Conversation with Snell Golf Canada

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

I am pleased to share my conversation with Snell Golf Canada President, Ron Stenzl.  Snell Golf Canada is celebrating it’s first year of operations in Canada and I wanted to catch up to learn how the first year went and if there’s anything new for people to learn about and look forward to.

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  1. You’ve just celebrated your one year anniversary of sales in Canada.  How would you categorize the past year?

In a word, educational.  There are many differences between operating in Canada and the US.  First, economies of scale play into decisions.  Shipping is much more expensive in Canada, so we’ve had to figure that out. We’ve experimented with free shipping and it looks like that really is one of the best ways we can create value for golfers across Canada so we likely will keep that in place.  Of course most of Canada has a much shorter season than in the USA, so we’ve had to deal with that.  We are finally launching a French language version of our website; that has been difficult to get right but it’s really important.  Quebec has many very avid golfers.  And we are refreshing the look of our site as well.  So basically the first years has been about getting systems in place and working out the kinks. And we’ve learned a lot about golf balls too!

2. You had a strong presence at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show this past winter,       including a visit and a couple talks from Dean Snell himself.  What has the feedback in Canada been to Dean’s messages on golf ball technology?

The Toronto Golf Show was a great weekend for us to launch the season and I know that those who attended really enjoyed meeting Dean and especially if they listened to his presentations on the main stage. Dean is so knowledgeable and cuts right through the marketing hype and makes it real.  To him it’s not that complicated, if you want to be serious about your golf, you should play a top line ball. The reason many people don’t is simply cost.  That’s why our model is attractive – we’ve stripped out all the marketing costs, player contracts, middlemen and agents and passed that savings onto the consumer. And the Canadian golf public gets it based on the social media following we’re getting and the many positive comments.  It does get back to the shipping though, people want to try the product and some hesitated when shipping charges were added, so offering free shipping gets people trying the ball, talking it up with playing partners and then re-ordering, usually multiple dozens at a time.

3.  While operating as a Canadian subsidiary to a global company based in the United States what are some of the challenges and opportunities this provides for you?

Every country has its own rules and regulations, so there are no unique challenges related to Snell USA. We do acquire our balls based on US Dollar pricing, so we do have to manage exchange rate. The benefit is our ability to utilize some of their marketing material and share ideas. Snell is now in 13 countries and we are able to get some ideas from around the globe from other independent distributors like ourselves. And as Dean Snell has grown his company, he gains more strength at the factory level to leverage his relationship and orders to get priority treatment and best pricing. So for example, even though exchange rates to buy US$ rose significantly since last year, with Dean’s help we were able to hold our pricing the same as last year and hope to be able to get through next year 2018 also without a price increase. We want to be consistent in our mandate to grow the game of golf and do what we can to make it affordable.

It’s often the case that Canada lags behind the US in certain trends. One trend that still exists in Canada, but has been abandoned in the USA is pro shops signing exclusive contracts with suppliers, usually Titleist but also TaylorMade.  Pro shops in the USA finally came to the conclusion that these agreements mostly just benefit the supplier and not them and certainly not their members who they cater to. It limits availability of certain products that golfers want.  And it drives them to places like GolfTown, which is one of the biggest complaints pro shops have about their members, yet it’s their actions that contribute to this.

  1. You are an active support for junior golf in Canada.  Please share more about this and why is this so important for Snell Golf Canada?

Mike, we need to applaud you for asking this question!  Supporting Junior Golf was an easy decision by the Snell Golf Canada team.  It really starts with Dean Snell wanting to grow the game.  All of us were fortunate to be exposed to golf and the majority of golfers actually do enjoy it, so why not expose the golf lifestyle to the younger generation?

Most adult golfers see the terrific kids that are now playing golf.  Playing competitive and recreational golf is an activity that exposes kids to so many challenges, opportunities and aspects of life. Paying forward the last 12 months has significantly elevated our awareness of the committed junior tour volunteers, golf clubs, golf professionals and the industry who actually get it.  Our company has a role and we want to ramp this up even more, so we hope your coverage gets more junior golf tours realizing that companies like us would like to help.

