by Ira Tiffany
At first blush this SNAG thing is right out of a Flintstones episode with Barney and Fred heading off the links to teach Bam Bam and Pebbles the finer points of the game. Bright colors, over-sized clubs, tennis balls for golf balls – not only did this look fun, it downright is fun.
Teaching golf the same way we teach baseball, what a concept – smaller fields, tee it up everywhere just like T-ball, where we all learned our baseball chops, made sense. Perhaps SNAG (Starting New at Golf) is on to something here, teaching golf to kids as though they actually are kids.
SNAG is not a new concept. It is taught and played in schools, Boys and Girls clubs, in summer camps and at church retreats. It is in 41 countries and has been around for 10 years. Japan just crowned several National SNAG Golf champions and teams in multiple age groups. They are crazy about the SNAG game. You just have not seen it here as much because it is rarely taught at golf facilities in the U.S. Professional educators understand how to teach motor skills to kids, and the methods employed by them via the SNAG approach to teaching golf turns 5-year olds into chipping and putting machines.
The fact that golf is not taught and is not accessible to young children in our nation’s parks has not fallen on deaf ears. This recently came to light for a person who has 22 grandchildren, but only one of which plays golf. The grandfather’s name is Jack Nicklaus. He wanted to know why his grand kids could play soccer, baseball, football, basketball and nearly every other organized sport through the National Recreation and Parks Association, but not golf. Good question, and something should be done about it.
Well, something is now being done.
Jack Nicklaus, SNAG Golf equipment and their educational programing teamed with the NRPA facilities to create what is potentially the biggest thing to ever hit the game of golf. The newly formed JNLL – Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues – will be a totally new way to bring the game of golf to children of all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Little League Baseball knows that you teach young children different than the way you teach adults, why doesn’t golf?
What if you have 5- and 6-year olds who have swagger and think they are golfers? What if they are full of confidence and can launch a golf-tennis ball nearly 50 yards in the air? What if they can make par on a reduced course that can be set up to play in minutes on any existing field or even a sandlot for that matter? Is this history in the making or sandlot opportunities repeating itself? Is your lunch money safe from these new course mongers? It is not far-fetched that we might we be providing a fresh and perhaps unlimited stream of new golfers who will “graduate” to the full-size links of America after learning solid golf skills?
The JNLL will be a tremendous boon to the sport of golf, modeled exactly after the steps that Little League Baseball has paved before us; little golf teams with matching shirts and hats having fun playing a game with your friends. How good is that? The little golfers will play on teams and will have team competitions. Even Babe Ruth would be proud of the commitment to give back to the game as exhibited by Jack Nicklaus.
The leagues are forming now, and the pilot cities will be Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. Offered through the Parks and Recreation departments, they expect this will grow to 100 locations after the first year and are already getting international inquires as well.
The initial website for the foundation, GOLF (Global Outreach for Learning Foundation) which will run the JNLL organization, is operational now and Jack Nicklaus is announcing the JNLL leagues at press conferences throughout the country.
Perhaps we are seeing a little bit of history in the making.
Visit www.thegolfoundation.org for more information.