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Visual golf shot alignment

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Title: Visual golf shot alignment.
Abstract: Provided are, among other things, systems, methods and techniques for setting up a golf shot. According to one embodiment, a visual-alignment tool is placed at an identified position that is along a line between (i) a first location corresponding to at least one of a position of a golf ball to be hit and a position from which a golfer is to hit the golf ball and (ii) a target location. The visual-alignment tool also is aligned with the line between the first location and the target location. After sighting with the visual-alignment tool from the position from which the golfer is to hit the golf ball, the golf ball is hit. According to this embodiment, the identified position of the visual-alignment tool is at least 4 feet from the first location. ...


USPTO Applicaton #: #20100273584 - Class: 473409 (USPTO) - 10/28/10 - Class 473 
Games Using Tangible Projectile > Golf >Method

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20100273584, Visual golf shot alignment.

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US 20100273584 A1 20101028 US 12534149 20090802 12 20060101 A
A
63 B 69 36 F I 20101028 US B H
US 473409 Visual Golf Shot Alignment US 12428379 00 20090422 PENDING US 12534149 Hou Wen Sun
Westlake Village CA US
omitted US
JOSEPH SWAN, A PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION
1334 PARKVIEW AVENUE, SUITE100 MANHATTAN BEACH CA 90266 US

Provided are, among other things, systems, methods and techniques for setting up a golf shot. According to one embodiment, a visual-alignment tool is placed at an identified position that is along a line between (i) a first location corresponding to at least one of a position of a golf ball to be hit and a position from which a golfer is to hit the golf ball and (ii) a target location. The visual-alignment tool also is aligned with the line between the first location and the target location. After sighting with the visual-alignment tool from the position from which the golfer is to hit the golf ball, the golf ball is hit. According to this embodiment, the identified position of the visual-alignment tool is at least 4 feet from the first location.

This application is a continuation in part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/428,379, filed on Apr. 22, 2009, and titled “Audio Alignment of a Golf Shot”, which application is incorporated by reference herein as though set forth herein in full.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention pertains to the sport of golf and, more particularly, concerns systems, methods, apparatuses and techniques for lining up a golf shot through the use of a visual-alignment tool located an appropriate distance away from the golfer.

BACKGROUND

Golf is a very challenging sport, partly because even slight variations in technique, body alignment and club speed become magnified over the distances typically involved, making it extremely difficult to consistently hit a golf ball to a desired location, or even reasonably close to the desired location. With respect to the body alignment problem, during practice golfers sometimes lay down a marker on the ground indicating the direction to the desired target and then align their bodies relative to the marker in order to achieve better accuracy during their swings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present inventor has discovered that when playing or practicing golf, the conventional use of visual markers placed on the ground to allow a golfer to align his or her body to the direction of a desired target often does not result in sufficiently accurate alignment. In certain embodiments of the present invention, this problem is addressed by sighting through a visual alignment tool that is located several feet (or more) away from the golfer.

Thus, according to one specific embodiment of the invention, a golf shot is set up as follows. A visual-alignment tool is placed at an identified position that is along a line between (i) a first location corresponding to at least one of a position of a golf ball to be hit and a position from which a golfer is to hit the golf ball and (ii) a target location. The visual-alignment tool also is aligned with the line between the first location and the target location. After sighting with the visual-alignment tool from the position from which the golfer is to hit the golf ball, the golf ball is hit. According to this embodiment, the identified position of the visual-alignment tool is at least 4 feet from the first location.

The foregoing summary is intended merely to provide a brief description of certain aspects of the invention. A more complete understanding of the invention can be obtained by referring to the claims and the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments in connection with the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following disclosure, the invention is described with reference to the attached drawings. However, it should be understood that the drawings merely depict certain representative and/or exemplary embodiments and features of the present invention and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention in any manner. The following is a brief description of each of the attached drawings.

FIG. 1A is a flow diagram illustrating a method of using an audio cue to line up a golf shot according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1B is a flow diagram illustrating a method of placing and aligning an audio-emitting device for the purpose of lining up a golf shot.

FIG. 2 is a conceptual perspective view of the use of an audio-emitting device during a golf shot.

FIG. 3 is a conceptual side view of the use of an audio-emitting device during a golf shot.

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate examples of audio patterns that are emitted by an audio-emitting device according to representative embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a conceptual side view illustrating the use of a pair of alignment markers to align an audio-emitting device platform according to a representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a conceptual top plan view illustrating the lateral adjustment mechanism of the stand for an audio-emitting device according to a representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a conceptual side view illustrating the preparation of an audio-emitting device assembly for operational use according to a representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 8A-C are top plan views illustrating an initial placement and verification of an audio-emitting device assembly.

FIGS. 9A-C are top plan views illustrating a final placement and verification of an audio-emitting device assembly.

FIG. 10 is a conceptual perspective view of the use of a visual-alignment tool during a golf shot.

FIG. 11 is a lateral cross-sectional view of a visual-alignment tool according to a representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a lateral cross-sectional view of a visual-alignment tool according to an alternate representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a dead-on front perspective view of a hollow cylinder-shaped visual-alignment tool.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a hollow cylinder-shaped visual-alignment tool from a position just below and to the right of dead-on center.

FIG. 15 is a flow diagram illustrating a process for using a visual-alignment tool according to a representative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 16 is a side elevational view of a removable assembly that includes visual-alignment tool.

