Golfers at Muirfield this weekend will need all their inventiveness to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday – and an accompanying cheque for £945,000.
But off the course there are considerable commercial rewards for those with the wit to devise and market golf-related technologies.
Although golf is bound by tradition, technology has always given players an edge. That’s why we usually see a huge number of patent applications being filed for new golf gadgets: because of our love for ingenious gadgets that might help us crack it.
For example, a US patent application has been filed for a set of golf training glasses that force the user to keep their head still and maintain eye contact with the ball at all times – by cutting off peripheral vision.
One of the most controversial golf inventions on show at Muirfield this week is the belly putter, which will be banned in 2016. Come Sunday afternoon we could see a winning putt being sunk by a soon-to-be illegal putter.
But don’t think that the outlawing of the belly putter will mean that we see an end to patents being filed. Some professionals will still need a putter that can calm the “yips” in a legal way.
For example, we have seen patent applications in the US for an adjustable length putter, or perhaps a double shafted putter grip using the forearms as a putter extension. Inventors are looking at ways of getting round the 2016 ban.
We suspect that The Open will inspire more gadgetry but patent applications are vital to protect and market that brilliant next golfing idea. For example, US product designer (and former USGA technical director) Frank Thomas famously came up with the first graphite shaft golf clubs back in 1968.
The new graphite shafts were launched but a delay in the filing of a patent application meant that it could not be granted and anyone was then free to manufacture graphite shafts for golf clubs.
So to all those beavering away to pioneer the next golf gadget: patent your invention. Then you can reap the full rewards of your ingenuity.
• Alastair Blake is a chartered patent attorney with intellectual property specialists Marks & Clerk