The LoBracco household has a foosball, air hockey table and card game table. So it isn’t too surprising that Sal and JoAnn LoBracco, of Phoenix, would design and sell their own game.
Four years ago, they took their sons, Tre and Dom, now 9 and 8, to miniature golf. When they got home, the boys improvised their own indoor miniature golf game from boxes lined up as the green and a hockey stick in place of a putter. They played their game for hours, often taking over the entire living area in their quest for the perfect course. Sal looked for an indoor golf game, but found nothing comparable.
After months of research and consultation with an engineer friend, plastic experts, clerks and customers at the hardware store, they had a working prototype of “Noochie Golf,” named after Dom, the game’s inventor, whose nickname is “The Nooch.”
The game consists of four pieces that can be rearranged to make different holes of miniature golf on high quality synthetic turf surface–the kind that appeals to real golfers who practice putting.
Tre is credited with thinking of the concept combinations of interlocking course pieces to make different golf holes.
The LoBraccos took their game concept to the Chicago Toy & Game Show last November. Luckily, their booth was near the front entrance, sandwiched between giants of the toy industry Mattel and Razor.
Sal and JoAnn say their booth was mobbed and that people had an overwhelmingly positive reaction. JoAnn says, “I wanted complete strangers to hate it or love it.” They didn’t have Noochie Golf to sell at the show—only the prototype.
Sal quit his job a year ago to devote himself to the research and development of the game. He persuaded JoAnn to do the same after the show. They used retirement money to fund Noochie Golf. The family was “all in,” to use a poker term. Inventing, producing and marketing a new product is a gamble, which is not a foreign concept to Sal and JoAnn, who have both been professional blackjack dealers with Gila River Casino.
The LoBraccos started a KickStarter campaign to fund the venture and generate early sales and interest in Noochie Golf. They are working on getting the pieces manufactured, designing the packaging and marketing the first 5,000 games.
The LoBraccos plan to start by selling online since store shelf space is scarce and logistics in brick-and-mortar retail stores is complex.
The boys still love to play Noochie Golf. Their dog Milo loves to steal the Noochie Golf balls from the putting surface. They have plans for future obstacles like a bridge, sand trap and water hole.