The developmental golf programming company called SNAG (Starting New At Golf) and the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department are running one of the largest youth golf programs in the country with the hope of introducing the game to hundreds of thousands of kids who otherwise would never have the opportunity to learn the difference between a “drive” and a “putt.”
With more than 250 parks and 16 hub parks, Miami-Dade County has been a model for what other cities can do to introduce golf to a younger generation. But it takes hard work and dedication from community leaders and local professionals who know and understand the game.
“The SNAG golf programs will be so important to our community,” said Larry Levow, director of instruction at the Country Club of Miami and the golf professional spreading the gospel of golf to parks and schools in and around Miami. “In the long run this will change the way kids live. Through golf we are teaching new skills and life skills that will be with them forever.”
Levow, a PGA teaching professional, a member of the South Florida PGA Section and owner of The Whole Game Golf School, is a believer in the SNAG system and how easy it is to teach new learners (kids or adults) with the equipment and programming that has made SNAG so popular for 15 years.
Levow started contacting local parks and schools and he introduced SNAG as part of the Miami-Dade County’s Fit to Play, Life Skills, and Sports for Life programs. In a few short years, Levow now has active SNAG golf training in 44 of Miami-Dade’s parks and he is looking to add thousands more children in Miami-Dade County schools.
He credits Steve Jablonowski, director of County Golf Operations for Miami- Dade County, and Renae Notage, superintendent for Recreation and Program Services, for their important support and success of the programs.
The parks throughout Miami-Dade, such as Tamiami, Gwen Cherry, Goulds, Leisure Lakes, Rockway and Country Village, are doing what the PGA of America and other industry insiders are trying to accomplish as a global initiative. They are teaching the game to inner-city youth; they’re making it fun, and they also are driving home the importance of self-discipline, honesty, integrity, and sportsmanship.
In July, the Miami-Dade Mayor’s office, under the direction of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, launched the inaugural Mayor’s SNAG Youth Golf Challenge at three parks and invited boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 14 to compete in age groups on special short six-hole SNAG courses using SNAG equipment. The championship tournament took place at Tamiami Park on Aug. 11 with the teams from Gwen Cherry Park, Leisure Lakes and Martin Luther King Park taking top honors.
“The kids had a great time competing against one another and they took the event very seriously,” said Terry Anton, CEO of SNAG, who flew to Miami to be part of the championship. “Our SNAG programming is now being used in more than 42 countries and 15,000 schools and golf facilities worldwide. And through our partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association, we have been reaching thousands of kids in parks around the country who sign up to learn the fundamentals of golf.
“I like to say that we are a feeder system to the golf industry. Today’s SNAG players are tomorrow’s golfers who will be buying real equipment, booking tee times, taking golf vacations and joining golf clubs.”
In 2013, SNAG teamed with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus to launch the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, a new national initiative that brings golf to the parks and makes it available for the first time as a team sport. Today, there are five pilot markets (including Miami) that are successfully running Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, and that number is growing every year.
“This is an important stepping stone for the golf industry to capture interest in golf early so that youngsters will transition with confidence from playing with SNAG to using actual equipment on traditional golf courses,” Anton said. “The more fun we make golf for children, the better chance they have to play the game for a lifetime.” For more information about SNAG Golf, visit the website at www.snaggolf.com.
For more information about SNAG golf programs in Miami-Dade County, contact Larry Levow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-879-8456, ext. 249.