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Publication numberUS20070178988 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/344,596
Publication dateAug 2, 2007
Filing dateFeb 1, 2006
Priority dateFeb 1, 2006
Also published asCA2641207A1, CA2641207C, CN101400412A, DE602007009931D1, EP1984083A1, EP1984083B1, US20110275453, WO2007089704A1
Publication number11344596, 344596, US 2007/0178988 A1, US 2007/178988 A1, US 20070178988 A1, US 20070178988A1, US 2007178988 A1, US 2007178988A1, US-A1-20070178988, US-A1-2007178988, US2007/0178988A1, US2007/178988A1, US20070178988 A1, US20070178988A1, US2007178988 A1, US2007178988A1
InventorsGary G. Tavares, David N. Franklin, Abhishek Gupta, David Soong-Hua Lee
Original AssigneeNike, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Golf clubs and golf club heads including cellular structure metals and other materials
US 20070178988 A1
Abstract
Golf club heads include: (a) a body member constructed, at least in part, from cellular structure material; (b) a ball striking face engaged or integrally formed with the body member; and/or (c) a shaft member engaged with the body member. Weight savings realized through the use of lightweight cellular structure materials allows additional weight to be placed at other desired locations in the club head structure. By adjusting and selectively placing weight in the club head structure, the club head's moment of inertia, center of gravity, and/or stability characteristics may be favorably affected and/or the resulting ball flight may be influenced and/or customized to a specific individual golfer, to provide a more controlled, consistent, and/or straight ball flight.
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Claims(47)
1. A golf club head, comprising:
a club head body member constructed, at least in part, from a cellular structure metal material; and
a ball striking face engaged or integrally formed with the club head body member.
2. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member includes a shell defining an interior chamber, wherein at least a portion of the shell is constructed from the cellular structure metal material.
3. A golf club head according to claim 2, further comprising:
a weight member provided at least partially within the shell.
4. A golf club head according to claim 1, further comprising:
a weight member engaged with the club head body member.
5. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the cellular structure metal material forms a major portion of the club head body member.
6. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member forms a putter head structure.
7. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member forms an iron golf club head structure.
8. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member forms a wood golf club head structure.
9. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member forms a driver head structure.
10. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the ball striking face includes a metal face member engaged with the cellular structure metal material of the club head body member.
11. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the ball striking face is integrally formed with the cellular structure metal material of the club head body member.
12. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the cellular structure metal material includes a polymeric filling.
13. A golf club head according to claim 1, wherein the club head body member includes at least a first body member including the cellular structure metal material and a second body member engaged with the first body member.
14. A golf club head according to claim 13, wherein the second body member includes a second cellular structure metal material.
15. A golf club head according to claim 1, further comprising:
a club head weighting system engaged with the club head body member.
16. A golf club head according to claim 15, wherein at least a portion of the club head weighting system is selectively removable from the golf club head.
17. A golf club head according to claim 15, wherein at least a portion of the club head weighting system is movably mounted with respect to the club head body member.
18. A golf club, comprising:
a club head body member constructed, at least in part, from a cellular structure metal material; and
a shaft member engaged with the club head body member.
19. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the club head body member includes a ball striking face integrally formed with the cellular structure metal material.
20. A golf club according to claim 18, further comprising:
a grip member engaged with the shaft member.
21. (canceled)
22. A golf club according to claim 18, further comprising:
a weight member engaged with the club head body member.
23. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the cellular structure metal material forms a major portion of the club head body member.
24. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the club head body member forms a putter head structure.
25. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the club head body member forms an iron golf club structure.
26. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the club head body member forms a wood golf club head structure.
27. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein the club head body member forms a driver head structure.
28. A golf club according to claim 18, further comprising:
a ball striking face including a metal face member engaged with the cellular structure metal material.
29. A golf club according to claim 18, wherein at least a portion of the cellular structure metal material includes a polymeric filling.
30-32. (canceled)
33. A method of forming a golf club head, comprising:
forming a club head body member, at least in part, from a cellular structure metal material; and
providing a ball striking face on the club head body member.
34. (canceled)
35. A method according to claim 33, further comprising:
engaging a weight member with the club head body member.
36. A method according to claim 33, wherein the club head body member is formed as a putter head structure.
37. A method according to claim 33, wherein the club head body member is formed as an iron golf club head structure.
38. (canceled)
39. A method according to claim 33, wherein the club head body member is formed as a wood golf club head structure.
40. A method according to claim 33, wherein the club head body member is formed as a driver head structure.
41-46. (canceled)
47. A method of forming a golf club, comprising:
forming a club head body member, at least in part, from a cellular structure metal material; and
engaging a shaft member with the club head body member.
48-49. (canceled)
50. A method according to claim 47, further comprising:
engaging a weight member with the club head body member.
51. A method according to claim 47, wherein the club head body member is formed as a putter head structure.
52. A method according to claim 47, wherein the club head body member is formed as an iron golf club structure.
53. A method according to claim 47, wherein the club head body member is formed as a wood golf club head structure.
54. A method according to claim 47, wherein the club head body member is formed as a driver head structure.
55-59. (canceled)
Description
    RELATED APPLICATION DATA
  • [0001]
    Aspects of the invention described in this patent application relate to and/or may be used in conjunction with at least some of the aspects of the inventions described in: (a) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/707,599 filed Dec. 23, 2003 (now U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005-0137024A1 published Jun. 23, 2005) and entitled “A Golf Club Head Having a Bridge Member and a Weight Positioning System;” (b) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/666,346 filed Sep. 19, 2003 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,923,732 issued Aug. 2, 2005) and entitled “Golf Club Head Having a Bridge Member;” (c) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/934,742 filed Sep. 7, 2004 and entitled “Structure of a Golf Club Head or Other Ball Striking Device;” and/or (d) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/125,327 filed May 10, 2005 and entitled “Golf Clubs and Golf Club Heads.” Each of the above-identified patents, publications, and applications is entirely incorporated herein by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to golf clubs and golf club heads and to methods for making such structures.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    Various golf club heads have been designed to improve a golfer's accuracy by assisting the golfer in squaring the club head face at impact with a golf ball. A number of golf club heads position weight of the golf club head in order to alter the location of the club head's center of gravity and/or to increase the club head's moment of inertia (e.g., resistance to twisting). The location of the center of gravity of the golf club head and its moment of inertia are factors that, at least in part, determine whether a golf ball is propelled in the intended direction. When the center of gravity is positioned behind the point of engagement on the contact surface and the club head is square to the intended target line, the golf ball follows a generally straight route. When the center of gravity is spaced to a side of the point of engagement and/or the club head is not square at impact, however, the golf ball may follow a route that curves left or right or simply fly to the left or right, ball flights that often are referred to as “draws,” “fades,” “hooks,” “slices,” “pulls,” or “blocks.” Similarly, when the center of gravity of the club head is spaced above or below the point of engagement with the ball, the route of the golf ball may exhibit more boring or climbing trajectories, respectively.
  • [0004]
    Golf club heads, such as cavity back club heads, assist the golfer by locating much of the weight of the golf club head around the golf club head perimeter. Generally, these golf club heads are more forgiving than non-cavity golf club heads thereby allowing a golf ball to be struck somewhat off center or miss-hit, while still providing relatively good distance and accuracy. Cavity back club heads have helped the average golfer reduce mis-hits and improve scoring.
  • [0005]
    While golf club technology has improved in recent years, there is room in the art for still further advances and improvements in golf club technology.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    This invention relates to golf club heads and golf clubs including such golf club heads, such as putters, irons (including all types of wedges), hybrid type clubs, fairway woods, drivers, and the like. Golf clubs and golf club heads according to at least some example aspects of this invention may include: (a) a club head body member constructed, at least in part, from a cellular structure metal or other material; (b) a ball striking face engaged or integrally formed with the club head body member; and/or (c) a shaft member engaged with the club head body member. Optionally, if desired, the club head body member may be of a multi-piece construction, and any one or more of these multiple pieces may be formed from a cellular structure metal or other material without departing from this invention. Weight savings realized through the use of lightweight cellular structure metal or other materials as part of a club head structure according to at least some examples of this invention allow additional weight to be placed at other desired locations in the club head structure, such as around the club head perimeter, toward the rear and/or bottom of the club head structure, toward the heel and/or toe edges of the club head structure, etc. In some example structures, weight members may be selectively placed at and/or moved to different locations in the club head structure to enable customization of the club head's weighting, e.g., for better use by a particular golfer or a golfer having particular swing characteristics. By adjusting and selectively placing weight in the club head structure, the club head's center of gravity, moment of inertia, and/or stability characteristics may be favorably affected and/or the resulting ball flight, when struck by the club head, may be influenced to assist in providing a more controlled, more consistent, and/or straighter ball flight.
  • [0007]
    Additional aspects of this invention relate to methods of making and/or using golf club heads and golf clubs that include cellular structure metal or other materials forming at least a portion of the club head structure. Such methods may include engaging one or more weight members with the club head structure, moving the weight member(s) with respect to the club head structure, and/or removing the weight member(s) from the club head structure and replacing them with different weight members (e.g., of different mass).
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0008]
    The present invention is illustrated by way of example and not limited in the accompanying figures, in which like reference numerals indicate similar elements throughout, and in which:
  • [0009]
    FIG. 1 illustrates an example cellular structure metal material that may be used in golf club head manufacture in accordance with at least some examples of this invention;
  • [0010]
    FIG. 2 illustrates an example cellular structure metal material including a surface element that may be used in golf club head manufacture in accordance with at least some examples of this invention;
  • [0011]
    FIGS. 3A through 3E illustrate an example of a putter structure that incorporates a cellular structure metal material in accordance with some examples of this invention;
  • [0012]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate an additional example of a putter structure that incorporates a cellular structure metal material in accordance with some examples of this invention;
  • [0013]
    FIG. 5 illustrates another example of a putter structure that incorporates a cellular structure metal material in accordance with some examples of this invention;
  • [0014]
    FIGS. 6A through 11 illustrate examples of iron type golf club head structures that incorporate cellular structure metal materials in accordance with some examples of this invention;
  • [0015]
    FIGS. 12A through 13B illustrate examples of wood type golf club head structures that incorporate cellular structure metal materials in accordance with some examples of this invention; and
  • [0016]
    FIG. 14 illustrates an example face plate member of a golf club structure that includes cellular structure metal materials in accordance with at least some examples of this invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0017]
    The following description and the accompanying figures disclose features of golf clubs and golf club heads in accordance with the present invention (e.g., woods, irons, hybrids, putters, etc.).
  • I. General Description of Aspects of the Invention
  • [0018]
    Aspects of this invention relate to golf club heads and golf clubs including such golf club heads. Golf club heads according to at least some example aspects of this invention may include: (a) a club head body member constructed, at least in part, from a cellular structure material (e.g., a cellular structured metal materials (also called “metal foam” materials, including cellular structured alloys, amorphous metal or alloy materials, etc.), semi-metal materials, ceramic materials, glass materials, polymer materials (e.g., polyurethanes, etc.), rubber materials, etc.); and (b) a ball striking face engaged or integrally formed with the club head body member. Optionally, if desired, the club head body member may be of a multi-piece construction, and any one or more of these multiple pieces may be formed from a cellular structure material without departing from this invention.
