What if you actually could buy a golf ball with the pedigree of the Titleist Pro V1 or TaylorMade Tour Preferred at two-thirds of the cost?
Within the last few years, a substantial number of direct-to-consumer alternatives to mainstream balls from big golf companies, like Titleist, Callaway, Srixon, TaylorMade and Bridgestone have emerged.
While a recent lawsuit from Titleist may slow the expansion, and even put a few companies out of business, for golfers that want them, there are plenty of non-mainstream options.
But do you really know what you're buying?
Many direct-to-consumer golf brands have outsourced part or all of their ball designs to 3rd parties overseas. In some cases the people behind the brands have zero actual experience designing golf balls. They're logo guys. They're brand guys. They're not R&D guys.
And so given recent events, we can forgive the natural tendency to lump each and every one of the small golf ball companies together. It's understandable, but it's also a mistake. They're not all the same.
Snell Golf is different.
The Man Behind Snell Golf
It's rare that a golf club designer, let alone a golf ball designer, becomes a household name (even within the confines of golf-centric households). For every Roger Cleveland, there are hundreds of designers whose names most golfers probably don't know. For most of you, I suspect, Dean Snell is one of those names.
So who is Dean Snell? Let's start with the highlights.
Over his 25 year career working in golf ball R&D for Titleist and TaylorMade, Dean Snell has been granted 38 patents (with several more pending), and if you're looking to put that in some real-world context, I'd be willing to bet you've played more than one of the balls that Dean Snell either invented or co-invented.
Have you ever played one of these balls?
- Titleist Professional 90
- Titleist Pro V1
- TaylorMade TP Red
- TaylorMade TP Black
- TaylorMade Penta TP
- TaylorMade Penta TP5
- TaylorMade Lethal
- TaylorMade Tour Preferred
- TaylorMade Tour Preferred X
What about these balls designed for the amateur and recreational golfer?
- Titleist HP2 Tour
- Titleist HP2 Distance
- TaylorMade Burner
- TaylorMade RocketBallz
- TaylorMade RocketBallz Urethane
- TaylorMade Project [a]
Dean Snell played a role in each and every one of them, and that's hardly a comprehensive list of his work.
It's pretty easy to quantify what sets Snell Golf apart from the other direct-to-consumer golf ball brands. The one thing Snell golf has that none of the others can offer is Dean Snell.
Given the experience that Dean Snell brings to the table, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Snell Golf has created a product that rivals that of some of the biggest names in golf.
About Dean Snell
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about the golf industry is that there's no formal R&D training program. There isn't a school that teaches golf club design, or ball engineering. The engineers and designers come from other disciplines. Within the golf industry you'll find degrees in nearly every engineering discipline; mechanical engineering, agricultural engineering (true story), and in the case of Dean Snell, plastics engineering.
Snell attended UMass Lowell on a hockey scholarship, and along with that major in plastics engineering, minored in math and chemistry. After Snell stopped playing hockey he went to work for BF Goodrich Aerospace where he designed parts for the F-16 and Blackhawk helicopters.
While it's not unusual for golf R&D guys, particularly ball guys to have a background in aerospace and aerodynamics, what's perhaps is unusual about Dean Snell's story is that when he answered a Titleist job ad, not only was Snell not a golfer, but his previous golf experience ended with him being thrown off the golf course on the second hole.
Apparently the group behind him hit into Snell's group. His father returned the ball, things escalated, and long story short, the moral of our tale is that you probably shouldn't mess with hockey players.
During his 7 years at Titleist, Snell helped develop the cast urethane cover, and helped design those iconic Titleist golf ball listed above, including the original Pro V1.
When TaylorMade decided to get into the golf ball business, Snell was hired away to build TaylorMade's ball division. As Vice President of R&D for golf balls, Snell built TaylorMade's R&D team, built factories around the world, and worked closely with professionals on every major tour to develop every noteworthy TaylorMade ball, including the company's two most recent premium balls, the Tour Preferred and Tour Preferred X.
A Fresh Start
After 25 years grinding away for the man, Snell decided to start his own company. During his time in the industry Snell has witnessed the ebb and flow of the golf industry. Rather than contribute to the golf consumer's money problems, Snell wants to do his part to help golfers play better and save money.
Snell can't improve pace of play or reduce the cost of a round, but what he can do is offer a true Tour-level golf ball at an affordable price.
Dean Snell hasn't cut costs on materials, or design, or the manufacturing process. The only thing he's cut is overhead. Snell has a small marketing budget, no tour contracts, and because he sells direct to the consumer (with free shipping), no retail margins either. Those savings go right into your pocket.
Endorsement deals being what they are, it's unlikely you'll see any top pros win with the Snell My Tour Ball anytime soon, but for those seeking tour validation, consider that at one time or another, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and countless others have all played and won with golf balls designed or co-designed by Dean Snell.
Two Balls, One Focus
Other than the expertise that comes from 25 years of design experience, what Snell believes separates his brand of the major manufacturers is his focus on keeping it simple. The Snell lineup currently includes two models. The low spin GET SUM ($20.99) is a two-piece ball designed for the golfer who needs help controlling slices and hooks. It's designed for players who want to hit it longer and straighter.
Like GET SUM, The three-piece MY TOUR BALL ($31.99) is also long off the tee, but is designed to control mid iron spin and prevent ballooning, and still offer excellent feel, spin, and control around the green. It's a true tour ball for a two-piece price.
If your not sure which is right for you, Dean Snell recommends playing 9 holes from 100 yards and in. Hit multiple shots with each ball paying attention to how it flies and how it behaves when it lands. Choose the one that gives you the performance you like, but if somehow you can walk of the 9th green and still not see a difference, play the cheapest one, because, says Dean Snell, 100 yards and in is where the differences are found, not off the tee.
If you're still not sure which ball is for you, or just want more info, you can head over to the Snell Golf forums, where Dean Snell personally engages with his customers to answer questions about his products and golf balls in general. It's a part of the job that Snell really enjoys.
I love to work with people, ask questions, see what players like and dislike. Then I go to the drawing board and create the performance players are asking for. For a design guy, the validation is the players putting it in play, and winning with it. For 25 years I have worked with just about every top tour player out there...they are good, they can tell differences, and they know what performance is...
I hope to be able to bring that to everyone at an affordable price. - Dean Snell
Next week will be launching a contest with Snell Golf. Our grand prize winner will receive a one-year supply of Snell Golf Balls.