Golf is a good walk spoiled. How many times have I thought that as I searched for my ball in the rough only to find it, and knock it into the opposite rough. I look up from the giant divot to see my friends waiting for me on the green and the next foursome waiting for me in the tee box. There are times when I hate this game, and I wonder why I keep on coming back, but I always do. To me, golf is like fishing...mostly boring, often miserable, but in those rare moments when I actually catch something, it makes it all worth it. I'll hit 17 terrible tee shots just to get that one beautiful shot. You know the feeling. The force up your arms as the club contacts the ball in it's sweet spot, a crack like thunder, and finally the beautiful arc as the ball travels straight and true down the fairway. At that moment, we are all Tiger Woods, minus the affairs and losing.
I realize that's a lot of words, and lots of you don't want to bother with that on a website that you probably just happened upon. I get that. Hopefully, you go straight to the order page then. A lot of you, though, may be interested in the process. Perhaps you're a budding inventor yourself with an idea, but don't know what to do with it. If so, you might find this interesting.
I remember the exact moment I came up with this idea. It really was a "Eureka moment", just like in the movies. One cold Friday night in January, 2015, I was practicing some pool shots and watching Shark Tank. On the show, some guys dressed up in old time golf outfits came on and tried to push some kind putter. It was handmade, and I guess, pretty nice, but I thought "What's the big deal about that?", and then I thought -- what I bet a lot of you think: "I can do better than that." At that very moment, a shot came up on my table -- the one I show in the animation video, where two balls touch. In pool, we call these balls "frozen". This is a very special situation because we know that no matter where we hit one ball, we know exactly where the other ball is going. In other words, the first ball acts as a kind of "force filter" allowing only one force to get through to the second ball. In real life, the situation is actually much more complex if you take into account the small amount of friction between the balls, but for my purposes, these acted as ideal spheres, so I could use simple Newtonian physics to explain the phenomenon as in the video. Anyway, I started thinking "was there any other place I could use this force filter?" Since the Shark Tank guys were already in my head, I wondered if it would work with two golf balls. I found a few golf balls, put them on my pool table, and tried the same thing with frozen balls. Since its all physics, it of course worked.
I thought about this for a few days and decided to try it with a little bit more force, so one night I decided to try to make something to test it. I found some styrofoam and cut a hole in it to hold a golf ball. Now all I had to do was find something else to hold another golf ball against it. I found an old yogurt container in my kitchen, cut a strip of plastic out of it, bent it, then stuck it into the styrofoam to hold another golf ball against the first. Then I stuck a regular golf tee through the whole thing to hold it up. Here's a pic of what I ended up with:
As you can see, I stuck it into another piece of styrofoam to hold it all up. Then I set up a small wastepaper basket at the end of the hall about 15 feet away. I aimed the contraption at this basket and hit the back ball with a hammer. To my surprise, it flew right at the basket, but not in. I had to adjust the distance a few times to get it in consistently, but the direction of the ball was always consistent.
At this point, I thought maybe I have something here, so I called up a friend who golfed and had a bit of an engineering mind as well. Over the next few weeks, we tried different ways to get two golf balls to stay together so we could hit them. I remember sitting at a "Tilted Kilt" bar, drawing on cocktail napkins, just like in the movies. Eventually, I came to several realizations. First of all, it did not have to be a second golf ball hitting the first. It could be any sphere, and that sphere did not have to be the same size as the golf ball. It could be larger or smaller. The second realization was that this worked in 3 dimensions, so not only would this control direction, but loft as well.
At this point, I didn't know where to go with this. I decided that this needs some kind of patent protection, so got something called a provisional patent. This is not a full patent, but simply a type of legal placeholder which officially says that on a particular date, I had this idea. There is no extensive patent search and it is only good for a year, so I had a year to decide if I wanted to go through the cost of a real patent. To me, this idea was so simple, I'd be surprised if no one had already thought of it. Surprisingly, no one had, so I eventually decided to go for it and got the full utility patent, both domestic and international.
There was still the problem of getting someone to make this, and I had no idea how to go about that. I had a friend who was in the manufacturing business, and he told me that in this area (Western Pennsylvania), where there was a lot of oil (the first oil well in the US is in this area, a place called Titusville), there was busy a plastics industry. Of course I then Googled that, and as luck would have it, there was a plastics factory not even a mile from the Hospital in which I worked. I talked to the owner, and showed him my idea. He loved it, and he has since helped me design and produce the tees.
I still hadn't decided on a form factor for the tees. I tried a whole lot of different ways to get two spheres to touch. Here are a bunch of ideas:
We finally settled on the design below. This places the mass of the golf ball above the center of mass of the tee. The two legs are so the tee doesn't rotate if hit off center. I chose to go with a sphere smaller than the golf ball at 1 inch diameter. The distinctive fins in the sphere are actually for cooling. Cooling??? No, you're not going to hit this so hard that it goes into orbit, and needs to cool during reentry. It turns out that you can't cast a solid plastic sphere of that size without getting imperfections. As plastic cools, it shrinks. A 1 inch diameter sphere would cool unevenly, so would develop imperfections as it cools. We solved that by making the sphere out of multiple thin fins on a strong backbone. That way, it cools evenly, but retains a spherical shape no matter at what angle it's viewed-- or more importantly, no matter at what angle it's hit by a golf club.
The choice of material was also an issue. It turns out that hitting something with a golf club generates a huge amount of force. Most plastic is not designed to withstand these forces, so most early tees would break or deform with one hit. We finally found one that was hard enough, yet pliable enough to do the job.
This design worked. In fact many of the friends who tried it prefer this model. However, we felt that hitting that one inch ball was too difficult. A lot of people would miss the small sphere entirely and just hit the golf ball which obviously would not work. In addition, we still had problems with the arm holding the sphere breaking off after several hits. Eventually, I redesigned it entirely and came up with this:
This is the model that Justin is using in the videos. As you can see from those videos, it works. It's still possible, though, to hit the golf ball without hitting the tee. One solution to that would be to keep making the sphere bigger, but that increases the mass of the entire structure, which makes the tee fly farther after it's hit, so I'm experimenting with an entirely new design which I think will solve a lot of problems. I'm still working out the bugs, but hope to have it out soon.
There are a lot of fun ideas that have been put forth to me using this system. As I stated above, this works in 3 dimensions, so in addition to controlling the direction of flight, I can change the loft by changing the angle at which the golf ball touches the sphere. With the latest model, this can be done simply by raising or lowering the platform on which the ball sits. Basically, then it would be possible to essentially carry your whole golf bag in your pocket, except for a driver, putter, and probably a wedge. I'm working on a way to use these on the fairways after a drive.
Right now, the golf ball contacts the sphere in the midline, but by offsetting the golf ball just a bit, I might be able to put some sidespin on the golf ball, and thus fade or draw.
You might be wondering why call it "Base2Golf"? As you can probably guess, I'm kind of a math/science nerd. Since this uses 2 spheres, it reminded me of a binary star system, so I initially called it Binary golf. However, the guys I got to make my logo had trouble creating anything clever with the word "binary", so, since a binary number system is the same as a base 2 system, I called it Base2 Golf.