  • [0019]
    Any desired type of golf club head may be constructed including cellular structure materials, including, for example, putters, irons (including all types of wedges), hybrid type clubs, fairway woods, drivers, and the like. Moreover, any desired portion or amount of the club head structure may be made from the cellular structure material without departing from the invention, such as the entire club head body (e.g., including a solid body, a body shell, etc.), the ball striking face member, a crown portion, a body ribbon portion, a sole portion, etc. As some more specific examples, if desired, a major portion of the overall club head body (e.g., a majority of its volume and/or surface area) may be provided as cellular structure material.
  • [0020]
    The use of cellular structure materials as part of a golf club head structure can be advantageous, at least in part, because of the relative lightweight nature of these materials. The weight savings realized through the use of cellular structure materials (e.g., cellular structure metals including amorphous metals and alloys, etc.) for at least a portion of the club head body member allows club designers, club fitters, users, and the like to position weight (e.g., weight members (optionally movable, removable, or otherwise customizable weight members) and weighting systems, etc.) at desired locations within the overall club head structure. As examples, if desired, club heads may be provided with one or more weight members housed at least partially within a shell or enclosure of the club head body member, attached to the club head body member, movably and/or removably mounted to and/or at least partially within the club head body member, etc. If desired, suitable receptacles may be formed in the club head body member for permanently, movably, and/or removably engaging with and/or attaching one or more weight members with the club head body member.
  • [0021]
    Various ways of providing the ball striking face on the club head body member may be used without departing from this invention. For example, if desired, the ball striking face may be provided as a metal (or other material) face plate member engaged with the cellular structure material of the club head body member, e.g., by welding, soldering, brazing, adhesives, casting, forging, etc. As another example, if desired, the ball striking face may be provided as an integral part of the cellular structure material making up the club head body member, e.g., by integrally forming a solid metal face (or other material) on the cellular structure material body; by at least partially filling, impregnating, or coating the cellular structure material body with a metal and/or polymeric material, such as an epoxy, the material making up the cellular structure material, a different material, a different cellular structure material, etc.; etc.
  • [0022]
    Additional aspects of this invention relate to golf clubs. Golf clubs according to at least some examples of this invention may include: (a) a club head body member constructed, at least in part, from a cellular structure material (e.g., cellular structured metal materials (also called “metal foam” materials, including cellular structured alloys, amorphous metal or alloy materials, etc.), cellular structured semi-metal materials, cellular structured ceramic materials, cellular structured glass materials, cellular structured polymeric materials (e.g., polyurethane foams), cellular structured rubber materials, etc.); and (b) a shaft member engaged with the club head body member. The shaft member may or may not be directly engaged with the cellular structure material. The club head body member further may include a ball striking face engaged or integrally formed with the cellular structure material or other portion of the club head body member structure. Additionally, golf clubs in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may include a grip member engaged with the shaft member. Golf clubs in accordance with at least some examples of this invention may be formed as putters, irons (including all types of wedges), hybrid type clubs, fairway woods, drivers, and the like, optionally with an additional weighting system, e.g., with one or more permanent, fixed, movable, removable, or otherwise customizable and/or selectable weight members.
  • [0023]
    Still additional aspects of this invention relate to methods of forming golf club heads, e.g., of the various types described above. Such methods may include, for example: (a) forming a club head body member, at least in part, from a cellular structure material; and (b) providing a ball striking face on or as part of the club head body member. Optionally, if desired, the club head body member may be formed as a multi-piece construction, and any one or more of these multiple pieces may be formed from a cellular structure material without departing from this invention. As a more specific example, if desired, separate face plate members, sole plate members, crown members, body ribbon members, and the like may be constructed from the cellular structure material and/or attached to the cellular structure material portion of the club head body member without departing from this invention.
  • [0024]
    Yet additional aspects of this invention relate to methods of forming golf clubs. Such methods may include, for example: (a) forming a club head body member, at least in part, from a cellular structure material; and (b) engaging a shaft member with the club head body member (e.g., directly with the cellular structure material, partially with the cellular structure material, with a part of the club head material not made from cellular structure material, etc). Any of the various types and variations on the club head body member, the methods of making it, and the structures and methods for weighting it, as described above, may be used in making golf club structures without departing from these aspects of the invention. Moreover, methods according to at least some examples of these aspects of the invention further may include: (c) forming a ball striking face on the club head body member (e.g., on at least a portion of the cellular structure material, on another portion of the club head body member, etc.), and/or (d) engaging a grip member with the shaft member.
  • [0025]
    Given the general description of aspects of the invention provided above, more detailed descriptions of various specific examples of golf clubs and golf club head structures according to the invention are provided below.
  • II. Detailed Description of Example Golf Club Heads and Golf Club Structures According to the Invention
  • [0026]
    A. Cellular Structure Materials
  • [0027]
    FIG. 1 generally illustrates a block of a cellular structure material 100 (e.g., a cellular structure metal (which includes within its scope, unless otherwise noted, individual metals, alloys, amorphous metals, amorphous alloys, and/or combinations thereof), etc.) that may be used in golf club head construction in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. Cellular structure metal materials, as are known in the art, may include a metallic base member 102 with numerous cells or voids 104 formed therein (also called “pores” in this specification). As is known, cellular structure materials (also called “cellular foams”) may have a density as low as 10%, 5%, 3%, or lower, based on the density of the same base metal material without the cellular structure, and they may have an open cellular structure or a closed cellular structure. Regarding the other end of the spectrum, cellular metal or other materials used in accordance with some examples of this invention may have a density as high as 50%, 75%, 85%, or even 90% or higher, based on the density of the same base metal material without the cellular or foam structure. Nonetheless, despite the reduced amount of structural materials, weight, density, and the presence of openings in the cellular material structure, the resulting materials maintain very desirable physical properties (e.g., strength, rigidity, deformation resistance or return, etc.). Any desired pore size range may be used in the cellular structure materials without departing from this invention. Also, any degree or percentage of weight density may be used in golf club head structures without departing from the invention, e.g., provided the resulting club head structures and/or portions thereof have adequate strength and other suitable physical properties, e.g., when the club head strikes a ball and/or is otherwise used in the manner intended for the club structure. Suitability of a specific cellular structure metal or other material for use in a golf club structure can be readily determined through routine experimentation.
  • [0028]
    If desired, cellular structure materials, including cellular structure metal materials, additionally or alternatively may be used in other parts of the golf club structure without departing from the invention, such as in the hosel area, in the shaft, in the grip, etc.
  • [0029]
    While any desired type of metal or other material may be used as the base member 102 without departing from the invention, more specific examples of suitable metal materials include aluminum, titanium, nickel, copper, zinc, carbon, zirconium, tungsten, lead, molybdenum, and/or combinations and alloys thereof (such as nickel-aluminum alloys, pewter, brass, etc.). Also, any desired method of making the cellular structure material may be used without departing from the invention, including conventional ways that are known and used by commercial vendors of cellular structure materials, such as: ALM (Applied Lightweight Materials) GmbH of Saarbrücken, Germany; Alulight International GmbH of Ranshofen, Austria; Cymat Corporation of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; ERG Materials and Aerospace Corporation of Oakland, Calif.; Foamtech Co., Ltd. of Seoul, Korea; FiberNide Ltd. of Ontario, Canada; Gleich GmbH of Kaltenkirchen, Germany; Hütte Klein-Reichenbach Ges.m.b.H of Schwarzenau, Austria; Inco Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Korea Metalfoam of Choenan, Korea; Mitsubishi Materials Corporation of Okegawa-shi, Japan; M-Pore GmbH of Dresden, Germany; Porvair Advanced Materials of Hendersonville, N.C.; Recemat International B.V. of the Netherlands; Reade Advanced Materials of Providence, R.I.; Spectra-Mat, Inc. of Watsonville, Calif.; SAS Solea of Boussens, France; and Ultramet Corporation of Pacoima, Calif. Note also, for example, the various materials and methods of making them described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,932,146; 6,866,084; 6,840,301, 6,706,239; 6,592,787; 5,951,791; 5,700,363; and 4,957,543, which patents are entirely incorporated herein by reference. Furthermore, the cellular structure materials may be produced into structures used in golf club heads or other golf club parts (such as shafts, hosels, etc.) in any desired manner, including through conventional machining, grinding, forging, casting, molding, and/or other processing techniques known and used in the golf club art, optionally before, during, and/or after the cellular forming process has been completed.
  • [0030]
    Cellular structured metal materials that may be used in accordance with at least some examples of this invention include individual metals as well as alloys, combinations of metals, combinations of metals with other materials, etc. In at least some examples of this invention, the cellular structure material may include an amorphous metal or alloy material, such as those produced by and/or available from LiquidMetal Technologies, Inc. of Lake Forest, Calif. Such amorphous metal materials (including metal alloys) and their formation into various structures are known, for example, as described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,446,558; 6,771,490; 6,818,078; 6,843,496; 6,875,293; and 6,887,586, and the documents cited therein. Each of these patents is entirely incorporated herein by reference. These amorphous metal materials may be formed into cellular metal (or foamed) structures in various ways, e.g., by at least some of the various processes described in the preceding paragraph.
  • [0031]
    As generally illustrated in FIG. 1, if desired, the pores 104 may be generally formed throughout the three dimensional structure of the base member 102 (e.g., a metal alloy base). One or more porous surfaces (such as surface 106) may remain exposed when the cellular structure material 100 is formed into at least a portion of the golf club structure. Alternatively, if desired, one or more of the porous surfaces may be covered or enclosed, e.g., before, during, or after the cellular structure material 100 is formed into a portion of a golf club structure. FIG. 2 illustrates an example cellular structure material 200 in which the cells or pores 104 of the base member 102 are enclosed in or covered by a layer of material 202, e.g., coated, impregnated, filled, and/or overlaid with one or more layers of material the same as or different from the base material 102. In this manner, an exposed surface of the material or the resulting club structure will not include open voids or pores, thereby presenting a smooth, consistent surface and/or appearance to the club structure. This type of filled structure also may be referred to herein as a “cellular structure material composite.” The fill layer 202 may have any desired thickness, e.g., from 10 Angstroms to 4 cm or even more, or even a varying thickness. The fill layer 202 also may directly follow the shape or contours of the underlying base member 102 (if any), or it may provide an independent exterior or exposed shape from that of the underlying base member 102. The fill layer 202 itself also may be porous or non-porous without departing from the invention.
