After years in industry, Snell taking swing at own golf ball business

Golf cart boogie boarding

Some along the Grand Strand are getting creative when it comes to playing in the snow, like this combination of a golf cart and a boogie board.
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Some along the Grand Strand are getting creative when it comes to playing in the snow, like this combination of a golf cart and a boogie board.

Dean Snell’s name is behind many of the most popular and acclaimed golf balls produced over the past two decades.

He’s the inventor or co-inventor of the Titleist Pro V1 and the TaylorMade Penta and Tour Preferred models.

His name is on 38 ball patents, and other models he helped produce include the Titleist Professional, Tour Prestige, HP2 Tour and HP2 Distance, and TaylorMade TP Red & TP Black, Lethal, Noodle, Burner, RocketBallz and Project (a).

After 25 years working in the corporate world of golf – seven years at Titleist followed by 18 at TaylorMade – Snell’s name is no longer just behind the balls he’s producing. It’s now on the top of the box.

Snell, 52, left TaylorMade and began producing his own Snell Golf balls last year, and he says he’s bringing the world’s best golf ball technology to the public at a less expensive price by selling directly to consumers.

“Doing something myself, I can take some of the stuff that I’ve learned and put it all together into something and maybe try to help the game come back a little bit,” Snell said. “Give tour performance to people that could never afford it. Give tour performance to people who were afraid to try it. Those kinds of things were some of the goals I had.”

He’s selling and promoting his products through Wednesday this week during the World’s Largest 19th Hole at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center as part of the 33rd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship, and they were quite popular Monday and Tuesday night.

“It’s priced for amateurs, and what better place to get exposure than a place that has 3,000 to 4,000 amateurs,” Snell said.

The company has two golf ball models: My Tour Ball that sells online for $32 per dozen and Get Sum that sells for $21. The My Tour Ball is a high-performance tour-quality ball. “It uses the best materials, best processes, best technologies and what I think is the best performance,” Snell said. “It’s no different than what the other tour balls’ costs are, but we don’t have the added costs and pass that savings onto the consumer.”

The Get Sum is a two-piece ball that is soft with low spin and is easy to get into the air. “It’s for players who consider straight and in the air a success.”

The names are homespun. Get Sum is derived from one of Snell’s buddies who would say “Get some of that” when he’d hit a good shot.

A testing dozen with two sleeves of each ball is $27. Discount pricing is available for orders of six dozen or more. Snell Golf also sells black or white hats for $20.

Jason Almeida of Pin Tight Marketing created the company’s website and ecommerce system. Marketing is largely limited to social media and word of mouth, and the balls have been touted on numerous golf blogs including Hackers Paradise, GolfWRX and MyGolfSpy. “I read them every day and respond to some and kind of take that feedback to put to some of the new prototypes I’m making,” Snell said. “The people who play are your best source of research.”

Snell offers free shipping in the U.S., and said three PGA Tour players approached him about playing the ball, but he said they asked for at least $250,000 each. “I said I’ll give them to you but I’m not paying you,” said Snell, who said some Champions Tour players have used his ball on tour despite having contracts with other companies.

“I didn’t want big overhead, big marketing budgets, no tour contracts, we don’t sell to retail – all the things that make the price go up,” Snell said. “So I thought maybe just have a niche, online, straight to consumer, and then give them the best products that can be made with the materials and processes that are the best out there, and give it to people to be able to try it.”

Snell played hockey at UMass Lowell and graduated with a BS in Plastics Engineering and a Minor in Chemistry and Math. Before entering the golf industry, he spent three years at BF Goodrich Aerospace and Defense Division where he designed composite parts for F16 and F18 fighter jets and Blackhawk Helicopters.

At Titleist, Snell said he and partner John Calabria worked on a cast urethane cover as a side research and development project for a couple years in a New Bedford, Mass., plant, then worked closely with Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods to help them transition from a balata ball to Titleist’s first mass-produced cast urethane cover ball, the Titleist Professional, which debuted in 1995.

Snell said the cast urethane engineering process allows him to make thin and soft covers that are durable. “The cast urethane cover material to me is the best cover in golf,” he said. “It’s never been replaced and I don’t think it will be replaced. It allows you to give soft feel, nice spin and great durability.”

Snell said creating his own line of balls was on his mind for several years, but he wanted to wait for his children to get through college before taking the financial risk.

The first shipment of Snell balls was in March 2015.

“The timing was right for me to try to do something,” said Snell, who regularly traveled from Dartmouth, Mass., to the TaylorMade headquarters in San Diego over 18 years. “It’s almost like a hobby. I did it almost to have some fun.”

Snell Golf is self-funded with help from a few friends, so his inventory was restricted for awhile. He had to sell balls before he could order more from a manufacturing factory in Korea that was built to produce his TaylorMade balls and still allows him to test prototypes.

But sales have allowed him to expand. He said he sold in six months what he projected he’d sell in the first year, and sales are up 430 percent in 2016.

“It’s been outstanding,” he said. “We crawled last year. This year we’re in the walk phase, or walking fast, or jogging, alright slow sprint, alright full-out run, I can’t lie.”

Snell said he wakes up at 6 a.m. each day, prints invoices and writes a thank you note for each purchase. His son’s fiancée is his office manager, his wife of one week, Paula, works at the business, and two of his friends work part-time packing shipments with him at a New Bedford, Mass., office.

“We put the music on and pack all the orders up and ship them from 8 o’clock to how ever many there are,” Snell said. “It’s kind of fun.”

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin