Golf

On Grand Strand Golf: New company encourages visiting golfers to leave clubs home

Tony Judge
Tony Judge

Tony Judge was a bit irked when he was charged $25 by Spirit Airlines to take his small carry-on bag onto his Sunday flight to Myrtle Beach after attending the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

But it reinforced his faith in his business, which he is introducing to the Myrtle Beach market and hopes to have operational by the end of February. “I don’t mind that because it’s making our business popular,” Judge said.

Judge, a Dubin, Ireland, resident, is the chief executive officer and co-founder of ClubstoHire.com, a company that rents sets of high-end golf clubs for a flat fee of $80 per week.

The company is active in 28 locations worldwide, though Myrtle Beach will be just the fourth in the U.S., joining Orlando, Phoenix-Scottsdale and Las Vegas.

It gives golfers visiting Myrtle Beach an affordable alternative to either traveling with or shipping their own clubs.

Judge was in town to interview candidates to become the company’s primary clubs handler who will store, clean and deliver the clubs. Customers will be able to receive them at their hotel, the airport, a golf course, or another requested location. Clubs will also be picked up at the end of the week at an arranged location.

A $7 insurance charge can cover the user for damaged clubs, lost head covers, etc. Drop-off locations an hour or so from the Myrtle Beach International Airport may incur a delivery charge.

The company was created in 2010 in part because of the high baggage fees budget airlines in Europe were charging. The first location was Faro, Portugal, which is a popular golf vacation spot for Europeans.

“We kind of spotted there was an angle in the market because at the time all the budget airlines were charging large money to put your golf clubs on a plane, and still are in Europe,” said Judge, who added the cost is often between 60 and 150 Euros.

“The airlines aren’t as exorbitant over here in their fees, and Southwest doesn’t charge until you get to your third bag, but pretty much all the other airlines are charging in some manner or form,” Judge said. “We’ve moved our marketing message more away from the financial savings they’ve had to the convenience and opportunity to play with a brand new set of golf clubs.”

ClubstoHire uses Callaway and TaylorMade clubs and Odyssey putters, with options including right/left, male/female/senior, graphite/steel shafts, and shaft flexes. “There is a great variation in flex for the better player to the hacker,” Judge said, “and you know exactly the set you’re going to get.”

Wilson and Mizuno clubs are also available in Europe, and Judge met with representatives of other equipment manufacturers including Titleist and Ping at the PGA Show with intentions of possibly adding their clubs to the U.S. options. ClubstoHire buys its rental sets from the manufacturers.

Malaga, Spain was added as a second location in 2011, and the company now has well over a dozen locations in Europe and at least three in Asia, two in Africa and one in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Judge said the business rented out 70,000 sets of clubs last year, has a database of 48,000 clients who regularly use it, and had its largest volume of rentals last week. “The business has grown nicely,” Judge said.

Judge said he got requests to add U.S. locations from American travelers in Europe, then was advised to look into the Myrtle Beach market.

“A lot of people in the industry I’ve been speaking to over the last two years have been saying, ‘You’ve got to get down to Myrtle,’ ” Judge said. “The market is telling us there’s an opportunity here. … We want to start promoting Myrtle Beach and we’re going to start doing that into our base over there [in Europe].”

Judge said the company offers requests in Europe to equip rented bags with items including golf shoes, gloves, sunglasses, hats, balls, sunscreen, etc. “We’re not there in the U.S. yet but we will be soon,” Judge said. “Then a golfer would be able to essentially arrive in here with nothing else and go play.”

The company has three physical stores located in Malaga, Faro and Lisbon, Portugal. Judge doesn’t yet plan to create stores in the U.S. “If demand comes up we’ll change that and open some retail shops,” Judge said.

Light’s out of Strand

After spending 18 months living in Little River attempting to give his fledgling pro golf career a boost, Tyler Light is moving to Lantana, Texas, and plans to continue his golf career from there.

The 25-year-old native of Massillon, Ohio, regularly vacationed on the Strand with his family, and after playing at Division II Malone University in Ohio he moved to Little River in July 2014.

“It was tough to leave here because I made so many connections here with people, a lot of guys at Barefoot [Resort],” Light said. “Going to Texas, I felt like I needed a change of scenery and better weather. Last time I was out there I felt I belonged there, and that was where I was supposed to be.”

Light drove back to Ohio on Sunday for a brief stay with family before continuing on to Lantana, where he intends to remain before traveling to a qualifier in California for the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada in mid-April.

He tied for fifth in last year’s California qualifier then made three cuts in 11 events with a top finish of 20th on the tour, and was fourth in driving distance with an average distance of 323.3 yards on 23 measured drives.

He hopes to return to Canada to take advantage of the experience he gained last year. Light stayed with families in tour-provided housing at tournament stops last year.

“I like habit and being familiar with the surrounding area, and I met a lot of people up there and made a lot of connections,” Light said. “Going up to a familiar area will be nice, and the people we met were incredible.”

Staying with a host family during a tour event is actually how Light made his connection for his upcoming long-term housing in Lantana. Before going there in October for the First Stage of the Web.com Tour Q-School, he emailed the course’s head pro asking about the possibility of a host family, and he was connected to member Trevor Gleadhill.

Gleadhill’s daughter had recently moved out to play college golf and he also had a 16-year-old son who bonded with Light, as the three participated in activities together including ping pong tournaments and dinners.

Light was considering moving to California or Florida and asked Gleadhill about moving into his home. “I shot him an email and he said I was more than welcome,” Light said.

Light’s not sure of his plans following Q-School in April and/or the conclusion of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour season. “Maybe I’ll stay there in Texas or move back to Ohio,” Light said. “This lifestyle is an adventure, that’s for sure.”

Though his swing was largely homemade, Light worked on his swing some with Alasdair Dyer at Barefoot Resort and more recently with Paul Wilson at Bear's Best in Las Vegas.

Light’s former teammate at Malone, Ben Smith, lived with Light in Little River for a time while playing developmental golf but has also moved from the area and has a job outside the golf industry.

Reopening delayed

The operators of Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club in Conway have extended the length of a renovation project meant to improve drainage.

The course closed in late December and operators hoped to reopen this past Friday. The project includes filling in low-lying areas, enlarging ponds, improving the drainage system, adding vast areas of waste bunkers to some holes, and renovating bunkers.

General manager Ryan McCarty said occasional rain in the past couple weeks has slowed the project, which now is scheduled to be completed on Feb. 19, if not a few days earlier.

Work crews have been productive over the past few days of warm temperatures and sunshine. “We’re working sun up to sun down to get things done,” McCarty said.

Locals earn spots

Will Canipe of Murrells Inlet and Jordan White of Myrtle Beach won the boys and girls local qualifiers Saturday at Myrtle Beach National's West Course for the inaugural Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, which will be played Feb. 13-15 at TPC Myrtle Beach.

Canipe shot an even-par 72 highlighted by a 3-under 33 on the back nine, while White won the girls division with an 86. The qualifier featured 18 boys and three girls.

Three other boys in the qualifier also earned spots that have opened up. Trey Salley of Pawleys Island shot a 74, while Matthew Griego of North Myrtle Beach and Kevin Burris of Conway shot 75s to make the field.

Nearly a quarter of the 90-player field is expected to be international golfers from Canada, China, England, Japan, Philippines, Scotland and Sweden, and many of the top juniors in the Carolinas are also entered.

“A lot of people in the industry I’ve been speaking to over the last two years have been saying, ‘You’ve got to get down to Myrtle.’ The market is telling us there’s an opportunity here. Tony Judge, co-founder and CEO of ClubstoHire.com

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