Patent application title: Golf Training Devices
Ki Y. Nam (Newport Beach, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B6936FI
Class name: Golf practice swingable implement or indicator associated with swingable implement with lighting (e.g., laser, etc.) means attachable to or integral with implement
Publication date: 2012-02-23
Patent application number: 20120046118
Golf training devices for practicing driving a ball while providing a
visual indication of the orientation of the face of the golf club and
location on the face of the club when impact with the ball occurs. The
information may be recorded and which can be later analyzed by playback
to effectively reproduce the swing of the player. The club uses a row of
flashing light sources parallel to the face of the head of the club which
creates a line visible to the user to see the orientation of the club and
location of the impact of the club with a ball. Various aspects and uses
of the club are disclosed.
1. A golf club comprising; a golf club head; a shaft coupled to the golf
club head; and a gripping area coupled to the shaft; light emitting
regions on the golf club head disposed at least in part in a line
parallel to a face of the golf club head; the golf club having circuitry
to cause the light emitting regions to flash at a predetermined rate
during a swing of the golf club.
2. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the light emitting regions on the golf club head disposed at least in part in a line parallel to a face of the golf club head are configured to provide a visual indication of the center of the light emitting regions.
3. The golf club of claim 2 wherein the visual indication of the center of the light emitting regions is provided by at least one light emitting region of a different color from the remainder of the light emitting regions.
4. The golf club of claim 2 wherein the visual indication of the center of the light emitting regions is provided by at least one light emitting region that is not in a line defined by other light emitting regions.
5. The golf club of claim 2 wherein the visual indication of the center of the light emitting regions is at a center of the face of the golf club head.
6. The golf club of claim 2 wherein the visual indication of the center of the light emitting regions is outboard of a center of the head representing the best spot for making contact with the golf ball for the greatest distance.
7. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the light emitting regions are light emitting diodes.
8. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the light emitting regions are illuminated by a fiber optic line to the light emitting regions, the fiber optic line being illuminated by a light source at the gripping area.
9. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the light emitting regions and the circuitry to cause the light emitting regions to flash at a predetermined rate during a swing of the golf club are a permanent part of the golf club.
10. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the light emitting regions and the circuitry to cause the light emitting regions to flash at a predetermined rate during a swing of the golf club are attachments to the golf club.
11. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the circuitry to cause the light emitting regions to flash at a predetermined rate during a swing of the golf club includes circuitry to adjust the rate of the flashing.
12. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the circuitry to cause the light emitting regions to flash at a predetermined rate during a swing of the golf club includes circuitry to adjust the brightness of the flashing.
13. The golf club of claim 1 further comprised of two, three axis accelerometers located in spaced apart regions of the golf club head.
14. The golf club of claim 13 wherein the circuitry integrates the output of the three axis accelerometers to obtain and display a velocity of the golf club head during a golf club swing.
15. The golf club of claim 14 wherein the circuitry includes circuitry to adjust the rate of flashing based on at least one prior swing of the golf club.
16. The golf club of claim 13 wherein a signal responsive to the difference in the integral of the output of the three axis accelerometers at impact with a ball is displayed as an indication of wrist action of a user of the golf club.
17. The golf club of claim 13 further comprised of a speaker wherein the circuitry and speaker generate a noise responsive to movement of the golf club.
18. The golf club of claim 13 further comprised of a speaker wherein the circuitry and speaker generate a noise responsive to the difference in acceleration sensed by the two, three axis accelerometers to provide an audible indication of the location of the impact of the golf club head with a ball.
19. The golf club of claim 13 wherein the display comprises an LCD display.
20. The golf club of claim 13 wherein the display comprises a row of light emitting diodes.
21. The golf club of claim 13 further comprising a third three axis accelerometer being located adjacent the gripping area, and wherein the circuitry includes a memory, each axis of the three, three axis accelerometers being parallel to each other, the memory storing outputs of the three, three axis accelerometers during a swing of the golf club for later recreation of the swing.
22. The golf club of claim 21 wherein the golf club includes apparatus for downloading information stored in the memory for recreation of a swing of the golf club.
23. The golf club of claim 22 wherein the apparatus for downloading information stored in the memory comprises a USB connection.
24. The golf club of claim 22 wherein the apparatus for downloading information stored in the memory comprises a wireless connection.
25. The golf club of claim 13 wherein the three, three axis accelerometers are solid state accelerometers.
26. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the golf club head is a golf club driver head.
27. The golf club of claim 1 wherein the duty cycle of the flashing is in the range of 5% to 15%.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/375,727 filed Aug. 20, 2010 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/381,365 filed Sep. 9, 2010.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to the field of golf training devices.
