It’s OK to fly coach, but at least send your golf clubs first class
I’m very close to my golf clubs. It feels like I’m loading my children onto the oversized luggage ramp at the airport when we part, before renewing acquaintances…at some distant point in the future after the plane lands—all the while hoping the baggage handlers deliver my loved ones intact. There was that one time when my driver was beheaded, despite the top of my golf bag being bubble-wrapped. And another time when I flew to Los Cabos, Mexico, and the golf bag went to Bismarck, North Dakota.
I’m not alone in begrudgingly flying with my clubs. Lugging golf travel bags through airports is as many giggles as Navy Seals boot camp. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure the U.S. Customs queue at Pearson International alone measures 112 kilometres. And then, of course, there are the baggage fees. Let’s use Air Canada as an example. Assuming your packed golf travel bag is under 50 pounds, the first checked bag is $26.25; $36.75 for a second bag. But what if it’s more than 50 pounds? Try $78.75 each way, including taxes. More than 70 pounds? They take your firstborn.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ship your golf clubs separately, by someone who really, honestly cared about them arriving safely? Allow me to introduce you to Ship Sticks! Founded in 2011, the Florida-based operation works hand in hand with the world’s major couriers to pick up your packed travel bag from home, office, golf club—wherever there’s a physical address—and deliver it to the destination of your choice.
The process is as easy as pie. After logging on to ShipSticks.com, you click “Ship Now” and fill out the appropriate fields, including your pick-up/drop-off dates, then choose your bag size and insurance. Then print the shipping labels, pack your bag as you would for airline travel, attach your shipping label with clear packaging tape and place a copy of it inside the travel case or box. Ship Sticks coordinates things from there and sends an email when your clubs arrive at their destination. And as with most courier shipments, you can track your clubs while in transit.
Within the confines of the U.S., it’s a no-brainer. Ship Sticks charges $39.99 US (45 pounds or less) to $59.99 US (up to 56 pounds) for domestic deliveries. If you’re crossing borders, duties come into play, and fees jump from $99 to $299, depending on where in the world you want to send your sticks.
The idea is clearly catching on. The company will ship in excess of 100,000 sets of club worldwide this year, notes CEO Nick Coleman, whose firm has added two more verticals to its portfolio: ShipSkis last year and TripLogic this coming fall for luggage.
The initial business model was to partner with top golf facilities from around the world—3,500 to date, including 87% of the top 400 courses ranked by Golf Digest, from Bandon Dunes, St Andrews, PGA National and Shinnecock Hills, right down to mom-and-pop operations. But the company’s more recent focus has targeted individuals travelling with clubs for pleasure or business. To that effect, Ship Sticks rolled out a multi-year marketing deal with NBC/The Golf Channel on June 1 to help spread the word.
Among those already using their services are PGA, LPGA and Senior Tour professionals, as well as a host of celebrities and corporate CEOs. Even those who didn’t use Ship Sticks have benefitted from their services. “Matt Kuchar recently lost his clubs with UPS—the shipping label had come off—but because of our connections, the carrier called us and said, ‘We have this golf bag here.’ So they sent it to us and we worked with Matt’s agent to have the clubs returned to his client’s attention,” says Coleman. “Same thing happened with the bag of a senior level executive of Fox Sports. Some folks have used us since because they trust us more than the actual carriers.”
And cross-border transit is getting even easier, says Coleman. “In the next 30-60 days, you’ll have the ability to process an international shipment on our website on your own, without having to call us to complete your customs documentation.”
So why not courier your clubs yourself? “We’re 30%-50% cheaper than using FedEx, UPS, DHL or another courier due to the volume discounts we receive,” says Coleman. “And we have tracking teams internally that make sure the bag gets picked up on time. That’s our value-added—that everything takes place when it’s supposed to, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
And why not simply use the airline and spend less to check your luggage? “The key is convenience, as well as the customer service we provide,” says Coleman. “The service has been especially popular with clientele travelling internationally—someone, for example, meeting their wife in London before driving to Scotland to play golf, where they aren’t using their clubs right away.”
It also provides clients the opportunity to avoid checked luggage and save valuable vacation and business time, Coleman notes.
And why not rent your clubs on the other end? “When you’re playing at some of the world’s finest courses, or in competitions or just taking on a demanding layout, you want to have your own clubs,” Coleman says. “And if you’re renting clubs for up to $50 and playing four times, it’s more expensive than shipping your own clubs!” And you’d also have to pack shoes and, God forbid, purchase golf balls at a five-star resort.
What happens if the clubs are delayed? “It’s one of the reasons why we stress the importance of your travel bag not exceeding the dimensions noted on the website—so that it doesn’t get pulled aside for some reason,” says Coleman. But if there are unforeseen delays, Ship Sticks will pay for the rental of the clubs, shoes and for your golf balls until your bag arrives, he notes. “It’s about the level of service we provide in getting the clubs from point A to point B. We have a lot of people who have used our service that won’t fly with their clubs again. Now they’re even shipping their skis and luggage with us!”
I’m personally going to avail myself of their services for a trip to Scottsdale this month. Half an hour earlier to the resort, I figure, and half an hour quicker to the office for a meeting when I return.
I just hope the kids don’t mind flying alone.
To contact Ship Sticks, log on to ShipSticks.com or call (561) 429-3900.