reader 68 reads cards with magnetic stripes or the like swiped through it by the golfer seeking to record his or her hole-in-one. The card swipe reader data signal is transmitted to the first VCR 60 where the information may be encoded into the video signal to associate the card swipe with the golf shot.

[0051] The entire system of the present invention 30 may be supplied with 110 volt AC power and may be regulated by an on/off switch and a timer. The 110 volt AC power 70 may be used to control the operation of the present invention 30 and may be associated with the card swipe reader, forcing the card to be swiped in order for power to be supplied to the components of the present invention 30.

[0052] In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, a third camera (not shown) having a camera power supply (not shown) and a video distribution amp (not shown) may be utilized to focus on the fairway and videotape the flight of the golf ball over the fairway and to provide a continuous stream of video images of the fairway to the video splitter 44 which signal is then transmitted to the first and second VCR units.

[0053]FIGS. 4 through 9 show a housing structure that may provide environmental protection for the camera and associated equipment of the present invention. Additionally, the central pillar column may provide a conduit by which underground cables may be strung and protected from inclement weather. As shown in FIG. 4, the housing 80 has a central box-like container 82 topped with a cover 84. The cover 84 may have a forward extension 86 that serves as a shade for the sun. The container 82 with its cover 84 serve to protect the confines of the housing 80 thereby allowing the equipment to used for an extended period of time in all kinds and types of weather. A transparent window or aperture 88 is used to allow optical images of the surrounding golf course to be impressed upon a video camera or the like (not shown). The camera may rest upon a shelf 90 or the like, if such should be necessary. The shelf 90 may be approximately {fraction (3/4)} inch thick and extend the length and width of the enclosure defined by the housing container 82. A bottom or lower panel 92 provides protection from detrimental elements coming from below. A door 94 pivoting on a hinge 96 serves to provide a complete enclosure for the camera and accompanying equipment. The confines of the housing 80 may be configured in any convenient or advantageous form in order to forward and/or achieve the goals of the present invention.

[0054] The entire enclosure may be insulated from the elements by insulation approximately {fraction (1/2)} inch thick on all sides. In an alternative embodiment, such insulation may be omitted from the bottom panel. Latches 100, such as tamper resistant latches, may be used to hold the door 94 closed against the housing container 82.

[0055] Air flow through the housing 80 may be achieved by means of blowers, vents, or the like. In one embodiment, blowers with covers 102 are placed on opposite sides of the housing container 82. The blowers may also be placed at different elevations so that there is not only cross-ventilation laterally, but vertically as well. Alternatively, the blowers or vents may be disposed at opposite corners of the housing 80 so that there is complete lateral, vertical, and horizontal cross-ventilation inside the housing 80. It may be possible to effect adequate ventilation by the use of a single blower in conjunction with a vent. Under most circumstances, an air filter 104 is advised to prevent large dust particles and small insects from migrating into the confines of the housing 80.

[0056] The housing 80 may stand upright some distance from the ground by means of a pedestal mount 110 standing approximately three to four feet tall. The pedestal mount may be attached to the bottom panel 92 at its top and a base plate 112 at its bottom. Screws, bolts or the like may be used to secure the base plate 112 to a concrete pad or other stable foundation (not shown).

[0057] The central pedestal mount 110 may be perforated at its bottom with an opening 114 allowing access into the interior of the pedestal mount 110. The opening 114 may be sealed with a one-inch or appropriately sized conduit threaded bushing. As shown in FIG. 7, a central cutout 116 for cable access at the bottom of the housing 80 allows communication between the interior of the housing 80 and the interior of the pedestal mount 110. If underground wiring is preferred, the base plate 112 may likewise have an opening allowing communication through the base plate 112 to the interior of the pedestal mount 110. A top plate 120 (as shown in FIG. 7) may allow securement of the housing 80 to the pedestal mount 110.

[0058] As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, a similar type of housing 80 may be used in order to provide user control over the hole-in-one golf video registration system 30 of the present invention. Similar features are indicated with similar reference numbers. However, instead of the presence of video cameras 32, 34 held within the housing 80, a microphone 64 along with the accompanying other equipment is provided for the golfer at the tee.