 2. Prior Art
 In the game of golf, play for each hole begins by each player teeing off from the teeing ground or starting place for the hole, defined by two tee markers. In a typical tee shot, a player will want to drive the ball as far as possible, while at the same time, control the trajectory of the ball so that the ball lands and ultimately comes to a stop at the best position for the second shot or stroke. Driving the ball with both power and control takes a lot of practice, and even then the desired results are not always achieved, even by professional players.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1a is an illustration of a golf driver incorporating an embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 1b is a view of the head of the golf driver of FIG. 1, taken on an expanded scale along line 1b.
 FIG. 1c is a view of switches on the shaft of golf driver of FIG. 1, taken on an expanded scale along line 1c.
 FIG. 1d is a view of the upper end of the shaft of the golf driver of FIG. 1, taken on an expanded scale along line 1c.
 FIG. 2 is a block diagram of one embodiment of control system for the golf driver of FIG. 1a.
 FIG. 3 is an illustration of the strobing of LEDs as the club head approaches, hits a ball on the center of the aligned driver head and moves on.
 FIG. 4 is an illustration of the strobing of LEDs as the club head approaches, hits a ball off center of the misaligned driver head and moves on.
 FIG. 5 is an illustration of an alternate embodiment of the present invention as mounted on a driver.
 FIG. 6 is a block diagram for the LED brightness setting process.
 FIG. 7 is an exemplary flow chart for the operation of an embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 8 illustrates the re-creation of a prior swing of a driver using data stored during that prior swing in accordance with the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The present invention provides a practice club for practicing driving a ball from a tee, while providing a visual indication of the orientation of the face of the golf club when impact with the ball occurs, and may be used for recording information which can be analyzed by playback to effectively reproduce the swing of the player. Such a training aid may be used when actually hitting a ball on a tee, such as in normal play or on a driving range, or alternatively, may be used in a relatively confined area, such as a person's yard, for practice swings when there is no ball present, preferably using an image of a ball laying on the ground for reasons that shall subsequently become apparent.
 FIG. 1a illustrates an embodiment of the golf training devices of the present invention. In particular, a golf club 20 may be seen. This type of club is generally referred to as a driver, and is comprised of a lower part 22, generally referred to as the head of the club, a shaft 24 and a gripping area 26 at the top of the shaft 24. These parts of the club are conventional, and ideally, practice drivers in accordance with the present invention are intentionally designed to have the weight and balance of a conventional prior art driver. The driver shown in FIG. 1a differs from conventional drivers, however, for various reasons. The head 22, also shown on an expanded scale in FIG. 1b, contains thirteen light emitting diodes (LEDs) or fiber optic light sources aligned in a row behind and parallel to the face of the head of the club, and are tilted so as to be approximately parallel to the shaft 24 of the club. The center three LEDs 30 are preferably of one color, such as red, with the LEDs 28 on either side thereof being of a different color, such as blue. This difference in color is simply to allow easier identification of the center position of the row of LEDs, which also generally represents the center of the face of the club. Alternatively, the "center" LED might be slightly outboard of the center of the head to represent the best spot for making contact with the golf ball for the greatest distance because of a higher velocity of the part of the head furthermost from the shaft of the club from the wrist action of the player.
 Also buried in the club head 22 are two three axis accelerometers or G sensors, specifically in region 32 and in region 34. In addition, there is a third three axis G sensor in the club shaft 24, generally approximately in the region 36 of the shaft adjacent or in the grip region. These three axis accelerometers in one embodiment are small solid state three axis accelerometers oriented so that the x axes are parallel, the y axes are parallel and the Z axes are parallel in all three G sensors. By way of example, the Z axes might all be parallel to the shaft 24, the y axes might all be parallel to the face of the club. Also mounted in the hand grip region 26 in some convenient location not interfering with the user's grip on the hand grip region 26 is a reset switch, strobe rate switch and brightness switch as shown in FIG. 1c. Also somewhere in the grip region, such as at the upper end of the club, are a USB connector and an ON/OFF switch, as shown in FIG. 1d. There are also batteries and electronics in the hand grip region 26 which are not visible in FIG. 1a, but are shown schematically in FIG. 2.
 FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the electronics in the golf club or driver 20 of FIGS. 1a-1d. The G sensors 32 and 34 and the thirteen LEDs are of course on or in the head 22 of the club and G sensor 36 is located in the control module in or attached to the upper part of the shaft 24 of the club. In the hand grip region 26 or a module connected to the shaft near the handgrip region is a microprocessor powered from a battery through the ON/OFF switch. The microprocessor also is coupled to receive a reset switch signal when the reset switch (FIG. 1c) is pressed to start recording data of the swing, as shall subsequently be described. There may also be provided a strobe rate switch, a brightness switch, an LCD display to display head speed and a speaker, the functions of which will be subsequently described.