FIG. 17 is a side elevational view of a removable assembly that includes both a visual-alignment tool and an audio-emitting device.

FIG. 18 is a side elevational view of a visual-alignment tool assembly.

FIG. 19 is a side elevational view of a visual-alignment tool assembly according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention with the visual-alignment tool oriented horizontally.

FIG. 20 is a side elevational view of a visual-alignment tool assembly with the visual-alignment tool rotated upwardly.

FIG. 21 is a top plan view of a visual-alignment tool assembly with the visual-alignment tool oriented in a first direction within the horizontal plane.

FIG. 22 is a top plan view of a visual-alignment tool assembly with the visual-alignment tool oriented in a second direction within the horizontal plane.

FIG. 23 is a front elevational view of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly in an initial configuration.

FIG. 24 is a front elevational view of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly after positioning the audio/visual-alignment tool to line up with a phantom target.

FIG. 25 is a front elevational view of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly after rotating the audio/visual-alignment tool to line up with a phantom target.

FIG. 26 is a front elevational view of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly after tilting the audio-emitting device downwardly toward the golfer's ear.

FIG. 27 is a side elevational view of a stand for use as part of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly.

FIG. 28 is a front elevational view of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly having two alignment assemblies, one positioned for lining up during practice swings and the other positioned for lining up during an actual golf swing.

FIG. 29 is a perspective view showing the use of an audio/visual-alignment tool assembly having two alignment assemblies.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

The present disclosure is divided into sections, with the first section describing audio alignment of a golf shot, the second section describing visual and combined audio/visual alignment of a golf shot. Subsequent sections provide additional information, as indicated by their headings.

Audio Alignment of a Golf Shot.

FIG. 1A is a flow diagram illustrating a method 10 of using an audio cue to line up a golf shot according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In the following discussion, method 10 is described with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, which illustrate method 10 in use.

Initially, in step 12 an audio-emitting device 50 is positioned and/or aligned. Although audio-emitting device 50 can be any device that emits sound, as discussed in more detail below, in certain embodiments audio-emitting device 50 produces a sound that assists the golfer 52 in making his or her swing and/or that is more effective in providing the appropriate directional information to the golfer 52. In any event, audio-emitting device 50 preferably is a small battery-powered electronic device (shown oversized in FIG. 3 and some of the other drawings for emphasis).

In the preferred embodiments, audio-emitting device 50 is positioned along a line 54 between a first location, generally corresponding to the position 56 of the ball to be hit and/or the golfer 52, and a target location, generally corresponding to a position within the vicinity of the hole 57 into which the ball is desired to be hit. More preferably, the first location is (or corresponds to) the position 51 of the golfer's ear at the point that the golfer is ready to begin his or her swing (as shown in FIG. 3), and the target location is (or corresponds to) a position 59 approximately 3 feet to the left of the hole at a height above the ground approximately equal to the height of the golfer's ear above the ground (e.g., approximately where the golfer's ear would be if the golfer 52 were addressing a ball located right on top of the hole, as shown on a phantom flag in FIG. 2). However, in alternate embodiments the second position could be the hole 57 itself or, e.g., any location within a 4-foot radius of the hole 57.

As a result, from the golfer's perspective, the sound produced by the audio-emitting device 50 will be coming from the same direction as the target location. For best results, it currently is preferred to position the audio-emitting device 50 at a distance of 4-30 feet (more preferably, 10-15 feet) from the first location. In the preferred embodiments, the height of audio-emitting device 50 is the height of the line 54 at that location. However, in alternate embodiments audio-emitting device 50 is set at a fixed height (e.g., the height of the golfer's ears 51) irrespective of the difference in elevation between the golf ball 56 and the hole 57.

In order to achieve the desired positioning, audio-emitting device 50 preferably is disposed on a stand 60 that is located at a fixed position on the golf course or practice range. For this purpose, stand 60 preferably is provided with a wide and/or heavy (and thus stable) base 62 (illustrated in FIG. 3 as a solid base, but instead could be a tripod or other multi-leg base). In alternate embodiments, stand 60 is provided with a pointed bottom end, for inserting into the ground; however, such an embodiment tends to cause damage to the course and therefore is not preferred in most cases.

The desired height of audio-emitting device 50 preferably is achieved through the use of an adjustable-height stand 60. Thus, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, stand 60 includes an upper member 64 and a lower member 65, with the upper member 64 telescoping into the lower member 65 in order to adjust the height of stand 60. However, it should be noted that any other number of telescoping members or, for that matter, any other height-adjustment mechanism instead may be used.

In the present embodiment, the audio-emitting device assembly 70 (which includes audio-emitting device 50 and stand 60) also includes several other features. Specifically, in the present embodiment audio-emitting device 50 detachably attaches to a mounting post 72 which, in turn, is attached to a rotatable platform 74. In the present embodiment, a knob 75 rotates platform 74 through a gear linkage (not shown), providing fine adjustment of the rotational orientation of platform 74. In certain embodiments, another knob is provided, and/or platform 74 itself can be manually rotated, in order to provide gross adjustment of the rotational orientation of platform 74. As discussed in more detail below, in the present embodiment the ability to rotate platform 74 assists in more accurately positioning stand 60 along the desired line 54.

Preferably, rotatable platform 74 is disposed on top of a lateral member 78 and includes an adjustment mechanism (such as a knob) 79 that can be used to alter the lateral position of the platform 74. In other words, the platform 74 preferably is both rotationally and laterally adjustable. These features are discussed in more detail below.

Finally, a cage 80 (e.g. a wire mesh cage as shown in FIG. 7) preferably also detachably attaches to platform 74 and, when installed, serves to protect audio-emitting device 50 from damage in the event that audio-emitting device assembly 70 is struck by a golf ball.

A more detailed method for positioning and/or aligning audio-emitting device 50 in this step 12 is described below in connection with FIG. 1B. Returning to FIG. 1A, in step 13, after the audio-emitting device assembly 70 has been placed in the desired position, the audio-emitting device 50 is activated, causing it to begin the process of emitting an audio signal.

Such an audio signal can be in the form of a continuous sound, such as a tone, hum or buzz. Alternatively, it can be provided as a sequence of sounds (typically, each of the same type, but potentially having some variation, such as in pitch, volume or character). When a sequence of sounds is used, each individual sound can immediately follow the previous one or, more preferably, can be separated by an interval of silence. Still further, the audio signal can be any arbitrary sound. In certain embodiments, the audio-emitting device 50: is programmable so that the user can custom-design the audio signal, includes a standard audio player so that the user can upload any desired audio file to be used as the audio signal, and/or has recording capability so that the user can record sound to be used as the audio signal. For these purposes, the audio-emitting device 50 can include memory, an audio signal processor, an amplifier, a loudspeaker and/or a port (e.g., USB) for connecting to a general-purpose computer.

Examples of audio sequences that can be produced by audio-emitting device 50 are shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B. The sequence 90 shown in FIG. 4A includes three relatively short tones (or other sounds) 91-93, followed by a longer tone (or other sound) 94, with a short silent interval of uniform duration immediately following sounds 91-93. The sequence 95 shown in FIG. 4B includes three relatively short tones (or other sounds) 96-98, followed by a relatively long silent period 99, with a short silent interval of uniform duration immediately following sounds 96 and 97, again with a long silent period 99 immediately following sound 98.

In any event, the audio signal (e.g., pattern 90 or 95, or even a continuous sound, if used) preferably is provided within a discrete time segment (e.g., 4-10 seconds long. Such a segment can be played just a single time, after which the audio-emitting device 50 must be activated again in order to cause the audio signal to be played again. In order to provide the golfer 52 with an opportunity to set up, a relatively long silent period can be provided following activation but before the actual playing of the audio signal (e.g., sequence 90 or 95). Alternatively, such a segment can be repeated multiple times, with a relatively long silent period between repetitions during which the golfer 52 has an opportunity to place another golf ball down and prepare for another swing.

Depending upon the particular embodiment, audio-emitting device 50 can be activated using a pushbutton or other switch on the device itself or can be activated using a remote-control device, such as wireless remote-control device 105 attached to the golfer's belt in FIG. 3. With respect to the latter, for example, the golfer 52 might press a start button to play a single iteration of sequence 90 or 95 (or other audio segment), or might press the start button to begin a continuous repetition of sequence 90 or 95 (or other audio segment) and then press a stop button to deactivate audio-emitting device 50.

Finally, returning again to FIG. 1A, in step 15 the golfer 52 executes the golf swing, resulting in the ball traveling along a path 58 (as shown in FIG. 2). With respect to the audio sequences 90 and 95, the initial tone 91 or 96 can be used to indicate to the golfer 52 that he or she should start the takeaway, the second tone 92 or 97 can coincide with the golfer's backswing, the third tone 93 or 98 can coincide to a pause at the top of the backswing, and the final tone 94 or silent interval 99 can coincide with the golfer's downswing, through the impact. In this manner, the audio signal provided by audio-emitting device 50 can be used, not just for indicating the direction of the hole 57, but also for helping to time the golfer's rhythm. For this purpose, audio-emitting device 50 preferably includes controls to permit the duration and timing of the individual tones to be set by the golfer 52. In any event, the audio signal preferably is played during at least some portion of the golfer's shot, e.g., including any or all of the golfer's setup, backswing, downswing, through the impact, and follow-through, thus providing the golfer with periodic or continuous audio information indicating the direction of the target location.

FIG. 1B is a flow diagram illustrating one embodiment of a method of implementing step 12 (discussed above), i.e., for placing and/or aligning an audio-emitting device 50 for the purpose of lining up a golf shot. The method according to this embodiment contemplates that the audio-emitting device assembly 70 will include certain components and is described with reference to FIGS. 5-7.

In step 21, the stand 60 is placed or positioned on the golf course or practice range. In the initial performance of this step 21, an appropriate position preferably is selected by simply estimating a point on the line 54 that is approximately 10-15 feet back from the location 51 of the golfer 52.

Next, in step 22 the platform 74 is rotationally aligned to the target location. For this purpose, platform 74 preferably has installed on it a pair of alignment markers, which in the present embodiment are configured as thin vertical lines 110 and 112. More preferably, the alignment markers 110 and 112 are detachably attached to platform 74, so that they can be attached for purposes of the alignment and then removed when desired. Markers 110 and 112 can be implemented as thin bars that are inserted into corresponding openings in platform 74. However, for purposes of structural integrity, each of markers 110 and 112 can be part of a larger structure (e.g., having tabs that insert into corresponding slots within platform 74) that is visually transparent (or otherwise see-through) except for lines 110 and 112.

