BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Numerous laser and other optical alignment devices have been proposed for putters and other golf clubs. Almost all such devices have one or more light sources, either in the clubhead, attached to the clubhead, generally above it and above ball height, or attached to the putter shaft or hosel near the clubhead. None of the above have gained wide popularity as putter training devices because they are cumbersome or inaccurate to set up and use, and present a substantially different optical picture than the golfer will see on the course during actual play. If a single centered laser is embedded into a putterface, it cannot be aimed or aligned at a target with a golf ball in front of it (ball blocks light) resulting in an unrealistic alignment picture. Numerous putterheads with two lasers (toe and heal) have been proposed allowing ball placement in between to overcome this problem. The two laser beams are offset left and right of the target requiring compensation for the actual target. These putters do not conform to the United States Golf Association (USGA) Rules of Golf and, therefore, the golfer must use another putter during actual play.
Other designs attach a single laser above the clubface high enough to shoot over a golf ball. This creates an optical picture substantially different than the user's usual on-course putter. Many others have proposed shaft or hosel mounted laser alignment devices with a single focused beam or numerous dots along the target line. These devices are difficult and time e consuming to line up accurately. Set up is range sensitive. For example, if aligned properly for 20 feet, they must be realigned if practice is desired at 10 feet.
All of the above devices are extremely shaft angle sensitive. The beam hits the ground in front of the target or goes skyward above any target backstop if the user moves the puttershaft more than a few degrees from true vertical. Few, if any, of the devices have user remote activation of the light source. If the light is turned on before the user aims, he uses the light, not his own skills, to aim or align to the target. Nothing is learned. None accommodate “blind testing” where the user does not learn of his aim test results until several aims are completed, and therefore can't cheat by using one aim test result to “adjust” or improve the next one.
Putterhead or shaft mounted lasers, and other light or mirror based putters, are illegal for actual play under USGA rules. You must therefore play actual rounds without the above devices creating a different aim picture. The shaft and putterhead detachable mounted lasers are difficult to mount and align making them impractical for comparing alternative putters (to see which ones you aim best) or testing alternative putting setups and stances.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention describes an inexpensive, easy to use laser or other focused beam based aim training or testing device which can be used with any putter (or other club) without time consuming or cumbersome setup and adjustment. It is either unattached or flexibly attached to the putterhead. It can be used with or without an optional recording backstop screen and can have a user activated remote switch, for either “blind testing” (where you don't see and, therefore, cannot adjust from your prior aim and “shot”), or full view testing. Unlike others, it is not shaft angle or loft sensitive. The device presents a realistic visual picture of any putter with a ball centered in front of it. Golfers can easily use the device themselves in a golf shop or home to find the putter they can consistently “aim” the best or to find the stance and setup-putting their optical aim on the target line.
DISCUSSION OF THE PRIOR ART
There are numerous examples of single or duel lasers or lights embedded into putterheads including U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,458,038; 5,980,393; 5,810,674; 5,593,354; 5,482,283; 5,169,150; 5,165,691; and possibly others. These putters are non-conforming to the USGA Rules of Golf and, therefore, cannot be used in normal play, requiring a different putter for play vs. practice. The single central embedded clubhead laser or light can't be used with a ball in front creating an unnatural unrealistic optical picture. The twin lasers are offset from the ball target line requiring compensation. They can't be used to test the aim or alignment of any other putters. They are extremely loft and lie sensitive where a slight shifting of the user's hand position shoots the beam in wayward directions, hitting the floor before the target or shooting over it. They lack remote user activation buttons which a user can engage only after one feels his aim and alignment are correct. If the laser remains on during aiming, the user is tempted to “cheat” using the laser beam not the putterhead to aim. No user vision shielded backstop screens are described which are necessary for “blind tests.”
Numerous other examples describe lasers, mirrors, or focused beams permanently or removably attached to the top of putterheads. These allow more realistic use of a golf ball in front of the putterface and do not require aim compensation like twin laser putterheads, but the laser mount, or mirror, or light source presents an unrealistic optical picture for aiming vs. putters used in actual play. Like all devices rigidly affixed to putterheads or shafts, they are loft and lie sensitive, and they lack user remote activation buttons allowing users to “cheat” by using the beam to aim rather than learn their true-aiming tendencies. They also lack-user shielded backstop screens for “blind testing.” Those with removable lasers can be USGA legal, but realignment of the lasers once removed is time consuming, inaccurate and cumbersome. Examples of putterhead attached devices include U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,383,087; 6,371,864 B1; 6,095,930; 5,725,439; 5,709,609, 5,611,739; 5,464,221; 5,388,832; 5,330,188; 5,213,331; and 5,193,812.
Perhaps the most popular type of laser-putter systems involve putter shaft attached devices. Some are-attached low, at or near the club Hosel and throw a single beam, either offset 4″ to 12″ from the target line, or aimed from a different angle making tedious readjustment and calibration necessary every time the target to putter distance is changed. Other higher shaft mounts project multi-dots along the putterhead target tine (again after tedious adjustment). Still others bounce the shaft mounted lasers off 45 degree angle oriented mirrors mounted on top of the putterhead destroying-any realistic looking siting pictures. All of the above are loft and lie sensitive, lack user shielded backstop screens and lack user operated remote activation (except U.S. Pat. No. 5,472,204). Shaft mount examples include U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,238,298 B1, 6,149,537, 5,725,440, 5,494,290 and 5,207,429.
Prior art discloses only two putter alignment devices which lie on the ground unattached to a putter like the present, invention. U.S. Pat. No. 5,452,897 describes a laser device which is laid on the ground (by user or assistant) against the putterface after the user has attained his aim and removed the golf ball. This is cumbersome and time consuming with a very high likelihood that the aim will be lost before the procedure is done, especially if the user attempts this unassisted. Both the device and its use differ substantially from the subject invention. The other U.S. Pat. No. 4,997,189 to Pelz, requires accurate mounting of a mirror on the putter toe at precisely a 90 degree angle from the face and exact, alignment of a light source/sensor box (with top display) parallel to the putter-target line. If the user moves the putter toward or away from the sensor box, the alignment is off. Neither device describes user remote activation buttons or user shielded recordable backstop screens. U.S. Pat. No. 6,458,038 B1 does describe a photo-sensitive screen with remote display, but uses a single non-user shielded backstop and putterhead embedded light source with all the limitations of same previously described.