  • [0032]
    The layer 202 may be formed on the cellular structure base member 102 in any desired manner and at any desired time in the cellular structure material and/or club making process without departing from this invention. Additionally, the layer 202 may be made from any desired material without departing from the invention. As more specific examples, if desired, the layer 202 may be integrally formed with the cellular structure base member 102, e.g., as a thin, solid sheet of the same metal material as that making up the cellular structure base member 102 (e.g., layer 202 may be a thin aluminum layer integrally formed as a one piece construction with a cellular aluminum base member 102, etc.), it may be formed of a different metal material, etc. If desired, a molten metal material (the same as or different from the base member 102) may be used to fill all or some of the exterior pores 104 and/or provide a smooth exterior surface. As additional examples, if desired, layer 202 may be a separate piece of material engaged with the base member 102 in any desired manner, such as by adhesives, cements, welding, soldering, brazing, or other bonding or fusing techniques, or via mechanical connectors. As still additional examples, if desired, layer 202 may constitute a polymeric material coating, such as an epoxy, a polyethylene, polyurethane, polystyrene; a glass coating; a ceramic coating; a rubber coating; or the like, that is coated over (and optionally into at least some of the voids 104 and/or at least partially filling at least some of the voids 104) and/or forms a solid layer atop the metal base member 102. As still additional examples, if desired, some or all of the voids or pores 104 of the overall metal base member 102 may be filled or at least partially filled with a polymeric material, such as the various polymeric materials described above (e.g., the polymeric material may be provided to fill or impregnate the pores 104 at least at or near one or more exterior surfaces 106 of the cellular structure material 100 so as to provide a smooth finish at the various surfaces, etc.). Of course, still other ways of providing a smooth exterior surface (e.g., including a smooth ball striking exterior surface), if desired, may be provided without departing from the invention. Coating, impregnating, and/or filling a cellular structure base material 102 with polymeric or metal (or other) material may take place at any desired time in the cellular structure material and/or club production process without departing from this invention (e.g., before, during, or after foaming; before, during, or after club head production; before, during, or after shaft formation or attachment; etc.).
  • [0033]
    The cellular structure materials may have any desired pore sizes, pore size distributions, multiple pore size distributions, or no readily discernable pore size distribution without departing from this invention. Additionally, if desired, a given golf club head structure and/or individual component may contain multiple different cellular structure materials, e.g., different portions of the club made of different materials (e.g., different metals), different portions of the club having different densities or pore distributions, etc. (generically called “multiple cellular structure materials” herein), a different fill material in the pores at different locations, etc.
  • [0034]
    In view of the above description of the cellular structure materials, more specific examples of golf club structures including such materials are provided below.
  • [0035]
    B. Example Putter Structures
  • [0036]
    One example aspect of this invention relates to putter structures that include one or more parts made, at least in part, from cellular structure metal or other materials, e.g., aluminum, nickel, titanium, or other cellular materials. Cellular structure raw materials and/or cellular structure parts for use in the club structure may be obtained, for example, from one or more of the various vendors identified above.
  • [0037]
    FIGS. 3A through 3E illustrate examples of parts for a putter structure 300 that may be made from a cellular structure material (e.g., a cellular structure metal material) in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. The first structural member 302 (also called a “body member” in this specification), as illustrated in FIG. 3A, includes a first surface 304 that faces a golf ball (or other ball) when the club head is used. The body member 302 in this illustrated example essentially is rectangular cubic shaped such that a second surface 306 is located opposite the first surface 304. Of course, a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and orientations of body member 302 and/or other putter head designs may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0038]
    The second surface 306 of this example body member structure 302 has an opening 308 defined therein. Opening 308 in this example structure extends completely through the body member 302, from the second surface 306 to the first surface 304. In other examples, if desired, the opening 308 need not extend all of the way through the club head portion of body member 302. For example, if desired, the opening 308 could begin at surface 306 and extend part way through the club head portion of body member 302 but terminate before it reaches the first surface 304. As another example, if desired, the opening 308 may be provided in the top surface 310 or another surface of the club head portion of the body member 302 without departing from the invention, optionally with or without an opening provided in the front surface 304. As still another example, if desired, in some structures, no opening will be required (e.g., the insert member 350, as described in more detail in conjunction with FIG. 3B, may be integrally formed with or attached to the body member 302 in some manner).
  • [0039]
    The body member 302 of this example structure further includes a base member 312 that extends in a direction behind the club head face and away from the first surface 304 and the second surface 306. The base member 312 may take on a wide variety of different structures and shapes without departing from the invention. In the illustrated example, the base member 312 includes a lowered flat region 314 immediately adjacent the opening 308 to provide easy access to the opening 308 (for reasons that will become more apparent in the description to follow). From the lowered flat region 314, the base member 312 forms an angled portion 316 that extends back away from the club head portion of the body member 302 and upward, and then the base member 312 of this example structure further provides a handle or shaft mounting system 318. Any suitable or desired manner of mounting a shaft or handle to the club head body member 302 may be used without departing from the invention, including conventional manners known and used in the art. For example, a shaft may be screwed or threaded into a suitable receptacle region 318 on the base member 312, it may be secured via adhesives, mechanical connectors, and/or the like.
  • [0040]
    The base member 312 of this example structure extends back further and provides a securing region 320. The securing region 320 is used in this example structure to secure the body member 302 to another portion of the overall club head structure 300, as will be described in more detail below.
  • [0041]
    The base member 312 may be included as part of the club head portion of the body member 302 in any suitable or desired manner without departing from the invention. For example, the entire structure 302 may be a unitary, one-piece construction, e.g., formed by casting, forging, molding, machining, etc. As another example, the base member 312 may be welded, soldered, press fit, inserted into, adhesively applied to, and/or otherwise attached to the club head portion of the body member 302. The base member 312 and the club head portion of the body member 302 may be made from any suitable or desired material without departing from the invention, including conventional materials known and used in the art. Examples of suitable materials include: aluminum, titanium, nickel, steel, brass, pewter, carbon fiber, polymers, glasses, ceramics, rubber, etc. Also, if desired, the base member 312 and/or the club head portion 302 may be constructed from a cellular structure material, including cellular structure metal materials, as described above, optionally with a coating or other layer to provide a smooth exterior or at least the ball striking surface.
  • [0042]
    The base member 312 also may be attached to or otherwise included as part of the club head portion of the body member 302 at any desired position or location without departing from the invention. In this illustrated example, the base member 312 extends from the bottom center of the club head, below opening 308. Alternatively, if desired, as additional examples, the base member 312 may extend from the top of the club head (e.g., above opening 308), from the top surface 310, from along one or both sides of the opening 308, from the side and/or bottom surfaces of the club head portion, and/or from any other desired location without departing from the invention. As another example, if desired, the base member 312 may extend from and/or be included as part of the insert portion 350, which is described in more detail below in conjunction with FIG. 3B. In still other examples, if desired, no base member 312 is required in the overall body member structure 302 and/or the overall putter structure.
  • [0043]
    Notably, the base member 312 in this example has a very open or “truss-like” structure, with open areas 322 defined in it at various locations. These open areas 322, along with the potential construction of all or some portion of the body member 302 from a cellular structure material, help reduce the overall weight of the body member 302, which allows additional weight to be distributed elsewhere in the overall club head structure, while still maintaining an overall strong and stable structure and avoiding an excessively heavy structure. The material(s) making up the body member 302, including the base member 312, also may be selected so as to avoid creating an excessively heavy club head structure. The potential re-distribution of weight in the overall club head structure and its advantageous effects on the club head's moment of inertia, center of gravity, and/or other characteristics will be described in more detail below.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 3B illustrates an example of a second piece of a putter head in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. This second member 350 (also called an “insert member” in this specification) includes an insert portion 352 that is sized and shaped so as to be received in the opening 308 defined in the body member 302 (e.g., press or friction fit into the opening 308, adhesively engaged within the opening 308, etc.). This example insert member 350 further includes a body portion 354 that extends in a direction away from the insert portion 352. The insert portion 352 and the body portion 354 may be of a unitary, one-piece construction, or alternatively, if desired, the insert portion 352 may be separate from and engaged with the body portion 354 in any desired manner without departing from the invention, such as via welding, soldering, brazing, adhesives, mechanical connectors, inserts, press fitting, and the like. Moreover, the insert member 350, optionally including the insert portion 352 and the body portion 354, may be formed of any suitable or desired materials without departing from the invention, including conventional materials known and used in the art. As more specific examples, the various portions of insert member 350 may be constructed from one or more of: aluminum, titanium, steel, brass, pewter, nickel, carbon fiber, polymers, glasses, ceramics, rubbers, etc. If desired, in at least some examples of this invention, at least some portion(s) of the insert member 350 (e.g., the insert portion 352 and/or the body portion 354), or even all of it, may be constructed from a cellular structure material (optionally a cellular structure material such as a cellular structure metal material that displays a smooth exterior surface, e.g., due to filling, coating, impregnating, or layering, as described above).
  • [0045]
    The insert member 350, including the insert portion 352 and/or the body portion 354, may take on any desired shape or form without departing from the invention. In at least some examples of the invention, the body portion 354 will be constructed and shaped so as to form an open area 356 (or another central area of reduced mass). In this illustrated example, the body portion 354 is generally triangular shaped including a base side 358 and two side arms 360 and 362, wherein the open area 356 is defined between the base side 358 and the side arms 360 and 362. The base side 358, in this example, extends in a direction parallel to (or substantially parallel to) a front surface 364 of the insert portion 352 (and it will extend parallel to (or substantially parallel to) the front surface 304 of base member 302, when the insert member 350 is joined with base member 302). Of course, any desired arm lengths, arm widths, arm thicknesses, base side lengths, base side thicknesses, relative arm angles, and the like may be used in the insert member 350 without departing from the invention. Also, shapes other than the generally triangular shape shown in FIG. 3B may be used for the insert member 350 without departing from the invention, such as rectangular shaped, elliptical-shaped, round-shaped, trapezoidal-shaped, etc.
  • [0046]
    The open area 356 helps reduce the overall weight of the insert member 350. To further reduce the weight of the insert member 350, if necessary or desired, interior portions of its structure (e.g., its arms 360 and 362 or base side 358) may be hollowed out, formed into an open or “truss-like” structure (e.g., similar to the structure for the base member 312 shown in FIG. 3A) and/or formed from a cellular structure material. As still another example, the insert portion 352 is shown in FIG. 3B as including two cut out or hollowed out regions 352 a and 352 b, which may extend completely through the insert portion 352 (if desired, these hollowed out regions 352 a and 352 b could partially extend through the insert portion 352). Of course, such cut out or hollowed out regions may be provided along the side arms 360 and 362 and/or along the base side 358 without departing from the invention. Also, if desired, the material(s) for constructing the insert member 352 may be selected so as to control the overall weight of the device (e.g., lightweight aluminum or titanium materials, etc.).
  • [0047]
    The cut out or hollowed out regions 352 a and 352 b (if any), as well as the open area 356 (if any) and the open structure 322 of the base member 312, as well as the structure of the materials used to make up at least some of these elements (e.g., lightweight materials made from, for example, aluminum, titanium, nickel, polymers, glasses, ceramics, rubbers, etc.), help reduce the overall weight of the entire club head. The reduced weight enables club makers and designers to apply additional weight at other selected locations in the overall club head structure without excessively increasing the club head's total weight. Weight distribution and control of this type allows one to change and/or control the swing characteristics of the overall club head (e.g., increase the club head's moment of inertia, etc.). Any desired way of redistributing and/or weighting the club head 300 may be used without departing from the invention. For example, the insert member 350 may include receptacles 366 and 368 for receiving weighted members 370 and 372, respectively, such as weighted inserts including lead, tungsten, or other heavy metals or materials. If desired, the weighted members 370 and 372 may be removably mounted to the insert member 350, e.g., by removable adhesives, threads, turnbuckles, clamps, clasps, set screws, or other mechanical connections, so that the weighted members 370 and 372 may be easily removed from their receptacles 366 and 368, interchanged for other weighted members, etc. This feature enables customization of the swing characteristics of the overall club head to better suit an individual user's swing characteristics, preferences, and the like.
