Performance Indicator LLC was recently granted patent USPN 7,967,702 titled “Golf Ball with Water Immersion Indicator.” The patent describes the invention as:
In order to provide a golf ball with a water immersion indicator, a golf ball with indicia or a particular recognizable color is overlain with an opacification layer that provides a mask over the indicia or the colored ball until such time as the ball has been immersed in water for a predetermined period of time affecting the ball’s performance. The opacification layer when removed or otherwise made transparent, while providing for a change in the appearance of the golf ball upon water immersion, does not need to have a layer or indicia which changes color in reaction to the infusion of water. Rather the opacification layer is either removed or made transparent to expose an underlying colored surface or a surface bearing pre-determined indicia, thus to alter the appearance of the ball when it has been immersed in water for a period of time which affects golf ball properties. The subject system provides an easy way to make indicia visible upon water immersion since one does not have to create the indicia in response to water activation, but rather uncover already-printed indicia due to the removal or transparency of the opacification layer. Opacification reduction or elimination is accomplished through a number of physical processes involving a water-activated binder and either insoluble pigment particles, effervescing bubbles, the use of transparent oils, agglomeration or the complete or partial removal of the opacification layer.
If you are wondering, the general concept of a golf ball that indicates when it has spent a long period of time under water is not new. As the patent explains:
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Generally, gold balls are one of three types. A first type is a multi-piece wound ball wherein a vulcanized rubber thread is wound under tension around a solid or semi-solid core, and thereafter enclosed in a single or multi-layer covering of tough, protective material. A second type of golf ball is a one-piece ball formed from a solid mass of a resilient material that has been cured to develop the necessary degree of hardness to provide utility. One-piece molded balls do not have second enclosing cover. A third type of ball is a multi-piece non-wound ball that includes a liquid, gel or solid core of one or more layers and a cover having one or more layers formed over the core. Attempts to improve and/or optimize performance characteristics in golf balls are typically directed toward achieving better feel when the ball is struck with a golf club, and also allowing for increased or optimum distance while at the same time adhering to the rules set forth by the United States Golf Association (U.S.G.A.) regarding the physical characteristics and performance properties of golf balls. These rules specify that the weight of a golf ball shall not be greater than 1.620 ounces, the diameter of the ball shall not be less than 1.680 inches and the velocity of the ball shall not be greater than 255 feet per second (250 feet per second with 2% tolerance level). The U.S.G.A. rules also specify that the overall distance a golf ball should travel shall not cover an average distance (in carry and roll) greater than 280 yards, plus a 6% tolerance level (296.8 yards total). As recited in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,823,891; 5,938,554; 6,277,037; 6,638,160; and 6,623,382, all assigned to the assignee hereof, a golf ball immersion indicator is described in which upon immersion of the golf ball, for instance in a pond, the appearance of the golf ball is changed so that the fact of its having been immersed is readily apparent to the golf ball user, thus to indicate a loss of performance. While the above patents disclose various methods for changing the appearance of a golf ball that has been immersed or otherwise exposed to water for relatively long periods of time, in these patents the change in appearance is at least in some instances due to a color change induced by water immersion. This implies the utilization of layers of water-sensitive dyes or other materials which upon immersion either create or change their color. Note that U.S. Pat. No. 6,358,160 utilizes water-activated ink which either appears or disappears upon the immersion of the golf ball in water. It will be appreciated that if the ink disappears then it is the ink itself which provides the water immersion indicia by altering the appearance of the golf ball through its absence. In short, all of the above patents provide for the creation of color within a layer or imprint, or provide for the disappearance of the layer or imprint which is part of the layer in a color change operation within or on the layer. This requires the application to a golf ball structure of a layer which in and of itself serves as the indicator. By way of further background, in the past, an injected molded, water soluble golf ball is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,356,149 issued to Patrick E. Kane on Oct. 18, 1994. The purpose of this golf ball was to be able to be used off the fantail of a cruise ship, with the golf ball completely disintegrating when it had been immersed and left in sea water. It will be appreciated that the golf ball itself is not again playable and therefore does not constitute a playable golf ball. SUMMARY OF INVENTION Rather than incorporating as the appearance-changing aspect of a golf ball the fact of a color change in a particular layer applied to a golf ball, in the subject invention, an opacification or masking layer covers an underlying golf ball immersion-indicating surface. For purposes of the subject invention immersion includes both total and partial immersion in water or the exposing of the golf ball to water for relatively long periods of time, namely days as opposed to minutes. The surface that is opacified may have a distinctive color to indicate immersion or may bear indicia indicating immersion. Under normal conditions the opacification layer blocks the view of the underlying surface. When the opacification layer is water-activated it becomes transparent or is removed, thus unmasking the underlying layer carrying the water immersion-indicating surface or indicia. Depending on the type of physical operation involved, immersion of the golf ball for a sufficiently long period of time causes th
