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Publication numberUS20070191128 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/351,565
Publication dateAug 16, 2007
Filing dateFeb 10, 2006
Priority dateFeb 10, 2006
Publication number11351565, 351565, US 2007/0191128 A1, US 2007/191128 A1, US 20070191128 A1, US 20070191128A1, US 2007191128 A1, US 2007191128A1, US-A1-20070191128, US-A1-2007191128, US2007/0191128A1, US2007/191128A1, US20070191128 A1, US20070191128A1, US2007191128 A1, US2007191128A1
InventorsFrancisco Tirol
Original AssigneeTirol Francisco T
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Golf swing training apparatus
US 20070191128 A1
Abstract
A golf training apparatus for practicing golf strokes using either irons or woods and from both even and uneven lies with training apparatus including a base coupled to a selectively tiltable platform having a standing section adjacent a striking section covered with a replaceable striking mat defining an uppermost and further including a tee with a neck projecting at least partially through the mat and terminating in an uppermost incline rim operable to releasably hold a golf ball in a pre-strike position with the platform in a tilted orientation.
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Claims(20)
1. A golf swing training apparatus comprising:
a base;
a platform including a striking section and a standing section operable to support a golfer;
at least one platform tilt adjusting element coupled to said base and said platform and selectively operable to tilt the angle of said platform relative to said base;
a striking mat overlying at least a portion of said striking section and defining an uppermost grass line; and
a tee including a neck region projecting at least partially through said striking mat and terminating in an uppermost inclined rim operable to releasably retain a golf ball in a pre-strike position with said platform adjusted to a tilted orientation whereby a user may adjust said platform to a desired tilt angle and strike a golf ball releasably retained on said inclined rim from said standing section.
2. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said rim of said tee includes a high point and a low point with said high point being positioned below said uppermost grass line of said striking mat.
3. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said platform is rectangular; and
said adjusting element includes a set of four hydraulic pistons in fluid communication with a hydraulic pump, each of said pistons being coupled to a corner of said platform.
4. The apparatus as set forth in claim 3 further including:
an electric motor coupled to said hydraulic pump; and
a controller in communication with said electric motor and operable to selectively actuate said motor to adjust said adjusting element to tilt said platform.
5. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said tee includes an enlarged flange positioned against an undersurface of said striking mat and said neck tapers outwardly from said enlarged flange to said inclined rim.
6. The apparatus as set forth in claim 5 wherein:
said inclined rim of said tee is inclined at an angle of 20 to 45 degrees relative to a plane passing through said high point of said inclined rim and parallel to a plane passing through said enlarged flange of said tee.
7. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said rim of said tee includes a high point and a low point with said low point being positioned below said uppermost grass line of said striking mat.
8. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said striking section and said standing section are removably retained on said platform and interchangeable.
9. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said replaceable striking mat is an artificial turf with a fairway simulated grassline.
10. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said replaceable striking mat is an artificial turf with a rough simulated grassline.
11. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said standing section is covered with an artificial turf surface.
12. The apparatus as set forth in claim 11 wherein:
said replaceable striking mat is covered with an artificial turf surface of a different height than said artificial turf surface of said standing section.
13. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said platform may be selectively actuated to position a golf ball on said tee in an uneven lie.
14. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said adjusting element includes a pair of pistons beneath said striking section and a second pair of pistons beneath said standing section with said pistons in each pair crossing one another.
15. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said adjusting element includes a set of four pistons with each piston including a universal joint joining said piston to said platform.
16. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said tee is constructed of an elastomeric material constructed to hold the weight of a golf ball in compression and flex in a shear direction.
17. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said adjusting element includes a hydraulic pump in fluid communication with a directional valve which is turn in fluid communication with at least two pistons coupled to said base and said platform whereby said directional valve may be selectively actuated to transfer hydraulic fluid to and from one or both pistons.
18. The apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said adjusting element includes a central universal joint disposed beneath said platform and coupled between said platform and said base.
19. A golf ball tee for use in conjunction with a golf swing training apparatus operable to simulate an uneven lie, said tee comprising:
an enlarged base flange;
an elongated neck projecting from said base flange and terminating in an uppermost golf ball supporting rim with said rim being inclined to said base flange, said neck being formed of an elastomeric material constructed to support a golf ball in compression and flex in a shear direction.
20. A golf swing training apparatus comprising:
a base frame having a lower surface positionable on a relatively flat ground surface, said base frame including a pair of opposing anchor plates;
a four-cornered platform frame;
a standing deck placed over a portion of said platform frame and operable to support a golfer throughout a golf club swinging motion, said standing deck being covered with a first artificial grass surface;
a striking section having an underside and placed over a complementary portion of said platform frame adjacent said standing deck, said striking section being covered by a replaceable striking mat constructed of a second artificial grass surface and defining an uppermost grassline;
a platform tilt adjusting element including a hydraulic pump and an electric motor coupled to a plurality of telescoping cylinders with each of said cylinders being coupled to at least one of said anchor plates of said base and to a corresponding number of corners of said platform;
a controller coupled to said electric motor and selectively operable to actuate said motor to drive said pump to actuate at least one of said cylinders to tilt said platform relative to said base to orient said platform in an uneven lie; and
a tee including an enlarged flange abutting said underside of said striking mat and a tapered neck region projecting at least partially through said striking mat and terminating in an uppermost inclined rim with a highest point of said rim being positioned at a height equal to or below said uppermost grassline, said inclined rim being operable to releasably hold a golf ball in a pre-strike position with said highest point of said rim being positioned on a downhill side of said golf ball with said platform in an uneven lie orientation.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention:

