My least favorite part about flying with my golf clubs is lugging my sticks onto the rental car shuttle bus.
Those buses are usually crowded, especially at airports like Dallas-Fort Worth or Phoenix where all the car companies share the same shuttle, and there often is no space in the luggage rack.
Traveling golfers have two good options: Taking their clubs with them or shipping them ahead. I'm a platinum-level flier on American Airlines so I don't pay baggage fees but the average person gets socked $35 or $45 for a second piece of luggage such as a golf bag. Round trip, that adds up.
Shipping your clubs ahead is even more expensive, usually $60 or more each way, and one well-known golf club shipper picks your clubs up four or five days before your departure and doesn’t return them for four or five days until after you return. So you're without your clubs for days at a time while you're home.
A bad third option is renting a set of clubs at a course but you frequently get clubs ill-suited for you.
Now there's finally a good third option: Clubs To Hire.
It's a European-based company that just started operating in the United States. Basically, Clubs To Hire rents you a set of clubs to use while you're at your destination. You pay a weekly rental fee, from $80-$110, you reserve the exact set of clubs you want online before you go and the clubs are delivered to your hotel (or wherever you prefer) after you arrive.
“We started five years ago in Europe,” said company founder Tony Judge. “The budget airlines in Europe were charging an arm and a leg to put golf clubs on planes, plus there's the hassle that goes with it and clubs were ending up at the wrong destination. That's where our business came out of.”
Clubs To Hire will rent you clubs in Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix and is just opening in Myrtle Beach. Those are the only U.S. locations so far but more are expected soon. Clubs To Hire rented 70,000 sets globally last year.
"It's pretty cost-effective and it gives you the opportunity to try out the latest clubs on the market," Judge said. "And it's very convenient, your clubs are delivered and picked up at your hotel at a time you choose."
Here's how it works: Let's say I’m going to Las Vegas and I don't want to haul my own clubs. I log on to ClubsToHire.com and put in the dates of my trip.
The website (Clubstohire.com) has a live booking engine, which means it shows you what clubs are available. You pick out what you want—graphite shafts, steel shafts, senior flex, ladies flex, they've got it all. The company's goal is to have quality new clubs available--in the U.S. now, you can get the Callaway XR clubs or the TaylorMade AeroBurner woods and RSi irons. The TaylorMade M1 clubs should be available soon. For putters, you can choose between a mallet style (like an Odyssey Two-Ball) or a blade style (like a Ping Anser).
Once you've reserved your set, you're offered the chance to buy insurance for the week for $7 (it covers lost or broken clubs, headcovers and the rest). Then you plug in your address and payment information.
A Clubs To Hire rep contacts you to arrange delivery. Want to just meet him in the Bellagio lobby at 9 a.m.? Done. Or the rep will drop your clubs with the hotel bellman, who will send them to your room.
In Orlando and Myrtle Beach, Clubs To Hire charges about $80 per week for a set; it’s $100 in Phoenix/Scottsdale and $110 in Las Vegas.
"The weekly model works well, particularly for the golfer who's going to play three or four rounds," Judge said. "If you get a rental set at a course or a resort, it's usually $40 to $80 just for one round."
Serious golfers will appreciate that they can custom-order the clubs and shaft flex they want, plus there's the Demo Day aspect of the rental. Here's your chance to try out the new Callaway XR clubs or the TaylorMade M1.
In Europe, Clubs To Hire will provide tees, golf balls, gloves, hats and shoes for an upcharge. That extra service isn't yet available in the U.S. -- give them time -- so you’ll have to bring your own tees and balls or buy them upon arrival.
Clubs To Hire has an interesting business model. Anything that helps me avoid taking my travel bag on the rental car bus can’t be bad.