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Gerry McKernan, co-founder of ClubstoHire with Patricia Callan, SFA

Gerry McKernan, co-founder of ClubstoHire with Patricia Callan, SFA

Gerry McKernan, co-founder of ClubstoHire with Patricia Callan, SFA

FORTY years ago, ski-lovers jetting off on their winter holidays had to carry their skis on the airplane. Today, that's virtually unheard of; the norm is to pick up rental skis at destinations. If Irish company ClubstoHire.com has its way, golf clubs will have a similar fate. In fact, the company is already making inroads into the psyche of golf travellers.

Set up in 2010, ClubstoHire.com operates 22 locations around the world. It has a presence in South Africa, Turkey, Cyprus, Ireland, the UK and Iberia. Its customer base is worldwide, however.

In the past two years it has opened outlets at Malaga and Faro airports, and plans to open a further five shops very soon.

Nominated in the Innovator of the Year and the Small Business Exporter of the Year categories at the SFA National Small Business Awards, this is a company that is literally changing the face of the golf travel market.

"Up until we came along you could hire clubs but you always had to seek them out," says Gerry McKernan, who set up the company alongside business partner Tony Judge.

"Last year we had 250,000 hits on the website, and did 60,000 hires. That's probably going to hit north of 75,000 in 2015. Golf travellers no longer need to carry their clubs, and no longer need to pay the excess baggage charge. They can also sample the latest clubs on the market," says McKernan.

Many golfers are particular about their clubs, but the ClubstoHire model allows them to try out the latest golf club releases before they buy. "It's de-risking their future investment."

HSBC, a significant sponsor in the golfing world, presented ClubstoHire with the inaugural Golf Innovation Award in 2014. The award was presented in Abu Dhabi - another location being eyed up by the firm, alongside Dubai.

Judge, meanwhile, has relocated to the US for several months to explore the market there.

GROWTH

McKernan says he expects significant growth in the business as it breaks the US market. At present it has 32 staff, but this figure could grow by 15 to 20 on the back of success in the US.

There are no bank borrowings on the business, but golfer Paul McGinley did come on board as an investor, and acts in an advisory capacity.

From a marketing and strategic perspective, McGinley's addition to the line-up was genius. As well as being popular in the golfing world, he holds sway with golf manufacturers.

"When we set out in 2010 the world was on a downward spiral. Nobody believed it would take off so effectively. ClubstoHire had to challenge the norms, and still does," says McKernan.

The firm's next move is to retail the pre-loved golf clubs - it has more than 4,000 sets of golf clubs at present, which will eventually be sold to make way for newer sets.

And as it shores up the golf retail market, ClubstoHire.com has other innovations up its sleeve.

"We tend to concentrate on what we do best, and what we do best is rent golf clubs, but there are a number of other innovations we are looking at," says McKernan.

Take a trip to www.clubstohire.com

Irish Independent