  • [0048]
    The receptacles 366 and 368 (and hence the weighted inserts 370 and 372) may be provided at any desired location on the overall club head structure 300 without departing from the invention. In at least some examples of the invention, as illustrated in FIGS. 3B and 3E, the receptacles 366 and 368 are located on the insert member 350, and even more particularly, on the body portion 354 of the insert member 350, e.g., at locations remote from the insert portion 352 and/or away from the center of the ball striking surface. Using the triangular shaped body portion 354 shown in FIG. 3B, the weighted member receptacles 366 and 368 (and hence the weighted members 370 and 372 themselves) may be located at the corner regions of the triangular shaped body portion 354, generally at the locations where the base side 358 meets each of the side arms 360 and 362. This arrangement provides the weighted members 370 and 372 behind the ball striking face and toward the club head's heel and toe, which increases the club head's moment of inertia characteristics (e.g., its resistance to twisting during a swing and/or during contact with a ball).
  • [0049]
    FIGS. 3C and 3D illustrate different perspective views of an example overall putter structure 300 including the body member 302 and the insert member 350 as illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B. As shown in FIG. 3C, the insert portion 352 of the insert member 350 fits into the opening 308 provided in the back surface 306 of the body member 302. The flattened region 314 and the angled region 316 of the base member 312 provide sufficient room to allow insertion of the insert portion 352 into the opening 308. The insert member 350 and the body member 302 may be secured together at the insert portion 352/opening 308 location, if desired, in any desired manner without departing from the invention, including in conventional manners known in the art, such as via welding, adhesives, mechanical connections, spring-loaded detents or other mechanical engaging systems, other bonding techniques, other fusing techniques, or the like. If desired, the insert member 350 and the body member 302 may be secured together in a removable manner (e.g., via bolts, nuts, screws, set screws, clamps, clasps, or other mechanical connectors) without departing from the invention so that different parts of the overall putter structure 300 can be interchanged, e.g., by a user, a club repair person, by a club fitter, etc., e.g., to allow changes to the club's swing characteristics, to customize the club head 300 to a user's preferences, to change the club head 300 based on play conditions (e.g., fast greens v. slow greens, wet conditions v. dry conditions, etc.), etc. As another example, the insert member 350 and the body member 302 may be press fitted together at the insert portion 352/opening 308 (e.g., sized and shaped so as to tightly fit together) and/or mechanical attachments may be used to hold the pieces together, without permanently fixing the insert portion 352 into the opening 308. FIGS. 3C and 3D further illustrate a shaft or handle 380 mounted to the base member 312 at the shaft mounting region 318. If desired, the shaft or handle 380 may be made, at least in part, from a cellular structure material.
  • [0050]
    Additional features present in structures according to at least some examples of the invention are shown in FIGS. 3C and 3D. As shown in these figures, the body member 302 and the insert member 350 may be secured to one another at a location where the base member 312 meets the body portion 354 of the insert member 350. While any manner of securing these members 302 and 350 together may be used without departing from the invention, in the illustrated example, one or more bolts, screws, rivets, or other connectors 382 pass through securing region 320 of body member 302 and through securing region 374 of insert member 350 (see also FIGS. 3A and 3B). Alternatively (or additionally), if desired, the base member 312 of the body member 302 may be secured to the body portion 354 of the insert member 350 at the securing region 320 by adhesives, welding, soldering, set screws, clamps, clasps, spring-loaded detent mechanisms, other mechanical connectors, and/or in any other desired manner without departing from the invention, including in conventional manners known and used in the art.
  • [0051]
    As further illustrated by FIG. 3D, the opening 308 in this example structure extends all of the way through the body member 302, ending at the front surface 304 of the body member 302. Accordingly, when the insert member 350 is inserted into the opening 308 in this example structure, the front face 364 of the insert member 350 is exposed through the front surface 304 of the body member 302. In the illustrated example, the front surfaces 304 and 364 of the body member 302 and the insert member 350, respectively, are flush or substantially flush with one another in the final club head structure 300, and these surfaces 304 and 364 together form the ball striking surface of this example putter structure 300.
  • [0052]
    FIG. 3E illustrates an overhead view of the club head structure 300 of FIGS. 3A through 3D. Various “hidden” features of the insert member 350 in this view are shown in broken lines to help provide a more complete picture of the club head structure 300 according to this example of the invention.
  • [0053]
    As generally described above, the combination of the use of lightweight materials (such as the cellular structure materials for at least portions of the insert member 350, the base member 302, and/or the shaft member 380) and/or the open areas in the club head structure (e.g., areas 322, 352 a, 352 b, 356, and the like) reduce the mass of the overall club head structure 300 and allow the club designer or manufacturer to place that mass at other locations in the design (e.g., using permanent weights, removable weighted members 370 and 372, etc.) and thereby change and/or control the swing characteristics of the club. In the example illustrated in FIGS. 3A through 3E, much of this mass is redistributed at the outer regions of the club head 300, behind the ball striking face and toward the club head's heel and toe (e.g., at the external corners or external perimeter of the triangular shaped insert member's body portion 354, between arms 360 and 362 and the base member 358). Using additional weighting of a club head, e.g., of the type illustrated in FIGS. 3A through 3E, the overall club head design (i.e., the combination of body member 302, insert member 350, and any weighted inserts) may be structured and weighted so that the club head will have a high moment of inertia, e.g., at least 10,000 g/cm2 about the center of the ball striking face 304 and 364. The moment of inertia provides a measure of a club head's resistance to twisting, e.g., both during a swing and/or during contact with an object to be hit (e.g., such as a golf ball). A twisted or twisting club head, either during a swing or during contact, will tend to send a ball off-line, with undesired spin, and/or miss the club's desired ball contact location, e.g., resulting in a loss of distance or a mis-directed hit. Therefore, the high moment of inertia associated with club head structures according to at least some examples of the invention may help prevent club head twisting and/or mis-hits.
  • [0054]
    Of course, many variations in the design of the various parts of a putter structure are possible without departing from the invention. For example, if desired, the connection between the base side 358 of the insert member 350 and the base member 312 can be omitted, and thus the base member 312 need not extend all the way to the base side 358. Also, if desired, any of the open areas 322, 352 a, 352 b, and/or 356 may be omitted, may be covered, and/or may be made larger or smaller without departing from the invention.
  • [0055]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B provide perspective views of another example putter structure 400 in accordance with this invention. In this example, a body member 402 provides a ball striking portion 404 and a base member 406 extending away from the ball striking portion 404 (and toward the rear of the club structure 400). An opening 408 is defined in the rear surface 410 of the ball striking portion 404, and this opening 408 extends from the rear surface 410 through to the front surface 412, which faces the ball during use. If desired, of course, the opening 408 could begin at rear surface 410 and extend part way through the ball striking portion 404 of body member 402 and terminate before it reaches the front surface 412. As another example, if desired, the opening 408 may be provided in another surface of the ball striking portion 404, or not at all, without departing from the invention. Also, if desired, the ball striking portion 404 may take on any desired form (and is not limited to a generally cubic rectangular form in all examples of the invention).
  • [0056]
    The base member 406 of this example structure 400 includes a flattened portion 414 and an angled portion 416 to allow room for insertion of an insert member 450 into the opening 408, which will be described in more detail below. A shaft or handle receptacle 418 is provided along the angled portion 416 of the base member 406, in an off-set manner. Of course, this shaft or handle receptacle 418, or other shaft mounting means, may be provided at any desired location or in any desired orientation without departing from the invention. Additionally or alternatively, the shaft or handle may be mounted to the putter structure 400 at any desired location on the structure 400 (including on the insert member 450 or on both the body member 402 and the insert member 450) without departing from the invention.
  • [0057]
    Insert member 450 includes an insert portion 452 and a body portion 454. The insert portion 452 is inserted into the opening 408 of the body member 402, and the body portion 454 extends in a direction rearward and away from the ball striking portion 404. In this example, the base member 406 of the body member 402 does not attach to the body portion 454 of the insert member 450, although the body member 402 may be attached to the insert member 450 at the insert portion 452/opening 408 interface (e.g., using adhesives, welding, set screws, bolts, clamps, clasps, other mechanical connectors, a tight friction fit, press fitting, etc.). Optionally, the body member 402 and the insert member 450 may be removably attached to one another such that repairs may be made, the swing characteristics of the overall club head 400 may be changed, etc., e.g., by interchanging body members 402 and insert members 450. This feature may allow users or club fitters to freely customize the club by interchanging body members 402 and/or insert members 450, e.g., to suit their swing characteristics or preferences, to match play conditions (e.g., fast greens v. slow greens, wet conditions v. dry conditions, etc.), etc.
  • [0058]
    In this illustrated example, the body portion 454 of insert member 450 is generally triangular shaped, with two side arms 456 and 458 and a base side 460. The body portion 454 has a reduced weight area, in this example embodied as an open area 462 defined in the body portion. Also, if desired, all or at least some portions of the insert member 450 (and/or the body member 402) may be constructed from a cellular structure material (e.g., a cellular structure metal, semi-metal, amorphous metal, polymer, rubber, ceramic, etc.), to further reduce the weight of the main body portion(s) of the overall club head structure 400. Additional weighted areas 464 and 466 may be provided at the corner regions of the triangular base structure (i.e., where the base side 460 meets the two side arms 456 and 458), to thereby re-distribute weight (e.g., saved via use of the cellular structure material and/or open area 462 structures) to the rear, heel, and toe regions of the club head structure 400. Rather than providing selectively removable weighted members (like those shown in FIGS. 3B and 3E), in this example structure 400, the weighted areas 464 and 466 are provided by not extending the open area 462 all the way to the corners of the triangular structure (e.g., at least some of the metal, cellular structure material, polymeric, or other structural material of the body portion 454 is left at the areas of the body portion remote from the ball striking portion 404, and optionally, these areas 464 and 466 may be made from and/or constructed to include a denser or weighted material, such as lead or tungsten materials). If desired, additional weights may be fitted and received in the weighted areas 464 and 466, optionally in a selectively removable manner, without departing from the invention. The additional weights, if present, may be in the form of metal or weighted inserts (e.g., lead, tungsten, etc.), weighted adhesive (e.g., lead tape), or any other form without departing from the invention.
  • [0059]
    As shown in FIG. 4A, the front surface 468 of the insert member 450 is exposed through the opening 408 and forms at least a part of the ball striking surface of the putter structure 400. While the front surface 468 of the insert member 450 and the front surface 412 of the body member 402 are shown flush (or substantially flush) in this illustrated example (and together form the overall ball striking face of the putter structure 400), if desired, these surfaces need not be flush. For example, if desired, the front surface 468 of the insert member 450 may extend out of the opening 408 and in front of the front surface 412 of the body member 402 (e.g., such that the front surface 468 exclusively forms the ball striking face of the putter structure 400). Various sizes and/or shapes of front surface 468 exposed through the opening 408 (if any) may be used without departing from the invention.