5.  Many golfers are active on social media.  How about Snell Golf Canada?

Snell Golf Canada embraces social media with open arms. From the very beginning we have made considerable efforts to ensure we publish great content on a regular basis as well as respond to any inquiries in a timely manner.  People seem to love our profiles as our follower base is growing more and more every day. We are on Twitter @SnellGolfCanada, Facebook @Snell Golf Canada and Instagram @SnellGolfCan we do promotions, contests, weekly spots on products features, and lots more on the way.

6. In my conversation with Dean this winter, he mentioned opportunity for courses to buy direct for their members/customers.  Is this something you offer?

We launched a pro shop re-seller program and have had quite a few folks join us.  We offer them a discount that provides them enough (profit) margin to make it worthwhile.  For us it helps build the brand and provides some convenience to members of participating courses.

7.  I’m not expecting you to share company secrets but I’m curious about new product development.  Are you engaged with Dean around this?  Can Canadians expect quick access to any new product?

Dean is always thinking ahead and does have a ball in the design and test stage.  It will be a high end ball, probably 4 piece that will align more closely with the Pro V1x.  What Dean won’t do is create a whole range of balls. He sees this as confusing to the golfer (“What ball should I play?”) and says creating that confusion is part of most ball makers strategy.  He keeps it simple, a high end ball that is playable across a broad spectrum (My Tour Ball), and a low spin, low price ball (Get Sum).  Both balls are made with only the best materials.  The new ball, when launched will likely be positioned at the very top of the Tour Performance scale so will be best suited to the low single digit handicappers.

8.  MTB or Get Sum?

My original introduction to Snell was in Florida playing the MTB. But I started playing the Get Sum a bit last summer, I wasn’t happy with my swing and thought a low spin ball would help. It didn’t really.

This winter I went back to the MTB full-time and with practice my swing improved but my short game improved leaps and bounds!  I’m pitching the ball better than I have in years, I have confidence in my chips because run out is consistent which is what you don’t get with any 2 piece ball, and my putting is better too!  I even had a hole in one in April.  My index dropped from 9.3 to 6.1 by the time I came back north!  Getting used to northern grass, long rough and it’s been wet so I must confess my index has risen some, but will go back down soon as it dries out.

So I now adhere to Dean’s basic philosophy, play the best quality ball you can! It will make you a better player.

  1. Outside of your home course in Cataraqui in Kingston, where would you love to tee up your Snell golf balls in Canada?  What courses top your Canadian bucket list?

I’ve been fortunate to play many great courses.  Deerhurst is a favourite; Lora Bay and Georgian Bay Club in Collingwood are spectacular, as are many of the top Toronto courses. I played Credit Valley last summer and loved it! Brantford Golf & CC is an old favourite. Glencoe in Calgary is special.  If you want to play a hidden gem, play Innerkip Highlands, near Woodstock. I want to play Vancouver Golf Club where the LPGA played a few years ago. I was there watching Brooke Henderson in her first Canadian Open when she was still amateur.  I’ve played in PEI and want to go back and play more of those courses.

36aday – An impressive list.  Thanks for your time Ron and best wishes to you and the team at Snell Golf Canada for the 2017 season.

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Impressions of the 2017 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

http://www.torontogolfshow.com/

I’m losing count but my guess would be that this is my 7th Toronto golf show in the past 8 years.  My motivation for attending has changed considerably over the years.  Gone are the days when I would show up early and line up to access the quality free golf giveaway (which still exists and creates significant buzz).  Now, I am interested in building and maintain relationships.  I have been fortunate to make friends in the golf industry in Canada and this event provides me a regular touch point to connect with key people in golf in Canada.

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Meeting golf ball inventor and legend, Dean Snell.

Let’s not kid ourselves here…there is an energy and buzz to this show which gets any golfing enthusiast excited for the season ahead.   Add to it exhibitors keen to share information on their products, courses, services and organizations and I was no different than the multitude of attendees.  So as I reflect back on the Golf and Travel Show, here are my impressions:

  1. There is something for everyone.

There really is.  Whether its discounted retail outlet shopping; numerous jurisdictions providing information on golf and travel escapes; access to local, national and international golf with strong promotional offers; chances to try new equipment; access to lessons from CPGA teaching professionals; draws and giveaways; speakers; and more.  The Toronto International Centre is sufficiently big enough to host an event of this magnitude and organizers had things clearly marked inside.

