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Publication numberUS20020016210 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/778,009
Publication dateFeb 7, 2002
Filing dateFeb 5, 2001
Priority dateJan 20, 1995
Also published asUS20020165046
Publication number09778009, 778009, US 2002/0016210 A1, US 2002/016210 A1, US 20020016210 A1, US 20020016210A1, US 2002016210 A1, US 2002016210A1, US-A1-20020016210, US-A1-2002016210, US2002/0016210A1, US2002/016210A1, US20020016210 A1, US20020016210A1, US2002016210 A1, US2002016210A1
InventorsRobert Helber
Original AssigneeHelber Robert A.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for displaying golf ball location
US 20020016210 A1
Abstract
A method for identifying position and displaying information about the position is provided, including the steps of digitizing visual images and electronically storing information regarding positions displayed in the visual images; electronically displaying the visual images; and electronically displaying information regarding user-selected positions displayed in the visual images. A device is provided that includes an electronic display screen for displaying visual images and information stored on a removable memory module. A control panel includes a control pad and buttons that enable a user to selectively display the digitized photographs and selected information concerning positions and objects shown on the display device.
Images(12)
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Claims(13)
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:
1. A method for identifying a location of a golf ball relative to any location on a displayed photograph of a golf course hole, comprising the steps of:
(a) positioning at least one marker having known linear dimensions on one or more golf course holes and taking one or more aerial photographs of the one or more golf course holes that include the marker;
(b) digitizing the one or more aerial photographs [of one or more holes of a golf course] into bit-mapped pixel data and storing said data in a memory device for display on an electronic display device;
(c) scaling the bit-mapped pixels to the at least one marker having known linear dimensions and storing the bit-mapped pixel scaling in electronic memory;
(d) spotting a location of the golf ball visually on a golf course and manually inputting the location of the golf ball on an input device so that an indicator representing the golf ball appears at the location on the golf course hole displayed on the electronic display device;
(e) electronically calculating on an electronic calculation device a calculated distance between the location of the golf ball and one or more locations on the displayed golf course hole using only the scaled digitized aerial photograph and the stored bit-mapped pixel scale and;
(f) displaying the calculated distance between the location of the golf ball and the one or more locations on the displayed golf course hole.
2. A method for identifying the location of a golf ball, comprising the steps of:
(a) placing at least one marker having known linear dimensions on at least one golf course hole;
(b) obtaining an aerial photograph of the at least one golf course hole and at least one marker;
(c) converting the aerial photograph into a digital bit map having pixels assigned an address in electronic memory;
(d) scaling the digital bit-mapped pixels to the linear dimension of the at least one marker; and
(e) storing the scaled digital bit-mapped pixel information in electronic memory;
(f) displaying the digital aerial photograph on an electronic display device; and
(g) calculating and displaying on the electronic display device the linear distance between user-selected locations on the displayed aerial photograph with an accuracy of plus or minus five yards.
3. The method of claim 2 wherein said step of calculating and displaying the linear distance further comprises calculating the linear distance using only the scaled digital bit-mapped pixel information stored in electronic memory.
4. The method of claim 3 wherein the step of obtaining includes taking an aerial photograph at an altitude in the range of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet above the at least one golf course hole.
5. The method of claim 3 wherein the step of obtaining an aerial photograph further comprises taking an aerial photograph having a resolution of no greater than 1/1000th of an inch to achieve an accuracy in linear distance calculation of at least ±5 yards.
6. The method of claim 3 wherein the step of obtaining an aerial photograph further comprises taking the aerial photograph from a position that is approximately above the center of the golf course hole to reduce oblique angle distortion at the edges of the aerial photograph.
7. A method for calculating and displaying linear distances between userselected locations on an electronic display of at least one golf course hole, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) positioning on at least one golf course hole at least one marker having known linear dimensions of sufficient length to be visible in an aerial photograph taken from an aircraft at an altitude of between 1,000 feet and 2,000 feet above ground level;
(b) photographing the at least one golf course hole having the at least one marker positioned thereon from an aircraft at an altitude in the range of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet above ground level to create at least one aerial photograph
(c) converting the at least one aerial photograph into digital electronic form having bit-mapped pixels;
(d) determining the scale of the digital bit mapped pixels by referencing the known linear dimensions of the at least one marker to the bit-mapped pixels; and
(e) displaying the scaled digital aerial photograph on an electronic display device for calculating and displaying linear distances between user-selected locations on the displayed digital aerial photograph using only the scaled bit-mapped pixel information.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein said step of photographing the at least one golf course hole further comprises using a high speed, fine grain film to achieve a resolution of no greater than 1/1000th of an inch to enable a linear distance calculation accuracy of at least ±5 yards.
9. The method of claim 7 wherein said at least one golf course hole is photographed at an altitude of about 1,500 feet above ground level.
10. The method of claim 7 wherein said step of photographing the at least one golf course hole further includes positioning the aircraft approximately above the center of at least one golf course hole to reduce oblique angle distortion at the edges of the photograph.
11. A method of electronically displaying a golf course hole and calculating and displaying linear distances between user-selected locations on the golf course hole, the steps of the method comprising:
(a) converting into digital bit-mapped format an aerial photograph of at least one golf course hole having at least one linear scaling marker pre-positioned thereon;
(b) calculating the scale of the pixels in the bit-mapped aerial photograph by referencing the at least one linear scaling marker in the photograph; and
(c) displaying the bit-mapped aerial photograph on an electronic display device for calculating and displaying distances between user-selected locations on the displayed aerial photograph.
12. The method of claim 11 wherein said step of calculating the scale comprises the additional steps of verifying the scaling by calculating at least one linear distance and comparing the calculated linear distance with a known reliable measurement of the same distance.
13. The method of claim 11, comprising the further steps of:
(a) transferring the scaled bit-mapped aerial photograph to a portable memory device; and
(b) connecting the portable memory device to the electronic display device for calculating and displaying linear distances between user-selected locations on the displayed aerial photograph.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/835,868, filed Apr. 8, 1997 (now pending); which is a file wrapper continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/376,039, filed Jan. 20, 1995 (abandoned).