  • [0060]
    The putter structure 400 of this example includes additional features. For example, as illustrated, the base side 460 is curved and provides an indicia area 470. These features provide an interesting aesthetic design to the club head 400. If desired, a club maker, manufacturer, or another may provide a logo, model name, model number, owner's name, and/or other indicia or data in the indicia area 470.
  • [0061]
    The putter structure 400 of FIGS. 4A and 4B also differs from the examples illustrated in FIGS. 3A through 3E in that the base member 406 of the body member 402 extends from the top area of the ball striking head 404, rather than the bottom area. Thus, the flattened area 414 of the base member 406 extends away from the ball striking surface 412 and the insert member 450 fits underneath the base member 406. This structure 400 also provides the angled portion 416 and the handle mount 418 extending in different directions as compared to the structures described above in conjunction with FIGS. 3A through 3E. Of course, the base member 406 may be provided at other locations, including beneath opening 408, along side opening 408, and/or elsewhere, without departing from the invention. Numerous other structural modifications and the like are possible without departing from the invention. Also, if desired, the overall putter head structure 400 may be formed as a one piece construction without departing from the invention.
  • [0062]
    FIG. 5 illustrates another example of a putter structure 500 according to some example aspects of this invention. In this example structure, the putter head 500 includes a ball striking front surface 502 and a body member 504 extending in a direction away from the ball striking surface 502. Putter heads of this general design may have a moment of inertia about a center of the ball striking surface 502 of at least 20,000 g/cm2, and in at least some examples the moment of inertia will be at least 25,000 g/cm2, and even at least 28,000 g/cm2 in some examples.
  • [0063]
    As with the various examples described above, the material that makes up all or at least some portions of the golf club head 500 may help provide the desirable moment of inertia characteristics described above. For example, all or at least some of the body portion 504 may be made of a lightweight material, such as a lightweight polymeric material (e.g., a polyamide or nylon material, a polymeric cellular structured material, etc.), a lightweight metal material (e.g., such as a cellular structure aluminum, titanium, and/or nickel material), or the like. In at least some examples, the body portion 504 and the ball striking portion 506 of the club head (e.g., the portion of the club head including the ball striking surface 502) may be integrally formed as a unitary, one-piece construction, e.g., from a cellular structure material as described above. If desired, however, the body portion 504 may be designed as an insert that fits into one or more openings provided in the ball striking portion 506, as described above in more detail in conjunction with FIGS. 3A through 4B. As still another option, the body portion 504 may be attached to a separate ball striking portion 506 in any desired manner without departing from the invention (e.g., using adhesives, mechanical connectors, welding, etc.). If desired, the ball striking portion 506 may be made of a different material as compared to the body portion 504 without departing from this invention (e.g., each made from different cellular structure materials, etc.).
  • [0064]
    The ball striking front surface 502 may take on various forms without departing from the invention. For example, the ball striking surface 502 may be integrally formed as simply the front-most surface of the ball striking portion 506. As another alternative, if desired, the ball striking surface 502 may be a metal plate, polymeric coating, or other material that is attached to or formed on the front of the ball striking portion 506, e.g., using adhesives, screws, mechanical connectors, coating technology, etc. As still another option, the ball striking surface 502 and/or the ball striking portion 506 may be integrally formed as a unitary, one-piece construction with the remainder of the body portion 504 without departing from the invention. As yet another option, at least a portion of the ball striking surface 502 may be provided as an insert portion attached to or formed as part of the body member 504 (or another structural member) that is inserted into an opening defined in the ball striking portion 506, e.g., as generally described above in connection with FIGS. 3A through 4B. Other ways of providing the ball striking surface 502 may be utilized without departing from this invention.
  • [0065]
    Additional features of the structure of the club head 500 may help produce the favorable moment of inertia characteristics described above. For example, the body member 504 may be designed so as to extend behind and outside the ball striking surface 502. For example, side arms 508 and 510 of the body member 504 may extend back and outside of the ball striking portion 506. The body member 504 further may include a base member 512 that extends behind the ball striking portion 506, in a manner parallel to (or essentially parallel to) the ball striking surface 502. Thus, the overall club head structure 500 may have a generally trapezoidal or triangular appearance (e.g., depending on the location where the arms 508 and 510 meet the ball striking portion 506), with an optionally open area 514 defined in its center. The arms 508 and 510 are illustrated as being shorter than the ball striking portion 506 (into and out of the page of FIG. 5), and the base member 512 has an even thinner portion 516. These reduced sizes, as well as the open area 514, help reduce the overall weight of the body member 504 (and optionally make that weight available for redistribution elsewhere in the club head structure 500, as will be described in more detail below). If desired, the arms 508 and 510 and/or the base member 512 may be hollowed out and/or produced in a “truss-like” manner and/or formed at least partially from a cellular structure material, to further reduce their weight (and to further make that weight available for redistribution elsewhere).
  • [0066]
    In at least some examples of the invention, the club head 500 may be relatively large sized, e.g., at or near the limits permitted by current USGA regulations and guidelines. Currently, the USGA guidelines limit putter head designs to: (a) a maximum overall width (e.g., dimension “A” in FIG. 5) of seven inches (A≦7 inches); (b) a maximum overall depth (e.g., dimension “C” in FIG. 5) of less than dimension “A” (A>C); (c) a minimum face width (e.g., dimension “B” in FIG. 5) of at least ⅔ of dimension “C” and at least ½ of dimension “A” (B≧⅔ C and B≧½ A); and (d) a maximum overall height (e.g., into and out of the page of FIG. 5) of 2.5 inches.
  • [0067]
    In this illustrated example, the body member 504 includes a pair of weighted member receptacles 518 and 520 located behind the ball striking surface 502 and at least partially outside of this surface 502 (e.g., toward the club head's heel and toe directions). More specifically, at least some portions of the weighted member receptacles 518 and 520 are located outside of a plane oriented perpendicular to the ball striking surface 502 and located at the respective ends 502 a and 502 b of the ball striking surface 502 (see planes P1 and P2 in FIG. 5). If desired, in at least some examples, the entire weighted member receptacles 518 and 520 may be located outside of these planes without departing from the invention. Weighted members 522 and 524 (e.g., lead, tungsten, or other heavy material inserts) may be provided in the receptacles 518 and 520, respectively, to provide extra weighting behind and generally at the outer perimeter or at the heel and toe portions of the club head structure 500. Thus, at least some portions (or all) of the weighted members 522 and 524 also are located outside of the planes P1 and P2 described above.
  • [0068]
    The example structure 500 illustrated in FIG. 5 further includes a base portion 526 extending away from the ball striking surface 502 and toward the rear of the club head structure 500. This base portion 526 may be provided at the very center of the ball striking surface 502, and thereby may act as an alignment aid for the putter head structure 500 (e.g., identifying the desired ball contact location of the club head). The base portion 526 may extend from and/or attach to the ball striking portion 506 and/or the body portion 504 in any desired manner without departing from the invention. For example, the base portion 526 may be attached to one or more of the body portion 504, the ball striking surface 502, and/or the ball striking portion 506, e.g., via adhesives, welding, soldering, mechanical connectors, and the like. As another example, the base portion 526 may be integrally formed as a unitary one-piece construction with the body portion 504, the ball striking surface 502, and/or the ball striking portion 506, optionally made from the same materials as one or more of these elements, without departing from the invention. If desired, the base portion 526 may be formed, at least in part, from a cellular structure material.
  • [0069]
    The club head structure 500 further may include a shaft mounting member 528 (e.g., a hosel member) to which a shaft 530 is mounted, e.g., in any desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art. Any desired type of shaft 530 may be used without departing from the invention, including shafts 530 of conventional design and made of conventional materials as are known and used in the art. Alternatively, if desired, either or both of the shaft mounting member 528 and the shaft 530 may be made from a cellular structure material.
  • [0070]
    C. Example Iron Type Golf Club Structures
  • [0071]
    Putters are not the only types of golf clubs that can take advantage of the weight saving properties of cellular structure materials. These lightweight materials also can be used, for example, in iron type golf club structures. Referring to FIGS. 6A through 6C, a golf club 600 in accordance with at least some examples of this invention is illustrated. This example golf club 600 includes a shaft 602 and a golf club head 604. The golf club head 604 of FIGS. 6A through 6C may be representative of any iron or hybrid type golf club head. The shaft 602 of golf club 600 may be made of various materials, such as one or more of steel, titanium, graphite, or composite materials, as well as combinations thereof, including materials that are conventionally known and used in the art. As another example, if desired, the shaft 602 may be made, at least in part, from a cellular structure material. Additionally, the shaft 602 may be attached to the club head 604 in any desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art (e.g., via adhesives or cements at a hosel element 612 (which itself may be made from a cellular structure material), via threads or other mechanical connectors, etc.). A grip element (not shown) may be positioned on the shaft 602 to provide a golfer with a slip resistant surface with which to grasp golf club shaft 602. The grip element may be attached to the shaft 602 in any desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art (e.g., via adhesives or cements, mechanical connectors, etc.).
  • [0072]
    As shown in FIG. 6A, the golf club head 604 includes a body member 606 that includes a heel portion 608 and a toe portion 610. The heel portion 608 is attached to and/or extends from a hosel 612 (e.g., as a unitary or integral one-piece construction) for connecting the shaft 602 of FIG. 6A to the golf club head 604. The body member 606 also includes a top portion 614 and a sole portion 616. A striking face 618 is provided between the top portion 614 and the sole portion 616, and between the toe 610 and the heel 608. The striking face 618 provides a contact area for engaging and propelling a golf ball in an intended direction. The striking face 618 may include grooves 620 (e.g., generally horizontal grooves 620 extending across the face 618 in the illustrated example) for the removal of water and grass from the striking face 618 during a ball strike. Of course, any number of grooves and desired groove pattern may be provided (or even no groove pattern, if desired), without departing from this invention.
  • [0073]
    The body member 606 of the golf club head 604 may be constructed from a wide variety of different materials, including materials known and used in the art, such as steel, titanium, aluminum, nickel, tungsten, graphite, polymers, or composites, or combinations thereof. Advantageously, at least some portion of the club head structure (e.g., a major body portion thereof) will be formed from a cellular structure material. Also, the club head 604 may be made from any number of independent pieces and/or by any construction technique, including, for example, casting, forging, and/or other methods known and used in the art.
  • [0074]
    FIG. 6B illustrates a rear view of a golf club head 604 in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. This example golf club head 604 includes a rear face 624 positioned opposite the striking face 618. The rear face 624 forms or defines a first rear cavity 626 having a relatively large opening. A bridge member 628 extends across the first rear cavity 626, and this bridge member 628 may connect the heel portion 608 of the club head 604 to the toe portion 610. Bridge member 628 also may extend across the first rear cavity 626 in other directions and may be connected at various other locations on a golf club head structure without departing from the invention, as shown, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,450,897 issued on Sep. 17, 2002 to John T. Stites, et al., which patent is entirely incorporated herein by reference. Bridge member 628 may have any desired shape, such as rectangular, oval, triangular, trapezoidal, square, or other symmetrical or asymmetrical shapes. Bridge member 628 also may have a uniform or non-uniform width or thickness throughout its length.