[0059] As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, in addition to the microphone 64, an LCD display 120 and a card reader 122 may be fixed to a convenient panel of the housing 80. As shown in FIG. 9, the microphone 64 is held inside the enclosure but is allowed some acoustic communication with the exterior. As shown in FIG. 9, an aperture hole or the like 124 may be present. The aperture 124 may be covered with a waterproof or water resistant cover, such as Gore-tex®, in order to prevent the migration of water into the confines of the housing 80. Alternatively, a vented cover may be used to protect the microphone.

[0060] The LCD display 120 may provide the golfer with visual status information and the like with respect to the operation of the hole-in-one video registration system of the present invention. The LCD display 120 may be substituted by other types of video displays as are appropriate for the present invention 30.

[0061] The card reader 122 is accessible from the outside of the housing 80 and provides means by which magnetically striped or other similar cards may be swiped through the card reader to engage and initiate the shot recordation process.

[0062] As is known in the art, the card reader may be connected to verification means in order to verify the transaction. Alternatively, in a possibly preferable embodiment, the card reader 122 may be replaced by a credit card terminal and keypad device (not shown). These may be connected to a third-party electronic funds transfer system (EFT) transaction processor using the Hughes Electronic Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) protocol or standard. The third-party electronic funds transfer system (EFT) may take the form of and be similar to bank ATM machines, and has an electronic signal transceiver that can send and receive electronic signals by way of wired phone lines or wireless cellular pak phones lines.

[0063] Having described the basic components of the present invention, the process by which they are used in conjunction with one another to effect the present invention is shown in FIGS. 10 and 11 and described below.

[0064] In FIG. 10, the keypad/card swipe unit may engage in the following process 130. This process is readily adapted to the use of the keypad and video display. However, the use of a card with a magnetic stripe is a rapid and convenient means by which financial identification information such as a credit card number may be transmitted to the financial transaction network. The routine is initialized as indicated by the encircled numeral 1 (132) and the start step 134. An initial engagement routine 136 awaits initialization by user input. An idle message 138 is displayed indicating the readiness of the system and instructions for initiating its use. Additionally, golf course information and advertising may also be displayed at this time and throughout the foregoing process.

[0065] The keypad, card swipe, or other input devices are monitored for activity 140. If no activity is present, cycle is made back to the idle message 138 and to the input monitoring step 140. If a code has been entered 142, input is monitored to check if the user has pressed “enter” 150. If the user has not pressed “enter” 152, input is checked to see if the user has pressed “cancel” 154, If the user did press “cancel” 156, cycle is made back to the idle message 138. Otherwise, the user has not pressed “cancel” 158 and cycle is made back to the user code entry detection 140.

[0066] If the user pressed “enter” 160, the code entered by the user is validated 170. If the code is not valid 172, an invalid code message 174 is displayed to the user and process flow control goes back to the start 134. If a valid code is entered 176, instructions are given to the user to swipe his or her credit card 178. The golfer then swipes his or her credit card and the data is sent to a host or similar computer for effecting the financial transaction 190. The process verifies that the electronic/information link to the host is established and stable 192. If so, process flow control is continued (as shown in FIG. 10) by the steps following the encircled numeral 2 (194). If the host link is not sufficiently established 196, query is made as to whether or not the process has been tried three times 198. If it has not been 200, the host link establishment routine 202 is reinvoked by transfer of process flow back to the transmission of data to the host 190.

[0067] If the host link routine 202 has been engaged four times, the retry greater than three times test 198 returns a “true” or “yes” value 204. A message 206 is then transmitted to the golfer indicating that the credit network is temporarily unavailable and that the golfer should please try again later as indicated by the encircled numeral 4 (208) in FIG. 10. Transfer of the process is then delivered to the initial program step as indicated by the encircled numeral 1 (132).

[0068] The golfer may then try again if he or she so desires, or forego the transaction with this charitable donation and proceed with the golf shot at the tee.

[0069] If the host link is properly established 220, the transaction is verified and/or approved 222.

[0070] If the transaction is declined 224, then a display is made indicating that the transaction is declined 226 to notify the golfer. Control flow of the process is then transferred over to the initialization sequence as indicated by the encircled numeral 1 (132).

