Road warriors, should you rent golf clubs or should you schlep?

Image of beat-up golf clubsI HADN’T warmed up with my rental clubs at Savannah Harbor, but I trounced my square TaylorMade driver and there I was on the first hole looking at a 95-yard approach to the green.

A little wind. A bunker in front of the flag. And, rental clubs. Uh, 9-iron?

Really, when you think about it, it was a stress-free shot. Because if it wasn’t right, I had all of these excuses. That’s one of the beauties of renting golf clubs rather than schlepping.

BUT, THERE ARE OTHERS. FOLLOW THE BULLET POINTS ON WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO RENT GOLF CLUBS.

  • For one, no schlepping. Take along a pair of shoes and a hat – at most courses that offer rental sets, one can count on a sleeve of balls in the deal. At Savannah Harbor, the nice starter anted up a few extra previously driven balls to compensate for my lack of local knowledge.
  • For another, one tends to actually warm up and practice a bit with alien clubs. Even hitting a few balls at the range to gauge distance will loosen us up more than the usual exercise of putting on the shoes and ordering the Bloody Mary.
  • Often, the clubs are newer than the ones you’ve been playing for the last six years. Most destination courses, in collaboration with the club makers and service providers, rotate in new sets (the better the
    course, the higher the likely price point) every year to two. At the Golf Club at Amelia Island, I found out that I really do like some golf clubs made for women. (They were Pings.)
  • And, one gets to try out all kinds of clubs. It’s like online dating only safer and with even less obligation. No one is trying to sell you these clubs, not overtly anyway, but you might still be buying. At some courses – Wailea Golf Club comes to mind – premium sets offer even more temptation.

“Our premium demo sets are for the avid golfer thinking of buying new clubs,” Wailea Director of Golf Rusty Hathaway said. “We’ve got TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist and Ping sets here, and, yes, we do have some in ladies fit.”

The demo sets ran closer to $100 and the regular club rentals $60 at Wailea – and the latter represents a savings for many travelers over toting their clubs along. It’s typical to incur a charge of at least $30 for checked baggage, and that’s only the first piece; golf clubs could easily cost $100 to transport roundtrip, and more if they weigh in at more than 50 pounds.

MY EXERCISE IN RENTING GOLF CLUBS

For this story, I used a different rental set every day for five days in Maui last December, and then took another trip where I used observations that might be helpful if you’re debating whether to rent or to schlep.

Schlepping made a lot of sense to me because I was changing venues every couple of days. That gets old enough with just a suitcase, much less golf clubs. If I were staying put for a week, I could see bringing clubs – unless the resort offered rentals in a package, as many are starting to do.

For me, finding a good fit proves challenging because I am tall and “ladies” sets do not fit me well. At Kiawah Island my caddie ran inside at the turn to fetch me a “men’s” driver I was able to hit much straighter on the back. But men’s irons often are steel-shafted in rental sets; that seems harsh. A try with so-called senior clubs also landed steel shafts. I played my best round with “ladies” clubs on the last day.

I found out that a given course may have different putters in otherwise similar sets, or have some demo putters. Ask in the shop about your options. After all, isn’t this our most important club?

And, it definitely takes a forgiving attitude to play with rental clubs, which may not do what you expect them to. That 9-iron on the first hole at Savannah Harbor? Yes, I know, you’ve been waiting. It got up in the air beautifully and came up about a yard short of the green, nestling cozily in the bunker.

All there is left to say after that is, wish I had my own sand wedge.

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