In June 2010, with the global golf industry gripped by recession, Irish company Clubs to Hire launched its website aiming to take the hassle out of golf travel. On the 19th of that month, the company leased out its first set of clubs at Faro Airport, but few would’ve predicted the unparalleled success of the business 10 years on.
“A lot of people said it was mad, that it wouldn’t work,” recalls Clubs to Hire founder Tony Judge.
“There were a lot of naysayers out there at the time and without a doubt, there was a leap of faith taken on our part, but there was also a belief that this was where people wanted to go.
“People are into convenience; they want to take the hassle out of travel and that was the opportunity window that I saw. I felt if we could get it out there and exceed people’s expectations, then we had a great chance.”
With airline baggage fees skyrocketing at the time, it didn’t take long for golf tourists to identify a real money saver with the Clubs to Hire offering. What started out as one or two bookings a day soon snowballed into double-digits and quickly, rentals were flying off the shelves in multiples of that.
“Initially we had about 50 sets in Faro. Now we have in excess of 2,000 sets,” says Judge, who highlighted the support of the Irish market, both in terms of word of mouth and media exposure, as a real catalyst to this success.
“Being an Irish business, we relied heavily on the Irish market. Most of our noise and marketing and articles were broadcast into the Irish market. Now, the Irish market is probably our third biggest business market behind Germany and the UK.”
Indeed, the upturn in foreign fairway ventures as golfing sunseekers escaped winter frosts has seen business figures reach all-time highs.
“Faro is still our number one location,” says Judge. “There are about 300,000 golfers travelling down there every year. With 46 golf courses, it’s a busy, busy hub for golf travel. After that you’d be into Malaga, Palma, Alicante. We have shops in Bangkok, Bali, Orlando, Scottsdale, Turkey… we’re always looking at opportunities to grow.”
Today, the company, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this June, handles more than 300,000 annual visits to its website and more than 60,000 bookings for rental clubs at 25 locations worldwide. And given the topic of the day is carbon emissions and how we as a people can reduce them for the benefit of the planet, Clubs to Hire is coming to the forefront in that conversation too.
“It’s a genuine game changer for people,” says Judge. “If we are serious about our carbon footprint, we should be looking to reduce the weight we’re putting on the airplane. A lot of the airlines are looking for people to put less and less baggage on planes and they’re charging you accordingly if you do put it on.
“I think, not just golfers, but people in general are moving to a system of putting less on the plane and if that means golf bags, then that’s obviously good for us.”
With the company’s portfolio ever-expanding, the focus of the business remains firmly fixed on the customer experience with lots of new initiatives available to new and existing renters this season.
“We’ve brought a lot of exciting new products in – we’ve introduced PXG, Cobra and PING to the range,” Judge added, who set up a sister-company, Clubs to Buy that sells reconditioned ex-rental sets online.
“We always try to stock better sets than people have at home and a lot of people do use the opportunity to rent a set and trial it before they buy it.”
“We’ve recently launched a loyalty scheme for our clients as well. We have close to 60,000 clients and we’ve rewarded them all with bonus points for previous bookings and if they’ve registered, we gave them 500 additional loyalty points in the new membership area that comes with a number of benefits.
“We also offer free sleeves of TP5x balls for every set of TaylorMade clubs booked and we do group deals that include additional benefits like a free set or a prize of a TaylorMade holdall bag so we’re constantly trying to reward our customers.”
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58,000 – the number of sets Irish company Clubs to Hire leased out across 25 destinations in 2019. That’s 1,740,000lbs of weight, nearly the equivalent of two Boeing 747 aircraft, that didn’t have to be lugged around the world in the name of golf
When American Airlines obtained FAA approval to replace its large flight manuals with iPads – flight manuals weighed 35lbs – similar to a set of golf clubs – to an iPad weighing less than two – it’s estimated the airline saved $1.2 million and 400,000 gallons of fuel over the course of the year.
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