The airlines have only themselves to blame for the competition from Ship Sticks.
It was a lost set of golf clubs on a dream trip that convinced Nick Coleman to launch his golf-club luggage service in 2011.
An airline had lost the clubs of one of Coleman's friends on a buddies trip to the Monterey Peninsula to play Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point Club. The friend didn't want to experience golf heaven with rentals, so he bought a new set. That was the last straw for Coleman.
"There had to be a more reliable and secure way to avoid the hassles of the airport," said Coleman, the founder and CEO of Ship Sticks.
Ship Sticks, based in Florida, has experienced triple-digit growth every year since its inception and recently began shipping skis as well.
"People are always looking to the alternative ways to avoid the hassles of traveling with clubs and skis," Coleman said. "If it is low cost, people are willing to try it."
I recently gave Ship Sticks a test run, shipping my clubs while moving from Michigan to California. A UPS driver showed up at my house, attached a printed label to the hard plastic at the bottom of my travel bag and hauled it away. Four days later, it was delivered to my new front porch. No hauling it through the airport. No waiting at the baggage claim carousel. No stuffing it in the rental car. Ultimately, no problems.
Most golfers tend to ship their clubs (and/or golf luggage) directly to the resort or course they're playing first on their trip. Shipping can cost as little as $39-$59 depending on the distance to the destination and the time frame needed for arrival.
Ship Sticks mainly uses FedEx and UPS to transport its packages. Coleman said Ship Stick's tracking system promotes a higher on-time delivery rate than either service -- roughly 98.8 percent for FedEx/UPS compared to 99.7 percent for Ship Sticks.
"If (the golf bags) miss a scan (along the way), we have the contacts to get it upgraded on time," he said.
For the bags that don't arrive according to schedule, Ship Sticks offers $200 consequential insurance that allows golfers to rent clubs, shoes and buy balls and a glove. Anybody who has ever haggled with an airline trying to get reimbursed for lost or delayed clubs will appreciate the policy even more.
Ship Sticks also includes $1,000 in insurance for any lost bag, which does happen occasionally. When another luggage company lost his bag during a move, Brandon Tucker, managing editor of courses and travel at GolfChannel.com/GolfAdvisor.com, was only reimbursed $1,000 -- despite losing more valuable clothing.
Coleman said Ship Sticks has a high customer-retention rate because it works hard on customer service.
"We have been successful at establishing Ship Sticks as a big brand," he said. "We want our customer to understand where their clubs are through the whole journey. We don't want any angst through the whole process. The less the customer has to touch their bag and think about it, the better that process will be."
For more information, see www.shipsticks.com.