Accordingly, step 22 preferably involves rotating platform 74 (e.g., using knob 75) until lines 110 and 112 visually align with the location 57 of the target location (e.g., position 59). This step can be accomplished, e.g., by lining up markers 110 and 112 with the target location (or an approximation of where the target location is likely to be) while looking in the direction 115 (shown in FIG. 5).

Next, in step 24 a determination is made as to whether the lines 110 and 112 also line up with the first location (e.g., position 51 of golfer's ears), i.e., by looking in the direction 117 (shown in FIG. 5) with the same rotational orientation for platform 74 that was set in step 22. If so, the positioning is complete and the process simply proceeds to step 25. On the other hand, if the lines 110 and 112 do not line up with the location 51, the process proceeds to step 26.

In step 26, the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located is moved laterally to a new position. While it is possible to move the entire stand 60 to accomplish this result, the entire stand 60 preferably is moved only when the current placement of stand 60 (e.g., as determined in step 21) was sufficiently far from the line 54 (e.g., as determined from the evaluation made in step 24). As noted above, in the preferred embodiments, the platform 74 can be moved laterally along a member 78 on the stand 60, and this upon-stand lateral adjustment preferably is used whenever possible in this step 26.

A conceptual top plan view of one structure for performing such lateral adjustment is shown in FIG. 6. In this case, the platform 74 (including the rotation mechanism) moves along a pair of tracks or channels 130 and 132 when knob 79 is turned, e.g., through the use of a screw-drive or worm-drive mechanism.

In order to correctly adjust the lateral position of the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located in step 26, the information obtained in the just-completed performance of step 24 preferably is used. For example, if it was determined in step 24 that lines 110 and 112 actually align with a point that is approximately 6 inches to the left of location 51, then in step 26 the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located preferably is moved slightly less than 6 inches to the right. Mathematically, the ideal distance to move the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located is

M = E ( 1 - d D ) ,

where M is the amount to move the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located, d is the distance from the first location (e.g., position 51) to the audio-emitting device 50, D is the distance from the golf ball 56 to the hole 57, and E is the alignment error that was determined in step 24. Therefore, with d being 7 feet, D being 50 yards and E being 6 inches, the ideal distance to move the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located (M) is 5.72 inches. On completion of this adjustment step 26, the process continues to the next iteration of step 22 to readjust the rotational orientation of platform 74 so as to align markers 110 and 112 with the target location (e.g., position 59).

In step 25, the audio-emitting device assembly 70 is prepared for operational use. In the present embodiment, this step includes: installing audio-emitting device 50 onto mounting post 72, removing alignment markers 110 and 112, and replacing them with protective cage 80, as shown in FIG. 7. It is noted that if the audio-emitting device 50 can be activated using a control on the device itself, then that activation control preferably is accessible even with protective cage 80 installed.

One particular example of the foregoing alignment procedure is now discussed with reference to FIGS. 8A-C and 9A-C. FIG. 8A shows an example of an initial positioning of stand 60 after the performance of step 21. FIG. 8B shows the configuration of alignment markers 110 and 112 after they have been rotated into alignment with the target location (e.g., position 59) in step 22 (with stand 60 remaining in the same location). FIG. 8C then shows the results of the alignment check against the first location (e.g., position 51), with stand 60 remaining in the same location and alignment markers 110 and 112 in the same rotational orientation and lateral position.

As shown in FIG. 8C, the alignment markers 110 and 112 line up with a point that is to the left of the position 51. Accordingly, in the next iteration of step 26, the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located is moved to the right a distance that is slightly less than the alignment error that was evident after performing step 24 (e.g., calculated or estimated using the formula set forth above).

This new position is indicated in FIG. 9A. As shown, the rotational orientation and lateral position of alignment markers 110 and 112 have not been changed from where they were set in the previous performance of steps 22 and 21, respectively. However, because the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located has now been moved, in step 26 the alignment markers 110 and 112 need to be rotated slightly in the clockwise direction, so that alignment with the target location 59 is restored, as shown in FIG. 9B. Finally, in the second iteration of step 24 it is confirmed that the position 51 is now in line with alignment markers 110 and 112 (with stand 60 remaining in the location established in step 21 and alignment markers 110 and 112 in the same rotational orientation established in the second iteration of step 22), as shown in FIG. 9C. Accordingly, the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located is determined to be correct, and so the process proceeds to step 25.

It should be noted that the foregoing technique for positioning/aligning audio-emitting device 50 is merely exemplary. Any other technique instead may be used. For example, the line 54 can be established with a laser pointer aimed from the first location (e.g., position 51) to the target location (e.g., position 59), and then the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located can be moved until it intersects the laser beam (e.g., as observed visually or as determined by a light sensor located on the platform 74). Alternatively, one could visually align the point at which the audio-emitting device 50 is to be located with the target location from the vantage point of the first location (e.g., position 51). Still further, a mirror alignment system can be used, e.g., with a mirror placed on the stand 60.

It is noted that the method 10 primarily is intended for use during practice, although it could be used during actual play, rules permitting. Also, although method 10 can be used by itself for the purpose of indicating the direction to the target location, in the preferred embodiments it is used in conjunction with a visual marker, e.g., as described in the Background section above.

Visual and Combined Audio/Visual Alignment of a Golf Shot.

In the foregoing embodiments, an audio source is used to line up a golf shot. The embodiments discussed in this section use a visual-alignment technique, either alone or in combination with an audio-alignment technique, such as any of the audio-alignment techniques described in the previous embodiments.