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention is directed to an electronic device that displays a geographic area and information about user-selected locations and objects in the area, such as relative distances between locations, objects, and geographic features on a golf course.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] In the game of golf, the object is to hit a golf ball from the tee into a hole on a green in as few strokes as possible. The clubs used by a golfer to hit the ball are constructed of varying shaft lengths and angled faces on the club head to provide varying ball trajectories and distances of travel, thereby enabling placement of the ball on the green as close to the hole as skillfully possible. The ability to accurately and quickly identify the location of the golf ball relative to other locations on the golf course, especially distances, is critical to the successful outcome of the game.

[0004] It is important that a golfer have an accurate measurement of the distance from the ball to the green in order to select the correct club. Because of sight-blocking obstacles, such as trees and hills, it is not always possible for a golfer to see the green and thus judge the distance a ball must travel to reach the green. In most cases, a golfer will estimate distances based on prior experience, which can be very subjective and imprecise. Limitations in a golfer's eyesight and lack of experience can result in gross misjudgment of distance. While cards that depict the layout of the golf course holes and the distance from the green to the tee are sometimes provided by the golf course as well as private companies, they do not facilitate quick and accurate measurement from any location on a golf course hole to the green.

[0005] Various methods have been proposed for measuring the distance traveled by a golf ball, such as lasers, radio signals, sighting devices, and the global positioning system (GPS). Such devices are expensive, cumbersome, and relatively inaccurate. There is a need for a portable, lightweight, relatively inexpensive device that enables a golfer to quickly and accurately locate the position of a golf ball relative to a green or other geographic feature and to calculate or measure the distance from the ball to the green or other selected geographic feature.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The invention described herein is directed to a method and apparatus for displaying an aerial photograph and displaying information about locations and objects in the photograph, including relative distances. One method comprises obtaining a photograph of a geographic area; storing the image and information about locations and objects displayed in the photograph in an electronic memory device; displaying the photograph on an electronic display device; electronically selecting one or more locations and objects in the displayed photograph; and electronically displaying information about the locations and objects. The “location” includes, but is not limited to, a relative location in terms of distances from other locations, geographic terrain features, and objects, such as structures, buildings, signs, streets, and markers. The displayed information may include, but is not limited to, the distance between the location and one or more other locations on the displayed image, the address of the location, such as the address and telephone number associated with real property, the owner of the property, etc.

[0007] In accordance with the invention, a device is provided for displaying locations and information about the locations, the device comprising an electronic memory device for storing a digitized image of an area, such as a photograph, and for storing one or more photographs of an area and information about locations and objects in the photograph; an electronic display device for displaying the photograph; and an input device to enable a user to select one or more locations and objects on the displayed photograph and display information about the one or more locations and objects.

[0008] The method formed in accordance with the invention for locating and measuring the position of a golf ball, comprises digitizing an aerial photograph of one or more holes of a golf course and storing the digitized data in a memory device; scaling the digitized photograph to a high degree of accuracy, displaying the photograph on an electronic display device; selecting the position of a golf ball on the display device; and electronically measuring and displaying the distance between the location of the golf ball and one or more locations and objects on the displayed golf course hole photograph.

[0009] In accordance with another aspect of the invention, the digitizing an aerial photograph of one or more holes of a golf course includes taking an aerial photograph of one or more holes of a golf course. The method further includes inputting the strokes of one or more golfers and calculating and displaying a total score for each of the one or more golfers and related handicaps, time on course, time for each hole, and average course and hole times.

[0010] As will be readily appreciated from the foregoing, the invention provides a relatively simple, inexpensive, and portable device to enable a golfer, as well as other sports enthusiasts, governnent officials, emergency service providers, and others, to quickly and easily locate a position of an object and display information about the object, such as distance from the object to geographic terrain features, the identity of the object, the owner of the object, etc. Thus, the invention will be useful in many areas, such as assisting emergency service providers in locating a building or residence and identifying the owner. This would also be useful to government agencies, utilities, and surveyors. While the invention described herein was designed as an aid for use in playing the game of golf, and will be described in the context of the game of golf, it is to be understood that it may have application in many other activities.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] The foregoing and other features and advantages of the present invention will be more readily appreciated as the same becomes better understood from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0012]FIG. 1 is a flow chart depicting the steps of a representative embodiment of the method of the invention;

[0013]FIG. 2 is a front elevational sketch of a hand-holdable, electronic device formed in accordance with the invention and showing the controls and a sample opening screen;

[0014]FIG. 2A is a front elevation view of an alternative embodiment of the display device of the invention;

