Stop thief!

Ten ways to avoid losing your clubs

Bob Warters's picture
Wed, 30 Jan 2002
Stop thief!
Security is vital at all times.
The theft of golf clubs is a burgeoning industry among petty criminals these days, so don’t get caught out.

With equipment costing upwards of £1,000 for a set of irons, metal woods and putter, they have a handy re-sale value on the black market – not to mention what valuables and cash you may keep in the pocket of the bag.

Apart from having my car stolen with a couple of loose irons in the boot, then having a hire car raided for my luggage outside one of Europe’s top courses, which I didn’t discover until reaching the airport, I’ve been lucky.

Golf Insurance?
But never get complacent.

The most embarrassing personal experience came after a match against Cambridgeshire Police at Gog Magog some years back, when one of our opposition – a chirpy 14-handicap, police constable – left his clubs on the patio while we enjoyed a pint in the 19th, only to return to find they'd been snatched.

Road blocks, house-to-house enquiries, Crimewatch appeals, identity parades, you name it. The whole constabulary was alerted by the red-faced bobby but neither the culprit, nor the clubs, were ever found.

In the US over $100million worth of golf equipment is stolen every year from unwary golfers though it’s only a tenth of that in the UK - with ram raids on pro shops adding to the total. It’s a crime wave that can be easily stunted with a bit of vigilance and commonsense.

And with insurance premiums soaring at present, you can ill-afford the extra hassle and expense.

So here’s ten ways to ensure you keep your beloved clubs and they don’t end up in a car boot sale or the pawn shop.

Indeed Ben Crenshaw had to pay a $35,000 reward to retrieve his distinctive ‘Baby Ben’ putter after someone advised him they had bought it for a handful of dollars in a pawn shop.

1. Know how they operate

Dressed like other golfers, they tend to hang around the clubhouse and practice green, casually sizing up players' bags. They wait for golfers to walk away and check in at the pro shop or starter's hut, take a few clubs to the range, or patronise the coffee shop.

The moment the bag is left unattended, the thief calmly hoists it over his shoulder and heads for the car park looking as if he's just completed a round.

Keep your clubs in sight at all times.

2. Keep them in sight at all times

Take your clubs with you whenever you can, or park them in front of the pro shop window or door, or in an attended area where others have left their clubs. Don’t leave them unattended in the locker room or at the bag drop.

After your round take them immediately to your car or locker and if your car is a hatchback with visibility to the boot, cover them with a blanket.

3. Brand awareness

If you play popular and expensive woods - Callaway, Titleist, and TaylorMade are the most targeted - don't advertise the fact. Use plain, unbranded headcovers. Thieves, tend to lift the entire bag, but top of the range drivers are the individual clubs that are in highest demand because they're the easiest to grab and fetch the best black market prices

4. Locking devices

There are several products on the market in which its worth investing, including sensors similar to those in electrical shops, which set off alarms to deter the club thief and the Gridlock system which traps the shafts in the top of the bag under a sophisticated lock and key.

5. Candid cameras

Check out where the almost inevitable CCTV cameras are pointing around the clubhouse and try to ensure that you park your car or clubs in full view of their lenses.

6. On the road…

Take extra precautions with your clubs when you’re travelling. Keep them well hidden at roadside cafes and ideally park where you can keep a close eye on your vehicle.

7. When you’re flying…

"The golf bag is the most problematic luggage when you’re travelling by air, because you know what's in it just by looking at it," an airline pilot and avid golfer once told me. "The thief won’t steal a suitcase with unknown contents if he can grab a golf bag with hundreds of pounds worth of clubs in it, guaranteed."

Make your clubs appear less valuable, by packing them in an old bag and travel cover. A branded ‘staff’ bag is both cumbersome and indicates you probably have quality clubs inside. And remove course bag tags, too. Seasoned golfers travel with innocuous equipment.

An extra tip is drop in a wooden broom handle, slightly longer than your driver to avoid breakages, when bags are loaded.

8. Take them to your room

If you're not on an organised golf trip, where often arrangements for secure club storage are made for you, keep your clubs in your hotel room at night. Checking them in with reception, where security is usually minimal, is asking for trouble.

9.Consider renting clubs

Why take your clubs with you on an overseas trip when, with a little forsight and research, you can discover if rented clubs are available and book them in advance? Besides eliminating possible aggravation, it's an opportunity to try different makes.

10. Always report any loss

If you are unfortunate enough to discover your clubs stolen, always file a report with the local police. Consult your insurance agent to discover if they're covered by your household insurance policy. If not, you will have to produce police documentation to prove your loss. If clubs are stolen from your car, you'll also need to show proof of forced entry to make a claim.

So there’s much you can do to avoid the horrors of losing your favourite equipment, hopefully these tips will help keep thieves at bay and allow you to enjoy your golf without having to constantly look over your shoulder.

Have you ever had clubs stolen? What lessons can be learned? Why not share your views on the Forum.