FIG. 10 shows the use of a visual-alignment tool 200 according to a representative embodiment of the present invention. As shown, visual-alignment tool 200 is set up along the line 54 between a first location, preferably generally corresponding to the position of the golfer's eyes 55 (e.g., when he or she is turned to look at the target 59 from the position at which he or she is to hit the ball 56), and a second location, here designated as target position 59. Ordinarily, target position 59 will be within the vicinity of the hole 57 into which the ball is desired to be hit (e.g., within a 1-4 foot radius of the hole 57), as discussed in more detail above. However, in certain cases, such as where the golfer wants to compensate for a consistent bias in his or her shot, the second location (target position 59) might be located a significant distance away from the hole 57.

Generally speaking, the visual-alignment tool 200 first is positioned and aligned, as discussed in more detail below, and then the golfer 52 simply sights through the visual-alignment tool 200 (which can have any of a variety of different configurations) before hitting the golf ball. That is, by looking through the visual-alignment tool 200 at the appropriate angle, the golfer 52 typically can obtain a very accurate sense of the direction to the desired target position 59.

For this purpose, in the first representative embodiment the visual-alignment tool 200 has an opaque structure defining an elongated see-through passageway, which is what the golfer 52 looks through when lining up his or her shot. In the simplest embodiment, visual-alignment tool 200 is configured as a hollow cylinder, i.e., having a circular cross-section 220, as shown in FIG. 11. In this case, the cylinder preferably has a length of at least 3 inches (more preferably, 4-6 inches) and an internal diameter 222 of ⅜ inch to 4 inches (more preferably, 2 inches).

However, it should be noted that any other cross-sectional shape instead can be used, such as the square or rectangular cross-section 230 shown in FIG. 12. In any event, similar dimensions are preferred for the elongated passageway, e.g., a length of at least 3 inches (more preferably, 4-6 inches) and a maximum cross-sectional dimension 232 (i.e., the longest possible straight line across the passageway's cross-section) of ⅜ inch to 4 inches (more preferably, 2 inches). Still further, it is noted that the passageway's cross-section need not be uniform. For example, the passageway instead could be tapered. In the event of any non-uniformed cross-section, the average maximum cross-sectional dimension or the smallest maximum cross-sectional dimension ⅜ inch to 4 inches (more preferably, 2 inches). It also should be noted that all of the foregoing dimensions can be modified, e.g., based on the distance from the golfer 52 to the visual-alignment tool 200.

The effect of looking through a visual-alignment tool 200 having such an elongated see-through passageway can be seen with reference to FIGS. 13 and 14, which depict a hollow cylinder-shaped visual-alignment tool 240, having a front opening 242 and a rear opening 244, from two different perspectives. More specifically, FIG. 13 is a dead-on front perspective view of visual-alignment tool 240 (i.e., from its front end). Here, the front opening 242 appears somewhat larger than the rear opening 244 because the latter is more distant from the viewer, but because of the viewer's angle relative to visual-alignment tool 240 the two openings appear concentric and the maximum amount of visibility through the passageway (i.e., the entire opening 244) is possible. On the other hand, FIG. 14 is a perspective view of visual-alignment tool 240 from a position just below and to the right of dead-on center. As a result, the amount of visibility through passageway 245 is significantly reduced. If the angle of the viewer relative to visual-alignment tool 240 were to be even further increased, there would be no visibility through passageway 245 of visual-alignment tool 240. It can be readily appreciated that, assuming that visual-alignment tool 240 itself is properly aligned, the golfer 52 merely needs to sight through it (i.e., through passageway 245) and then adjust his or her position until visibility through it is maximized, in order to obtain a clear indication of the direction to the target hole 57 or other target position 59.

As indicated above, the same results can be achieved using a variety of different kinds of visual-alignment tools 200. For example, rather than using a single elongated passageway, two or more parallel elongated passageways instead could be used. Where one or more such passageways are used, the structure defining such passageway(s) need not fully enclose it/them. Thus, for example, multiple passageways could be defined by a plurality of parallel boards and/or slats.

Additional kinds of visual-alignment tools 200 also are contemplated and, in some cases, preferred. For example, generally speaking, any two surface and/or opening patterns that are spatially separated from each other (whether or not there is some connecting structure directly between them) could be used in the construction of visual-alignment tool 200. Thus, the currently preferred embodiment, which uses two alignment markers (preferably, vertical lines) is described in greater detail below with reference to FIGS. 23-25. According to still further embodiments, an active light source (e.g., laser or polarized light) and/or optical elements (e.g., lenses, mirrors or polarized materials) are used.

In any event, the preferred embodiments use a much closer visual-alignment tool 200 that, when viewed by the golfer 52, indicates a line of sight from the golfer 52 to the visual-alignment tool 200 that corresponds to the line of sight from the golfer 52 to the desired target 59. As a result, when the golfer 52 aligns with the visual-alignment tool 200, he or she simultaneously is aligning with the direction to the desired target 59. In other words, the golfer 52 can practice by looking at visual-alignment tool 200 (which again is much closer), rather than by looking at the target 59. Because the visual-alignment tool 200 is much closer than the desired target 59, accurate alignment with it typically is much easier. In this regard, visual-alignment tool 200 preferably is placed from 4-35 feet (more preferably 10-15 feet) away from the golfer 52, while the desired target 59 often can be 40-200 yards or even further away from the golfer 52.