 One of the functions of the microprocessor is to repetitively simultaneously pulse or strobe all LEDs during the swing of the golf club. This is illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. Normally when one tees off, the head of the driver moves so quickly that the player cannot see how the head of the club contacts the ball. However, by flashing or pulsing the LEDs in accordance with the present invention, the user gets a clear visual image of the orientation of the head of the club as it approaches and when it contacts the ball, and further can see where on the head the ball is contacted, as well as the general motion of the club head as it approaches the ball and at least the initial part of the follow through of the swing. By way of example, FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of the pulsing of the LEDs as the head of the club 20 approaches ball 38. The pulsing of the LEDs will typically be done at a rate that is dependent on the speed of the club head, such as once every inch or two of motion of the head, so that a good observation of the head orientation when the ball is contacted is provided, even though the LEDs are not necessarily pulsed at the time of impact. In that regard, the ball 38 may in fact be a golf ball, or alternatively for practice purposes might simply be an image of a ball resting on the ground in front of the user of the present invention. Alternatively, of course, the G sensors in the head of the club could be used to trigger the LEDs at the time of impact, though pulsing the LEDs as described during at least that part of the swing is preferred as it provides a visual image not only at the time of impact, but leading up to and following the impact with the ball.
 In FIG. 3, the flashing of the center diode is represented by thicker line segments, though in an embodiment of the invention, the center LED is simply a different color, such as by way of example, three red LEDs in comparison to blue LEDs for the five LEDs at each side of the center LED. As shown in FIG. 3, the golf club head approaches the ball 38 straight on, so to speak, and contacts the ball at the center of the head. In FIG. 4, however, the head of the club has been inadvertently turned and the ball is contacted by the head too close to the club shaft 24. The arrow on the ball 38 in each Figure indicates the direction the ball will travel. Generally, the duty cycle of the flashing or strobing of the LEDs will be substantially less than 50%, such as 5 to 15%. In effect, the LEDs are strobed, with the strobe rate being adjusted as desired by the strobe rate switch of FIGS. 1c and 2. This avoids obscuring the user's view of the orientation of the club head during that part of the swing. It also conserves battery energy and allows strong pulsing of the LEDs so as to be readily viewable even in direct sunlight.
 Referring back to FIG. 2, the output of the G sensors 32 and 34 can be integrated to determine the velocity of the club head, which can be indicated through the LCD display or illumination of a corresponding one of the eleven LEDs. By way of example, illumination of the center LED might be used to indicate a head speed of 95 mph, with the illumination of any one other LED indicating some speed above or below 95 mph in accordance with some predetermined scale. The output of G sensors 32, 34 and 36 can also be double integrated to determine the actual trajectory (speed and position) of the club. Thus, during a swing of the club, the outputs of the G sensors are stored in memory and can be downloaded to a computer, such as by way of example, through the USB port or by WiFi for analysis and presentation (display), such as by way of animation, recreating the swing of the golf club. The separation of the G sensors 32 and 34 on the head of the club also allows determination of the difference in speed in those two parts of the head of the club, typically by rotation of the head about the axis of shaft 24. G sensor 36 provides an indication of whether the grip region 26 was properly aligned at the time of impact, or was leading or behind where it should be at that time.
 Data collection for a swing could be initiated various ways, such as by way of example, the sensing of a sudden high acceleration or by constantly taking data and discarding all data except just before a sudden acceleration started and all data after a time period at least equal to the duration of even a relatively slow swing. Of course data collection could be initiated by a user activated reset switch, though this is not preferred, as one of the features of the present invention is its simplicity, ease of use, natural sensation and lack of distraction when teeing off (actual or simulated), together with the versatility of the training aid and usefulness thereof.
 The memory associated with the microprocessor preferably includes nonvolatile memory such as flash memory so that data will be maintained even when the ON/OFF switch is turned off. Thus the ON/OFF switch is simply used to conserve battery power when the training aid is not being used. The reset switch, on the other hand, is used to start recording data at the initial position until the swing is completed. This information could be recorded on a one time basis until the reset switch is again actuated. The rate at which the LEDs flash during a swing could be updated by microprocessor using information from one or more past swings. If this was done, then the strobe switch could be eliminated, as the pulse rate would automatically effectively reset after the first swing. In that regard, a manual adjustment could be provided for the LED pulse rate, normally in terms of distance between pulses during the golf club motion, though again the "one size fits all" type approach keeps the training device simple and easy to use, and avoids distraction from a normal teeing off swing. If desired, instead of the strobe rate switch of FIG. 1c, this type of adjustment could be made in software through the USB port or a WiFi link (or whatever interface is used), thus providing the flexibility while maintaining the "normalness" of the driver in physical appearance, grip, balance and use.
