Guarding Against Golf Crime


Its hard to believe you have to worry about this in a game of honor.
But alas, just as there are sandbaggers and pencil-whippers, there are also golf club thieves out there. One survey says that seven out of 10 golfers have had their clubs stolen, or know someone who has.
There are two responses: Lament the way things are (and as long as youre ranting, kick in a complaint or two about how kids are so disrespectful these days and you cant find a good tomato anymore), or do something about it.
The latter option comes down to protecting your clubs. When you consider that a full set plus bag and accessories can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, its worth the expense and effort to lock things up.
At least one company is approaching the problem in an automotive way: Make the vehicle secure. Burton Golf, the 97-year-old bag company, has revamped and reintroduced the Club-Lok concept it developed in 1998. The new Club-Lok combines a functional bag top (on Burtons Sherpa cart bag) with a retractable steel cable. Once activated with a lever, the top locks all 14 clubs in the bag, and the cable can be used to secure the entire bag to bag drops, racks, or auto trunks. A three-digit, combination wheel lock provides your password. Burtons suggested retail is $189.
Burton saw a specialized need and rushed in to fill it. The Insurance Institute of America estimates that golf equipment theft losses result in more than $120 million in claims ' and thats just the losses that are reported.
Items in a golf bag, including high-investment drivers, favorite putters, jackets, fancy head covers and collectible ball markers ' theyre all precious, says Terry Andre, Burtons VP of sales and marketing. Sure, theres a monetary attachment, but theres also a strong emotional attachment to these goods.
Anecdotal evidence supports the need for some anti-theft action. Many top resorts, at which such activity was once considered unthinkable, report multiple thefts from bag drops and club rooms. Insurance adjusters say they get two to three claims a week during the playing season.
And it seems no one is immune. Steve Flesch had his sticks stolen out of a car in Phoenix in 1999 (imagine replacing your work tools quickly when youre left-handed). Tom Watson had a putter stolen at a club in Kansas City, where hes a home-town hero. Greg Normans roofer allegedly stole (and then panicked, and returned) Normans custom-made Cobras shortly before an Open Championship; the Shark got them back just in time to leave for Scotland. And some criminal, obviously new at this, once stole a set at Doral ' and tried to fence them to local favorite Raymond Floyd.
Andre calls Burtons new offering a problem-solution product, and hopes golfers will respond to the companys education efforts. He also sees a market among nervous golf travelers who cant lock their travel bags without running afoul of the Transportation Security Administration ' with the bag-mounted locks, that shouldnt be necessary, Andre says.
Of course, the committed thief will always find a way. But in most cases, deterrence is enough. Making theft more trouble than its worth should reduce the number of incidents. Security and prevention are likely to become bigger issues as golfers realize they dont have to risk their investments in equipment.
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