The present invention relates to an apparatus for practicing golf strokes and more specifically to an apparatus for supporting a golfer during the striking of a golf ball from a variety of lies.

2. General Background and State of the Art:

The game of golf is enjoyed around the world, both leisurely and as a serious competitive sport. Both dedication and practice are necessary to obtain consistency and improve one's score. To gain an edge, many golfers seek the assistance of a golf professional or instructor. A typical practice session involves striking a large quantity of golf balls one at a time directly off of a level practice mat constructed of a rubber pad covered by an artificial turf material or off of a tee projecting through the mat at a driving range. The tee typically includes an enlarged circular base flange and a cylindrical neck that terminates at its height in a level rim parallel with the base flange. The practice mat includes a hole through which the neck of the tee is inserted and the base flange is placed underneath the mat. The base flange prevents the tee from being ejected out of the mat when struck. The tee is typically constructed of a rubber material rigid enough to support a golf ball under compressive forces but flexible enough in the shear direction to minimize its impediment to a golf club head during contact with the ball and tee during the golfer's swing. At some ranges, golf balls may be struck off real grass instead of a mat and a conventional wooden tee may be used to practice tee shots.

During the practice session, the professional watches the golfer strike golf balls and provides tips to improve the golfer's swing and striking motions. While such practice sessions may help considerably, many on course scenarios are omitted from such a training session. For instance, while a typical initial drive from the tee box occurs with the ball placed at a particular height above the ground on a tee or on a flat patch of short cut grass, most of the shots occurring during a round after the tee shot require the golfer to strike the ball from an uphill, downhill, or sidehill lie, such lies being commonly referred to as an uneven lie. Even more difficult uneven lies resulting from a combination of an uphill/sidehill lie or a downhill/sidehill lie are also frequently encountered during play. However, the conventional practice mat only allows the golfer to practice shots from an even lie or tee shots and does not allow the golfer to simulate difficult shots from an uneven lie. To address these more difficult but commonly occurring scenarios, a number of golf training devices have been developed.

Examples of tilting platforms used for practicing golf strokes from difficult uneven lies may be found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,663,498 to Stipan; U.S. Pat. No. 6,659,881 to. Lee; U.S. Pat. No. 6,033, 317 to Beam; U.S. Pat. No. 5,944,615 to Lee; U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,478 to Wood et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 5,549,522 to Chang; U.S. Pat. No. 5,527,042 to Spriddle; U.S. Pat. No. 5,470,074 to Hotchkiss et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 5,460,379 to Cleland; U.S. Pat. No. 5,358,251 to Ashton; U.S. Pat. No. 5,240,111 to Froelich; U.S. Pat. No. 5,005,837 to Urra Martinez; U.S. Pat. No. 4,875,684 to Benilan; U.S. Pat. No. 3,633,918 to Smiley; and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2002/0128084 to Lee et al. The tilting platforms are typically covered with an artificial turf material. While the mechanisms for tilting the platforms are generally the focus of each patent and vary somewhat from patent to patent, in general, the golfer may alter the slope of the hitting surface by either shifting his or her own weight while standing on the platform, manually lifting or sliding the platform to the desired tilt and locking it into place, or using a hydraulic or pneumatic lift actuated by a control panel or foot switch. The golfer then will stand upon the tilted surface to strike the golf ball from an uneven lie. Of course, the respective platforms may be leveled so as to strike the ball from a flat or even lie as well and thus provide the same functionality as the conventional practice mat.

As for the mechanism for holding the golf ball after the platform is tilted or as the platform is tilted, this varies from patent to patent as well, that is, when such feature is even addressed. For example, as shown in FIG. 2 of U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,317 to Beam or FIG. 1 of U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,478 to Wood et al., the golf ball is struck from a raised tee and thus does not accurately simulate an iron shot from an uneven grass lie. Similar raised tee shots are illustrated in FIGS. 3-5 of U.S. Pat. No. 5,549,522 to Chang; FIG. 1 of U.S. Pat. No. 5,527,042 to Spriddle; and FIG. 20 of U.S. Pat. No. 5,470,074 to Hotchkiss et al. In Hotchkiss, the golf ball is supported on a conventional, cylindrical, rubber driving tee and doesn't even contact the surrounding turf again removing the capability of practicing iron shots directly off the turf from an uneven lie. These golf ball holding devices defeat the purpose of simulating real golf conditions. More specifically, when using a tee to elevate the golf ball off the surrounding turf, such turf is typically level and thus striking a golf ball off of a tee from an uneven lie is not an accurate game scenario. The converse of this is also true. Should an uneven lie be presented to the golfer, a tee will not be used to elevate the golf ball off the ground prior to striking the golf ball.