[0071] If the transaction is approved 230, a message is delivered to the golfer 232 thanking him or her and indicating the printing of a receipt. A receipt is then printed 234 to indicate a charitably deductible transaction and to otherwise record the transaction. The receipt may be printed by one of many currently known printers, particularly ones that would survive the environment in which the present invention 30 is maintained.

[0072] A subsequent display 240 indicates the beginning of the shot clock and the time in which the golfer has to make the shot. As shown in FIG. 10, the display 240 indicates 45 seconds as being a reasonable period of time in which to effect the golf shot. However, other time periods may also be used according to the selection of the manager of the golf course or otherwise.

[0073] Upon displaying the shot clock message 240, a video recordation of the shot is made 242 with the display 244 indicating the remaining time available in which to make the shot. A timing loop 246 is then engaged in which the current time is tested to see whether or not the shot clock has expired 248.

[0074] If the time has not expired 250, the display 244 is updated and the query as to the expiration of the shot time period 248 is reinvoked. Once the time has expired 252, flow control is transferred as shown by the encircled numeral 3 (254) to a step stopping the video recordation process 256 and a thank you message is displayed 258. The process is then finished 260 and control may then be returned to the initialization loop 130 via the encircled numeral 1 (132) in FIG. 10.

[0075]FIG. 11 shows the steps that may be taken between the confirmation of the establishment of the host link 220 and the approval verification of the transaction 222. In these alternative steps 270, a charity designated by a number or other identifier may be chosen as the recipient of the charitable donation.

[0076] While the charity selection and confirmation process 270 may be invoked separately through a separate start procedure 272, transfer of flow control from the verification of the host link 220 can also lead into the charitable selection process. Once the charity process 272 has been invoked, it takes as input the data received from the keypad/card swipe unit 274. That data is then verified in a verification step 276. If the data is not valid 278, a message may be transmitted as by display to the user 280 in a manner similar to the valid code query 170 resulting in the invalid code display 174 (FIG. 10). If the card data is validated 290, query is made as to the charity number and whether it is recognized 292. If the charity number is not recognized 294, instruction as by a visual notice may be given in order to select another charity number 296. The charity number recognition loop beginning with the query 292 may be similar to that of the initialization loop 130 in FIG. 10. Particularly, the code validation step 170 with its process flow control may be adapted to the recognition of the charity number and the reentry or entry of another charity number if the initially selected charity number is not recognized.

[0077] If the charity is recognized, the process flow then proceeds with querying as to the approval of the transaction 310. This query is similar to that as shown in FIG. 10 at the transaction approval query 222. If the transaction is not approved 312, a “transaction declined” or disapproval message 314 may be transmitted to the user much like that as shown in the transaction decline notification 226 in FIG. 10. If the transaction is approved 316, the transaction is then processed 318 with the approval codes returned to the unit 320 which then indicates the transaction has been approved and the card processing flow procedure 270 finishing 322. After the card processing flow 270 has finished, process control may be then transferred to the keypad/card swipe process 130 such as by entry into the step where the thank you notification is given to the golfer and the receipt is printed 232.

[0078] FIGS. 12-22 illustrate alternative preferred embodiments of the present invention wherein the VCR video tape recording method of FIGS. 1-11 is substituted by a digital video recording method utilizing a computer for recording and storing video images for each attempted golf shot. In addition, the embodiments of FIGS. 12-22 contemplate an alternative and improved technique for golfer participation wherein each golfer may obtain a unique golf shot or attempt number in conjunction with a personal identification number (PIN) at a convenient off-site or remote location, and further wherein the golfer can input his or her shot number and PIN at an activation terminal unit or kiosk located at the specific golf tee immediately prior to attempting the golf shot.

[0079] More specifically, in the embodiment of FIGS. 12-22, each participant golfer may obtain a game card 329 (FIG. 12) or the like for participation in the hole-in-one system of the present invention, wherein the game card may be used on any date or designated range of dates and at any golf course having one or more suitably equipped holes for monitoring and recording the golf shot of each participant. In this regard, the game card 329 will bear a unique card number or other suitable code which is subject to registration, validation and verification, as will be described, prior to an attempt by the golfer to make a hole-in-one. It is envisioned that the game card 329 will be available from a participating charity organization, and/or from participating golf courses, and the like. In one convenient form as shown, the game card 329 may bear bar code information for automated reading of the unique card number thereon.