[0015]FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, illustrating a second screen of displayed information;

[0016]FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, showing a third screen of displayed information;

[0017]FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, showing a fourth screen displaying a hole of a golf course;

[0018]FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, displaying a fifth screen showing the hole displayed in FIG. 5 with the ball in a different location;

[0019]FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, showing a sixth screen displaying the selection of a score;

[0020]FIG. 8 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 2, showing a seventh screen displaying a different hole of a golf course;

[0021]FIGS. 9 and 10 are reproductions of a display screen depicting a golf course hole and information about the position of a golf ball thereon;

[0022]FIG. 11 is a block diagram of the electronics for the invention;

[0023]FIG. 12 is a flowchart depicting the steps of an alternative method of the invention described herein;

[0024]FIG. 13 is a screen shot of a digitized aerial photograph of a golf course hole;

[0025]FIG. 14 shows the device mounted on a golf cart;

[0026]FIG. 15 is an enlarged view of the device of FIG. 14; and

[0027]FIG. 16 is a block diagram of the device of FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0028] The invention described herein is directed to a method and apparatus for displaying locations. The location can be a relative location in terms of distances from other positions, or an object, including, but not limited to, a golf ball, a building, a geographic terrain feature, or an object in space, such as a vehicle, planet, etc. Referring initially to FIG. 1, depicted therein are the steps that comprise the method of one embodiment of the invention, i.e., displaying the location of a golf ball on a golf course. It is to be understood that while the method of the invention will be described in this context, the method can be applied to other activities, such as surveying, providing emergency services, hiking, flying, and space travel.

[0029] Turning to FIG. 1, the first step of one embodiment of the method is depicted in the first box 10, which is labeled “Aerial Photo-Scaled.” In this step, an aerial photograph is taken of the desired geographic area. In the representative embodiment being described herein, the photograph will be that of a golf course. A pilot flies over a predetermined area and photographs the area, from one to three different altitudes. This permits scaling of each photograph at the different altitudes. The use of different altitudes is required by the different layout of golf courses; some are compact and require low-altitude shots, while others are more expansive and require photographs from a higher altitude. Furthermore, the smaller the camera, the greater number of altitudes that must be used in order to fill the photograph as much as possible from one end to the other.

[0030] Ideally, the aircraft is a fixed-wing, single-engine craft that can maintain an air speed of 50 miles per hour or less. This slow speed permits the use of slower, finer-grain film in combination with a slightly higher camera shutter speed of around 250. While a helicopter would be ideal, it can be cost-prohibitive. A fixed-wing aircraft is suitable because it can take relatively low-altitude photographs that may then be enlarged without substantial loss of detail when digitized into and displayed on an electronic medium. Multiple-engine aircraft can be used that are equipped with forward-looking cameras that eliminate the blurring caused by the higher speeds.

[0031] A professional 35-millimeter camera having an 85-millimeter lens has been found to produce acceptable photographs. If possible, the photographs should be taken between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to eliminate shadows. Cloud cover is ideal, if enough light is available, because shadows are not formed. Each hole of a go If course is individually photographed, preferably directly in the center of the fairway in order to eliminate as much geometric distortion as possible. By centering the hole in photograph and maintaining an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet above the golf course hole, the measurable geometric distortion from the tee to the green is greatly reduced.

[0032] In taking the photographs, the aircraft and camera must be calibrated by flying over a known 25-foot marker in an X pattern at 1,000 feet, 1,500 feet, and 2,000 feet. This enables scaling of the photographs for later processing and identifying of the geometric distortion at the corners of the photograph. The photograph is considered usable for commercial purposes as long as it is within plus or minus a yard by scale. In order for the commercialized version of the product to be accurate within plus or minus five yards, the photograph itself must be accurate within a yard due to built-in distortion from the actual processing of the aerial photography and electronic scanning or digitization.

[0033] The photographs themselves should have a resolution of no greater than 1/1000th of an inch. This enables the enlargement that is required without losing the detail in the final displayed image. The photograph is developed and digitized into an enlarged eight inch by ten inch photo. The digitized photograph is then cropped, scaled, and additional data established (yardage, par, center of green, etc.) and then compressed into the program module.

[0034] In the next step, depicted as the second box 12 in FIG. 1, the negative of the photograph is scanned into a computer. Scanning of photographs into a computer is known to those skilled in the art, and it can be accomplished with cormnercially-available scanning or digitizing equipment. If necessary, after scanning each hole of the golf course is separated into individual screens as noted in the third box 14. A scanning program can be readily developed by one of ordinary skill that outlines the contour of each hole, separates it, labels it, and stores it in electronic memory.

[0035] A computer operator then inputs information about the yardage and the recommended par for each hole. Also, as shown in the fourth box 16 in FIG. 1, information about the scale of the photograph is also inputted into the computer to enable precise yardage measurement, calculation, and display.

[0036] Each hole is then individually retrieved on the computer and indicia are placed on the digitized photographs indicating the position of blue, white, and red tees. As is well known to golfers, every golf course lays out its course starting with the longest yardage as measured from the blue tees or the rear-most tee. This area is set by regulation from the National Golf Association as 12 feet from the back of the tee area. In addition, the center of the green, not the actual hole itself, is also identified with indicia on the digitized photograph. Measurements are then entered as data, identifying distances in yardage from blue, white, and red tees to the center of the green. Using the known distance of 12 feet from the back of the tee to the blue tee or blue stake, enables a computer operator to enter data of measurements to other areas on the golf course hole. For instance, fairways having doglegs would be measured by adding the two measured distances down the center of the fairway, as would be done using a conventional tape measure. This step of scaling each hole is depicted in the sixth box 20.