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Such a pleasure to meet and chat with Jim Burton.  For those active on Twitter, you’ll know him as The Grateful Golfer (@TheGratefulGolf)

  1. Make time to meaningfully engage.

The crowds are such that some people feel they should only spend a brief moment and gather information.  But I have learned that it is possible to strike up a conversation, ask questions and learn more about courses, organizations and golfing regions.  Carve out the experience you want from the show.  I appreciated the chance to meet The Grateful Golfer, a fellow golf blogger who does exceptional work (and possesses an exceptional golf game).  I spent time with my friends at Snell Golf Canada.  Highlighted here was the chance to meet Dean Snell, inventor of Snell golf balls and whom I most recently interviewed.  The booth got busier as the afternoon went on and I was happy to share my positive experience with these golf balls with attendees.

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It’s an annual tradition for me to head over and visit my good friends at Golf PEI.  Appreciated that Mark McLane could take time to talk and share insight on new initiatives.

I spent some time talking with my friend Mark McLane from Golf PEI and learned about some of the new golf initiatives happening on the gentle island.  It was a pleasure to meet Graham Hudson from Highlands Links who was at the Golf North booth.  Graham was excited to share some of the great developments happening on the course.  I met an old friend from grade school who heads up the On The Tee magazine.  And I had a chance to connect briefly with Jay from the 36 Golf Company, an amazing golf apparel company based in Canada.

I met and networked with many others.

  1. Grab now, read later.

I like to learn about new getaway destinations but I also like to learn about what courses in my area – the western part of the Greater Toronto Area – offer in terms of early season specials and promotions.  This approach of gathering as much information as possible truly helped me plan for my 2015 PEI golf trip and I find that once I am back in the quiet of my own home I can sift through the materials I have gathered and identify new courses to play, destinations to consider and products to learn about.  Along with making a direct connection with someone, I love this part of the golf show.

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As with any trophy, it’s only to be touched when you win it.  The base of the RBC Canadian Open trophy is being extended to allow for more winners to be added.

4. Shopping for Golf Gear

This part appeals to me less than others listed above.  The Golf and Travel Show has expanded over the years to include retailers offering discount product.  Often models which are older, there is value to be had but people need to be discerning in looking at product.  And if you can imagine it, they sell it.  Carts, bags, training aids, clubs, balls and apparel are all available.  I counted three separate discount retailers this year.  I grabbed a new putter grip but that was all.

  1. Education and Youth Engagement

This part excites me as the Golf and Travel Show works to engage junior golfers.  Being there on a Friday I did not see many kids (as they’d be in school) but understand that allowing kids to enter free and offering a real hands on experience in terms of contests, trying clubs, lessons and more, will provide people (kids of all ages) with a great opportunity to learn about the game and engage more within it.

I attended the Dean Snell talk and he provided a true master class on ball fitting which contradicts many approaches companies utilize today.  I learned a great deal from Dean during his 30 minute talk, including Q & A.   The speakers line up was diverse and impressive.

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Crowds were large and lineups long.  It moved steadily fortunately.  Great to see this kind of excitement.

The timing of this show is perfect, as it happens late enough in winter and before the Masters to truly pique the interest of golfers.  Based on the lineups and the large crowds on the first day, this is an event that just keeps growing and getting better and better.

Conversation with Dean Snell – Part 3

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

This is the third of this three-part conversation with Dean Snell, owner and inventor of Snell Golf balls.  In this segment Dean discusses his approach to ball fitting, his upcoming visit to Canada at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show and his dream foursome.

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7. Golf ball companies are getting aggressive in their marketing of ball fitting approaches. What is your response to this and what would you suggest for someone who would like to determine what Snell golf ball is best for them?