[0080]FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate registration, validation and verification of a game card 329 by an individual golfer. As shown, in a preferred procedure, a system web site identified by reference numeral 330 is accessed, wherein this web site is set up and operated by the administrator of the hole-in-one registration and verification system. Advantageously, this web site can be accessed via the Internet from any location, and does not require that the golfer travel to any specific location. The golfer or entrant proceeds to a card registration web page 332 and enters the unique game card number. A valid number entry permits the golfer to proceed with building a user profile 334 (typically to include name, address, telephone number, and other relevant contact information), followed by a screen 336 enabling selection of the number of hole-in-one shot attempts which the golfer desires to make. Following this, the flow process continues to fee calculation screen 338 which displays the total amount due from the golfer. A credit card (or debit card) payment routine 340 then allows the golfer to enter an active credit card number for payment in accordance with a financial flow process 342 shown in more detail in FIG. 14.

[0081] More particularly, as shown in FIG. 14, the financial flow process 342 entails automated bank approval of the credit card transaction in a conventional manner, as depicted by transaction block 344. Thereafter, the funds are automatically distributed by a programmable distribution step 346 to apply a selected portion (shown as 30%) to an “administration” account 348 and a selected portion (shown as 70%) to a “charity” or “trust” account 350. A selected portion of the “administration” account may also be applied to a “bonus pool” 352 which may accumulate over time for paying additional prize moneys to winning golfers, as will be further described. The funds applied to the “trust account” 350 and accumulated interest thereon are subsequently deposited to one or more participating charity accounts 354, in accordance with golfer charity designations.

[0082] Returning FIG. 12, a charity selection block 356 enables the golfer to choose one or more particular charitable organizations to receive a contribution as a result of the golfer's participation in the hole-in-one system. In the event that the golfer attempts to designate a charity which is not a current system participant, there is an off-line routine 358 (FIG. 13) by which administrative staff may be contacted in an attempt to add and/or verify participation by a specific organization. One choice available to the golfer may be a “default” choice, in which event the system can be programmed to distribute the golfer's contribution to a “default” charitable organization, or to spread the contribution among a plurality of charitable organizations.

[0083] Following selection of the charity to receive the contribution, the system then prompts the golfer to enter a unique personal identification number (PIN), as indicated by the routine 360 on FIG. 13. Upon acceptance of the PIN, a “transaction completed” screen 362 appears, and enables the golfer to print and receive printed confirmation of the golfer's contribution before exiting the program. The game or shot attempt number in combination with the user-selected PIN constitutes a unique and verifiable shot attempt code.

[0084] As an alternative to the above-described process for on-line registration of the game card, it is envisioned that the golfer may also accomplish the same steps by telephone access using an appropriate toll-free number or the like, to register the game card number, establish a unique PIN associated with that game card, and to make the requisite contribution to one or more charitable organizations.

[0085]FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary activation unit 364 in the form of a relatively compact kiosk-type housing located generally at the golfer's approach to a golf course hole equipped with the registration and monitoring system of the present invention. This activation unit 364 comprises a compact and substantially weatherproof housing similar to that shown and described in FIGS. 5-9, to include a golfer-accessible keypad 366 and a viewable display screen 368. The activation unit 364 may additionally include a card swipe reader 370 for reading a game card bearing magnetic stripe information as described previously herein, and/or a bar code reader 372 for reading a game card bearing bar code information. An upper portion of the activation unit 364 may also bear instructions for operation as indicated by reference numeral 374, and a display map 376 of the specific golf course hole may be mounted onto a lower portion of the activation unit 364. The activation unit 364 is positioned generally adjacent the tee of the golf course hole.

[0086] The flow process implemented by the activation unit 364 is shown in FIG. 16. As shown, the process may be initiated conveniently by the golfer touching the display screen 368 to cause display of a message 378 asking whether the golfer desires more information, or would like to activate the system by entering the appropriate shot attempt code. To activate the system, the golfer enters the game card or shot attempt number as indicated at process block 380, and then enters the unique PIN number associated therewith as indicated at process block 382. If the game card and PIN numbers represent a code that is registered and validated, the golfer's name is displayed on a welcome screen 384, and the golfer is instructed to touch the display screen 368 at the appropriate spot when ready to attempt the golf shot (reference number 386). As soon as the golfer touches the display screen to indicate readiness to attempt the shot, the video cameras at the tee and green are activated (388) and the display screen presents a viewable time countdown (390) such as a time interval of 45 seconds or other suitable time interval sufficient for the golfer to attempt the hole-in-one golf shot. At the conclusion of this time interval, the cameras are turned off (392) and the display screen 368 presents a “thank you” message (394).

[0087] In the event that the golfer has possession of a proper game card or otherwise has a game number which has not previously been activated in association with a PIN number as described in FIGS. 12-13, the activation unit 364 may also be operated for this purpose. More specifically, the golfer can activate the game number by operating the activation unit 364 according to FIGS. 12-13 to enter the game number, establish a PIN number, contribute funds by credit card, and then select one or more charities to receive the contribution. These steps would then be followed by operating the activation unit 364 according to the flow process of FIG. 16 to make a hole-in-one shot attempt.

[0088] FIGS. 17-19 illustrate an alternative preferred embodiment of the invention similar to FIGS. 1-3, but wherein a pair of video cameras is provided at each of the tee and green locations for recording the hole-in-one attempt, and further wherein each video camera is linked to an associated processor unit 396 in the form of a computer having a hard drive for recording digital video signals. More particularly, in a preferred arrangement, FIG. 17 shows a pair of video cameras 32 and 33 mounted (in the manner described with respect to FIGS. 5-9) within the housing “A” of the activation unit 364 at the tee 398. Each of this pair of cameras 32, 33 provides a separate recording of each attempted hole-in-one shot, such as by recording the attempt at a rate of about 30 frames per second (fps). These cameras 32, 33 provide redundant digital video signals to the associated computer unit 396 which stores the video event. The computer unit 396 may be mounted directly within the housing of the activation unit 364, or alternately linked in a suitable manner to the cameras to permit computer unit mounting at a selected remote site. Importantly, the video records produced by these cameras are associated with appropriate golfer identification or shot attempt code identification in conjunction with time and date stamp information to enable subsequent verification of a successful hole-in-one shot attempt.

[0089] Similarly, FIG. 18 shows a pair of video cameras 34 and 35 mounted (in the manner described with respect to FIGS. 5-9) within the housing “B” located at the green 400 of the golf hole. This latter pair of video cameras 34, 35 again provides redundant or back-up recordings of the attempted golf shot. These cameras 34, 35 may also record the event at a rate of about 30 fps. Alternately, one of the cameras 34, 35 may be set to record at a slower rate of about 2 fps for pinpointing the location at which the golf ball comes to rest in relation to the cup, or a third video camera (not shown) may be provided for this function. These video outputs are coupled to the associated computer unit 396 which may be separately mounted within the housing “B”, or may comprise a single computer unit linked to the video cameras mounted within both of the housings “A” and “B”.

[0090] In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the cameras 34, 35 associated with the housing “B” for recording the activity on the green 400 may be used to verify the distance of the ball from the cup at the conclusion of the golf shot. In this regard, the green cameras may be set to record for a longer period of time, sufficient to permit the golfer to walk onto the green and utilize a measuring apparatus such as a measuring tape conveniently built into the flagpole mast to measure this distance between the ball at rest and the cup. This enables the recording system to verify winners in “closest-to-the-pin contests, in addition to hole-in-one verification.

[0091] In the event that the golfer makes a hole-in-one, such winning shot is reported as shown in FIGS. 20-21. As shown, a reporting terminal 402 such as a kiosk similar to the activation unit 364 (FIG. 15) may be located at the golf course at a selected convenient site, such as in the pro shop or clubhouse facility of the golf course. Such reporting terminal may include a touch-activated display screen 404 which is accessed by the golfer to input his or her game card number and unique PIN. Upon entry of such valid identification data, the display screen will present the golfer's name, the date, the golf course, and the specific hole at which the hole-in-one attempt was made by that golfer (405). The golfer is then given an opportunity to verify this information, as indicated at block 406 in FIG. 20, in which event the reporting terminal 402 will respond with an appropriate “thank you” message (408) as shown in FIG. 21 and print a receipt (410) for retention by the golfer.

