The application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/802,783 filed May 24, 2006.
This invention relates to golf training devices. More specifically, the present invention relates to a system for improving a golf swing by providing visual and physical indicators that allow a golfer to improve the golf swing.
The golf swing is the key to a successful golf game. In order to be successful in the game of golf, a substantial amount of practice is required. Through practice, a golfer can reach a comfortable skill level. However, there are many technical aspects of a golf swing that can affect the characteristics of a golf shot and lead the golfer to the comfortable skill level. For example, setup, backswing, forward-swing, follow-through, and finish all affect the distance and accuracy of a golf shot. Therefore, success at golf necessitates a consistent and technically sound swing. Optimally, the golfer wants to be able to have a good swing, the consistent and technically sound swing, each and every time.
In an effort to improve the golf swing, many golfers take lessons and practice on their own. Practice is one of the best ways for a golfer to improve the consistency of his or her golf swing. However, to improve the technical aspects or mechanics of his or her swing, a golfer will commonly hire a golf professional at a golf resort or golf course to teach a lesson. The golf professional is an expert at golf, and has the advantage of being able to observe how other golfers swing the club. By observation, a golf professional may readily determine a student's areas of improvement. Then, the golf professional may suggest a myriad of different ways to improve the swing. For example, the professional may recommend some training exercise for practicing the recommended changes to the student's swing.
However, there is the disadvantage in the existing art that, in the course of learning the mechanics of a golf swing, the golfer stifles their own natural athletic ability, as thoughts of the mechanics complicate what should be a simple athletic movement. Once a golfer leaves the lesson, he or she is dependent on a “feel” of the correct mechanics, since golfers cannot see themselves performing the action. This is difficult because the feel may change from day to day, causing the golfer to fail to execute the mechanics properly, or the golfer may not remember the exact “feel” of the swing. Furthermore, when practicing without an observer, it is often extremely difficult for a golfer to recognize what he or she is doing wrong. Therefore, many golfers have difficulty attaining the desired goals of golf lessons.
Another disadvantage of lessons is the cost. Golf lessons can be very expensive. A person might not have time to attend a lesson, or lessons might not be taught in a location that is easily accessible.
Another approach golfers often use to improve a swing is to practice at driving ranges, which allow the golfer to be able to practice hitting the ball in succession. However, hitting one golf ball after another does not provide the golfer with an indication of whether the golfer's form is at its best for consistently producing the best shot possible. The problem that golfers face in improving the golf swing is an unawareness of the simple athletic movements of a golf swing and how that golf swing can be natural to them.
Therefore, there is a need for improved methods and devices for allowing a golfer to recognize the natural “feel” of his or her own swing.
The present invention relates to a golf swing training device to help each golfer, regardless of age or skill level, to coordinate the movements of arms, legs and body. Among other things, the device allows a golfer to draw on his or her own natural athletic ability by encouraging the golfer to use the arms and the entire body in synchronization, which simplifies the movements and allows the golfer to feel the golfer's own athletic ability. This is accomplished by the disclosed training device, which causes the golfer to focus on the relationship between the arms and the breastbone (also referred to herein as the “center”) and the “triangle” that is formed by both arms and an imaginary horizontal line connecting the shoulders. Through the device, the golfer is able to develop his own feelings about the relationship between the arms and body throughout the swing.
In one aspect of the disclosure, there is an apparatus that includes a golf club including a striking face, a golf club grip, and a shaft having a first longitudinal axis, a longitudinal member having a second longitudinal axis and extending rearwardly of the grip, and a hinge portion connecting the longitudinal member to the shaft, wherein the hinge portion has a first configuration that fixes the angle formed between the first and second longitudinal axes, and a second configuration that permits rotation of the longitudinal member relative to the shaft.
In another aspect of the disclosure, there is an apparatus that includes a rigid longitudinal member connected at the butt end of a golf club, extending rearwardly of the shaft and including a second longitudinal axis forming a fixed, acute angle with respect to the first longitudinal axis, and a terminal end distal of the shaft and immovable relative to the longitudinal member.