  • [0075]
    Bridge member 628 may be connected to the toe portion 610 and/or the heel portion 608 (or other portion(s)) of the club head 604 in any desired manner, including through the use of mechanical connectors (such as rivets or screws 630), fusing techniques (such as welding, soldering, brazing, etc.), bonding techniques (such as adhesives or cements), etc. Those skilled in the art will recognize that bridge member 628 may be connected to the toe portion 610 and/or the heel portion 608 using fewer or additional connection points or elements than shown in FIG. 6B and/or through numerous other connection means and/or techniques without departing from the present invention. As still additional examples, if desired, bridge member 628 may be formed with the golf club head 604 in a single casting and/or as a single unitary element, thereby making the bridge member 628 a one piece construction with the golf club head 604.
  • [0076]
    In the golf club head structure 604 according to this illustrated example of the invention, a second rear cavity 632 is provided below the bridge member 628, as shown in FIG. 6B. With reference to FIG. 6C, a cross-sectional view of an example golf club head 604 is illustrated. As shown, in this arrangement, a major body portion 640 of the club head 604 is formed from a cellular structure material, e.g., made from foamed aluminum, titanium, nickel, etc. A face plate 642 is formed on and/or overlays the cellular structure material 640, to provide a solid, consistent surface through which the ball is struck. The face plate 642 may be integrated with the major body portion 640 in any desired manner, e.g., fabricated as a one piece construction; welded, brazed, or soldered thereto; bonded thereto with cements or adhesives, etc.; coated or filled therein (e.g., as a molten metal or polymer coating or filling, etc.); etc. Also, the face plate 642 may be made from the same or a different material as compared with the material of the major body portion 640.
  • [0077]
    The illustrated example arrangement in FIG. 6C shows an optional wall 634 extending from the sole portion 616 of the club head 604 to the bridge member 628. The wall 634, at least in part, creates or defines the second rear cavity 632, which includes an opening positioned below bridge member 628 in this club head structure 604. The wall 634 may be formed so as to include a front surface (facing outward, toward second cavity 632), a back surface (facing inward, toward first cavity 626), a top surface, and a bottom surface. If desired, a space may exist between the back surface of wall 634 and the rear face 624 of the golf club head 604. Additionally, if desired, additional elements, such as weighted members, plastic members, a fluid filled bladder, a pressurized bladder, or the like, may be provided in the cavity 626 between the bridge member 628 and/or wall member 634 and the rear wall 624 of the club head, e.g., to change the sound, vibrational response, swing feel, and/or other feel characteristics of the club head 606.
  • [0078]
    The wall 634, when present, may be integrally formed with the club head 604 and/or the bridge member 628, e.g., to provide additional support and stiffness to the bridge member 628. Wall 634 may be linear, curved, or otherwise shaped, e.g., depending upon the shape of bridge member 628, the shape of the club head 604, desired aesthetics, etc. Like the club head 604, the wall 634 and/or the bridge member 628 may be made from a wide variety of materials, such as stainless steels, titanium, graphite, plastics, polymeric materials, composite materials, combinations thereof, and/or other materials conventionally used in golf club head manufacture. Also, the club head 604, the wall 634, and the bridge member 628 may be made from the same or different materials without departing from this invention. The additional support and stiffness to bridge member 628 provided by the wall 634, if any, may help prevent or reduce deformation of bridge member 628 upon contact with a golf ball. In addition, if desired, the wall 634 may provide at least some vibration damping effect upon impact of striking face 618 with a golf ball. The wall 634 also may be used as a weighting member for the club head 604.
  • [0079]
    The wall 634, if any, may be secured in the club head structure 604 (e.g., to the bridge member 628 and/or to other portions of the club head 604) in any desired manner without departing from this invention. As some more specific examples, the front surface and/or the bottom surface of wall 634 may be secured to the bridge member 628 and/or the sole portion 616, respectively, using an adhesive or cement. Optionally, if desired, the wall 634 may fit into grooves or recessed areas provided in the surfaces of the bridge member 628 and/or the sole portion 616. Those skilled in the art will recognize that numerous other ways exist to attach the wall 634 to the bridge member 628 and sole portion 616 (or to other portions of the club head structure 604) without departing from this invention. These numerous other ways of attachment are contemplated and fall within the scope of the present invention.
  • [0080]
    During the game of golf, an individual holds and swings the golf club 600 such that club head 604 traverses a generally arcuate path and impacts a golf ball. A portion of the inertia of the golf club 600, and particularly the inertia of the golf club head 604, then is transferred to the golf ball to propel the golf ball. The position of a center of gravity of the club head 604 during the ball strike has an influence upon the ball's flight, e.g., whether the golf ball curves right, curves left, or follows a generally straight route, as well as the extent of the curvature. The golf ball will follow a generally straight route when the club head 604's center of gravity is positioned directly behind the point of engagement of the ball with the striking face 618. When the club head 604's center of gravity is spaced to one side of this point of engagement with the ball, however, the golf ball may follow a route that curves left or right. The position of the center of gravity of golf club head 604 during contact with a ball also will influence whether the golf ball exhibits a low, boring trajectory or a high, climbing trajectory, depending upon whether the center of gravity is spaced above or below the point of engagement of the ball on striking face 618.
  • [0081]
    Although the concepts behind utilizing a golf club 600 to propel a golf ball toward an intended target appear relatively simple, the actual practice of propelling the golf ball in an intended manner can be quite difficult. The golf ball may, for example, consistently curve right when, in fact, the individual intends to propel the golf ball along a substantially straight route. Many conventional golf club heads have a center of gravity located at the striking face. However, changing the position of the center of gravity of the golf club head 604 for different golf clubs may assist many golfers in squaring the club head face 618 upon impact with a golf ball and better propelling the ball along its intended path. The use of cellular structure materials for at least some portions of the golf club head 604 or other portions of the golf club structure (such as hosel 612 or shaft 602) can assist in club design by enabling club designers and manufacturers to selectively place weight and move the center of gravity to positions so as to better affect the ball flight. For example, positioning the center of gravity of the club head 604 away from the striking face 618 and toward the rear of the golf club head 604 may better conform to the play characteristics, style, and preferences of many golfers. Accordingly, golfers may be able to correct or modify the route of a golf ball by using the golf club head 604 of the present invention as the center of gravity of golf club head 604 is repositioned with respect to striking face 618 as compared to other golf club heads.
  • [0082]
    The center of gravity of golf club head 604, also referred to herein as its “center of mass,” is defined as an equilibrium point. More specifically, the center of gravity of golf club head 604 is a point at which the entire weight of golf club head 604 may be considered as concentrated so that, if supported at that point, the club head 604 would remain in static equilibrium in any position. The location of the center of gravity of golf club head 604 may be changed by altering the weight distribution of the golf club head 604, e.g., by making a major portion 640 the body 604 of a lightweight cellular structure material and positioning additional weight away from the striking face 618. Altering the weight distribution of golf club head 604 in accordance with at least some examples of this invention (such as the examples illustrated in FIGS. 6A through 6C) may be accomplished, at least in part, with the use of weighted bridge members 628, weighted walls 634, and optionally independent weight elements (as will be described in more detail in conjunction with FIG. 7-11).
  • [0083]
    As more specific examples, bridge member 628 may be used to increase the weight of the back of the golf club head 604, e.g., relative to the striking face 618. This increase in weight toward the rear of golf club head 604 alters the position of the center of gravity of golf club head 604. By moving the center of gravity lower and toward the rear of the golf club head 604, the golf club 600 will tend to have an increased loft upon impact with a golf ball. In addition, the shape, location, and weight distribution of bridge member 628 also may influence the location of the center of gravity of golf club head 604. For example, on longer iron clubs (e.g., zero through five iron and/or hybrid clubs), it may be desirable for at least some golfers to have the center of gravity lower than on the corresponding shorter iron clubs (e.g., six iron through various wedges). On the longer iron or hybrid clubs, a lower center of gravity typically will assist a golfer in obtaining additional loft and lift on their golf shots. Therefore, in accordance with at least some examples of this invention, the bridge member 628 for longer iron clubs or hybrid type may be positioned lower on the rear of the golf club head body 604 as compared to the bridge member 628 position on a shorter iron club.
  • [0084]
    The lowering of the center of gravity of the golf club head 604 also may be accomplished, at least in part, through the use of wall 634 or other weight elements. The wall 634 or other elements also may be used to increase the weight of the back of the golf club head 604 relative to the striking face 618. This increase in weight to the back of golf club head 604 at the low position on the club head 604 lowers the center of gravity of the club head 604, thus generally allowing the golf club head 604 to propel a golf ball with a higher trajectory. In addition, as noted above, wall 634 (and/or other weight members) may be used to increase the support of bridge member 628 and may prevent or reduce deformation of bridge member 628 upon contact with a golf ball. This added support may tend to somewhat increase the distance that the golf ball travels after impact with the club head 604.
  • [0085]
    FIGS. 7-9 illustrate additional examples of iron type golf club heads that may include cellular structure materials (e.g., making up some or all of the major portion of the club head body) and additional weighting members, e.g., to allow club designers, club fitters, users, and the like to modify the weighting and center of gravity characteristics of a golf club head. Such modifications may be used to alter typical ball flight characteristics, e.g., to provide a fade or draw bias to the club, to help correct a persistent slice or hook, etc. The basic club head designs of FIGS. 7-9 are similar to those shown in FIGS. 6A through 6C (e.g., with a perimeter weighted head 604, one or more rear cavities 626 and/or 632, a bridge member 628, and an optional wall member 632, etc.), with major portions of the club head bodies formed from a cellular structure material and a ball striking face plate 642 formed or otherwise provided thereon. In these example iron structures, however, additional weighting members are provided with the bridge member 628, to help further move and control the club head 604 center of gravity with respect to the ball striking face of the club head.
  • [0086]
    In the example structure shown in FIG. 7, additional weight is provided to the club head structure 700 via one or more weight elements 702 that are attached to the bridge member 628. As shown, these weight elements 702 may be attached at a variety of predetermined mounting positions 704 a, 704 b, and/or 704 c provided on the bridge member 628. Positioning weight member 702 at position 704 a on the bridge 628 generally causes the toe portion of the club head 700 to slightly lag behind the heel portion during a swing, promoting a more open club face during a ball strike, and providing a fade bias to the club (e.g., to help correct the ball flight for golfers that tend to hook the ball). Positioning weight member 702 at position 704 b on the bridge 628 generally causes the center of gravity of the club head 604 to move rearward with respect to the ball striking face without providing the club head 604 with a bias toward a draw or fade ball flight. Positioning weight member 702 at position 704 c on the bridge 628 generally causes the toe portion of the club head 700 to move slightly ahead of the heel portion during a swing, promoting a more closed club face during a ball strike, and providing a draw bias to the club (e.g., to help correct the ball flight for golfers that tend to slice the ball). By making at least some portion of the club head 700 (e.g., a major portion of the club head 700) from a cellular structure material, additional weight can be included in the bridge 628 and/or weighting member 702 without adversely increasing the club head's total weight, to potentially enable additional control over ball flight characteristics.
