Rental Sets Making It Easier to Travel Light

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It's a global game. In headlines, that usually means golf has worked its way into every corner of the world, with players of every nationality and ability level.

With me, it just means wherever I am on the globe, I wanna play.

Likely you’re the same. And while we all prefer to bring along the clubs-shoes-balls-and-all in this unfriendly baggage environment – and golf luggage is better than it’s ever been – well, there are times when you just don’t want to deal with all that. Especially when your bag is considered fat and overweight: 'One pound over? I gotta dump three whole sleeves of Pro V1s? Just WHERE did you people go to Evil School?”

Calm down. There’s always the rental option. And it’s not what it used to be. Once, golfers who forgot to pack their clubs or lost them to the mysteries of airline baggage “handling,” called off all first-tee bets when consigned to rentals, or simply bailed out and scheduled a massage. Now, they often find themselves playing better with the stand-ins.

“With the quality of our rental sets, there are many times that our rentals are upgrades [from a guest’s] personal equipment,” says Chad Campbell (not that one), director of golf at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. “Often the rental sets have proven to be more of a test run or a demo of a future purchase. We have had guests buy similar clubs from us following their round, as well as have them call us after they return home to find out exactly what they had because they want to purchase the same thing from their pro.”

And while getting people to whip out the checkbook isn’t necessarily the goal of providing rentals, it doesn’t hurt from a marketing point of view. Callaway Golf has rental sets at many top courses, but not for the narrow slice of sales revenue they generate.

“Rental clubs don’t represent a material gain in terms of sales,” says Callaway spokesman Tim Buckman, “but they provide terrific opportunities to get our products into the hands of golfers, as well as exposure for the brand.'

Well, that’s great for business, but what about our wandering games? Top courses and resorts, especially near the bigger cities, frequently get the luggage-lazy guest, the odd golf-outing participant, or the lucky business traveler whose work has finished early enough for a round before heading to the airport. Having clubs available for these kinds of serendipitous golfers is a crucial part of maintaining a resort’s high-end image.

“Most clubs and resorts provide access to top of the line equipment from the most reputable manufacturers,” Campbell said. “There are also many options available, such as stiffness of shafts – ladies, senior, regular flex, and even stiff shafts. Left-handed clubs are also readily available. Here at Pinehurst we are even able to provide left- and right-handed junior sets for all ages.”

Pinehurst has a relationship with Acushnet, so the resort provides Titleist and Cobra rental equipment, including Scotty Cameron putters. The junior clubs at Pinehurst are from U.S. Kids, and there’s no charge to rent those. Adults pay $75 per round. Pinehurst keeps 96 sets, so it’s usually not even necessary to make a reservation.

But don’t think in terms of sets. Or even just clubs.

“We put in a fleet of [100 sets of] clubs and shoes, based on what we know about golfer volume,” says Steve Friedlander, golf general manager at Pelican Hill Resort near Los Angeles.

Fleet? What is this, the Navy? Well, Friedlander does sometimes see his job as coming to the rescue of a big-city traveler who has the time for golf, but not the gear – hence the footwear. Other little additions that come with Pelican Hill’s Nike clubs include two sleeves of balls. The charge for all this one-day outfitting: $85.

Friedlander, a 25-year veteran of golf resort management, is a Nike staff member, but being so close to major golf manufacturers in southern California, he can even get special-request sets made up if a guest really wants one.

Sure, we all have a relationship with our own clubs. But seen another way, it’s always better to play than not play, right? With modern rental programs, the smart play is to swing east – and travel light.