As much as we enjoy our ClubGlider Meridian golf travel bag, we wouldn’t mind some even more hassle free travel. Say for example if someone could pick up the clubs from our house and deliver them directly to the course. On time. Undamaged. Now that would make our lives easier.
Therein lies the premise for Ship Sticks, a company that provides delivery service for your golf clubs. Our recent trip to Erin Hills seemed like a perfect time to test out the Ship Sticks service, which we used for a 3-stop tour from our home in California to the Erin Hills golf resort, from Erin Hills to a residential community where we were staying on an extended vacation, and then back to our home in California. Since we hadn’t used a club-shipping service before, we teed up a few questions for Ship Sticks to get us started (much more info is available on the Ship Sticks FAQ). We think these are answers to the top questions that others will have as well:
- The clubs can be shipped in a standard golf travel case (soft or hardsided) – they don’t need to be enclosed in a shipping box.
- There is a 42 pound maximum to qualify for the “standard size” service (well, really 48 pounds, more on that below) – beyond that you’ll need to go with the “staff/XL” service, which offers up to 56 pounds at a higher price.
- You can pack clothing and other additional items in your travel bag, just as you would for a plane flight, subject to weight and content restrictions. NOTE: Do not include any other items in your bag if you are traveling internationally, or you will risk having your bag held up in customers. Thanks to reader Paul for the information on international travel.
- You can have the clubs picked up at your residence, place of work, a hotel or resort – basically anywhere that UPS can pick up or drop off. You can’t select the shipper that actually handles your clubs, but in most cases this will be UPS, as it was for us for all three segments.
- There is no additional fee for having clubs picked up (versus dropping them off at a UPS store yourself) – sweet!
- We break down the pricing at the end of this review, but to summarize: Ship Sticks is the lowest-cost solution of the best-known alternatives, though in most cases it will still cost you more than taking a bag with you on your flight (even with a second bag fee).
- $1,000 of baseline insurance is included (you can purchase up to $3,500 of coverage at a relatively nominal fee), and there is $200 in “consequential insurance” included for delayed shipments. Oh, and if anything does happen, you only have 5 business days from the scheduled delivery date to submit a claim.
When we contacted Ship Sticks customer service with our questions, we were put through immediately, and the representative was very polite and had quick answers. We also tried the live chat on the Ship Sticks website, with connections within 15 seconds both times (impressive) and fast answers, as you would expect in a live chat. The only noticeable hiccup was one agent simply not responding to a question for 10 minutes(!) in our second chat. We’re guessing most prospective customers would have abandoned the session, but we stuck with it because, dear readers, that is just what we are willing to do for you! Plus we were multitasking anyways.
Comfortable with the answers to our questions, we signed up for a free account on Ship Sticks, and then filled in the necessary information about our trip. The process of setting up a shipment can’t be any simpler: enter your contact information, the pickup and destination addresses (if you are shipping to a resort that has a relationship with Ship Sticks, the resort’s address will be pre-populated in the Ship Sticks system), your pickup (or dropoff) date and date of arrival. You’ll want to make sure the date of delivery of your clubs is at least one day prior to your first day of play at your destination. You don’t want your clubs arriving at 2 PM on a day when you have an 8 AM tee time, do you? The Ship Sticks representative we spoke to by phone, who would prove to be quite prescient, recommended that we give an extra day buffer on shipment for peace of mind (a Wednesday arrival of clubs in advance of our first day of golf on Friday). Fair enough. Either way, our clubs were going to be in transit over the weekend prior to our first leg, so the loss of one more night at the range wasn’t a dealbreaker for us. More important to us was selecting the lowest-cost method of shipment (details on pricing below).
So to reiterate, you select the number of bags to ship, the size (standard or staff/XL), and amount of insurance (the price of additional insurance is independent of the distance and shipping method selected). Ship Sticks recommends $1,500-$2,000 in insurance, depending on which of their web pages (no that is not a typo) you are visiting. Then, based on where you are departing from and heading to, you’ll receive up to four different arrival date options and the prices for each: Next Day Air, Second Day, 3 Day Select or Ground. Note that days of shipment only include business days, so it excludes Saturdays and Sunday. For $199 you can get Saturday delivery, which is required to be an overnight shipment (more on this below). There is no pickup on weekends. Depending on how far your clubs are going and where they are going, you may not have all four shipping options available, and on occasion you may find that two of the options, such as Second Day and 3-Day Select, are both available at the same price (same price and faster service? Sounds good to us!).
