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Guarantee Safe Travel of Clubs with Caddie Express

By: | Tue 04 Jul 2017

PAUL HANKIN and a group of friends had booked a golf break to Spain to play in a pro-am. It all seemed a simple enough process – the hotel and golf were booked as one part of the package, the flights and transfer of luggage and golf clubs as another.

Paul flew out with a party of about 40 golfers. They arrived at their destination airport and went off to baggage reclaim to pick up their cases and golf clubs. It should all have been straightforward. His clubs and luggage were there waiting for him, but from a group of 40, only half were able to pick up their golf clubs – the other 20 sets were still back in London because the baggage handlers had failed to load them on the plane.

The airline eventually admitted their mistake and assured Paul's friends that the missing clubs would be delivered the next day. To make matters worse, a number of the missing clubs belonged to professionals who were there to compete for money, and it meant that they lost a full day of preparation and practice.

It wasn't Paul first experience of this sort of thing. On an earlier trip, one of his friends had to wait two days before his golf clubs turned up, while another removed the cover from his driver and the head fell off the club.

"I had run a number of transport businesses in the past, but all of this dreadful service got me to thinking that I could do a better job myself, so I set up Caddie Express in 2011," Paul explained. "In the beginning it was just myself and it was very low key. I hired a van and built it up slowly, taking luggage and golf clubs to destinations around Europe. And we are now at the stage where travel agents are beginning to use us. It was an entirely new concept back then – nobody had thought about putting clubs and luggage on anything other than a plane.

"We have expanded slowly and I now have four vans operating. I have established links with Bespoke Golf Experiences, Driveline, who arrange golf breaks around Europe, Golf Escapes and a few others. We pick up people's golf clubs and luggage and take it to their destination – it means that when they arrive, they can be certain that their clubs and cases will already be there waiting for them. And on the last day of their break, we return to the destination, collect their clubs and cases and take it all back home for them.

"The proof of the pudding with a company such as mine is to put us to the test. Once people have used us they never go anywhere else again. We get lots of repeat business and we also generate a huge amount of business through word of mouth. People use us, like what we do and then tell their friends. They arrive at their destination and when they get there they find their clubs and cases waiting for them, guaranteed. We are the only company doing what we do, the way that we do it. People want good service and they want to make life easy for themselves – and we are here to help with that. We charge a lot less than airlines but, for me, the key to what we do is the convenience that we offer.

"We have one group whose average age must be about 80 and they asked me recently if we were still going to be operating next year. I thought it was an odd question and said, 'Yes, but why are you asking?' The reply was, 'Because when you stop Paul, we will stop too. We are too old to be thinking about taking all our stuff to the airport.' "

Caddie Express operates throughout Europe for groups of 12 people or more, and charges about £65 per person (increasing to £70 in 2018) to countries such as France, Spain, Portugal or nearer home, to the likes of Scotland or Ireland. This covers one set of golf clubs and one case per person, as well as trophies for societies who go abroad to play in their competitions. "It is also worth pointing out that if you use our service then you don't need to buy a golf bag cover," said Paul. "And our customers have complete peace of mind because everything is insured – not that anybody has ever had to make a claim."

Think about this. When you book your trip with the likes of Golfbreaks.com you know that you are going to be staying in excellent accommodation and playing golf on great courses. Then you start looking around for flights, and the chances are that you will opt for EasyJet or Ryan Air because they offer the cheapest flights around Europe. But do they? Do they really? By the time you have added the cost of the budget airline carrying your case and golf clubs to and from your destination, the costs soon begin to mount up. Not to mention the fact that there are weight restrictions on how much you can put in your case. And then there is the worry when you get there – will your case and golf clubs actually arrive on the same flight?

"Anybody who has travelled abroad with golf clubs and luggage will know what a hassle it is," Paul said. "Forget about the cost of getting your airline to do it, although that is bad enough - there is simply the hassle of dragging it all through an airport terminal at one end, getting off your flight at the other end, perhaps picking up your cases from one luggage carousel and then having to get your clubs from another area before having to cart it all to your destination. It is hard work, and we take all of that away.

"If there are, say, 12 of you travelling from a town or city in the UK, by the time you have put your cases and clubs into your car you will be lucky if you can get any more than two people in the car, so that means you need to take six cars to the airport. Add the cost of petrol and parking and the costs just keep mounting up. If you use a service like ours, you would only need three cars."

Increasing numbers of people rent golf clubs at their destination. They may well be the same make and model as the clubs you use back at home, but we all know that there is never anything quite like your own golf clubs. And if you decide to rent, what do you do about golf balls, tees, waterproofs, umbrella etc? If you take your clubs with you, and they turn up, you have no such concerns.

Caddie Express operate all year round. "December, January and February tend to be fairly quiet months, but from March onwards we start to get very busy," Paul said. "And we don't just transport golf clubs. Increasing numbers of people like to take their bikes abroad and we now take cycles abroad for them. Trust me, you really would not want to put a bike on a plane because they are big and bulky and many airlines will only take them if they have been taken to bits and put in a special carrier – we take them in one piece, so people pick them up at the destination and can set off without having to put anything back together again."

In the longer term, Paul believes that Caddie Express will eventually have a couple of bases in Spain, in places such as Malaga and Alicante.

Paul can be contacted at [email protected] or on 07795 551928

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: golf travel

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