In another aspect of the disclosure, there is a method of training a golfer to swing a golf club, including the steps of providing a substantially elongate member connected to the golf club and having a second longitudinal axis that forms a fixed, acute angle with the first, shaft axis, and an end disposed rearward of the gripping portion, placing the end against the golfer's chest when the golfer is positioned in a golf club swinging posture, and swinging the golf club while maintaining the contact between the end and chest.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Additional advantages and novel features of the invention will be partially set forth in the description that follows, and will also become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following or upon learning by practice of the invention.
The features of the invention will be more readily understood with reference to the following description and the attached drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a golf club with a swing trainer according to one embodiment.
FIG. 2 is a further view of the swing trainer of FIG. 1.
FIGS. 3-4 illustrate a golfer in an address position with the golf club and swing trainer of FIG. 1, prior to beginning a golf swing.
FIGS. 5-6 illustrate the golfer of FIG. 1 during the take-away part of the golf swing.
FIGS. 7-8 illustrate the golfer of FIG. 1 during the backswing part the golf swing.
FIG. 9 illustrates the golfer of FIG. 1 during a downswing part of the golf swing.
FIG. 10 illustrates the golfer of FIG. 1 at the position of impact during the golf swing.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIGS. 11-14 illustrate the golfer of FIG. 1 during the follow-through part of the golf swing.
An advantage for golfers of all levels is that improving the golf swing is an action that can be practiced anytime, and almost anywhere. According to an embodiment of the present invention, a golf swing training device is portable and can be taken to a driving range where the golfer can practice the golf swing. The golf swing training device is also practical for both indoor and outdoor use at other locations.
FIG. 1 illustrates a golf swing training device according to one embodiment. In this embodiment, a swing guide 10 is inserted into a golf club 1 at the butt end 7. The golf club 1 includes a shaft 2 that has a longitudinal axis A1, a striking face 3 and a grip 5. The butt end 7 has an open hollow end into which a portion of the swing guide 10 can be inserted. FIG. 2 illustrates an enlarged view of the swing guide 10 of the training device of FIG. 1. The swing guide 10 includes a pair of hinge-mounted shafts 18 and 12, pivotally connected to each other through a hinge 16 so as to allow a practicing golfer to adjust the swing guide 10 to fit his or her physical characteristics. The hinge-mounted shafts include a telescopic shaft 12 at one end and a shaft extension 18 at the other end. The telescopic shaft 12 includes a pair of coaxial shafts 11, 12 a, with an inner shaft 11 being disposed within a hollow outer shaft 12 a. In FIG. 2, the inner shaft 11 is shown in a collapsed position within the outer shaft 12 a, which, for example, is how the telescopic shaft 12 is stored and transported. However, the telescopic shaft 12 is fully adjustable to different lengths to accomodate the length of a golfer's arms when in the address position. In order to adjust the length of the telescopic shaft 12, in one embodiment, the inner shaft 11 and the outer shaft 12 a are axially moved with respect to each other. To lengthen the telescopic shaft 12 for a taller golfer, for example, the inner and outer shafts 11, 12 a are moved in opposite directions. To shorten the telescopic shaft 12 for a shorter golfer, for example, the inner and outer shafts 11, 12 a are sleeved together, with the inner shaft 11 fitted inside of the outer shaft 12 a. In another embodiment, the golf club 1 can have a shortened length which allows the swing guide 10 to be used in a limited area, such as indoors. For such indoor usage, the swing guide 10 can be used, for example, in practice without hitting golf balls. In another embodiment, the diameter of the outer shaft 12 a is only slightly larger than the diameter of the inner shaft 11, so that the inner and outer shafts 11, 12 a have an interference fit. As such, when the outer telescopic shaft 12 a is extended, the inner shaft 11 is held in place with respect to the outer shaft 12 a to define a desired length of the telescopic shaft 12.