 Now referring to FIG. 5, an alternate embodiment of the present invention may be seen. This embodiment is intended to be marketed not as a complete club, but rather as an after-market type product that a person may buy and add on to their favorite driver without making any permanent alternations thereto, and with making minimal changes in the weight and balance of the club. In particular, this embodiment uses a module 40 which clamps onto the shaft 24 of the club, with a fiber optic connection 42 which can be cut to length as required and plugged into module 40. The other end of the fiber optic line has a Sideglow type strip 44 at the end thereof which a user secures to the head 22 of the club so as to be parallel with the face thereof. The Sideglow type fiber optic element 44 and fiber optic cable 42 may be supplied with an adhesive backing so as to be self-securing to the head 22 and shaft 24 of the club. As part of this assembly, G sensors 46 and 48 may be provided and electrically connected to the module 40, with a third G sensor in the module 40. The use of G sensors in this embodiment is optional, as the strobing of the Sideglow type fiber optic cable strip by an LED in the module provides a highly useful training aid in itself. Also as another alternate embodiment, a module like module 40 to the embodiment of FIG. 5 can be used with the embodiment of FIGS. 1a-1d, rather than building the control electronics, etc. into the club.
 Now referring to FIG. 6, a block diagram of an initialization sequence that may be used in an embodiment of the present invention may be seen. In this sequence, the brightness level of the LED strobing is set to a default brightness level upon initialization (turning on the ON/OFF switch). If the brightness level switch (FIG. 5) is toggled, the next higher brightness level is set. If the switch is toggled again, a still higher brightness level is set. Then if the switch is toggled again, the brightness level goes from the brightest to the dimmest level, and if the switch is still toggled again, the brightness goes to a higher level, and if still toggled again, the brightness increases to the default brightness, from which the sequence can be repeated. The brightness level is set once the switch toggling stops.
 FIG. 7 is an exemplary flow chart for the operation of one embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment, sound is included, though the primary purpose of the sound is to capture and maintain the interest of young people (kids) in the sport, though sound could also be useful as an indication of a good battery power, and of user inputs being received and processed. In any event, as shown in FIG. 7, when the ON/OFF switch is turned on a rudimentary sound is made to indicate the batteries are in good condition. Then the default strobe frequency is set. Then if the club is held at the origin (held in the normal teeing off position with the club head just behind the ball) or the reset switch is pulsed on, a new file is opened and the initial position of the three G sensors is recorded. Then as the club moves backward the output of the three G sensors is repeatedly sensed and recorded, which continues as the club moves forward (a stroke begins). Then when the club passes the origin (if only a simulated ball is being used) or an impact high G signal is sensed, the ball impact is noted. The recording of the output of the three G sensors is stopped once the club slows and stays in the same general position for some fraction of a second. Then the maximum speed based on the output of G sensor number two (the G sensor on the head adjacent the shaft) is calculated by the double integral of the sensed acceleration through the stroke. In addition, the differential speed sensed by the two G sensors on the club head is similarly calculated. This differential speed gives an indication of the wrist action of the club user, and if properly timed and executed, such wrist action can add greater distance to a tee shot by providing an incremental velocity to the face of the head of the club on impact with the ball. Then the speed and the differential speed are displayed on the LCD display and the file closed, so that on return of the club to the origin position or turning on of the reset switch, a new file is opened. Thus information is recorded for each swing of the club and stored in memory, typically flash memory, which then can be downloaded, such as through a USB connection or WiFi connection, for simulation of the stroke in a 2D or 3D model as shown in FIG. 8.
 To maintain the interest of kids, the sound may be used in various ways. By way of example, some sound may be generated each time the club is moved, such as a Star Wars type of sound. Also, a sound may be generated and reproduced through the speaker on impact of the club head with a ball, which sounds may be randomly selected or selected based on where the club head hits the ball, and can include attention getting fun sounds like a pow, a smashing sound, a groan and ouch.
 Thus the present invention has a number of aspects, which aspects may be practiced alone or in various combinations or sub-combinations, as desired. While certain preferred embodiments of the present invention have been disclosed and described herein for purposes of illustration and not for purposes of limitation, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Ki Y. Nam, Newport Beach, CA US
Patent applications in class With lighting (e.g., laser, etc.) means attachable to or integral with implement
Patent applications in all subclasses With lighting (e.g., laser, etc.) means attachable to or integral with implement