The following discussion describes one example in which visual-alignment tool 240 is used. However, it should be noted that any other visual-alignment tool 200 may be used in place of visual-alignment tool 240 in the following discussion.

A process 250 for using a visual-alignment tool 200 is illustrated in FIG. 15. Typically, the steps of process 250 are performed by the golfer 52, although one or more of such steps could also (or instead) be performed by an assistant to the golfer 52.

Initially, in step 252 the visual-alignment tool 200 is positioned and aligned. Generally speaking, this step can be performed in the same manner as step 12 (discussed above in connection with FIGS. 1A&B, i.e., using any of the techniques discussed above. In fact, the entire process discussed above for positioning audio-emitting device 50 can be used up until the very last step 25. Then, in step 25, rather than installing audio-emitting device 50 onto mounting post 72, several options are possible. For example, it is possible to leave alignment markers 110 and 112 in place and use them as the visual-alignment tool 200. In this case, mounting post 72 preferably will have been omitted (or removed), although in certain embodiments it could be included and used as one of the visual alignment markers in cases where the audio-emitting device 50 is not desired to be used, thereby providing added flexibility.

Alternatively, a separate visual-alignment tool could be installed onto mounting post 72. An example is assembly 270 (shown in FIG. 16) which includes visual-alignment tool 240, together with a mounting bracket 272 for installing assembly 270 onto mounting post 72.

In this case, unlike the installation of audio-emitting device 50, accurate orientation of visual-alignment tool 240 is highly desirable. Accordingly, mounting post 72 preferably is rotationally aligned with alignment markers 110 and 112, i.e., is configured to permit assembly 270 to be installed only in a single orientation (or a small number of orientations where the correct one is clear) that ensures the proper alignment of visual-alignment tool 240 (such as where both mounting post 72 and mounting bracket 272 have a rectangular cross-section). Because the positioning of stand 60 according to the technique described above inherently results in the correct orientation of platform 74, these additional design considerations will ensure that visual-alignment tool 240 is properly oriented.

In an alternate embodiment, an assembly 280 (shown in FIG. 17) that includes both visual-alignment tool 240 and audio-emitting device 50 is mounted onto post 72. As a result, the golfer 52 can both visually and audibly verify proper alignment to the desired target 59. Similar considerations pertaining to the mounting post 72 and mounting bracket 272 discussed in connection with the previous embodiment also apply in this embodiment.

It is also noted that the visual-alignment tool 240 (or other type of visual-alignment tool 200) itself can be used to perform the placement/alignment step 252. In such a case, a similar technique to that described in connection with FIG. 1B (i.e., aligning with the desired target and then verifying the alignment against the golfer's position, or vice versa) preferably is used, but with the aligning being performed with the visual-alignment tool 240 or other visual-alignment tool 200 and (i.e., the same visual-alignment tool that is used in step 253, discussed below) in place of alignment markers 110 and 112. Preferably, such alignment procedures are performed by stepping back from the visual-alignment tool 240 some minimum distance (e.g., 1-10 feet) before sighting through it. After doing so, the point on the opposite side that it lines up with, in the present embodiment, is the point observed at maximum visibility through the passageway.

An example of an entire (self-contained) visual-alignment tool assembly 300 is shown in FIG. 18. As shown, assembly 300 includes a telescoping (height-adjustable) stand 302 having a pointed bottom 304 for insertion into the ground. However, any other kind of stand (e.g., a tripod or a stand having a solid and/or weighted base) instead could be used. Attached to the top of stand 302, using a fixed mounting bracket 307, is visual-alignment tool 240. Accordingly, for purposes of positioning and aligning visual-alignment tool 240 (in step 252), the height of stand 302 first is adjusted to the appropriate level by changing the length of stand 302. Then, the appropriate alignment position for visual-alignment tool 240 (i.e., along line 54) is determined, and the bottom 304 of stand 302 is inserted into the ground at that position. Finally, any desirable changes to the rotational orientation of visual-alignment tool 240 are effected by simply rotating stand 302 in place.

An alternate embodiment of a visual-alignment assembly 320, providing even greater flexibility, is shown in FIG. 19. Assembly 320 includes the same components as assembly 300, except as follows. In the present embodiment, assembly 320 also includes a platform 322 and a knob 323 for adjusting the rotation of a shaft 324 relative to platform 322.

In addition, a bracket 325 that secures visual-alignment tool 240 is provided with a knob 327 for adjusting the vertical angle of visual-alignment tool 240. Depending on the particular embodiment, knob 327 can directly couple to a shaft which in turn supports visual-alignment tool 240, or knob 327 can attach to such a shaft via a gear assembly (e.g., for finer control). In either event, knob 327 is used to adjust the vertical angle of visual-alignment tool 240, e.g., from the purely horizontal orientation shown in FIG. 19 to the elevated orientation shown in FIG. 20.

As indicated above, knob 323 then can be used to change the horizontal angle of visual-alignment tool 240, e.g., from a first orientation shown in FIG. 21 to a second orientation shown in FIG. 22. This adjustment mechanism can be implemented by connecting knob 323 to shaft 324 using a screw-drive or worm-drive assembly, either with or without a separate gear assembly.

With these adjustment mechanisms, once the height of stand 302 has been properly adjusted and the stand 300 to itself properly positioned in (or on) the ground, all of the desired adjustments can be accomplished without moving stand 302. In addition, by including a lateral-adjustment mechanism, such as described above in connection with FIG. 6, even the initial positioning of stand 302 can be less precise.

Several embodiments of visual-alignment tool assemblies have been described above. However, the preferred embodiments use an assembly 350 as illustrated in FIG. 23. As shown, assembly 350 includes a stand 302 that is identical to the stands used in the immediately preceding embodiments (although any other kind of stand instead could be used). However, assembly 350 exhibits several differences from the embodiments described above.

First, in the present embodiment, visual-alignment tool 200 comprises a pair of elongated straight parallel stick-like alignment markers 361 and 362, which could be, e.g., pins or dowels. As such, alignment markers 361 and 362 can be very similar to alignment markers 110 and 112, and can be used in a similar manner in the performance of step 252.

Second, the visual-alignment tool 200 is combined with an audio-emitting device 357 in the present embodiment, preferably within 4-6 inches of the audio-emitting device 357, and preferably with the audio-emitting device 357 being directly above or directly below the visual-alignment tool 200. As a result, the assembly 350 is capable of providing both audio and visual alignment to a desired target 59.

Third, rather than being rigidly attached to the visual-alignment tool 200, in the present embodiment stand 302 attaches to visual-alignment tool 200 through a position-adjustable arm 355. In the preferred embodiments, position-adjustable arm 355 is plastically bendable along its entire length, e.g., in the nature of the neck (shaft or arm) of a gooseneck lamp. One representative structure of arm 355 uses an elongated coiled element made of a bendable metal (or other plastically deformable) material wrapped by (or otherwise encased in) a flexible sheet material or tube. Such a configuration often can facilitate both arbitrary positioning and arbitrary rotation. In any event, in order to provide maximum flexibility, position-adjustable arm 355 preferably has a tubular structure.

Accordingly, after adjusting the height or length of stand 302 to the appropriate level, the stand 302 can be placed (e.g., in step 252) in a position that is just roughly in the vicinity of the desired position for the visual-alignment tool 200. More preferably, stand 302 is placed just off to the side of line 54 (shown in FIG. 10), such as 6-24 inches away from line 54. Thus, by looking straight down line 54 at the desired target 59, the position of assembly 300 might appear as shown in FIG. 23.

Then, visual-alignment tool 200 (at the distal end of bendable arm 355) is simply manipulated into the appropriate position, e.g., by grasping it and swinging it down into the position shown in FIG. 24. As depicted in FIG. 24, the result would be the positioning of the visual-alignment tool 200, as well as audio-emitting device 357 (if any), just above the desired target 59.

It is noted that the desired target 59 is depicted in FIG. 24 as a tree. The reason for this is that, although in many cases the desired target 59 is actually a phantom target, it often is possible to find a background object that lines up with the desired target 59 and which, therefore, can be used as a proxy for the desired target 59.

Next, the visual-alignment tool 200 is twisted into the appropriate rotational orientation, e.g., as shown in FIG. 25, so that the two alignment markers 361 and 362 line up with the target 59 (or its proxy), so that only marker 362 is visible in FIG. 25. Although discussed as being separate substeps, in reality, the positioning and alignment of visual-alignment tool 200 often can be performed substantially simultaneously in the present embodiment, with flexible arm 355 facilitating the making of minor adjustments in position and rotation (or orientation) as desired, until alignment is achieved. Finally, while maintaining the position and rotational orientation of visual-alignment tool 200, the vertical angle of audio-emitting device 357 (or the assembly that includes it) can be adjusted so as to point toward the ear 51 of the golfer 52, usually by tilting audio-emitting device 357 downwardly, as shown in FIG. 26.

One advantage of the present embodiment is that the visual-alignment tool 200 can be positioned some distance away from the stand 302. As a result, it often can be much easier to focus on the visual-alignment tool 200, i.e., without any potential distraction from stand 302. At the same time, moving the bulk of the assembly 300 off to the side often can reduce the golfer's potential concern that the golf ball might inadvertently strike the assembly 300.

In addition, the use of dual alignment markers just above the desired target position 59 has been found to provide the best visual-alignment tool 200. In particular, such a configuration often allows the golfer's eyes to better focus on the target position 59 with minimum visual obstruction from the assembly 350.

Ordinarily, when practicing one's golf shot, the most convenient way to use a visual-alignment tool 200 according to the foregoing embodiments of the present invention is to adjust the ball position in the final step. For example, when the golfer 52 is on grass, he or she can simply position and align the tool 200, step back, get in the swinging position, adjust the ball to where it should be placed, and hit. On the other hand, if the golfer 52 is hitting a teed-up ball with an nonadjustable tee (which is the norm on synthetic mats), then he or she must continue to move about in order to adjust the alignment tool 200 until everything is correctly aligned.

An assembly 400 (shown in FIGS. 28 and 29) according to a still further embodiment of the present invention is similar to assembly 350, described above, but includes two audio/visual alignment subassemblies 402 and 403, rather than just one as is the case with assembly 350. Each of the audio/visual alignment subassemblies 402 and 403 includes alignment markers 361 and 362 and an audio-emitting device 357, and is attached to stand 302 by a separate position-adjustable arm 405 or 406, respectively (e.g., having the same characteristics as position-adjustable arm 355, discussed above).

In use, subassembly 403 is aligned (e.g., through its alignment markers 361 and 362) with the line 54 between the golfer's position when ready to hit the golf ball and the desired target 59, while subassembly 402 is aligned with a line 410 between a position 412 of the golfer 52 from which he or she is to take practice swings and the desired target 59. Typically, position 412 will be located approximately one foot behind the actual swinging position.

FIG. 28 is a perspective view of assembly 400 while looking down line 54. Accordingly, the alignment markers 361 and 362 for subassembly 403 are perfectly aligned with each other from the viewer's perspective, while the alignment markers 361 and 362 for subassembly 402 are at a slight angle to each other from the viewer's perspective. The audio-emitting device 357 for each of subassemblies 402 and 403 is tilted downwardly, pointing toward the golfer's ear 51.

Preferably, the audio-emitting device 357 for subassembly 402 is activated only for practice swings and the audio-emitting device 357 for subassembly 403 is activated only for actual swings. The activation and deactivation of the two audio-emitting devices 357 can be, e.g.: (1) preprogrammed; (2) based on sensor indications as to the position of the golfer 52; and/or (3) accomplished through the use of a remote control device with a button for “practice swings” which deactivates the audio-emitting device 357 for subassembly 403 and activates the audio-emitting device 357 for subassembly 402 and another button for “actual swings” which performs the reverse function.

Additional Considerations.

Several different embodiments of the present invention are described above, with each such embodiment described as including certain features. However, it is intended that the features described in connection with the discussion of any single embodiment are not limited to that embodiment but may be included and/or arranged in various combinations in any of the other embodiments as well, as will be understood by those skilled in the art.

Similarly, in the discussion above, functionality sometimes is ascribed to a particular module or component. However, functionality generally may be redistributed as desired among any different modules or components, in some cases completely obviating the need for a particular component or module and/or requiring the addition of new components or modules. The precise distribution of functionality preferably is made according to known engineering tradeoffs, with reference to the specific embodiment of the invention, as will be understood by those skilled in the art.

Finally, various modifications of the embodiments described are possible. For example, in any embodiment in which a stand having a pointed bottom for insertion into the ground is to be used, it can be beneficial to use a small step, such as step 380 shown in FIG. 27, near the bottom of the stand 302. Transferring most or all of one's weight to step 380 often can make it easier to push stand 302 into the ground.

Thus, although the present invention has been described in detail with regard to the exemplary embodiments thereof and accompanying drawings, it should be apparent to those skilled in the art that various adaptations and modifications of the present invention may be accomplished without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is not limited to the precise embodiments shown in the drawings and described above. Rather, it is intended that all such variations not departing from the spirit of the invention be considered as within the scope thereof as limited solely by the claims appended hereto.

What is claimed is: 1. A method of setting up a golf shot, comprising: placing a visual-alignment tool at an identified position that is along a line between (i) a first location corresponding to at least one of a position of a golf ball to be hit and a position from which a golfer is to hit the golf ball and (ii) a target location; aligning the visual-alignment tool with the line between the first location and the target location; and sighting with the visual-alignment tool from the position from which the golfer is to hit the golf ball; and hitting the golf ball after said sighting, wherein the identified position is at least 4 feet from the first location. 2. A method according to claim 1, wherein the target location corresponds to a position within a 4-foot radius of a target hole into which the golf ball is desired to be hit. 3. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool is placed at the identified position at a height that is approximately the same level as the eyes of the golfer. 4. A method according to claim 1, wherein the identified position is not more than 30 feet from the first location. 5. A method according to claim 1, wherein the identified position is 10-15 feet from the first location. 6. A method according to claim 1, wherein the first location corresponds to the position from which the golfer is to hit the golf ball and the target location corresponds to a position approximately 3 feet to the left of the target hole. 7. A method according to claim 1, wherein the placing and aligning steps are performed by using at least one of: (1) the visual-alignment tool; and (2) a separate pair of alignment markers. 8. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool comprises a pair of alignment markers with which the golfer aligns during said sighting step. 9. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool is attached to a stand with through the use of a position-adjustable arm. 10. A method according to claim 9, wherein the position-adjustable arm is plastically bendable along its entire length. 11. A method according to claim 9, wherein the position-adjustable arm is comprised of an elongated coiled element. 12. A method according to claim 9, wherein in said placing step the visual-alignment tool is positioned at least 6 inches away from the stand. 13. A method according to claim 9, wherein the visual-alignment tool is part of an assembly that also includes an audio-emitting device. 14. A method according to claim 13, wherein the audio-emitting device also is positioned along the line between the first position and the second position. 15. A method according to claim 13, wherein the audio-emitting device is within 4 inches of the visual-alignment tool. 16. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool comprises an opaque structure defining an elongated see-through passageway, through which the golfer looks in said sighting step. 17. A method according to claim 16, wherein the opaque body is configured as a hollow cylinder. 18. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool is attached to a height-adjustable stand. 19. A method according to claim 1, further comprising a step of placing a second visual-alignment tool at a second identified position that is along a second line between (i) a second location corresponding to a position from which the golfer is to make practice swings and (ii) the target location, and wherein the second identified position is at least 4 feet from the second location. 20. A method according to claim 19, wherein the visual-alignment tool and the second visual-alignment tool are attached to a common stand. 21. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool is attached to a stand and is rotatable relative to the stand in a plane that is parallel to the ground in normal use. 22. A method according to claim 1, wherein the visual-alignment tool is attached to a stand and is rotatable relative to the stand in a plane that is perpendicular to the ground in normal use.


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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20100273584 A1
Publish Date
10/28/2010
Document #
12534149
File Date
08/02/2009
USPTO Class
473409
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
63B69/36
Drawings
16



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