Further, fastening members or other mechanisms can be used to hold the inner shaft 11 in place with respect to the outer shaft 12 a. For example, fastening members, such as a textured material, can be disposed on an internal surface of the outer shaft 12 a, an external surface of the inner shaft 11 or on both surfaces, in order to be used with the fastening member to set the length of the telescopic shaft 12. In another example, fastening members, such as retracting pins, known in the art can be disposed on or through the internal or external surfaces of the inner and outer shafts 11, 12 a. In one embodiment, the telescopic shaft 12 can adjust in length from about 6 inches to about 18 inches in order to accommodate the length of the golfer's arms.
In another embodiment, the inner shaft 11 includes a threaded portion on its outer surface, along its entire length. The outer shaft 12 a also includes a threaded portion along its inner surface to mesh with the externally threaded portion of the inner shaft 11. In order to adjust the length of the telescopic shaft 12 of this embodiment, the outer shaft 12 a is rotated with respect to the inner shaft 11. For example, in order to lengthen or extend the swing guide, the outer shaft 12 a is rotated in a counterclockwise direction. In order to shorten the swing guide, the outer shaft 12 a is rotated in a clockwise direction. The inner and outer shafts 11, 12 a can be made from steel, plastic or any other rigid material.
One end of the telescopic shaft 12 can include an end cap 15 for closing an end of the hollow outer shaft 12 a, which also allows comfortable placement against the golfer's chest while using the swing guide 10. The cap in this embodiment has beveled sides and can be formed from any suitable material, such as plastic, steel or wood. However, the portion pressed against a golfer's chest is preferably flat as this will facilitate a preferred method for using the swing guide 10. That is, when used to train a golf swing, as set forth in greater detail in the examples below, the cap 15 is preferably substantially flat, i.e., non-arcuate, so that the golfer is readily made aware of any pivoting of the telescopic shaft 12 about the golfer's chest when an incorrect golf swing is being performed. In other embodiments, radial extensions from the cap 15 may be included as these extensions can indicate to a golfer when a golf swing is being performed incorrectly, i.e., by sensing an uneven pressure distribution across the chest.
The shaft extension 18 may be used to connect the swing guide 10 to the golf club by, e.g., press-fitting it into the open hollow butt end 7. The shaft extension 18 may also be fixed to the golf club 1 by gluing it into the hollow opening in the butt end 7 or by other attachment methods. The shaft extension 18 of FIG. 2 is shown as an elongated cylindrical member having a cross section that is sized and shaped to internally fit within the hollow butt end 7. In one example, the shaft extension 18 includes a stepped profile, in that one portion of the cylinder has a smaller diameter than another portion of the cylinder. In another example, the shaft extension 18 is tapered toward the golf club. A larger diameter portion of the extension 17 is part of the hinge 16 and the smaller diameter portion of the shaft extension 18 is inserted into the golf club 1. Similar to the telescopic shaft 12, the shaft extension 18 can be formed from any suitable material, such as steel or plastic.
In one embodiment, the shaft extension 18 is inserted into the butt end 7 with a modified grip being installed on the club to accommodate the device. In one example of the connection between the golf club 1 and the swing guide 10, the open butt end 7 and the proximal end of the shaft extension 18 are sized to provide an interference fit between the shaft extension 18 and the golf club 1. In another example of the connection between the golf club 1 and the swing guide 10, the inner portion of the butt end 7 and the outer portion of the proximal end of the shaft extension 18 are threaded to allow mounting of the swing guide 10 to the golf club 1.