DS – So when I mentioned before being a hockey player there are certain pet peeves that make me want to pull the jersey over their heads and start throwing uppercuts.  This is one of them.  Having someone fit for a golf ball by hitting three golf balls into a net with a driver is absolutely wrong.  Today we’ve done so much work in getting the spin rates and ball speed and launch angles correct.  And off the tee they all go about the same distance.  Hitting a few balls and judging a bad shot compared to a good shot and then say, ‘this is the ball for you, you gained six yards’; it’s just the wrong way to do it.  Over time those golf balls will be about the same distance.  But where you’ll notice it is in the short game.  That’s where you’ll notice a difference.  So a two piece golf ball and a tour golf ball, from 100 yards and in are completely different in performance.  One flies high with less spin, one flies low with more spin.  You’re going to experience the fliers and the jumpers, the bump and runs, or the low hit knock downs with the check; they’re different.  So my recommendation for fitting – you spend so much fitting for your clubs and fine tuning them at a range but the ball counts for every shot.  So take maybe an hour and a half and go out on a course and take all the clubs you’d use inside of 100 yards.  Take the My Tour Ball (MTB) and the Get Sum 2 piece ball and whatever models you play and go and hit balls from 100 yards, 70, 50, 30, chip, putt, and once a group catches you go to the next hole and keep doing the same thing.  Just play a lot of shots from inside 100 yards.  And after the 4th of 5th hole something in there is going to say I like the way it flew high, flew low, checked, bumped and ran, felt soft or hard, whatever it is you like.  Fit the ball to what you prefer there and trust off the tee they’ll all be the same.    Because if you can’t tell the differences inside of 100 yards your game is not ready yet for it and just buy the cheapest one.

MJ – Following up, you mentioned this around the time of the PGA Show in Orlando that the My Tour Ball may be better suited for mid to high handicap players who could benefit more from tour ball performance around the greens.  Could you please elaborate on this?

DS – If you take price out of it, tour golf balls are going to be better for everybody.  The 18 handicap misses 17 greens.  That’s 17 par 3’s the player has to play effectively.  If you play low compression, low spin golf balls you have the worst possible performance the closer you get to the greens.  So that’s where most of your golf is played, it’s where most of your scores happen.  A higher handicap who shoots 90 versus a guy who shoots 72, you have a lot more shots which you play around the greens which you could get better at than the guy shooting 72.  You’re never going to be able to hit a ball that hits and sucks back the way the pros do but you may be able to add some spin on a full wedge which may and roll out 5 feet instead of 15 feet.  You stopped it 10 feet closer.  Maybe your chip stops 5 feet closer that could eliminate one or two 3 putts.  Having an advantage of performance around the greens is what tour golf balls have.  If you can get that you will only perform better the closer you get to the green and that’s going to help you lower scores.

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8. I understand you’re going to be coming to Toronto for the Golf and Travel Show in February. Snell Golf Canada will be present and showcasing your product offerings.  What is your schedule there and when can people come by and talk with you?

DS – My understanding is I will be in the Snell Golf Canada booth on Friday.  I will be speaking on Friday mid-afternoon and also Saturday around noon.  I’ll do a little presentation for everybody and the rest of the time I’ll be in the booth so if anybody has any technical questions or wants to come by and say hi I will be at the Snell Golf Canada booth.

I believe the team will have balls available to sell to people attending the show.  We’ve done this before and it creates a real buzz with golf show participants.

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9. Lastly, what is your dream foursome and what course tops your own Bucket List? Is there a course(s) in Canada you’d like to experience?

DS – Boy, that’s a good question.  My dream foursome would probably include Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bobby Orr and myself.  Those guys to me were the best in their sports during their time.  They are all golfers and I think it would be so cool to listen to some of their stories both on and off the field of play.  I’d love to get some pictures too, it would be great memorabilia.

MJ – That’s a strong list, how about courses?

DS – You’ll have to help me with courses in Canada; I’ve spent much time in Canada in the winter time but not enough in the summer.  Being in the industry so long I haven’t played much golf, things have been busy.  I’d love to play Augusta National, or Pebble Beach.  I’ve been to Pebble and worked there and walked the course but have never been there with my clubs.  Augusta is my first choice just because it is Augusta.

MJ – When you get there, and I hope you’re able to play Augusta one day, take a picture of your My Tour Ball when you stick the green on 12.

DS – (Laughs) I will.

MJ – Thank you for your time Dean.  Continued success.

DS – My pleasure.  Thank you.

Click here to access Part 1 of my conversation with Dean.

Click here to access Part 2 of my conversation with Dean.

 

 

 

Conversation with Dean Snell – Part 2

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

This is the second of a three-part conversation with Dean Snell, owner and inventor of Snell Golf balls.  In this segment Dean discusses Snell Golf’s value proposition, their focus on value through direct-to-consumer shipping and insight on his approach to product development.

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4. My understanding is the golf ball market is highly competitive. What would you say distinguishes Snell from other golf ball companies; what is your value proposition?