[0037] The data and other required information for each hole is then used to scale each hole as a bit map, making each pixel an address from and to the identified targets on the golf course hole, i.e., the tees and the middle of the green. The yardage is then verified by displaying the hole on a computer monitor and moving an indicator (using a mouse, arrow keys, or a touch screen) to the blue stake position. The calculated yardage “from tee” should read 0. The indicator is then moved to the center of the green and the yardage “to green” should also read 0. This is one method of verifying yardage scaling, as shown in the seventh box 22.

[0038] Next, the data for the golf course is compressed into a program consisting of either 9, 18 or 27 holes. The program is then “burned” or loaded into a plug-in module. Ideally, each module will have two to three megs of memory and be able to hold up to four 18-hole golf courses. The modules may also contain programming that permits storing of the history of the number of strokes for the last two times the user has played that hole. This information will be entered by the user during the actual play of the hole.

[0039] Referring, again to FIG. 1, following the eighth box 24, which depicts the step of loading the program into the modules, is the step referred to in the ninth box 26 of programming a base unit, such as a hand-holdable electronic display device, to retrieve and display golf course holes as identified by a series of screen options selected by a user. Referring to options displayed in the screen, the user manipulates the controls on the base unit to look up the history of strokes for the hole currently displayed. The user can retrieve current standings, i.e., how far above or below par for the displayed course. In addition, the base unit can be programmed to display which golf course is chosen, information about the golf course, such as phone number, address, number of holes, slope, and rating. In addition, advertising can be programmed into the modules for display at various times in the program.

[0040] Referring next to FIG. 2, depicted therein is a front elevational sketch of a hand-holdable display device 28, the lower half of which is a control panel 30 and the upper half of which is a display screen 32. The display device 28 is constructed of commercially-available components, including a ĽVGA LCD display 32, such as the Sharp Electronics Corp. LM320081. The actual case may be designed to have a variety of shapes, such as the ergonomically designed device 28 shown in FIG. 2A.

[0041] In the representative embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, the control panel 30 includes a control pad 34 and four buttons 36-42. The control pad 34 controls movement of the cursor, which is shown on the display screen 32 as a darkened triangle 44. Movement of the cursor is illustrated with the dotted lines. The control pad 34 has four legs 46 at right angles to each other, with small triangle-shaped indicia 48 thereon indicating the direction of cursor movement when the leg is depressed. This type of control pad is known in the art and is readily commercially available.

[0042] Shown in FIG. 2 is a representative example of an opening screen. Th screen contains the words “Welcome to Spotter,” and “Using the arrow, select the course you are playing.” The three courses available for display listed below, which are Fair Oaks, Valley View II, and Ogden Valley in Utah. The courses to be displayed on the display screen 32 are selected from the courses that are loaded onto a plug-in module 50 shown projecting upward from the displayed device 28). The plug-in module is a five volt 4 Mb EEPROM commercially available from Silicon Storage Technology, Inc., part no. 285F040 SuperFlash EEPROM.

[0043] Loaded onto the module 50 is a compressed program containing the digitized photographs of the golf course holes for each of the golf courses and the scaling information and yardage. The display of this information in the module is partially controlled by the control pad 34. In addition, the buttons 36-42 control the processor and memory storage components (not shown) inside the display device 28. These components are also commercially available units, such as a Motorola, Inc. MC 68HC000 micropower microprocessor and a Motorola, Inc. MCM54800 A DRAM.

[0044] In operation, a user will power up the display device 28 after the module 50 has been plugged in. The opening screen directs the user on how to select courses and the courses that are available on that particular module 50. In the example illustrated in FIG. 2, the golf course “Valley View II” has been selected with the control pad 34.

[0045] More particularly, the first menu shown in FIG. 2 will be displayed upon power up of the device 28. The particular golf course of choice will be selected by using the control pad 34 to toggle through the choices. Once a choice has been selected, the user will push button (1) 36 to pop up the next menu screen shown in FIG. 3. This screen will be displayed until the user again pushes button (1) (36, which then pops up the third screen depicted in FIG. 4.

[0046] Turning next to FIG. 3, illustrated therein is a front plan view of the display device 28 of FIG. 2 showing the second screen on the display screen 32. This screen gives the name, address, telephone numbers, number of holes, and slope rating for each of the blue, white, and red tees. This second screen 52 is then de-selected by pressing the button (1) 36.

[0047]FIG. 4 illustrates the third screen 54, which contains directions to the user on how to select the hole on which the user is starting.

[0048] By using control pad 34, the user will be able to toggle through the various hole selections. Once having determined the hole the user would like to view, the user again pushes button (1) 36. This displays the bit-mapped graphics representation of the whole the user has selected, as shown in FIG. 5. In this case, the user has selected hole number 3 of the selected golf course, which then causes the fourth screen 56 depicted in FIG. 5 to be displayed.

[0049] Shown on the display screen 32 is a digitized aerial photograph of the entire hole, including the tee 58, the fairway 60, sand traps 62, and the green 64. Also displayed on the screen are the par and total yardage figures for the course as well as a history of the user's average score for playing this hole.

[0050] In the bottom right-hand portion of the display screen 32 are the words “From Tee” 66 and “To Green” 68. Following each of these words is a numeral for the distance measured in yards from the ball location arrow 70 to the specific geographic feature, in this case the tee and the green. More specifically, in FIG. 5 the ball location arrow 70 is on the tee. Therefore, the distance “From Tee” 66 is “0” ; and the distance “To Green” is “276” yards. While in this screen, the user, by utilizing control pad 34, will be able to move the cursor displayed on the screen. Simultaneously, the yardage from the cursor to the green and from the cursor to the tee will be displayed.

[0051] Turning next to FIG. 6, the fifth screen 72 shows the same hole 3. However, the golfer has now hit the ball from the tee 58 onto the fairway 60. After spotting the ball on the fairway, the golfer moves the ball location arrow 70 with the control pad 34 to indicate within plus or minus five yards the position of the golf ball on the fairway 60. Now, the distance “From Tee” reads 180, which is the distance in yards, and the distance “To Green” now reads 95, which is the distance to the green in yards from the location of the ball. Pressing button (1) 36 will cause the sixth screen 74 to be displayed.

[0052]FIG. 7 depicts the sixth screen 74, which is the screen in which the golfer selects the score and enters it into the computer in the display device 28. The user will be able to toggle through the various stroke choices by utilizing the control pad 34. Once having toggled to the stroke, the user wishes to save, the user pushes button (1) 36 and the strokes for this hole will be saved. This action also pops up the third menu screen 54 shown in FIG. 4. Since the third hole has just been completed, the user will select the fourth hole, which is illustrated as the seventh screen 76 in FIG. 8. The above process is then repeated until the user has finished playing all nine or eighteen holes. The user closes this golf course by pushing button (2) 38, which brings the user back to the first screen 32 illustrated in FIG. 2. The user can then either choose to go to another golf course or to quit by turning the power off on the device.

[0053] Buttons (3) 40 and (4) 42 may be eliminated or used to control additional features, such as displaying other distances or additional information about the user's history on playing this particular golf course. For instance, when the screen is displaying the bit-mapped graphics, the user may zoom in on a particular geographic area on the golf course. This zoom function is initiated by pressing one of the buttons, i.e., button (1) 36. By repeatedly pressing this button, the area on which the cursor is placed will be enlarged, preferably in 25% increments, until the zoom reaches a maximum of preferably 200%. Pressing the button after the maximum is reached will return the display to the 100% display. In other words, once the zoom function has begun, the user must zoom to the maximum in order to return to the regular display.

[0054]FIGS. 9 and 10 are reproductions of display screens showing a digitized photograph 90 of a golf course hole. The cursor 98 is shown as a circle having vertical and horizontal cross-hairs 100, 102 intersecting in the center thereof. On the top portion of the display illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10 is an optional menu bar 104 that includes the various options available to the user in this alternative embodiment. Depicted under the menu bar 104 is a display bar 106 displaying the par for the hole, the distance in yardage from the blue, white and red tees, the number of the hole presently being played, and a button 108 that activates the zoom or enlargement feature.

[0055] Displayed on the lower portion of the screen illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10 is another display bar 110 showing the yardage from the intersection of the cross hairs 100, 102 in the cursor 98 to the green 114 and from the tee 112. In FIG. 9, the cursor 98 is placed over the approximate position of the ball, and the yardage is displayed in the lower display bar 110. Similarly, in FIG. 10, the golf ball has been moved closer to the green 114. Hence, the cursor 98 has been moved to the right on the display 90, with the resultant change in the yardage depicted in the lower display bar 110.

[0056] Turning next to FIG. 11, illustrated therein is a block diagram of the electronics for the display device 28. The “LCD” module block 78 is the primary display screen 32 for the display device 38. It consists of a ĽVGA color Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) for the color unit and a ĽVGA LCD for the monochrome unit.

[0057] The LCD controller block 80 represents the LCD controller that receives bit mapped graphics (BMP) and characters from the microprocessor 82 and stores this data in the video memory 84. The video memory 84 is provided to relieve the microprocessor 82 of continually sending the BMP to the controller 80 each time the display screen 32 is refreshed. The display is a restor scanned device that essentially has rows and columns of pixels or individual light outputting or modulating devices. These pixels are turned on in rows one by one down the screen. This is known as a restor scan. Once the restor scan has reached the bottom of the device, the process is started over, and this is called the refresh.

[0058] In addition to decoding characters, the controller 80 interfaces the LCD module 78 to the microprocessor 82 and the video memory 84. Decoding characters is here meant to be the process of receiving digital information and translating this information into pixels to be displayed on the display screen 32.

[0059] The “I/0” block 86 is the programmable input-output (PIO) device that the microprocessor 82 programs to send the BMP and characters out to the LCD controller 80. Additionally, the microprocessor 82 uses the PIO device 86 to retrieve user information from the keyboard 88. In this case, the voltage level signal from the keyboard 88 is converted to digital information for the microprocessor 82, i.e., analog-to-digital conversion. The keyboard 88 is a five-key device that consists of the control pad 34 with the four legs 46 and the four enter/select buttons 36-42.