Another method of holding a golf ball in place on a tiltable platform is shown in FIGS. 1 and 5 of U.S. Pat. No. 5,005,837 to Urra Martinez. In that patent, the golf ball is purportedly held in place by a dimple in the mat. A set of dimples is situated in a circle around the outer perimeter of the platform so the golfer has some options in placing the golf ball relative to the platform tilt. However, the material defining the dimples is not flexible and does not allow the golfer to strike down through the ball. Furthermore, should the dimples be too large, the true flight of the golf ball once struck is impacted and, conversely, should the dimples be too shallow or too small in diameter, this leads to a dimple with poor retention capacity and the golf ball will roll off the platform when tilted.

Others of these patents simply rely on the mat itself to purportedly hold the ball in place when the platform is tilted. Examples of such mats are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,460,379; 5,340,111; and 4,875,684. However, from a review of these constructions, it is apparent that if the simulated grass or artificial turf is short as for simulating a fairway shot, the golf ball will roll off the mat when the platform is tilted. It is telling in U.S. Pat. No. 5,460,379 that a retaining ledge is used to prevent the ball from rolling completely off the tilted platform. In U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,478 to Wood, a deep pipe fiber matting is used to purportedly hold the golf ball in place. However, this precludes a true simulation of short fairway grass and also remains susceptible to releasing the ball when the platform is tilted severely as when simulating a steep uneven lie. Some of the patents listed above do not even address how the ball is maintained in place on the tilted platform. As discussed above, merely placing a golf ball directly on a practice mat has drawbacks.

In Patent Application Publication No. US2002/0128084, a variable height tee is described to allow the user to practice both tee shots and iron shots and putting from an angled platform. However, it has been found that a standard rubber tee with a level upper rim is inadequate to inhibit a golf ball from rolling off a practice mat as the underlying platform is tilted through a wide range of angles. Thus, the use of such a standard tee reduces the range of shots the golfer can practice.

Thus, there exists a need for a platform capable of simulating a wide variety of golf shots commonly encountered during play for both woods and irons in conjunction with a holding device for maintaining a golf ball on an uneven lie while imparting no adverse effects on the flight of the ball.

INVENTION SUMMARY

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a golf swing training apparatus has a base coupled to a platform by a selectively operable angle adjusting element with the platform including a standing section operable to support a golfer and a striking section for positioning a golf ball and at least partially covered by a replaceable striking mat that defines an uppermost grass line and further includes a tee having a neck projecting at least partially through the mat and terminating in an uppermost inclined rim operable to releasably hold a golf ball in a pre-strike position. With such training apparatus, a user may stand on the platform within the standing section, place a golf ball on the inclined rim and selectively actuate the adjusting element to tilt the platform through a range of slopes and then strike the golf ball once a desired tilt angle is set without the golf ball inadvertently falling off the tee prematurely.

Another feature of the present invention is that the striking section and standing section are interchangeable to accommodate both left handed and right handed golfers.

Yet another feature of the present invention is that the adjusting element is selectively operable to tilt the platform into an uneven lie orientation including an uphill lie, downhill lie, sidehill lie, or a combination of a downhill/sidehill lie or an uphill/sidehill lie.

Another aspect of the present invention is that the adjusting element comprises a hydraulic pump and electric motor coupled to a set of telescoping cylinders to control the angle of the platform.

Other aspects of the present invention will become apparent with further reference to the following drawings and detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a right handed golfer standing upon a simplified representation of a golf swing training apparatus in accordance with the present invention while preparing to strike a golf ball from a sidehill lie with the golf ball releasably retained above the golfer's feet;

FIG. 2 is a similar view to that shown in FIG. 1 with the golfer preparing to strike a golf ball from a sidehill lie with the golf ball releasably retained below the golfer's feet;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a golf tee according to the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the tee shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the tee shown in FIG.3;

FIG. 6 is a close up side view of a section of the striking platform having a longer blade artificial turf covering and a tee releasably retaining a golf ball in an even lie orientation in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a close up side view of the platform, tee, and ball arrangement shown in FIG. 6 with the platform in a tilted uneven lie orientation;

FIG. 8 is a close up side view of a section of the striking platform having a simulated fairway short blade turf and a tee releasably retaining a golf ball in an even lie orientation in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a close up side view of the platform, tee, and ball arrangement shown in FIG. 8 with the platform in a tilted uneven lie orientation;

FIG. 10 is an exploded view of the training apparatus construction in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 11 is an exploded view of an alternative training apparatus construction in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary hydraulic and electrical component system for adjusting the angle of the platform in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a similar view to that shown in FIG. 1 with the golfer preparing to strike a golf ball releasably retained in an uphill lie; and