e opacification layer to either be rendered transparent, to be removed, or to reduce its light-blocking characteristics. Note that golf ball manufacture is facilitated by using the opacification layer since the golf ball is otherwise the same as it always was and is merely overlain with the water-activated opacification layer. The application of this opacification layer is done in a single step process which is easy to implement. The layer itself is easy to make because all it has to be is a water-soluble, water-swellable or water-degradable layer, with no multi-component color formation system required. Alternatively, the opacification may be incorporated into the primer, paint or topcoat layers, and need not be a separately added layer. Most importantly, for the underlying surface, any color or any image may be readily created and used to indicate water immersion and ultimately loss of golf ball performance. This is because the underlying surface over which the opacification layer is formed can be imprinted or colored at will without having to use color change processes. When, for instance, insoluble pigment particles such as titania are used in a water-soluble carrier, upon immersion, the insoluble pigment particles tend to agglomerate or bind together, thus permitting viewing of the underlying portion of the golf ball which provides the altered appearance indicative of water immersion. The insoluble pigment particle embodiment provides a light-blocking function which prevents viewing of the underlying surface of the golf ball prior to the time that the golf ball has been sufficiently subjected to water. The light-blocking produced by insoluble pigment particles are the result of the even dispersement of the pigment particles in the binder, with the particles being relatively close together. However, when the binder is activated by subjecting the ball to water, the insoluble pigment particles bind together leaving open spaces through which the underlying surface is now visible. The same type of operation can be achieved through the utilization of bubbles which are immobilized in a water soluble, water-swellable or water degradable binder. The bubbles diffract or reflect light so that what is underneath cannot be seen. When the binder is dissolved, swelled or degraded by ball immersion in water, the bubbles effervesce out. Bubbles can be considered to be simply voids in a binder layer or can be supplied by hollow particles or droplets with a different index of refraction than that of the binder. Another way of obtaining the unmasking of the underlying golf ball surface is to provide clear light-scattering droplets such as those that might be provided by oil droplets which are immersible in the binder. These droplets are designed to have a significant difference in their index of refraction as opposed to that associated with the binder. When the oil is captured by the binder, the light-blocking associated with the droplets of oil prevents viewing the underlying golf ball surface. However, upon water penetration, the binder either dissolves, swells or degrades and the oil droplets propagate and leave open spaces to expose the underlying surface. The propagation also can provide a milky look to the underlying surface which again is indicative of water immersion. Finally, the opacification layer may be completely dissolved or removed to expose the underlying surface. This can be accomplished not only by chemical dissolution or abrasion, but also by using microbial degradation in which microbes multiply within the opacification layer in response to the presence of water to eat portions of the opacification layer. What is therefore provided is the ability to provide a golf ball with an underlying surface either carrying indicia or a particular color, including grey, which is to be exposed by an overlying light-blocking layer when the light-blocking capacity of the layer becomes impaired due to water immersion. Thus, indicia initially may be imprinted on the underlying surface. Note the appearance of the underlying surface does not depend on a particular color change operation to be visible. This makes it relatively easy to imprint the underlying surface with any type of indicia, or in fact to provide the underlying surface with a wide variety of appearances. The result is that a golf ball immersion-indicating system is provided in which whatever indicia of water immersion is desired, it is overcoated with an opacification layer that blocks light from reaching the underlying surface and thus makes the underlying surface invisible. Note, with the opacification layer altered through water immersion, the opacification layer either can be considered to become transparent or to be removed. In summary, in order to provide a golf ball with a water immersion indicator, a golf ball with indicia or a particular recognizable color is overlain with an opacification layer that provides a mask over the indicia or the colored ball until such time as the ball has been immersed in water for a predetermined period of time affecting the ball’s performance. The opacification layer when removed or otherwise made transparent, while providing for a change in the appearance of the golf ball upon water immersion, does not need to have a layer or indicia which changes color in reaction to the infusion of water. Rather the opacification layer is either removed or made transparent to expose an underlying colored surface or a surface bearing pre-determined indicia, thus to alter the appearance of the ball when it has been immersed in water for a period of time which affects golf ball properties. The subject system provides an easy way to make indicia visible upon water immersion since one does not have to create the indicia in response to water activation, but rather uncover already-printed indicia due to the removal or transparency of the opacification layer. Opacification reduction or elimination is accomplished through a number of physical processes involving a water-activated binder and either insoluble pigment particles, effervescing bubbles, the use of transparent oils, agglomeration or the complete or partial removal of the opacification layer.
No more surprises associated with hitting a soggy golf ball! Nice idea, but I don’t think you can go wrong with the practice of “if it looks to scummy to pick up with your bare hands then you probably shouldn’t be teeing it up.”
David Dawsey – Keeping an Eye on Golf Ball Technology
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