Youngsters swing away for the first time

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Addison Averett, 7, takes a swing at a ball Thursday using the SNAG Golf system at Vicksburg Country Club.

Addison Averett, 7, takes a swing at a ball Thursday using the SNAG Golf system at Vicksburg Country Club.

At their instructor’s call, a dozen excited children burst through the door and rush to the nearby putting green at the Vicksburg Country Club.

There, two large, velcro-lined targets are set up for the children to aim at. As they pick up the oversized clubs and start smacking at tennis ball sized golf balls, the scene resembles one from the Fisher Price driving range playset.

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In actuality, it’s Vicksburg’s newest teaching tool for young golfers.

The SNAG system — an acronym for “Starting New At Golf” — is designed as a fun way for children to embrace the game. It uses the oversized equipment, as well as a padded suit for the instructor to wear while young golfers take aim, to teach the fundamentals of a golf swing.

“I look at it like baseball. A 5-year-old doesn’t begin with a fastball. They start with teeball,” said Chris Rutherford, the director of instruction at Vicksburg Country Club. “It’s designed to make it fun.”

The SNAG system features brightly colored, color-coded targets and equipment. Golfers typically line up about 10 yards away and try to get the balls to stick onto the target.

One of the good things about SNAG, Rutherford said, is that it can be used almost anywhere. It’s difficult to hit the ball very far, so it can even be used indoors.

“A good golfer might be able to hit it 100 yards. Kids can hit it about 25 yards, You can set it up in a field, on the course, in a room, anywhere,” Rutherford said. “It rained during our camp last week and we set it up in (a dining room).”

Although children are the primary focus of SNAG, Rutherford was quick to add that it’s not the system’s only market. It can help adults learn the game, too. Rutherford said he has ideas for a SNAG skills competition and a three-hole scramble to increase its reach.

SNAG is also becoming the centerpiece of VCC’s campaign to get more people involved in golf.

The Country Club is offering free SNAG lessons for children of its members. SNAG is also a part of VCC’s summer camp, which is open to non-members for a fee of $180 per week.

“We’re trying to promote awareness of the new golf program and promote golf for children,” VCC board member Hunt Gilliland said.

While SNAG is gaining popularity among VCC’s youngest members — three children attended its first summer camp in early June, and a dozen were there a week later — the best is yet to come.

Rutherford said the padded suit, a featured part of the system, is on back order and won’t be in for a couple of weeks. The suit looks like those worn by dog handlers and has several big, bright targets for golfers to aim at.

Rutherford said he was looking forward to putting it on.

“A friend of mine who has done this said there’s no greater fun than putting that thing on and having them hit golf balls at you,” he said with a smile.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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