FIG. 14 is a similar view to that shown in FIG. 1 but rotated ninety degrees and depicting the golfer preparing to strike a golf ball releasably retained in a downhill lie.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3 and 10, a golf swing training apparatus, generally designated 20, is provided for simulating both even and uneven lies commonly encountered during a round of golf while maintaining a golf ball 22 in a pre-strike position whereby a golfer 24 may practice striking golf balls with the head 26 of a golf club 28 from such lies. In general terms, the golf swing training apparatus has a base section 30 coupled to an upper platform 32 by a selectively operable tilt adjusting element, generally designated 34. The platform includes a standing section 36 operable to support a golfer and a striking section 38 at least partially covered by a striking mat 40 from which to hit a golf ball and that defines an uppermost grass line 42 (FIGS. 6-9) and further includes a tee 44 having a neck region 46 projecting at least partially through the striking mat and terminating in an uppermost inclined rim 48 operable to releasably retain a golf ball in a pre-strike position from an even or uneven lie. With such training apparatus 20, a golfer may selectively actuate the adjusting element to tilt the platform to the desired slope and strike a golf ball releasably retained on the inclined rim while standing in the standing section without the golf ball inadvertently falling off the tee.

While simplified representations of the base 30 and platform 32 are shown in FIGS. 1-2 and 13-14 for purposes of showing some exemplary lies, a more detailed view of the base and platform is shown in reverse view in FIG. 10. Also, in these figures, the anticipated flight of the golf ball 22 after being struck by the golf club head 26 is in the direction of directional arrow 31 assuming a golfer using right handed clubs is the user. Should a golfer using left handed clubs use the training apparatus, the directional arrow 31 would face in the opposite direction in FIG. 10, for example.

Referring now to FIG. 10, the base section 30 has two outer elongated members 50 and 52 connected to two outer short side members 54 and 56 using brackets or other suitable fasteners to form a four cornered rectangular framework. Outer member 50 is positioned on the leading edge side of the base also referred to as the follow through side. Outer member 52 is positioned on the trailing edge side of the base also referred to as the backswing side. Short side member 54 faces the back side of the golfer while short side member 56 faces the front side of the golfer. Connected between the leading edge and trailing edge members 50 and 52, respectively, of the base section 30 are four parallel stiffening ribs 58, 60, 62, and 64 positioned at spaced apart intervals. A first lateral stiffener rib 66 is positioned at an intermediate position between the leftmost stiffening rib 58 and the first intermediate stiffening rib. A second lateral stiffening rib 68 is aligned with the first stiffening rib and connects the second intermediate stiffening rib 60 with the rightmost stiffening rib 64.

As viewed in FIG. 10, the leftmost stiffening rib 58 cooperates with the front side outer member 56 to support a first base anchor plate 70 along the top edges of the respective rib and outer member. In a similar manner, the rightmost stiffening rib 64 cooperates with the right outer member 54 to support a second base anchor plate 72. Both anchor plates are located at a central position in relation to the length of the respective outer members and adjacent stiffening ribs. each base anchor plate 70 and 72 includes a pair of piston retention members 74 in the form of a hook, bolt, clamp or other suitable retention device for pivotally coupling the base end of a hydraulic telescoping cylinder or piston 110 a, 110 b and 112 a, 112 b as will be described below. The piston retention members are spaced sufficiently apart to enable the pistons freedom of movement while raising and lowering the platform.

Continuing with FIG. 10, the two intermediate stiffening ribs 60 and 62 cooperate to support along their respective top edges a motor and pump support plate 76. The motor and pump support plate is situated centrally within the base section and fastened to the base section framework using suitable fasteners. Set atop this support plate are an electric motor 78 and a hydraulic pump 80 with reservoir (not shown) for extending and retracting the pistons 110 a, 110 b and 112 a, 112 b as described below. The motor and pump are bolted to the motor support plate and a retaining strap 82 may be used for extra security. The electric motor 78 and hydraulic pump 80 assembly has a capacity to move up to 500 lbs and the platform 32 through the entire range of tilt angles. A preferable electric motor, hydraulic pump, and reservoir assembly may be purchased from Monarch Hydraulics of Grand Rapids, Mich.

With continued reference to FIG. 10, positioned above the base section 30 is the variable angle striking platform 32. The striking platform is constructed as a frame similar in dimension to the base section. The striking platform frame is comprised of outer elongated support members 84, 86, 88, and 90 defining a four cornered rectangular frame where member 84 is in the leading edge position, member 86 is in the trailing edge position, member 88 is in the back side position, and member 90 is in the front side position. The outer members of the striking platform are reinforced at spaced intervals with a set of parallel platform stiffening ribs 92, 94, 96, 98, and 100 that span and connect the leading and trailing edge members 84 and 86. Each corner of the striking platform includes an upper anchor plate 102, 104, 106, and 108, respectively. As viewed in FIG. 10, the top left upper anchor plate 102 is connected to the trailing edge platform member 86, front side short member 90 and left upper stiffening rib 92. The lower left upper anchor plate 104 is connected between the leading edge platform member 84, front side short member 90 and left stiffening rib 92 and positioned at the lower left corner of the striking platform. The top right upper anchor plate 106 is secured to the trailing edge platform member 86, the back side member 88, and the rightmost platform stiffening rib 100 in the top right corner of the striking platform 32. The lower right upper anchor plate 108 is' secured to the leading edge member 84, back side member 88, and rightmost platform stiffening rib 100 on the lower right corner of the striking platform. The anchor plates are constructed of metal, preferably steel or a steel alloy. The undersurface (not shown) of each upper anchor plate includes a mounting hook, bolt, or clamp similar to the piston retention member 74 on the base anchor plates 70, 72 for pivotally coupling to the upper end of a cylinder 110 a, 110 b, 112 a, 112 b as described below. The striking platform is constructed to hold up to approximately 500 lbs.

