This is the fourth of a five part interview with Mike Tait, a 31-year PGA Professional and the owner of Oswego-based SMT Golf. In addition to being a golf professional, Mike is a club manufacturing expert and his company SMT Golf has produced a number of top clubs for multiple Re/MAX World Long Drive Champions. Mike is also helping to redefine the golf outing business through SMT Golf Outing Services which provides entertainment and fundraising for golf events. You can learn more about Mike’s services at www.smtgolf.com and www.smtgolfoutings.com.
Chicago Golf Report: So what exactly is a golf ball cannon?
Mike Tait: It’s a little similar to a potato cannon, but it’s modified, and again this goes into that long drive thing. I mean how many people can win the long drive hole and how many of those goofy trophies does this one guy need? But the golf cannon is a modified paintball cannon; and depending on how the situation is, whether tee box, green, mini-single shoot, certainly well over 400 yards, but it completely levels the playing field. So, young or old, male or female, handicapped or not, it doesn’t care.
I got the idea doing a golf ball drop, the helicopter golf ball drop for one group and the 7-year old in me thought it was cool. The helicopter came over and I thought it was cool and we saw a lot of golf balls, marked them up and this guy poured them all up.
But as he was flying over, it was a bad weather day as he had to fly before the clouds and it actually blew up all the grass and the driving range mats. It had become dangerous and of course the women on the golf course, their hair was all messed up and people are losing hats and I am thinking “this is just not the way people want to start the day”.
So, I thought there had to be a way to do the same thing and I originally wanted to do it do it with the sling shot – you know how they would slingshot T-shirts into the crowd at the minor league baseball games, but that would also bring liability. So, I came up with this idea while watching a YouTube paintball thing and modified a paintball cannon, loaded it up and numbered the balls.
We originally started off with numbering the golf balls – closest to the pin on a Par 4 wins the prize. So, we had a bazillion number of golf balls out there and everyone shooting golf balls, laughing, loving it and it worked out perfect.
For people who want a golf ball drop, we do it this way because sure as you are standing here, Mary Jones gets up there and shoots the first ball poorly as she doesn’t get the trajectory – “Mary, come one, hurry up. Go back, buy another golf ball.” We sell a second ball, with half off for the charity.
She shoots the second golf ball, she shoots the second ball equally bad, she will run right back because now her other partner in her group is shooting. So, buy a third ball, something she never would have done in a golf ball drop from the helicopter, and shoots it a third time and now she got three golf balls that are representing her out there and the charities found out we’re actually making 2½ times on average what they would have made with their golf ball drop and people actually have an interactive way to do it.
Chicago Golf Report: Have you used the golf cannon at different events yet?
Mike Tait: Virtually every outing that we have and we have five in a row starting tomorrow; everyone of them has the golf ball cannon there. I mean, they have all heard about it or they played in event where they have seen it. “Can you bring that to our outing? Can you bring that our outing?” is always the thing that we hear.
The golf ball cannon is such a blessing, it levels the playing field. I mean, there are so many different ways to go with it. We have long barrels and we have short barrels. There is no spin on the ball, it’s just a giant puff of air and so the balls have knuckles that comes out. So, there is a little bit of a wiggle, a little bit of a shake to it.
When they miss the fairway, we have a second ball half-off, $5 for the second balls. So, a lot guys shoot it again and of course the money goes to the charities and then the money that’s created is staggering. In Indianapolis, we set a one-day record of $25,000 for teen golf for kids and we were shocked. I was so happy to be part of it over at the Brickyard. Four days later in St. Louis, the Gene Slay’s Boys Club, we were part of the $250,000 dollar event.
Click here to read Part Three.