@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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.