The base and striking platform frames 30 and 32, respectively, are preferably constructed of a metal material such as steel or aluminum or an alloy thereof. Other suitable materials such as wood will also occur to one of ordinary skill in the art. Should a metal framework be used, the anchor plates 70, 72 and support plate 76 may be welded to the base section. The overall dimensions of the base section 30 and the striking platform unit 32 are a length of 5.5 feet, a width of 3 feet, and an overall height of ten inches when the striking platform is in a level orientation abutting the base section. The striking platform may have a recess opposite the pump and motor assembly described below to maintain a lower overall profile. Alternatively, it will be appreciated the overall height may be reduced to approximately 4 inches by moving the pump and motor assembly completely outside the base section 30.

Connecting the base section 30 to the striking platform 32 is a tilt adjusting element, generally designated 34, for altering the tilt, angle, or slope of the platform in relation to the base section 30 to simulate uneven lies. With continued reference to FIGS. 10 and 12, the adjusting element in this exemplary embodiment includes two dual telescoping piston sets 110 a, 110 b and 112 a, 112 b with piston set 110 a, 110 b being disposed beneath the front side of the striking platform and piston set 112 a, 112 b being disposed beneath the back side of the striking platform. It will be appreciated that reference numeral 34 only points to one piston for illustrative purposes but that the adjusting element may include one or more pistons as it does in this exemplary embodiment. The bottom or base end 111 of each piston of the front side piston set 110 a, 110 b is pivotally coupled to the left side lower anchor plate 70 by piston retention member 74. In similar fashion, the bottom end of each piston of the back side piston set 112 a, 112 b is pivotally coupled to the right side lower anchor plate 72. The top or platform end 113 of each piston 110 a, 110 b, 112 a, 112 b is connected to a corresponding left upper, left lower, right upper, and right lower anchor plate 102, 104, 106, 108 as viewed in FIG. 10 near each respective corner of the striking platform.

The pistons are preferably hydraulic and a suitable piston. The pistons are approximately 12.5 inches to 13 inches long in a retracted state and capable of extending an additional four inches approximately. A suitable piston may be purchased from Hypower Hydraulics of Turlock, Calif. However, it will be appreciated that a pneumatic or electro-mechanical piston system may be used alternatively.

With the front side pistons 110 a, 110 b fully extended and back side cylinders 112 a, 112 b fully retracted, the striking platform 32 may be placed at a forty-five degree angle relative to the base section 32 and provide an uphill/sidehill lie as shown in FIG. 1. The same angle is attainable by reversing the retraction and extension of the front side and back side cylinders to obtain a downhill/sidehill lie as in FIG. 2. Likewise, if the leading edge pistons 110 a, 112 a are extended and the trailing edge pistons 110 b, 112 b are retracted, an uphill lie may be created as in FIG. 13. With the trailing edge pistons extended and leading edge pistons retracted, a downhill lie as illustrated in FIG. 14 may be set. A platform tilt angle or lie relative to the base section from zero degrees (platform parallel to the base section) to approximately 45 degrees may be attained by varying the extension and retraction of the pistons. In addition, by actuating one or more of the pistons, the slope of the platform may be varied about one or two axes. Thus, for example, by actuating either the pistons in pairs, individually, or in an odd combinations of pistons, artificial uphill, downhill, and sidehill lies and combinations of uphill and sidehill or downhill and sidehill orientations may be created. Thus, the striking platform 32 may be tilted to provide a multi-directional hitting surface. An angle indicator (not shown) may be placed on the side of the platform or as a controller readout to provide a visual indication of the angle of the platform relative to the base section.