DS – There’s a lot of direct-to-consumer on-line companies that are out there that offer good products.  For 25 years I have been fortunate to be in golf ball design, to pretty much understand the patent portfolio that’s out there – I hold many patents myself – and bring what is important to consumers with respect to performance.  Working with a tour player that has a problem keeping a 4 iron in the air and not knuckling and falling out of the sky is a lot different than working with an 18 handicap who doesn’t really hit a 4 iron anyway.  Having that knowledge and understanding of performance is important.  The credibility and authenticity of being able to work with tour players and design golf balls which they use and put their livelihood on the line and win major tournaments is a validation to the product side of it.  We can bring the performance and processes and best materials and keep the price affordable.  Our uniqueness is we have the best performance in golf that we can give and we don’t the high overhead costs like marketing and tour contracts.  We pass that savings along to the consumer.  So there’s a credibility side, a performance side and an affordability side.

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5. The business model for Snell Golf is unique with a focus on online access. What was the rationale for this and what has the feedback been on this distribution model?

DS – There’s a lot of people who like to go on computers today!  The rationale is the traditional approach is to go into a pro shop or a retailer and look at a wall of balls, not really understanding what they are.  A lot of times people are not there to explain them to you nor could they do it if they were there.  So, when you’re online you have greater access to information; we want to use education as part of our message.  We have a forum where people can ask questions and we can provide technical answers.  We have videos that explain how players can do testing and how to go about it.  The website offers an experience that helps give an understanding about what you’re looking at doing; how you should test, which ball you should use.  Those kinds of things you don’t get when you go into a lot of stores.

Also, online shopping is big.  We did our Christmas shopping on a Friday night from home with a nice glass of wine.  It was quick, easy and we were finished.  There’s an ease to online shopping now.  There’s delivery which we can offer and I acknowledge it can take a little time to get it but having these strong technical people who love the social media world get into golf and support it that is a unique niche we’re trying to target.

But things are starting to expand.  We have had a number of pro shops reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, our members want us to carry the ball, do you have a sales rep?’  We say no, if you’d like them we can sell you six dozen golf balls and we’ll ship them free to your shop.  We’ll sell them to you at a wholesale price and you can sell them for the same price we sell them online for.  Your customers still get the savings and you enjoy a nice margin.  We don’t do credit terms, payment terms, and have markups for sales reps so the process is very clean and easy.  It’s a minimum six dozen and if you don’t sell them we’ll take them back.   So that business is growing for us without the high costs that get passed back to consumers.

In the US, many shops make you take a minimum 48 dozen or 36 dozen and you pay the shipping.  You have them there and have to deal with them at the end of the season.  For us, minimum 6 dozen, we pay shipping and it’s much easier.  We process credit card orders and ship next day.  We have pro shops that started with 6 dozen – there’s some in California now who are ordering 24 dozen a week.  It’s working.

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6. You recently made a change, introducing an optic yellow Get Sum ball (my favourite and personal ball of choice, I might add). Are there any new products in the pipeline?

DS – Yes there are.  One of the best things I love about social media sites – and I get up early and I read them all – is that there are blogs and sites where people give us feedback.  My method is I review it all.  There are some who say, I love it, don’t change a thing.  And there are others who write, I’d like it softer or firmer; spin more, spin less; fly higher/lower; all the different attributes people can say.  And I fill in boxes around specific comments.  When boxes get full, there’s a voice there saying maybe there’s an opportunity here.  Everybody has feedback and ideas so we’re not at a place where people say, I love it and don’t change a thing.  I take all that feedback from consumers and it informs my product development.  So based on feedback so far we’re on our fourth iteration (of the ball) based on feedback from players who play them.  We’re looking to create a level of performance based on requests from people playing the ball.  So around something new, I don’t have a launch date yet, or the plans or how it will roll out.  But the specs are almost complete and we have some cool things coming this year.

MJ – So, I’ll allow myself a self-indulgent follow up.  Are there plans for a yellow My Tour Ball?