[0060] The microprocessor 82 is the main processing unit of a display device 28. It consists of a 32-bit “strong arm” chip to accommodate the CE language, although a 16-bit microprocessor chip (not shown) along with all of its supporting electronics can be used. These supporting electronics interface the microprocessor 82 to the other components, and they protect the microprocessor 82 from potentially destructive input from an open connector when the ROM plug-in module 50 is not present.

[0061] The ROM module 50 is a plug-in cartridge or a portable drive, such as a Clik! Drive from lomega Corporation in Roy, Utah, that stores the microprocessor operating system, the BMPs, and the microprocessor program. It consists of programmable, read-only memory (PROM). The microprocessor operating system is the information the processor needs to communicate with all the components described herein. The microprocessor program is the instructions the microprocessor carries out to provide information to the user.

[0062] The hand-holdable display device 28 also contains random access memory (RAM) 92. The microprocessor will retrieve the operating system and the program from the module PROM 90 and store this in RAM 92. This is because the RAM 92 is much faster than the ROM memory and the module 90 and facilitates an increase in speed of the system.

[0063] The power supply 94 may be self-contained voltage output devices, such as standard alkaline batteries or rechargeable nicad batteries. The clock 916 includes a crystal oscillator. This oscillator provides system timing to the LCD module 78 and the microprocessor 82. The system timing is necessary to synchronize the microprocessor 82 output and input to and from the other digital devices in the hand-held display device 28.

[0064] In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, a high-precision method for displaying golf ball location and other information is provided. In this embodiment, a high-precision measuring device, such as a laser, is used to measure the distance on each hole of a golf course. This distance measurement is used to scale digitized aerial photographs to an accuracy of within one to five yards.

[0065] Referring to FIGS. 12 and 13, in this method the length of each of the holes 122 of a selected golf course is measured, preferably with a commercially available laser measuring device. Less preferred would be an optical tool, such as that used by highway departments for measuring distances. Initially, the fairway centerline 123 of each hole 122 is determined by measurement (Step A) from the sides of the fairway 124. The centerline 123 is extended through the tee area 125 on one end and through the green 126 on the other end. In a dogleg situation or where the fairway 124 has multiple turns, the intersections 127 of the fairway centerlines 123, 123 a are marked for placement of a reflector to redirect the laser down the centerline.

[0066] A base marker 128 is placed on the centerline 123 near the back edge 125 a of the tee area 125. A green center point 129 is identified on the centerline 123 a in the center of the green 126. The green center point 129 is determined by taking one half of the distance between where the centerline 123 a enters the green 126 and where the centerline 123 a exits the green 126. A laser device (not shown) is then placed on the base marker 126 and aligned with the centerline 123 of the fairway 124 to obtain a precise distance measurement from the base marker 128 to a receiver positioned at the green center point 129 (Step B).

[0067] After the length of each hole is measured and the laser equipment removed, an aerial photograph is taken of each hole. Prior to taking the photograph, the base marker 128 on each hole is covered with a high-visibility flag. In this embodiment, a twenty inch by twenty inch bright orange flag is placed on the base marker 128. Grommets in the flag enable it to be staked down to ensure the flag remains in place. A small flag is all that is required, which facilitates easy and rapid placement on each hole. Although it is not required, a separate marker may be placed on the green center point to facilitate later scaling of the photograph.

[0068] After all of the holes on the course are marked with the flag, an aerial photograph of each hole is taken (Step C). In order to achieve the desired accuracy, a nine inch negative mapping camera having six inch linear distortion tolerance is used. Each hole is photographed with color film, preferably more than once.

[0069] The photograph is developed in a conventional manner, then digitized (Step D) into electronic medium using a commercially-available optical scanner. Alternatively, a high-resolution digital camera may be used to provide a photograph in electronic form if the resolution is high enough for the desired accuracy. When the photograph is digitized, it is preferably scanned in at six, seven, or eight inches with twenty-four bits of color for each bit pixel, and a bitmap file is created.

[0070] The digitized photograph 130 is then displayed electronically using a commercially-available software program, such as Adobe Photo Shop. A hole identification (HID) file is created (Step E) for each hole to be used in scaling the photograph, identifying hazards, calculating distance, and other functions described below.

[0071] The digitized aerial photograph 130 is preferably scaled in the following manner. The base marker 128 is identified in the digitized photograph 130, either electronically or visually. The center of the fairway 124 is determined, again either visually as an estimate, or more preferably by measurement on the screen using the Adobe software. Where the fairway changes direction, the intersection 127 of the centerlines 123 , 123 a of the straight portions of the fairway 124 are identified by drawing a visible line down the centerline of each straight portion of the fairway, starting at the base marker 128 on the tee 125.

[0072] The centerline 123 a of the final leg is drawn through the green 126. The center point 129 of the green 126 is identified either from a pre-positioned marker or by positioning an electronic marker 132 on the center point 129. The center point 129 is determined by marking one half the distance between the front of the green 126 and the rear of the green 126 on the center line 123 a of the final leg of the fairway 124.

[0073] The total number of pixels in each leg of the centerline 123, 123 a from the base marker 128 to the green center point 129 is next determined by counting or by using the Adobe Software. The total pixels are then divided by the previously-measured yardage to obtain the number of pixels per yard. Alternatively, the number of yards per pixel may be used by dividing the total yardage by the total number of pixels, although the preferred method is pixels per yard. In this embodiment, the number of pixels per yard can vary from 1.0 to 10.0, on average, depending upon altitude of the camera and the resolution. It is important that each hole be separately scaled to provide the highest level of accuracy.