Using such pistons 110 a, 110 b, 112 a, and 112 b, the platform 32 may be mechanically adjusted by the golfer by shifting his or her own weight on the platform and using a mechanical lock (not shown) to lock the platform at the desired angle. However, it is preferable to actuate and control the pistons using the hydraulic pump and motor system. Referring now to FIG. 12, a simplified electro-hydraulic diagram is illustrated. The hydraulic pump 80 is connected to a directional valve 114 such as a three or four position electric solenoid valve through a high pressure hydraulic hose 116. Other suitable directional valves or combinations of valves will also occur to one of ordinary skill in the art so as to be able to actuate the pistons individually, in pairs, or in odd combinations as desired. The directional valve is in turn connected via similar high pressure hydraulic hoses 118, 120, 122, and 124 to the respective pistons 110 a, 110 b, 112 a, and 112 b. A controller 126 is hardwired to the electric motor 78 via wire 128 and to the directional valve 114 via wire 130. The controller may be a foot switch or hand control unit for transmitting signals to the electric motor to power up the hydraulic pump and move the directional valve to the proper location for delivering the hydraulic fluid under pressure from the pump to the desired piston or pistons to tilt the striking platform to the desired slope. Such construction is well known in the art. Wireless communication between the controller and the motor and valve are also contemplated. A suitable controller such as a control joystick may be purchased from Walvoil S.p.A. A four valve unidirectional control lever unit available from Parker Hannifin is also suitable as a controller.

With continued reference to FIG. 12, a power source 130 is connected to and provides power to the controller 126 via wire 132, the electric motor via wire 134, and the directional valve via wire 136. The power source 130 may be a local wall outlet, a battery and transformer, if necessary, or other suitable power source for supplying the necessary power to the electric motor, controller, and directional valve. If a non-electric directional valve 114 is used, then wire 136 may be omitted. It will be appreciated that the angle adjusting element 34 may comprise one or more cylinders 110 a, 110 b, 112 a, 112 b as well as include one or more of the components shown in FIG. 12.

Referring to FIGS. 1-2 and 10, covering the open framed striking platform 32 is a two piece mat covering the standing section 36 and the striking section 38. The standing section mat 39 measures approximately 4.5 feet by 3 feet and covers the underlying standing section 38 of the platform. The standing section mat includes a rubber base while the upper surface of the standing section is preferably covered in an artificial turf 37 or artificial grass-like material although grass sod may also be used. The striking section of the platform is constructed to hold the golfer's weight throughout the swing of a golf club. The size of the standing section mat also enables to golfer to shift his position laterally in relation to the tee and golf ball so that the entire repertoire of golf shots may be practiced.

In a similar manner, the striking section 36 of the platform is covered by the second mat that is a replaceable striking mat 40 that measures approximately 1 foot by 3 feet and complements the standing section mat 39 in covering the upper surface of the striking platform 32. The striking mat includes a striking board 138 or rubber base covered by an artificial turf 140 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. In FIGS. 6-7, the artificial turf 140 simulates a lie from the rough or longer grass fairway cut while in FIGS. 8-9, the artificial turf covering is cropped short simulating a fairway or tee box lie and is not shown in the illustration. The highest point of the artificial turf forms an upper grassline 42 upon which the golf ball 22 would normally settle. This grassline may vary slightly due to the construction of the artificial turf but approximates a straight line. An aperture 142 (FIG. 10) projects through the striking mat 40 with its upper edge surrounded by the artificial turf. The aperture is located near the front side edge of the mat at an intermediate position between the front edge and rear edge of the platform. The aperture is constructed to receive and closely fit around a portion of the neck of the tee 44.

Both mat sections 36 and 38 covering the platform include a rubber base and are preferably covered with an artificial turf surface. The artificial turf 140 covering the striking board 138 and the turf 37 of the standing section mat 36 may be the same or of different lengths and thicknesses to simulate standing in varying course conditions such as, for example, standing in the rough while striking a ball on the fairway or fringe of the green for example. The standing section portion of the mat may omit the artificial turf surface altogether. Both mats 36 and 38 are readily removable so that different turf facades may be selected and to replace the sections due to wear and tear. Also, both mats may simply be placed on the platform 32 with the weight of the mats inhibiting their shifting movement on the platform. The upper side of the platform may include a raised border as well with the mats nesting inside the border. If desired, the mats may be removably secured to the top surface of the platform. The mats 36 and 38 may also be reversed to accommodate both left and right handed golfers. Alternatively, one or both mats could be formed as trays and include sand instead of turf from which to strike balls or stand in.

Referring now to FIGS. 3-5, the specifics of the tee 44 will now be discussed. The tee includes a circular base 144 from which a narrow neck 46 projects upwardly. The neck is hollow and centrally located on the base and has relatively thin side walls approximately 0.08 inches (0.2 cm) thick. The uppermost end of the neck is open and its edge forms an inclined rim defining a golf ball supporting surface 48 and defines a high point 150 forming a retention lip and a low point 152 relative to the base. The rim is chamfered inwardly while the neck tapers outwardly from the base 144 to the rim 48. The tee base measures approximately 0.08 inches (0.2 cm) thick and approximately 2.4 inches (6.0 cm) in diameter. The neck is approximately 0.69 inches (1.75 cm) in diameter at its lowest point 154 where it connects to the base and approximately 0.91 inches (2.3 cm) at its largest diameter at the rim 48. The height of the neck is approximately 1.6 inches (4.0 cm) from the base to the high point 150 and 1.2 inches (3.0 cm) from the base to the low point 152 of the rim for a thirty degree angle incline but these dimensions change with the incline angle.

With reference to FIG. 4, for supporting the golf ball 22 from an uneven lie, the angle alpha (α) of the incline as measured from a plane 156 passing through the uppermost tip 150 of the golf tee and parallel to the base 144 of the tee preferably ranges from 20 to 45 degrees and may encompass any angle therebetween. This range is not meant to be limiting and angles smaller than 20 degrees may also be used.

The golf tee 44 is preferably made from a flexible rubber material that is sufficiently rigid to hold a golf ball 22 under compression without collapsing but offer little resistance to the head of a golf club head 26 striking through it in the shear direction. The rubber tee will not mar the head of the golf club head and has a useable life of approximately 100 shots before requiring replacement. The material is the same as that used for conventional rubber tees used at driving ranges.

Referring now to FIGS. 3-5 and 10, in use the golfer 24 approaches the training apparatus 20, lifts the striking mat 38, and inserts the neck 46 of a selected tee 44 through the aperture 142 in the striking mat. A smooth turf (FIGS. 8-9) generally requires a shorter neck version of the inclined tee while a “shaggier” longer grassed turf (FIGS. 5-6) may require a longer neck version of the inclined tee. With the tee inserted into the aperture 142, the golfer replaces the striking mat on the platform 32. When the tee is placed properly, the upper surface 146 (FIGS. 3-5) of the base 144 of the tee is placed flush against the interior surface 148 of the striking board 138 (FIGS. 6-9). The tapering of the tee neck 46 inhibits the tee from falling out as the mat is replaced and the base flange 144 prevents the tee from being ejected out of the mat when struck. With the mat in place, the base of the tee is sandwiched between the interior surface 148 of the striking board and the upper surface of the underlying striking platform 32.

With a particular shot to be practiced in mind, the golfer 24 grasps the neck 46 of tee 44 about the rim 48 and twists the tee within the aperture 142 to align the uppermost point 150 of the inclined rim 48 with the bottom of the anticipated slope of the platform 32. With the tee positioned properly, the golfer uses the controller 126 (FIG. 12) to selectively actuate the adjusting element 34 to alter the slope of the platform 32. The angle of incline alpha of the tee may or may not match or approximate the angle of the platform 32 to be set but, if desired, the golfer may closely match the platform angle with the incline angle alpha by viewing an angle indicator on the platform or controller or by approximating the platform angle using an “eyeballing” method. The tees may be marked with their incline angle to facilitate this process.

Continuing with this exemplary process, if an uphill lie is desired, the golfer 24, using the controller 126, selectively actuates the cylinder pair 110 a, 112 a connected to the leading edge of the platform section 38 to extend an equal length. This causes the leading edge of the platform to rise (FIG. 13). Likewise, if a downhill lie is desired, then the golfer selectively actuates the cylinder pair 110 b, 112 b connected to the trailing edge of the platform to extend an equal distance to raise the trailing edge of the platform (FIG. 14). Should an uphill/sidehill lie be desired, the golfer, again using the controller, selectively actuates the front side cylinders 110 a, 110 b to extend an equal length for an uphill/sidehill lie as in FIG. 1 or the back side pair of cylinders 112 a, 112 b to extend an equal length for a downhill/sidehill lie as in FIG. 2. For safety purposes, the angle of the platform is preferably selected prior to the golfer stepping on the platform although this is not meant to be limiting.

With the desired platform slope set, the golfer 24 may then step on to the platform 32 and place the golf ball 22 on the inclined rim 48 of the tee 44. As a central lower portion 158 of the golf ball 22 will nest within the hollow open end of tee, the surrounding portions 160 of the ball adjacent the nested portion 158 will rest on the artificial turf 140 particularly on the back side of the ball (FIGS. 5-9) as the inclined rim rocks the golf ball back into contact with the turf. The high point 150 of the tee which faces the downhill side of the striking platform, as indicated by directional arrow 162 (FIGS. 7 and 9), inhibits the golf ball from rolling off the tee 44 and surrounding turf 140.

To avoid a “teed up” placement wherein the golf ball 22 is elevated completely off the artificial turf 140, at least the low point 152 of the golf ball supporting surface 48 is preferably recessed beneath the uppermost extent or grass line 42 of the artificial turf (FIGS. 6-9). When placed on the tee 44, the lower surface of the golf ball rests on the golf ball supporting rim 48 and due to the inclined rim rocks backward to rest partially on the artificial turf 140 due the recessed lower portion of the rim as shown in FIGS. 5-9. It may also be preferable to choose a slightly shorter neck height recessing the entire rim 48 beneath the upper grassline 42 so that the golf ball 22 contacts the inclined rim 48 but primarily rests on the artificial turf 140 as shown in FIGS. 6-7. It will be appreciated, however, that the high point 150 of the tee may also project slightly above the upper grass line 42 as in FIGS. 8-9. By avoiding a “teed up” elevation, an accurate simulation of an uneven lie is produced from which the golfer 24 may strike the golf ball 22. This is particularly effective in providing an in game simulation for iron shots.