  • [0087]
    Of course, any way of fixing the weight member 702 to the bridge member 628 (or other portion of the club head structure 700) may be used without departing from the invention, including screws, rivets, set screws, spring loaded detent mechanisms, or other mechanical connectors; adhesives, cements, or other bonding techniques; welding, soldering, brazing, or other fusing techniques; and the like. Advantageously, the weight member 702 may be removably attached to the bridge member 628 or other portion of the club head structure 700, e.g., to enable removal of and/or changes in the weight member position 704 a, 704 b, and 704 c, for example, by a user, a club fitter, a manufacturer, a sales person, etc. Removal weight members of this type are known and used in the art.
  • [0088]
    FIG. 8 illustrates an example club head structure 800 similar to that illustrated in FIG. 7, but with a different type of weighting member 802. In this example structure, one or more weight members 802 are positionable at various predetermined mounting positions 704 a, 704 b, and/or 704 c like the example illustrated in FIG. 7. Therefore, the location of the center of gravity of the club head 800 can be controlled and changed in the heel-to-toe direction of the club head 800 in the same manner as it can be changed and controlled in the example structure 700 of FIG. 7, as described above. In this example structure 800, however, the weight member 802 is irregularly shaped and weighted (e.g., elliptically shaped and heavier at its bottom, in the illustrated example) so that the location of its center of gravity (and thus the overall location of the center of gravity of the golf club head 800) also can be controlled in the club head's vertical direction. For example, by orienting the weight member 802 as shown in FIG. 8 (with the heavier bulk of the weight member 802 directed downward), the center of gravity of the weight member 802 (and thus the entire club head 800 center of gravity) is located somewhat downward or at a relatively low position with respect to the club head ball striking face. This arrangement generally allows users to propel golf balls with a higher trajectory (and biases the club to provide a higher trajectory to help golfers with a tendency to have trouble getting the ball airborne). By rotating the weight member 802 about its mounting position (e.g., position 702 b, in the illustrated example), the bulk of the weighting member 802 (and thus its center of gravity) can be raised with respect to the ball striking face, and thus the center of gravity of the overall club head 800 can be raised with respect to the club head face. A higher center of gravity arrangement generally allows users to propel golf balls with a lower trajectory (and biases the club to provide a lower trajectory to help golfers with a tendency to hit very high shots). By making at least some portion of the club head 800 (e.g., a major portion of the club head 800) from a cellular structure material, additional weight can be included in the bridge 628 and/or weighting member 802 without adversely impacting the club head's overall weight, to potentially enable additional control over ball flight characteristics.
  • [0089]
    FIG. 9 illustrates an example club head structure 900 that includes an additional weighting member 902 that has even more versatile weighting characteristics as compared to the example structures shown in FIGS. 7 and 8. More specifically, in this example structure 900, the weighting member 902 is mounted on a rail or slide mechanism 904 provided as part of the bridge member 628 structure. By loosening the screw 906 or other clamping mechanism, the weight member 902 may be freely movable and positionable along the slide mechanism 904, to thereby allow control of the location of the center of gravity of the club head in the heel-to-toe direction, as generally described above in conjunction with the structures of FIGS. 7 and 8. However, by providing the rail or slide mechanism 904, the weight member 902 can be positioned at any location along the bridge member 628, not limited to the predetermined mounting positions 704 a, 704 b, and/or 704 c shown in FIGS. 7 and 8.
  • [0090]
    Additionally or alternatively, if desired, the weight member 902 may be designed so that the center of gravity location of the club head 900 also can be altered in the vertical direction, e.g., using an elliptical and/or irregular weight member of the type described above in conjunction with FIG. 8. By making at least some portion of the club head 900 (e.g., a major portion of the club head 900) from a cellular structure material, additional weight can be included in the bridge 628 and weighting member 902 without adversely impacting the overall club head weight, to potentially enable additional control over ball flight characteristics.
  • [0091]
    The weight member 902 may be secured to the bridge member 628 in any desired manner without departing from the invention, e.g., removably or movably secured by a screw, set screw, clamp, clasp, etc. Additionally, in this example structure 900 (as with the other example structures described above), any number of weight members, mounting positions, mounting rails, or the like may be provided without departing from the invention.
  • [0092]
    While the bridge member 628 advantageously assists in positioning weight back and/or low in an overall club head structure, aspects of the present invention can be used in any desired iron type club head design without departing from the invention. For example, cellular structure material can be used to form all or at least some portion of iron type golf club heads formed as perimeter weighted irons without a bridge member, blade type irons, hybrid type irons, and the like. FIGS. 10A and 10B illustrate an example club head structure 1000 formed as a blade type iron. In this illustrated example structure 1000, a major portion of the club head body 1002 is formed from a cellular structure material, and a ball striking face 1004 is integrally formed, adhered, or otherwise provided on the major portion of the club head body 1002. If desired, all or at least some of the exterior surface of the cellular structure club head body may be formed so that the pores are coated or filled (e.g., with metal or polymer) to thereby provide a smooth overall appearance and/or smooth consistent ball striking surface.
  • [0093]
    In this illustrated example structure 1000, the rear 1006 of the club head body 1002 includes plural weight members 1008. Of course, any number of weight members 1008 may be included in the club head body 1002 without departing from the invention, and these weight members 1008 may be provided at various different positions on the club head structure 1002. Moreover, if desired, every weight member 1008 need not have the same mass and/or size, to enable additional control over the center of gravity characteristics of the overall club head structure 1002.
  • [0094]
    In this illustrated example, the weight members 1008 are removably mounted in weight member receptacles 1010 provided in the club head structure 1002. Of course, any way of mounting the weight members 1008 in the receptacles 1010 may be provided without departing from the invention. As examples, the weight members 1008 may include threads that engage with mating threads provided in the receptacle, to enable easy removal and/or repositioning of the weight members 1008 in the overall club head structure 1002. Of course, other connection techniques may be used without departing from the invention, such as other mechanical connections, clamping, or clasping structures, spring-loaded detent mechanisms, and the like. Also, if desired, any shaped weight members may be provided in the club head structure 1000 without departing from the invention.
  • [0095]
    Alternatively, if desired, the additional weight may be permanently and/or integrally provided as part of the club head structure without departing from the invention. FIG. 11 illustrates an example of such a club head structure 1100. As shown in this example, a major portion of the club head structure 1102 is formed from a cellular structure material, and a ball striking face 1104 is formed or otherwise provided on this material, e.g., in one of the various manners described above. The lower perimeter and/or rear of the club head 1102 in this example structure 1100 includes a weighted region 1106 permanently included as part of the club head structure 1102. Any manner of providing the weighted region 1106 may be used without departing from the invention. For example, the weighted region 1106 may be provided by fixing a weight into an opening (e.g., a hole, slot, groove, or compartment, etc.) defined in the club head 1102. As another example, if desired, the weighted region 1106 may be provided by integrally fixing a weighted material (e.g., tungsten or lead containing material) to the material of the club head structure 1102 and then forming that material into the club head structure 1102 (e.g., machining it, etc.) in a manner such that the weighted material is located at the final desired position in the club head structure 1102 (i.e., at the weighted region 1106). As still other examples, if desired, the weighted region 1106 may be provided by not foaming and/or providing a markedly reduced degree of foaming of the material of the major portion of the club head structure 1102 at the desired weighted region location 1106 and/or by filling the pores at the weighted region location 1106 with a relatively heavy or dense material, such as lead or tungsten. Other ways of forming the weighted region 1106 are possible without departing from the invention. The material forming the weighted region 1106 may be visible from the exterior of the club head structure 1102, it may be concealed within the material of the club head structure 1102, or it may be continuous with the club head structure 1102. Also, if desired, the exterior surface of the body member may be made smooth, e.g., by filling, coating, or covering the exposed pores (if any) with a metal or polymer material.
  • [0096]
    D. Example Wood Type Golf Club Structures
  • [0097]
    Aspects of this invention are not limited to use with putters, irons, and/or hybrid iron type golf clubs and golf club heads. FIGS. 12A and 12B illustrate an example of a golf club 1200 in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. Notably, the overall golf club structure 1200 of this example includes a golf club head 1202, a hosel region 1204, a shaft member 1206 received in and/or inserted into and/or through the hosel region 1204, and a grip or handle member (not shown) attached to the shaft member 1206. Optionally, if desired, the hosel region 1204 may be eliminated and the shaft member 1206 may be directly inserted into and/or otherwise attached to the head member 1202 (e.g., through an opening provided in the top and optionally bottom of the club head 1202).
  • [0098]
    The shaft member 1206 may be received in, engaged with, and/or attached to the club head 1202 in any suitable or desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art, without departing from the invention. As more specific examples, the shaft member 1206 may be engaged with the club head 1202 via the hosel member 1204 or directly with the club head structure 1202, e.g., via adhesives, cements, welding, soldering, mechanical connectors (such as threads, retaining elements, or the like), through a shaft-receiving sleeve or element extending into the club head body 1202, etc. The shaft member 1206 also may be made from any suitable or desired materials, including conventional materials known and used in the art, such as graphite based materials, composite materials, steel materials (including stainless steel), aluminum materials, other metal alloy materials, polymeric materials, combinations of various materials, and the like. If desired, either or both of the shaft member 1206 and the hosel member 1204 (when present) may be made from a cellular structure material.
  • [0099]
    The grip or handle member (not shown) may be attached to, engaged with, and/or extend from the shaft member 1206 in any suitable or desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art, e.g., using adhesives or cements; via welding, soldering, adhesives, or the like; via mechanical connectors (such as threads, retaining elements, etc.); and/or in any other desired manner. As another example, if desired, the grip or handle member may be integrally formed as a unitary, one-piece construction with the shaft member 1206. Additionally, any desired grip or handle member materials may be used without departing from this invention, including rubber materials, leather materials, rubber or other materials including cord or other fabric material embedded therein, polymeric materials, metal materials, and the like. The grip or handle member also may be made, at least in part, from a cellular structure material.
  • [0100]
    The club head 1202 itself also may be constructed in any suitable or desired manner and/or from any suitable or desired materials without departing from this invention, including in conventional manners and/or from conventional materials known and used in the art. For example, in the example structure shown in FIGS. 12A and 12B, the club head 1202 includes a sole member 1202 a, a face member 1202 b, at least one body member 1202 c, and a crown member 1202 d. The body member(s) 1202 c may be formed, for example, as bands or ribbons of material (e.g., optionally generally U-shaped bands or ribbons) that extend around from one side of the face member 1202 b to its other side and form at least a portion of the perimeter of the middle of the golf club head body 1202 (e.g., such that the overall club head structure 1202 defines an at least partially hollow interior chamber (e.g., into which the shaft member 1206 may be inserted and/or secured)). Any of the individual portions of the club head structure 1202 described above may be made from multiple independent pieces, and/or two or more of these individual portions may be integrally formed together, e.g., as unitary, one-piece constructions, without departing from this invention (e.g., the sole and/or crown members additionally may form at least some portions of the club head body and/or face members, etc). As other options, if desired, the overall club head structure 1202 may be comprised of a single, one-piece construction or the face member 1202 b may attach to a one piece club head body, etc.