[0074] The scale in pixels per yard and the location of the green center point 129 are included in the HID file. Also included in the HID file in this embodiment is the identification of three hazards, such as sand traps 134, water, and trees. These hazards are within a range of 100 to 250 yards of the tee, and more preferably 150 to 225 yards, for purposes to be described below. The scaled digitized photographs 166 and HID file 164 (shown in FIG. 16) are saved onto a portable memory device (Step F), such as the Clik! Disk portable disk 162 available from lomega Corporation in Roy, Utah. The disk is loaded with programming software for calculating distance, and tracking player scores, time on each hole, accumulated time, and other information, which is described in more detail below.

[0075] The software is then interfaced (Step G) with existing golf course software. A parallel port connection can be used to provide the hardware interface. This enables updating of the scaled digitized photograph and input of golfer names, average course and hole times, golfer handicaps, course announcements, advertising, and the like, on the disk 162. This interface also enables later downloading of golfer information, such as the golfers' scores, time on the course, and time on each hole, from the disk 162 to the golf course software.

[0076] The updating of the digitized scaled photograph from the golf course software includes, but is not limited to, adjustment in the position of the green center point to the actual location of the pin for each hole. This correction factor enables a golfer to precisely locate the pin on the hole, even though the actual view of the pin from the course may be obstructed. This further permits precise yardage calculation to the pin instead of to the measured center point on the green.

[0077] Once the information on the disk 162 is updated from the golf course software with golfer and course information, the disk 162 in then taken (Step H) to the golf-cart 140 mounted unit 142, shown in FIGS. 14-15. The unit 142 includes a case 144 that is physically attached to the golf cart 140. Mounted in the case 144 is an LCD screen 146, and overlaid on the LCD screen 146 is a touch screen, preferably a 16-bit touch screen 147. These two screens 146, 147 are readily commercially available. Ideally, a twelve inch 600 by 800 high-resolution TFT LCD screen with touch screen attached is used.

[0078]FIG. 16 illustrates in block diagram form the portable system 160 of the invention. Mounted in the case is an on-board computer. In one embodiment, a 586 computer having a 133 megahertz or faster processor with 32 megabits of RAM and 4 megabits of “disk-on-chip” for a hard drive is used. An lomega removable Clik! Mobile Drive 149 is mounted in the case to receive the disk 162. The removable drive 149 and disk 162 take the place of a 3-˝inch disk. Because the disk 162 holds up to 40 meg of memory and transfers information at twice the speed of a regular disk, it is the preferred method for storing and transferring graphics in a JPEG format to the RAM in the on-board computer 148. This eliminates the requirement of a large hard drive.

[0079] In RAM, the JPEG file is unzipped or expanded into a 24 bit bitmap and then displayed on the LCD 146. Ideally, at least three hole bitmaps are loaded at one time so that when a golfer is ready to go to the next hole, there is not a long wait to load the graphic of the next hole. The micro-operating system running the on-board computer 148 in this embodiment is written in CE language that can be run from the disk-on-chip.

[0080] The case 144 is sealed to protect from water and the elements. Mounting of the case 144 under the roof 150 of the cart 140 provides additional protection from the sun, rain, dust, etc. The unit 142 is powered by the cart battery.

[0081] The device will now be described as used in conjunction with a golf course database. The golf course enters daily updates regarding course information, pin locations, reserved golfer times, etc., into the golf course database. As golfers come in to play, the course operator interfaces the disk 162 with the course software as described above (Step G) to download the names of the golfers, other golfer information, and course information as described above. The golfers then take the disk 162 to the cart where it is inserted (Step H) into the disk drive 149 in the unit 142. An opening screen briefly displays the course logo, welcomes the golfers, and then displays a map of the entire course. Also displayed on the screen 146 are the numbers 152 representing each of the course holes being played by the golfers that day. Optional advertising may also be displayed as well as announcements concerning hazards and changes on the course that are included in the course announcements previously downloaded by the golf course.

[0082] Golfers select their beginning hole by either touching the displayed hole on the course map or touching the numeral of the hole displayed on the touch screen 147.

[0083] The first hole 154 is displayed with an arrow indicating the location of the blue tee on the displayed hole. Automatically displayed at the same time are the distances in yards from the blue tee to the front, center point, and back of the green along the fairway centerline. Alternatively, the distance to the pin itself may be displayed in addition to or in lieu of the three previous distances. Also displayed on the screen are the distances from the blue tee to the three previously identified hazards that are within a range of 150 to 225 yards from the tee. When hazards are altered by the golf course, the HID file 164 can be configured to be updated by the golf course software to display revised distances or other information as necessary. The HID file 164 can also be manually updated to identify other hazards, revise existing information and functions, and add new information and functions.

[0084] When a golfer tees off from a different tee, they will touch the screen 147 at the red or white tee, then touch a displayed button labeled “set ball.” The arrow then moves to the new tee location, and all displayed yardages are updated to be calculated from the new tee location. Each golfer can use these features when they tee off without using their identification.