With the golf ball 22 placed on the tee 44 , the golfer 24 addresses the ball, and upon establishing the proper foot position, the golfer may then strike the golf ball 22 of the striking mat 40 from the angle set by the controller 126. This may be repeated with additional golf balls. With repeated practice, the golfer gains experience at striking a golf ball from the angle selected and using different stances if desired. Other platform angles may be selected as desired throughout the practice session. It will be appreciated that the use of the flexible, soft rubber tee 44 and the inclined rim construction creates minimal, if any, impact to the flight path or spin of the golf ball 22 other than that purposefully imparted by the golfer. Moreover, the golfer may practice striking down through the ball as both the tee and practice mat 38 give way to the downward and forward motion of the club head 26. The recessed tee enables golfers to practice iron shots from the angled upper platform 32. Even at severe platform angles, the golf ball is maintained in a pre-strike position by the inclined tee 44. Should conventional tee shots be desired, the golfer may merely substitute the tee 44 for a standard rubber driving range tee and set the platform at an even lie. Likewise, if the golfer wishes to strike even lie golf balls directly off the mat, no tee is needed. It will be appreciated that the terms even or flat lie and uneven lie as well the terms uphill, downhill, sidehill, uphill/sidehill, downhill/sidehill as referring to the lie of the ball respective to the golfer's position are terms well known in the art.

In an alternative embodiment of the golf swing training apparatus 220 as shown in FIG. 11, wherein like components are like numbered, the base end 74 of the pistons 210 a, 210 b, 212 a, 212 b are pivotally coupled to individual anchor plates 270 a, 270 b, 272 a, 272 b, respectively. The top or platform end 213 of each piston 210 a, 210 b, 212 a, 212 b includes a universal joint 215 a, 215 b, 217 a, and 217 b, respectively joined to the same anchor plates 102, 104, 106, and 108 of the platform 32 as with the first embodiment 20 using a suitable fastener to pivotally couple the top end of each cylinder to its respective platform anchor plate. In contrast to the first embodiment, the piston pairs in this embodiment 220 cross another instead of diverging from one another. This may enable a lower overall size of the training apparatus. A suitable piston with this construction is available from Hypower Hydraulics.

With continued reference to FIG. 11, in place of the pump and motor assembly, a central support plate 276 spans the two intermediate members 60 and 62 and supports a central, universal joint support plate 231. A conventional universal joint, known to one of ordinary skill in the art and schematically illustrated in FIG. 11, includes a lower portion 233 mounted on the support plate 231 and an upper portion 235 pivotally connected to the upper end of the lower portion 233 and mounted to a central platform anchor plate 290 that is, in turn, fixed to the underside of the platform 32. A suitable universal joint or gear may be purchased from Hypower Hydraulics. This provides additional structural rigidity in the middle of the striking platform and may facilitate a smoother transition between tilt angles. The pump and motor assembly may be located external to the platform/base assembly or moved to an alternate location within the base. The operation of this training apparatus 220 is similar to that described for the first embodiment 20 except that the piston operation to create an uphill or downhill slope of the platform is reversed.

While the present invention has been described herein in terms of a number of preferred embodiments, it will be appreciated that various changes and improvements may also be made to the invention without departing from the scope and spirit thereof. For example, the platform 32 may include a single integral mat covering both the standing section 36 and the striking section 38. Furthermore, one or mats could be used to cover the platform and include a striking section at either end with a central standing section and an inclined tee 44 at each end to accommodate both right handed and left handed golfers hitting the ball in the same direction. In addition, the striking mat may include more than one aperture for receiving multiple inclined tees. For example, one aperture could receive a tee having a first incline angle while another aperture receives a tee with a different incline angle. This may reduce the golfers' time ordinarily spent in switching tees. It will further be appreciated that golf swing training apparatus 20, 220 may be placed at a hitting position at an outdoor or indoor golf range or may be used in conjunction with a golf net.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8137207 *Jun 15, 2010Mar 20, 2012Brantingham David EGolf swing practice apparatus
US8157667 *Sep 16, 2010Apr 17, 2012Robert TomeGolf swing training aid
US8187122Sep 30, 2010May 29, 2012Sri Sports LimitedClub fitting system
US8414409Apr 27, 2012Apr 9, 2013Sri Sports LimitedClub fitting system
US8506416Mar 29, 2012Aug 13, 2013James D. Radel, Sr.Adjustable golf surface system
US8986128Feb 9, 2012Mar 24, 2015David E. BrantinghamGolf swing practice apparatus
US20140038740 *Mar 15, 2013Feb 6, 2014David WannerGolf Practice Assemblies and Methods
Classifications
U.S. Classification473/150, 473/396, 473/160, 473/279, 473/386, 473/278, 473/161
International ClassificationA63B69/36, A63B57/00, A63B67/02
Cooperative ClassificationA63B69/3652, A63B57/0018, A63B69/3661
European ClassificationA63B57/00C, A63B69/36G, A63B69/36D6