As mentioned above, the hinge 16 pivotally connects the telescopic shaft 12 to the shaft extension 18. The hinge is a one-axis hinge. That is, the hinge 16 permits relative rotation between the extension 18 and telescopic shaft 12 about only one axis of rotation. The hinge 16 can be integral with the inner shaft 11 of the telescopic shaft 12. The hinge 16 is used to allow proper angular placement of the end cap 15 against the golfer's chest when the golfer is positioned at address. This allows the swing guide 10 to accommodate golfers of various heights, postures and/or arm lengths. The hinge 16 preferably includes a tightening and loosening feature, such as a wing nut, to hold the swing guide 10 in one position with respect to the golf club 1. The wing nut is tightened to secure the telescopic shaft 12 and shaft extension 18 in a set configuration, and loosened to adjust the angle of the telescopic shaft 12 and golf club 1 with respect to each other as needed to adjust the angle θ. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 3, preferably the hinge 16 adjusts the angle between greater than 10 degrees and less than 90 degrees, and more preferably between 15 and 80 degrees as these ranges of inclinations formed between the longitudinal axis A2 of the telescopic shaft 12 and longitudinal axis A1 of the golf club shaft 2 are usually suitable for most golfers at address with the cap 15 placed against the chest, as shown in FIG. 3.
The swing guide 10 can be used to optimize the natural athletic component of the golfer's swing so that the golfer feels comfortable with the swing and can repeat the swing successfully. The golfer can adjust the telescopic shaft 12 to the appropriate length and angle to fit the golfer's physical dimensions and natural address position. This ensures a custom fit, which maximizes the golfer's chances to develop a fundamentally sound and natural athletic swing, discussed in more detail below.
In one embodiment, a specialized golf club is used with the swing guide 10. The golf club has a head at one end and grip end at the opposite end. The golf club can be made from any material, and preferably the same material a normal golf club used in play, in order to provide the golfer with the appropriate feel of the golf club. The shaft can be round in cross section and tapered from the grip to the head. The shaft can be formed from steel or a lighter in weight carbon-fiber and resin composite, for example. The head can be formed from a standard club head material. Alternatively, the head can be a driver, fairway wood, or any iron, wedge or putter. The grip end can be made from standard grip material so that the golfer can have a firm hold on the device.
In another embodiment, the swing guide is adaptable to be used with any golf club, including woods, irons, and putters, so that the golfer can practice his or her swing for any of the different course situations requiring the use of a specific club. The training device is further adaptable for use with shafts having one of the six degrees of stiffness, such as L (Ladies), A (Seniors), R (Regular), F (Firm), X (Extra Firm), and S (Stiff).
In another embodiment, the swing guide can be installed into a specially weighted, shortened version of a golf club, which allows practice swinging indoors under a low ceiling. The club head is typically weighted with this embodiment to mimic the weight and feel of a standard regulation golf club. In other embodiments, the swing guide can be installed into a heavily weighted version of a regulation golf club, which allows training for both technique and exercise. While a normal golf club weighs approximately 1 lb or less, the exercise version can be made in weights of more than 1 lb.
The swing guide 10 illustrated in FIGS. 1-2 is inserted into the butt end 7 of the golf club 1. In other embodiments, a swing guide may include, separately, or as an integral part an attaching device, e.g., a flexible C-clamp, press-fit cup or clamp tightened by a threaded engagement, that allows the swing guide to be fitted to an existing golf club, the attaching device being mounted to an outer portion of the shaft or grip. In other embodiments, the swing guide 10 may be fitted to a putter, iron or other variety of golf club. As the golfer's spine angle varies with each of these clubs, the angle between the telescopic shaft 12 and shaft 2 may be adjusted to suit the golfer's posture at address, as previously discussed. Alternatively, the swing guide may be reconfigured between different preset angles by engaging suitable fastening structure. Thus, the scope of disclosure is not limited to the hinge and locking wing nut of the illustrated embodiment. A swing guide according to the disclosure may be adapted for use as a training device for athletes in a variety of other sports requiring a throwing, hitting or swinging motion, e.g., baseball, hockey, tennis, etc., where appropriate.