DS – That question is probably one of the big boxes that get filled in on my chart.  And it’s an interesting question.  The cast urethane yellow is the hardest process to do in golf.  When you make a cast urethane ball you have to pigment the cover to match the colour of the paint that goes on the balls as well.  (Currently) The urethane is pigmented and put a UV stabilizer so it doesn’t turn yellow when it hits the sun.  Then you have to put two white coats of paint to protect it and then you have to put a clear coat of paint over it.  So now, if you want to make a yellow urethane you have develop a yellow cast urethane system for the cover, develop two yellow paint coats to go over it, a clear coat over it and clean it out well so white balls made afterward are white and not yellow when you start to make them because it is a tough process to clean the system out.  So it’s not easy.  The paint system development is a lot of work because getting a white paint when you get the right viscosity when you add fillers and you add colours and you add the parameters of the paint; the dimples get flooded and the ball flies high.   It is very, very hard to do.

The market for yellow tour balls is extremely small.  So we hear the voice today of people asking for it but those are the people asking and don’t represent a large segment of the golfing population.  And I’m not saying we’re not working on it because we are, and having something in the future could happen, but it’s not easy to do.  The yellow golf ball market is only 10%.  That’s with everything, even 2 piece golf balls.  3 piece tour quality balls is only 1% and that is voice we hear a lot from people who want them.

MJ – We’re a vocal minority, thank you very much.

DS – Yellow golf ball sales, in the US market, increase in the fall.  Leaves come down, the grass isn’t as green, and it’s harder to see.  But in the summer time the sales drop quite a bit.  Our studies in our sales show we sell more yellow balls in August, September and October than we do during the rest of the year.  Having something to offer though is good for us, 10% is a decent market size.

Tomorrow – the third and final part of this conversation, including Dean Snell’s dream golf foursome.

Click Here to access Part 1 of my conversation with Dean Snell

Click Here to access Part 3 of my conversation with Dean Snell

Conversation with Dean Snell – Part 1

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

This is the first of a three-part conversation with Dean Snell, owner and inventor of Snell Golf balls.  In this segment Dean discusses his business philosophy, why he turned down Tour players seeking to play his ball, his love of Canada and hockey, and his support for Snell Golf Canada’s commitment to junior golf.

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  1. Dean, your story is well documented – your early history of work in the industry and how you hold numerous patents on golf ball technology. But for those who are not familiar, why did you choose to go out on your own and brand your own ball?

DS – I have been extremely fortunate to work for two of the best companies in the golf industry in Titleist and Taylor Made.  I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to develop products for the best players in the world.  I spent the last 25 years between those two companies designing golf balls and working with tour players and recreational players getting a lot of feedback from players on what they’re looking for in performance, especially the tour players.   I have a lot of good friends on tour and I spent of time with them.  So understanding golf balls and golf ball technology is something that I know very well.

The golf business was struggling a few years ago, with courses closing and people canceling memberships; it’s expensive, people aren’t playing.  What I thought I could do was see if there was a way I could give back.  First, I wanted to make sure my three children were finished with school before I did something on my own.  I wanted to give back through taking the best materials, the best process, and the best performances and create very high end golf balls but not have big overhead costs.  No big marketing budgets and definitely no big tour contracts.   So the cost to make the balls are the same as other manufacturers, the performance is outstanding, but all the savings that I don’t have to pay out I pass back to the consumer.  So the main focus was to keep the price affordable.  We sell direct to our customers, we sell in some pro shops, but we focus on providing performance for average golfers who may have found balls like this too expensive to try.  Maybe if they can have it they can enjoy the game more and maybe play better, play more and help grow the game.  For me it was the chance to give back by providing great performance at affordable pricing.

MJ – With tour pros, have any of them had an opportunity to try your ball and do you foresee a day when a pro may go, ‘No, the heck with it, I am going to be playing a Snell ball’?

DS – We have had that.  We have had five tour players approach us with their agents wanting to play the ball and we declined.  They obviously would be looking for some endorsement money and if I do that than someone has to pay that bill.  I want to make sure that everything that I do with this business that affordability and performance doesn’t change.  Having these things would add costs and that is not the goal.  If I do anything with retail or pro shops I’ll take the margin hit but I want to keep the price the same to continue to provide that level of performance at a price that is affordable.   We did have tour players’ call, they were interested in playing (Snell balls) and we respectfully declined.