[0092] Alternatively, in the absence of a reporting terminal at the golf course facility, the golfer may report the winning shot by dialing a toll-free telephone or the like. Reporting of the winning shot may be accomplished by automated responses to programmed data inquiries to collect information such as the game card number, golfer PIN, etc. The golfer may also be given an opportunity to state his or her name, the date, the specific golf course and hole at which the hole-in-one was made, as indicated at block 412, after which a programmed verification number (414) may be given to the golfer. As another alternative, the golfer may report the hole-in-one and relevant golf course details to an operator, as indicated by the flow chart routine 416 in FIG. 21.

[0093] After the hole-in-one is reported, a verification process takes place to check and verify that the reporting golfer has in fact achieved a hole-in-one and is entitled to receive the appropriate prize. As depicted in FIG. 22, administrative staff regularly check incoming telephone reports received automatically or by a operator, as indicated at block 417. Upon receiving a report of a hole-in-one, the staff downloads the video records from the corresponding computer unit or units 396, wherein such download may occur manually (418) or by electronic modem or similar indirect access (420). The administrative staff reviews the video records to determine whether a hole-in-one was in fact achieved, as reported, by the golfer holding a particular game card number. If the staff determines that a hole-in-one has occurred, the video record is then submitted to the insurance carrier (422) for independent verification (424), followed by the insurance carrier issuing a prize check (426) in appropriate amount to the successful golfer. The prize funds paid to the golfer may also include the all or a portion of the funds accumulated in the “bonus pool” account 352 described in FIG. 14.

[0094] In addition to pay-out to a golfer for achieving a hole-in-one, the system can be used to monitor and verify the position of each participating golfer in a “closest-to-the-pin” contest by receiving reports from golfers regarding the distance of each ball from the cup (when a hole-in-one is not achieved). Such close-to-the-hole data can be reported and collected in a similar manner, such as by encouraging golfers to report any shot landing within a specified close distance (e.g., 6 feet) from the cup. Once again, the video record can be reviewed to verify each golfer's report, and to award prizes or otherwise maintain a computer record of the recorded distances. In the example shown, the system web site is updated as indicated at block 428 to maintain a list of golfer's having their shots land within 6 feet of the cup.

[0095] The digital video recording system beneficially provides a high resolution video record of each attempted shot in a form suitable for rapid and convenient storage on the hard disk drive of the computer unit 396, wherein the computer unit 396 can record the action from the tee cameras 32, 33 and the green cameras 34, 35 at the same time. This video record of each hole-in-one shot attempt can be stored on the disk drive for a suitable designated time interval such as one month to give each participant sufficient time to report a winning shot to the program administrator for verification and prize award. The computer unit 396 is linked by modem or wireless RF connection to the reporting terminal 402, which in turn is also linked in a similar manner to the system administrator for remote downloading of the video record for a reported hole-in-one shot. This arrangement enables administrative staff to access and download the video record in a remote manner from a central office site, without requiring staff members to travel to individual golf courses to retrieve video tape cassettes for review and verification. Appropriate security watermarks may be embedded onto the computer storage disk for enhancing the authenticity of the video record. Moreover, the digital video record can be viewed frame-by-frame as part of the verification process.

[0096] While the present invention has been described with regard to particular embodiments, it is recognized that additional variations of the present invention may be devised without departing from the inventive concept. In this regard, it will be appreciated that features of the embodiments shown and described in FIGS. 12-22 may be incorporated into the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-11, and vice versa. Accordingly, no limitation on the invention is intended by way of the foregoing description and accompanying drawings, except as set forth in the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6974391Jun 28, 2002Dec 13, 2005Ainsworth Clifford LMethod and apparatus for uniquely identifying a golf ball at a target
WO2004114203A1 *Jun 21, 2004Dec 29, 2004Marc F BrownMethod and apparatus for activity analysis
Classifications
U.S. Classification473/131
International ClassificationA63B71/06
Cooperative ClassificationA63B71/0605
European ClassificationA63B71/06B