As such, golf is no different from other hitting or throwing sports. Shortstops don't spend thousands of hours tweaking minute movements in an effort to turn a double play. They are simply taught to use the basic athletic movements, at an early age, and toss the ball to the second baseman. Movements like hitting a baseball, tennis ball, hockey puck, or chopping down a tree all have a few basic athletic movements that nearly anyone can learn in a short time. Top professionals use these same movements to make the golf swing powerful and effortless. Unfortunately, classic golf instruction has in many cases destroyed a person's natural athletic ability with outdated swing thoughts such as “keep your head still”, “keep your left (or right) arm straight”, and “turn”. Golfers stifle their own natural ability by using these thoughts and complicating a simple athletic movement. These kinds of detailed thoughts are not needed to know how to hit or toss a ball in other sports. Nor should they be needed in golf.
According to another aspect of the disclosure, a method for training a golf swing places emphasis on developing an athletic, natural “feel” for a golf swing, rather than a mechanical swing constructed from the combination of details, e.g., head still, arms straight, etc. According to this aspect of the disclosure, a golfer trains a swing that is easy to repeat, more reliable on the “off-days” and thus easier to correct because the swing is ingrained from repetition of a natural underhanded throwing, hitting or swinging motion, not the details comprising that motion. A golfer need not be consciously aware of these details once an athletic swing is trained. Therefore, the golfer can be less burdened on the golf course with having to recall every nuance in a golf swing when a correction is needed.
The disclosed training method encourages the golfer to use his arms and his entire body in synchronization, which simplifies the movements and allows him/her to feel their own athletic abilities. This is accomplished by focusing the golfer on a “triangle”, as illustrated in phantom in FIG. 3, which is formed by both arms and the line between the shoulders, and allows him/her to develop their own feelings about the relationship between the arms and the body throughout the swing.
In the golfer's address position, FIGS. 3-4, the swing guide 10 is angled to point to the golfer's breastbone or sternum, hereinafter referred to as the “center”, and adjusted for length until it gently comes in contact with the center. The appropriate angle θ to form between the club shaft has been discussed previously. This setup establishes a balanced, “level”, address position, which is common in good athletes, devoid of any unnatural “angles” that complicate movements and require on-the-fly adjustments, which make consistent ball striking difficult. There may be a slight effort to press the end 14, against the breastbone, as this can facilitate a natural activation of the larger muscle groups, and also remove tension from the hands and arms. This may be analogized to the position that one would take to hold a heavy object, like a medicine ball, in preparation to toss it underhanded.
The following description makes reference to FIGS. 5-14, which illustrate the motion of a right-handed golfer swinging a golf club. Referring first to FIGS. 5-6, to make a swing, the golfer swings the club away from the ball, while retaining the end 14 in contact with the center until waist high in the back swing. For this to happen, All parts of the body have to move together, and center will have to coil behind the ball. The arms cannot act independent of the center, or the end 14 will separate from, and/or pivot about the center resulting in a break of the “triangle”. A separation from, and/or pivot of the swing guide 10 about center, as would happen, e.g., if a golfer pulls the club back with only his arms, will indicate that an improper take away is being initiated. But if contact is maintained and without any pivoting of the swing guide 10 about the center, the first thing that golfers will notice is that their shoulders are nearly fully coiled, or “turned” when the club is only waist high. Once at waist height, since the golfer is nearly at full coil, he only needs to set his right arm and wrists into a natural throwing motion and the back swing is complete.
Referring to FIGS. 7-8, the golfer then completes the backswing by simply breaking his right elbow. The swing guide 10 will then pass between the elbows. When the swing guide 10 is set with pressure against the center, the larger muscles are put to use, not the hands when swing the golf club back, which promotes a natural setting of the wrists to support the weight of the club face. At the top of the back swing, most golfers will feel more weight on their right foot, and more coil in their back and shoulders than they have ever had using other training techniques. They are now “loaded” to make an athletic swing at the ball, which is less dependent on timing and extraneous movements. To complete the backswing, the golfer must fold his right arm to ensure that the swing guide 10 passes between the elbows. This action puts the golfer into an athletic “throwing” position, similar to a baseball pitcher or football quarterback, and virtually guarantees that the swing plane is correct. The classic “laid off” flaw is prevented because the swing guide 10 will hit the golfer's left arm and block the incorrect action. It is also nearly impossible to “cross the line” or “fly the right elbow” because the swing guide 10 will hit the right arm and block that incorrect action.