We did have three guys on tour last year actually play the ball.  A couple of them got in trouble from their sponsors and they had to switch back.  We had a couple players qualify for the US Open that used the ball.  One player actually qualified for the Senior Tour this year and he used the golf ball for free because he likes the performance.  The tour players who did play it liked it – and I don’t want to give names and get anyone in trouble – but there has been an interest in it.  I think over the next couple years more and more people will be interested.  Some players are seeking contracts of $100,000 or $200,000 but they have putts on the 18th green for that amount.  That mindset is starting to change.  They can take money but if they think performance is better they could win that money back if the ball is better.  I hope that message will continue to get out and our growth on tour will take place that way and keep the price low.

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  1. How would you categorize the success of your work under Snell Golf?

DS – It’s been much better than expected.  It was a nice little project I wanted to start.  It was self-funded with some help from some friends.  What I thought I would do in sales in the first year I did in six months.  And we started direct on-line sales.  We ship free in the United States; it’s a little different system in Canada.  2016 was our first full year and our business was up 400%.  Having something grow 10-20% year over year is nice but we grew by 400%.  I wanted to do a nice crawl-walk-run approach and we went from crawling to sprinting pretty fast.  It’s all good, it’s moving in the right direction and we will continue to support access to affordable, quality product.

MJ – I know the interest the public has in a quality, value ball is high and the example of the interest in the Costco ball is a good example of how something can snowball pretty quickly.  So 400% is extremely impressive.  Is growth for Snell Golf something you see being able to sustain over time?

DS – I don’t see 400% year over year, if so this is a gold mine, but in this industry which I have been in for 28 years the targets are for 10% annual growth.  Our January (2017) was 2 ½ times over the year before and February has been strong too so far.  Now these are the slow months because so much of the country is cold and people are not playing golf.  We’re off to a good start; we have some new things coming in March and April.  Word of mouth and social media have been how we’ve been able to keep the price down on the marketing side and our customers help spread the word.  This is all helping keep our costs down.  Things are moving in a strong and very positive direction.

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  1. As I’m sure you’re aware, Canada is a golf-crazy market with over 5 million people participating in golf annually. Why is it important to have set up direct Snell outlets in countries outside the United States?

DS – I have a real passion for Canada.  I am a hockey player.  I love hockey and it’s my first favourite sport if I have to be honest.  I spent a lot of time in Canada growing up around the game of hockey.  I love the Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens rivalry.  The Canadian market for us is close to my heart.  Looking at our social media outlets I see so many passionate golfers from countries outside the US.  And if there’s a way where we can take what we’re doing here in the US to another country, like Canada or Japan or other places, if we can set it up then we will.  Now it was a struggle when we got started.  It was not easy to get balls from the US to Canada.  We shipped across the border and it was expensive and balls would get returned.  Being able to come up with a solution that fits and offer the product is a home run.  We started in the US and we’re now in 11 different countries today.  Of those 11, Canada is one of our biggest.  We’re excited about it.  Last year was our first in Canada and it started modestly but things are building and we’re excited for the growth and future success.

MJ – Following up, I know the Canadian office has been aggressive in promoting support of Snell Golf Canada for junior golf.  What are your thoughts on that?

DS – I think it’s outstanding.  The future for golf is not with people who play now and have played for 20 years.  It’s going to people with people who are learning it today and who will play it for 40 years.  We have to continue – through sponsorships of junior programs like the team at Snell Golf Canada are supporting – to do things different.  I share the excitement and energy of the Canadian team at Snell Golf for initiatives like this.  Identifying areas that can have a nice impact on the game that can hit a lot of players and help grow the game are things we will support.

MJ – The investment strategy of connecting your brand to junior golf in Canada is great to see.  Snell Golf Canada also piloted an ambassador program.  There are certainly options and working with countries around the world opens up unique opportunities in those areas.

DS – I agree.  We launched an ambassador program here in the US in August or September last year which identified key people in golf in the US.  This kind of effort which gets the word out and helps keep costs down are an important part of our business model.  Having ambassadors to the business is important to us.  If we got into the traditional golf way – endorsement contracts, magazines, TV commercials – which is what we’re trying to keep away from, it helps us manage our costs and we can continue to provide current products and explore future product options.

Click here for Part 2 – great insight on product development.