  • [0101]
    The various individual parts that make up a club head structure 1202, if made from multiple pieces, may be engaged and/or held together in any suitable or desired manner, including in conventional manners known and used in the art. For example, the various parts of the club head structure 1202 may be joined and/or fixed together (directly or indirectly through intermediate members) by adhesives, cements, welding, soldering, or other bonding or fusing techniques; by mechanical connectors (such as threads, screws, nuts, bolts, or other connectors); and the like. If desired, the side edges of various parts of the club head structure 1202 (e.g., the edges where sole member 1202 a, face member 1202 b, body members 1202 c, and/or crown member 1202 d contact and join to one another) may include one or more raised ribs, tabs, ledges, or other engagement elements that fit into or onto corresponding grooves, slots, surfaces, ledges, or openings provided in or on the facing side edges to which they are joined. Cements, adhesives, mechanical connectors, or the like may be used in combination with the raised rib/groove or other connecting structures described above to further help secure the various parts of the club head structure 1202 to one another.
  • [0102]
    In at least some examples of the invention, the materials making up at least some of the various portions of the club structure 1200 (e.g., the sole 1202 a, the face plate 1202 b, the body member(s) 1202 c, the crown 1202 d, the hosel 1204, the shaft 1206, etc.) may be formed from a cellular structure material, e.g., like the various materials described above. If desired, two or more of these parts may be integrally formed as a one-piece construction (e.g., if desired, the sole 1202 a, the body member 1202 c, and/or the crown 1202 d may be integrally formed as one piece with a separate face plate member engaged therewith). Also, any desired materials may be used for the club head body 1202 without departing from the invention, including, for example, aluminum, nickel, titanium, steel, polymers, glasses, ceramics, rubbers, and/or combinations thereof. When at least some portion of the club head structure 1202 is formed from a cellular structure material, if desired, the shell wall thickness may be made somewhat larger than the shell members of many conventional club heads.
  • [0103]
    The weight savings produced through the use of cellular structure material, e.g., for at least some portion of the club head body 1202, allows club manufacturers, club fitters, users, and the like to position one or more additional weight members 1208 at other locations in the club head structure 1202, e.g., to affect the center of gravity, moment of inertia, and/or ball flight characteristics of the club 1200. For example, placing weighted members 1208 low and toward the rear of the club head structure 1202 lowers the center of gravity of the club head 1202 and helps users get golf shots airborne when using the club. As generally described above in conjunction with FIGS. 6A through 11, the mass and location(s) of the weighted members 1208 may be selected so as to control the position of the center of gravity of the club head 1202, e.g., in the heel-to-toe direction and/or the vertical direction (e.g., to bias the club head to provide draw, fade, high, or low shots, and/or to help users correct for sliced, hooked, low, or high shot tendencies, respectively).
  • [0104]
    The weighted member(s) 1208 may be engaged with the club head 1202 in any desired manner without departing from the invention, including in the various manners described above in conjunction with FIGS. 1-11 and/or in various manners known and used in the art. In the illustrated example of FIGS. 12A and 12B, the weighted members 1208 are removably attached to receptacles 1210 provided in and extending into the club head 1202 via a threaded arrangement. Of course, other attaching and/or locking configurations may be used without departing from this invention, such as clamps, clasps, spring-loaded detents, turnbuckles, other mechanical connectors, or the like. Alternatively, if desired, one or more of the weighted members 1208 may be permanently fixed to and/or within the club head 1202 without departing from the invention, e.g., via bonding or fusing techniques. The weighted members 1208 need not be visible from the club head exterior (optionally, if desired, access to the club head interior (e.g., to change and/or re-position weighted members 1208) may be provided).
  • [0105]
    FIGS. 13A and 13B show another example of a wood-type golf club structure 1300 according to the invention. In this example structure 1300, the golf club includes a golf club head 1302, a hosel region 1304, a shaft member 1306, and a handle member (not shown), as generally described above in conjunction with the example structure 1200 of FIGS. 12A and 12B. In this example structure 1300, all or at least some portion (e.g., a major portion) of the club head body 1302 is constructed as a one piece element, and this element is constructed from a cellular structure material, such as the various cellular structure metal, polymers, and/or other materials described above. If desired, the club head body 1302 may be formed from multiple pieces of cellular structure material engaged with one another, optionally of different materials, e.g., via adhesives, cements, welding, or other bonding or fusing techniques. As still additional examples, if desired, only some portion of the club head body 1302 may be formed from a cellular structure material (e.g., the bottom, rear, and/or front portions), while other portions of the club head body (e.g., the upper crown portion) may be formed from shell members and/or other separate, non-cellular pieces of material.
  • [0106]
    Also, in this illustrated example structure, a weighted member 1308 is provided within the interior of the club head body 1302, e.g., in an interior recess or chamber defined in the club head body. Of course, other ways of providing one or more weighted members 1308 in the club head structure 1302 may be provided without departing from the invention, including the various ways described above in conjunction with FIGS. 12A and 12B. As still another alternative, if desired, the weighted member(s) 1308 may be integrally formed with the club head body structure 1302, e.g., by forming the cellular structure material to include a weighted region (e.g., a denser cellular region); by not foaming the metal or other material in the weighted region; by machining a material, including a foam portion, into a golf club head structure and to include a non-foamed and/or increased weight region in the desired location(s); to include a weighted coating or filler in the foam pores at the weighted region, etc.
  • [0107]
    The dimensions and/or other characteristics of a wood-type golf club head structure according to examples of the invention may vary significantly without departing from the invention. Moreover, any desired type of wood-type golf club head structure may be provided, such as drivers, fairway woods, wood-type hybrid clubs, chipping clubs, and the like. Any desired loft angles, head weights, lie angles, etc., also may be used without departing from the invention, e.g., if the club is designed as a 2-wood, 3-wood, 4-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, 9-wood, 11-wood, etc.; to suit a user's preferences and/or swing characteristics; to provide the desired launch angle, carry distance, and/or other characteristics for the club; etc. Additionally, various different shaft characteristics (such as stiffness, flex point, kick point, etc.) may be used to further allow change and control over the club's and the club head's feel and characteristics.
  • [0108]
    E. Example Ball Striking Plate Structures
  • [0109]
    FIG. 14 illustrates another example golf club structure 1400 that includes cellular structure material in accordance with at least some examples of this invention. In this example, the cellular structure material is provided as part of a club head 1402 face plate member 1404. More specifically, as illustrated in FIG. 14, the face plate member 1404 is attached to a club head body 1406, which may be of any design and/or made of any type of material, including conventional designs and conventional materials known and used in the art (a wood-type club head body, in this example). The face plate member 1404 includes a base member 1404 a formed of a cellular structure material and a ball striking plate member 1404 b, which directly contacts the ball in use. By use of cellular structure materials in the face plate member 1404, a thicker face plate can be provided without adversely affecting the club head's overall weight or strength, and the use of a thicker face plate allows better manufacturer control over the coefficient of restitution (and potentially other characteristics) of the club head face member 1404. Of course, face plate members of the type illustrated in FIG. 14 may be used on any type of club head, including woods, irons, hybrid type clubs, putters, etc.
  • [0110]
    The face plate member 1404 may be constructed in any desired manner without departing from this invention. For example, if desired, the face plate base member 1404 a may be engaged with a separate ball striking member 1404 b, e.g., by bonding techniques (cements, adhesives, etc.) or fusing techniques (welding, brazing, soldering, etc.). As additional examples, if desired, the ball striking member 1404 b may be integrally formed as part of the cellular structure base member 1404 a, e.g., via conventional metal foam manufacturing techniques. As still another example, if desired, the ball striking member 1404 b may be formed by coating or filling open cells or pores of an exterior surface of a cellular structure material (e.g., for the base member 1404 a) with a molten metal material, a polymeric material (such as an epoxy, etc.), or the like, to thereby provide a smooth ball striking surface 1404 b for the face plate 1404. Other ways of forming the face plate member 1404, at least in part as a cellular structure material, may be provided without departing from this invention.
  • III. Conclusion
  • [0111]
    Golf club heads in accordance with examples of the present invention may be incorporated into a set, e.g., sets including one or more of woods, irons, hybrid type golf clubs, and/or putters. As a more specific example, aspects of the present invention may be used to provide a club set with increasing numbered woods and/or iron golf clubs, such as a driver and/or two or more of fairway woods, hybrid type clubs, a zero iron, a one iron, a two iron, a three iron, a four iron, a five iron, a six iron, a seven iron, an eight iron, a nine iron, a ten iron, a pitching wedge, a lob wedge, a gap wedge, a sand wedge, putters, etc. With at least some examples of the present invention, a golfer, a club designer, and/or a club fitter may select and/or modify the position of the center of gravity for each golf club to meet the player's unique requirements, skill, or playing style. For each club in the set, the bridge member, weight member(s), and/or other features of the club head may progressively change to alter the center of gravity of one club member with respect to the others in the set, to make the center of gravity better suited for use of the particular club, optionally customized for use by a specific golfer.
  • [0112]
    As is readily apparent from the above description, this invention may be used to include cellular structure materials, having a wide variety of potential properties, in a wide variety of different locations, in a golf club structure (e.g., as part of the head, striking face, hosel, shaft, grip, etc.). The cellular structure material may be used on the club head exterior, on the interior, on both, and the cellular structure may be visible, partially visible, filled, partially filled, hidden, partially hidden, etc. When a golf club product in accordance with at least some examples of this invention includes multiple cellular structure metals or other materials, either or both cellular structure materials optionally may be filled, skinned, partially filled, or partially skinned, optionally with the same or different fill or skin materials, including filled or skinned with a different cellular structure metal or other material. The skin or filling material may have a variety of thicknesses and/or a wide variety of potential properties. Different cellular structures and properties also may be obtained by varying the pore properties of a given cellular structure material (e.g., by varying pore density, pore distribution, pore size distribution, etc.).
  • [0113]
    As an additional example of a specific club head construction, if desired, a club head may be provided that includes: (a) a relatively thick skin of a high density material (e.g., a tungsten material) applied toward the back of a club head structure, e.g., a tungsten skin over a cellular structure material such as a metal or composite of tungsten, steel, etc., and
  • [0114]
    (b) a thinner skin of a less dense material (e.g., aluminum or titanium) over a relatively light cellular structure material (e.g., an aluminum or steel cellular structure) applied toward the middle and/or front of a club head structure. These materials may be integrated into a single club head structure (e.g., a putter structure). Such an arrangement may be used to produce a putter having a relatively high moment of inertia as compared with a unitary putter body of the same design without the use of cellular structure materials. Also, the use of different cellular structure materials and/or fill materials may be used to vary a wide range of properties in the final product, such as yield strength, Young's modulus, grain size of the materials, etc.
  • [0115]
    The present invention is described above and in the accompanying drawings with reference to a variety of example structures, features, elements, and combinations of structures, features, and elements. The purpose served by the disclosure, however, is to provide examples of the various features and concepts related to the invention, not to limit the scope of the invention. One skilled in the relevant art will recognize that numerous variations and modifications may be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the scope of the present invention, as defined by the appended claims. For example, the various features and concepts described above in conjunction with FIGS. 1-14 may be used individually and/or in any combination or subcombination without departing from this invention.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification473/334, 473/340, 473/350, 473/345, 473/349
International ClassificationA63B53/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63B53/04, A63B2053/0433, A63B53/047, A63B2209/00
European ClassificationA63B53/04
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