Referring to FIG. 9, the goal of the forward swing is to get your weight to your left foot, and the swing guide 10 back to center, at impact. To begin, the golfer only needs to use the “loaded” right foot to push weight back to his left foot, while straightening his right arm to move the swing guide 10 back between the elbows and back to center. This movement is nothing more than an underhanded tossing motion that nearly every athlete has used to throw a ball. The swing guide 10 corrects common downswing flaws, as well as the backswing. The golfer cannot hold his weight back and “cast” the club, or “come over the top”, because the extension will hit the right arm, and the swing cannot complete. Golfers will not be able to over correct that classic flaw by “dropping” the club behind their back, because as the golfer nears impact, the swing guide 10 will hit the left forearm and completion of the swing is impossible.
Referring now to FIG. 10, the proper impact position is achieved by passing the swing guide 10 through the elbows and back to the center of the chest. Notice that the “triangle” is essentially the same as at address. The swing guide 10 prevents the player from “flipping” the wrists and hooking shots as long as he/she can again place the swing guide 10 at center by impact. The swing guide 10 may also prevent the hands from getting too far ahead, in a “blocked” position, which is a classic cause of sliced shots.
Referring to FIG. 11, when the club is waist high through impact, all successful golfers achieve a similar position. The “triangle” formed by the arms and shoulders is still intact, and the club is in front of the body. By keeping contact with the center of the chest until waist high, the player is ensured of releasing the right side of his body and not holding back any power. Most amateurs simply complete the swing with their arms and lose all the potential power of the legs and back. Note the “push” of the right foot in FIG. 11, and the path of the club head (as viewed from behind the golfer, looking down the target line). The swing guide 10 will block any attempt to cut across the ball, in a slicing action.
Referring to FIGS. 12 and 13, to complete the swing, and not lose momentum, the golfer simply needs to fold his/her left arm and pass the swing guide 10 between the elbows. By folding the lead arm and allowing the swing guide 10 to pass between the elbows the golfer ensures that he/she completes the weight transfer, and the release of the entire right side of the body. Most amateurs overextend their arms at this point, in a feeble attempt to steer the shot, and prevent their body from fully releasing. The swing guide 10 prevents that action by hitting the left forearm and stopping the finish. A “flipped”, or premature finish is identified when the swing guide 10 hits the right forearm.
Referring to FIG. 14, at the finish, all great players are in a straight and balanced position, with their weight on their left foot. The player's shoulders and hips should be approximately level and facing the target, with the elbows close together and pointing down to the ground. The head and eyes should release to view the shot, and not block the finish, and the right foot is up on the toes. The finish clearly tells a story about what has taken place during the swing. You cannot “fake” a proper finish position with hopes to influence the shot, because the ball has already been struck. The proper finish should be achieved by using a natural athletic hitting action. The swing guide 10 can increase any golfer's chances of achieving that swing, and allows him/her to feel it their way by ensuring that a relatively small number of positions are achieved during the swing.
In other embodiments, a method for training a golf swing may be practiced for a putting stroke, chipping or pitching stroke, a “punch” shot or other varieties of golf swings. Because the elements of an athletic swing for these other swings are understood in viewing the foregoing, in particular, maintaining a triangle, the method is equally applicable to these other strokes. Hence, for a putting stroke, the golfer once again places the end 14 against the center at address, and swings the putter face back and through while maintaining contact with center and without pivoting the end 14 about the center.
Although the invention has been described based upon these preferred embodiments, it would be apparent to those skilled in the art that certain modifications, variations, and alternative constructions would be apparent, while remaining within the spirit and scope of the invention. In order to determine the metes and bounds of the invention, therefore, reference should be made to the appended claims.