Rental clubs take a weight off tourists' shoulders


CADDIE'S ROLE:It is a convenient and relatively affordable way to avoid the hassle of lugging your clubs on holidays with you, writes COLIN BYRNE

THE GOLF holiday we all look forward to once a year, perhaps every 18 months these days, can be a bit of a logistical problem when it comes to lugging the clubs and gear alongside the well-packed suitcase.

On top of extracting your bats from their home in your club locker, the trip to the airport and the shuttle from the car-park often can spoil the start of a supposed relaxing holiday. That’s before the check-in and the extra charge for the luxury of having your equipment with you for the big overseas golf fest.

So as I was planning my holiday to the south of Spain a few weeks ago I decided not to click on the “sports equipment” option to include my faithful spanners and stuck to the one piece of check-on luggage. I decided to look elsewhere for my weapons for my annual golf vacation.

We are well accustomed to renting a car when we head off on a foreign trip these days although it was not always the norm. Originally we relied on taxis or a tour bus to transport us. But gradually it became normal to rent a car abroad. There was a transition period before it became acceptable. I wonder when it will be too embarrassing to be seen hauling your clubs though an airport because it is so unfashionable?

With you can simply pick up your clubs of choice at seven golfing destinations throughout Europe. It is a convenient and relatively affordable way to avoid the hassle of lugging your clubs on holidays with you.

Having booked my flight, accommodation and car I then went on my maiden voyage through the clubstohire web site. It took me a while, back in the era of travel agents, to accept booking flights and accommodation online. Of course you could not travel without such a facility today. How quickly the system has changed and its been a long time since I consulted a travel agent.

So I continued my ground-breaking mission of yielding to the easy lure of the rental set of clubs for my 10-day trip. I put in my destination, Malaga Airport, and continued with the “right-handed male” detail on the web page – women’s and kids’ clubs were also available. My choices included all the top brands, including Callaway and TaylorMade.

Not being very adventurous with web sites I opted for the first choice – Callaways with regular shafts. I have some old-fashioned lack of detail when it comes to specifics with clubs, and continue to fool myself that a sound mental attitude will make up for unsuitable equipment. So despite the option for stiff, longer than standard shafts with upright lies, being of average height and ability I kept it simple.

For my 10-day trip I was going to have to pay €75 for the clubs. I was feeling rather buoyant about, not only the ease of the process and the thought of a less burdened back at the airport, but equally the cost was roughly the same as bringing my own set.

I have seen the trauma at some of the many tour-stop airports that have spectacularly made professional golfers’ clubs disappear over the years.

I have also been witness to unusual post-flight warping of clubs in transit. Professionals are likely to pick up on the slightest kink in their equipment. Amateurs are less likely to notice all but the most obvious imperfections. How adjustable average golfers are to variables in our gear – either that or we don’t even notice.

I am not suggesting your clubs will be warped after a foreign flight but they are less likely to be so bent coming from a rental outlet (where you can check before selecting them in the store).

So arriving in Malaga Airport, the waft of southern European balmy summer air hit me as I exited the terminal in search of a shuttle bus to take me to my rental car company which turned out to be further away than the “clubs to hire” office. Its very location is a reminder of just how akin the process of renting clubs is to renting a car. The office is in the heart of rental car outlets.

The office assistant, although clearly not a golfer, was most helpful in getting me set up with a suitable set for my 10 days on the Costa del Golf. My chosen set was waiting for me with my name attached to the bag, amongst a sea of Callaway and TaylorMade sets. There must have been well over 100 bags standing on the floor.

I took out an iron just to do a quick audit. The grips felt like they had been buffed and polished under the hot Andalucian summer sun. So without any drama I was upgraded to a set of TaylorMade Burner 2 irons with R11 fairways woods and driver. I got to choose a putter from a wide selection grouped in a separate bag. I signed for 13 high-quality clubs and headed off ready for my first golf experience with a rental set. What a great way to try out clubs without the commitment of buying.

You also have the option of renting shoes and purchasing balls and gloves at the office. With October and November appearing to be high season for club rental in southern Iberia it is no wonder one airline is offering free club haulage to their Faro destination for November.

Perhaps the club rental company has out-manoeuvred the savvy airlines in their quest for charging for marginal items. Their business has sent a shot across the bows of the airlines to the benefit of the casual holiday amateur golfer who now has a viable alternative to unnecessarily lugging clubs across the concourses of Europe.