Click here for Part 3 – Dean’s approach to ball fitting

 

2016 in Pictures – Cataraqui Golf and Country Club

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

 

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The Story: Cataraqui Golf and Country Club will be 100 years old in 2017.  This Stanley Thompson design is located in Kingston, ON.  And while I don’t play many private courses, the chance to play this course with two friends en route to the 2016 Penn Classic in New York State was a treat.  I loved that I was able to meet the Snell Golf Canada team here as well, as they’re based in Kingston.  It was a hot, sunny day…perfect for a round of golf on a classic Thompson course.  Here, I’m glad a double didn’t rattle me to forget to snap this picture.  I guess when you’re last to tee up there’s time to notice the beautiful surroundings.

 

Requiem to the 2016 Golfing Season

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Requiem to the 2016 Golfing Season

OK, requiem may be a little over the top, but the official end of the golf season always makes me a little sad.  Golf Canada sets the Ontario season as April 15 to October 31 and, well, here we are on closing day.  I won’t be playing today and as such my index will remain in single digits albeit precariously so.

It’s been a great and memorable season and I hope the same is true for you too.  Closing day is a good time to reflect back on the year that was.

The bucket list continues to get dwindled down with trips to Tobiano, Salmon Arm, Banff Springs, Stewart Creek and Algonquin to put a healthy dent in the list.  My home province of Ontario is woefully underrepresented and I’ll have to address that in 2017.  Speaking of my bucket list, I have placed a call to followers on Twitter and my FB page for courses to consider adding to my list.  I’ve had about 16 additions and they look sensational.  My goal is to bolster the bucket list to close to 100 courses across Canada.

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What a beautiful day for golf!  A cool, sunny September and first group off at stunning Algonquin Golf Club in St. Andrews By-the-Sea, N.B.

Another great highlight from the year was the chance to tee it up with fellow bloggers and twitter friends.  A spring round in Calgary at the home course of Josh with @golfismental and a summer round with Tiffany @tiffchaisson and @fairwaysfund were memorable highlights.  Playing two private courses as well – Calgary GCC and The Ladies Club were simply a bonus.  But it was the company, spending quality time with two great people that made the experience.

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Tiff, with what may well be the best golfing photobomb shot ever.

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Josh and Mike set to tee it up at historic Calgary GC

I am appreciative of my engagement with the Golf Journalist Association of Canada.  Here, I was able to play with another twitter friend, Jeremy at @meximenno   It was a classy move of Jeremy to fly in from Winnipeg for the GJAC Annual Awards Dinner and Golf Day.  A great round at Beverly Golf Club outside of Hamilton provided the venue for an enjoyable experience with colleagues and friends.

I engaged the amazing services of Herb McNally @McTwentyTwo to develop a new and strong visual identity for 36aday.  Dare I say I have a visual ‘brand’ now.  You may notice a subtle change in my twitter avatar as the logo is now red.  Red will be the off season colour and green will be for golf season.  Thanks for the great work Herb, love it.

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Going with the off-season red until April 2017.

I’m enjoying my continued relationship with Canadian Golf Magazine.  Showcasing my course reviews to a wider national and international audience is something I am very grateful to be able to do.  And while I have yet to tee it up with the Editor, Frank Mastroianni, it is something to look forward to for 2017.

Also, in terms of golf relationships, I am very pleased to be a brand ambassador for Snell Golf Canada.  A true believer in their quality golf balls, I want to help introduce players to these products and allow them to make informed decisions on playing a quality ball at a quality price.  Order online and use 36aday (1-5 dozen) or 36aday6 (6 dozen +) for $2 off per dozen on any orders.  Turns good value into great value.

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My game continues it steady progression.  Working with Brian McCann with Brampton Golf and Country Club has set my game on a firm foundation and allowed me to increase my expectation.  A summer move derailed my playing and practice schedule and my index remained relatively stagnant just below 10.  But recent lessons to maximize my play off the tee raised expectation and help lower scores this fall.  A successful tournament experience at Golf Ontario’s Public Play Championships was a real highlight.

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But my best memory was a quick and casual 9 holes with my Dad at his home course, Oxley Beach outside of Kingsville, Ontario.  I’ll never forget it.  It captures all I love about the game; quality time with people I care about.

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So as the official season comes to an end I’ll continue to play until courses tell me I can’t.  I’ll work on my game and I’ll work on my writing and this blog.  I am grateful for what 2016 provided me and am excited and hopeful for more of the same in 2017!  Best wishes for a safe and healthy off-season.