[0085] After the golfers have teed off, the cart 140 is driven to the area where the first ball is located. It is important to note that an advantage of this embodiment is that it is not necessary to drive the cart to the precise spot where the ball is located, as is required with GPS systems. Thus, the cart can remain on the path and damage to the course is avoided. The golfer of the first ball touches the screen 147 where the ball is located and then touches the “set ball” button. If necessary, the golfer can zoom in on the displayed photograph of the hole 154 to more precisely locate the ball. When the golfer touches “set ball,” the yardages to the front, center point, and back of the green, or to the pin itself, are updated as well as the yardages to the three previously-identified hazards. However, if a golfer is more than 75 yards away from the tee on the first shot, then the distance to the three hazards may be automatically turned off.

[0086] After the golfer touches “set ball,” distances to any other location or object on the displayed golf course hole 154 may be obtained by simply touching the screen 147. Each touch of the screen 147 displays a distance in yardage from the last “set ball” location to the touch point. In addition, the yardage to the green from the last touch point is updated. Thus, after the golfer has relocated the position of the golf ball, further touching of the screen 147 allows the golfer to see distances to any point on the fairway as well as updated distances to the green from the newly-touched location.

[0087] After the first golfer has hit the ball a second time, the cart 140 is driven to the area where the next ball is located and the second golfer goes through the same steps described above with respect to the first golfer. Once the golfers have put in at the green, they each enter their scores through the touch screen 147 by identifying the golfer and then their total score.

[0088] During play on the course, the unit 142 can optionally display the length of time the golfers take to play each hole as well as the accumulated time. A visible or audible warning can be included to alert golfers when they have exceeded the average time for any hole. This optional feature can be disabled by the golfer or the course.

[0089] After the golfers have finished playing the course, the disk 162 is removed (Step I) from the unit and returned to the golf course pro shop, The disk is then interfaced with the golf course software and the golfer's scores, time on each hole, and accumulated time on the course is downloaded. The golf course software then updates the golfers' scores and handicaps (Step J) as well as time on each hole and the course.

[0090] Optional advertising may be included that is displayed periodically on the screen as the golfers are traveling around the course. Golfers may be given the opportunity to elect to receive additional information on one or more displayed products or services. Golfers' choices for additional information is also downloaded by the golf course. When the golf course updates its software, the request for additional information is sent to the product or service provider, and catalogs or other information may be mailed to the requesting golfer's home address or to the golfer's attention at the golf course.

[0091] It is to be understood that while a preferred embodiment of the invention has been described herein, various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. In addition, the present invention has uses outside the field of golf.

[0092] By way of illustration, an additional use would be for government agencies, such as emergency rescue teams, permitting departments, land development entities, real estate industry, engineers, utilities and city and county officials for locating buildings or other objects within a geographical area.

[0093] For instance, aerial photographs of a city in one-half square mile, two and a half square mile, and ten square mile increments are digitized. In addition, the one-square-mile ownership maps held in each county are also scanned into the computer. The aerial photograph is then identified and matched with the ownership plots. The outline of the city is also scanned in to establish lines that divide the city into quarters. Each quarter of the city would have a computer address of which the aerial photos belong. Each one-half square mile digitized photo would have corresponding stored memory of the one-half square mile ownership. A user would be able to use this unit to locate the owner of a certain building, land, lot, etc.

[0094] A user would simply toggle the arrow over to the section of the city on the digitized photograph, press the enter button, and receive a ten-square mile aerial view of the part of the city located by the arrow. The user would then toggle over with the arrow and locate the quarter-mile or two and-a-half mile area of interest and again hit enter. Then using a zoom function, the user could zoom into the photograph and identify the area within one-half square mile. The user then zooms in again to the actual building, lot, etc., and hits another key that causes the program to display the name, address, and phone number of the owner of the identified building or property. In addition, the device 28 can be configured to print instead of or in addition to displaying the information.

[0095] Another use is to slave the present invention with a global positioning system (GPS). In this use, the aerial photograph of all airports and landing sites available to small aircraft would be digitized and entered into the computer. Since each landing site is already mapped and identified by longitude and latitude in degrees, each landing site would be so identified and the program interfaced with the GPS so the actual photograph of the nearest landing site will appear on the screen and display how far and what heading needs to be taken to get to this landing site. This device would also enable the pilot to enter the coordinates into the GPS, which would then signal to the program what landing sites are available by photo. Currently, the GPS will list the landing sites in order by name and degrees, but the addition of the present invention would enhance visual identification of the site by the pilot through seeing the photograph of the runways on the display device.

[0096] Finally, another use would be assisting park rangers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts in locating their position. Similar to the method described above for locating the owner of a building, a geographic area, such as a federal park, would be photographed and digitized into the computer. The user would zoom in on his exact location to within one-half square mile. This would permit the user to visually see where trails lead and enable him to navigate on the exact trail shown in the photograph. A GPS system could also be used in connection with this proposed use.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6520864 *Jul 7, 1999Feb 18, 2003Peter J. WilkMethod for tracking golf ball
US7922606 *Jun 29, 2010Apr 12, 2011Callaway Golf CompanyGPS device
US20090201263 *Feb 9, 2009Aug 13, 2009James Herbert HofmannGolf course management system for golf carts
WO2013106574A1 *Jan 10, 2013Jul 18, 2013Jack PetersonDigital compass ball marker
Classifications
U.S. Classification473/198
International ClassificationA63B71/06
Cooperative ClassificationA63B2220/13, A63B2243/0029, A63B71/06, A63B2220/14, A63B2220/20, A63B2071/0691, A63B2220/12
European ClassificationA63B71/06