Select the delivery option and enter your payment, then print out the labels that are sent to you in a confirmation email. Attach one label to your travel case or box, put a second label inside your case/box, and you’re done.
Home to Erin Hills
We requested, with just one day advance notice, that our clubs to be picked up at our home. The Ship Sticks team said that residences normally have afternoon/early evening pickup and deliveries between 12-6PM, but given the variance in UPS times, the schedule is quoted as a range between 9AM-6PM and Ship Sticks notes the shipper may pick up as late as 8PM. After setting up our shipment we received 2 of the same confirmation emails for each shipment. Oh well, at least they aren’t wasting paper. When selecting the standard 42 pound bag, your confirmation email will note that you may pack up to 48 pounds (the label for the bag will say 42 pounds as well). Confused? Ship Sticks allows for a variance up to 48 pounds, so don’t sweat going a bit over (but it’s a good idea to have a digital luggage scale to help determine the weight of your bag.
We set up both legs of our trip, from home to Erin Hills and Erin Hills to the residential community, at the same time so we wouldn’t have to worry about printing labels at the resort (recommended!). For those who want to link business and pleasure trips, Ship Sticks can arrange for the clubs to be “held” for a period of time during transit. So if you are going from a golf trip to another destination for your business meetings before returning, your clubs can be held up to 5 business days so you don’t have to worry about your clubs sitting on your doorstep while you are still out of town. There is a little extra cost (about $25), but given that it’s work-related, you can expense it, right? Bonus!
Resorts that have a relationship with Ship Sticks will be notified via email when you set up your shipment and provided with the expected date of delivery, as was the case with Erin Hills. We would recommend giving courses that don’t have a relationship with Ship Sticks a heads-up, both to find out how they handle clubs that are being shipped to them and how you should retrieve them upon arrival. It doesn’t hurt to add a note on your shipping label indicating your date of arrival at the resort and that you are a guest (or simply what day(s) you are playing) to provide the course with additional information.
We received an email from Ship Sticks the day before our scheduled shipment date (Wednesday) that we needed to confirm to them when our clubs were packed and ready to be picked up, and we responded with our confirmation email a bit after 8AM PST Thursday that the clubs were ready. We were comfortable leaving the travel bag for Ship Sticks outside our front door for the day, and didn’t mind the lack of a need to sign for delivery (What’s the worst that could happen? Stolen clubs would give us the perfect excuse with Mrs. Critical Golf to head to our nearest golf club fitting center to get set up with a new custom clubs). Those more concerned about the safety of their clubs can elect to drop them off at the neighborhood UPS store as well. If you leave your clubs for pickup at your home, no notification of pickup will be provided.
We have no idea if our confirmation email made it through Ship Sticks to UPS to trigger pickup, or whether they had us scheduled already, but our clubs were picked up a mere 2 hours after we sent our confirmation email. That’s the good. The negative was that we still didn’t see any tracking status information (accessible via the Ship Sticks website) until 9:45PM. It would be a nice if Ship Sticks would let customers know that their clubs have been picked up and are safely on the way to their destination. In order to get tracking updates, you’ll either need to click on the link to the Ship Sticks tracking page for your shipment (available on your confirmation email after setting up your pickup date) or log in to your account on the Ship Sticks website.
Our clubs arrived as scheduled the following Wednesday (at 10AM CST), and although Ship Sticks states that they will email you when the clubs arrive, we did not receive a notification. Which added a bit of stress about whether the clubs arrived or not! Oh well, at least they arrived on time, right? Our advice: contact Ship Sticks to get your UPS or FedEx number (this number isn’t available when you check tracking on the Ship Sticks website, nor does Ship Sticks provide it with the shipping confirmation, you need to request this separately), and then set up status updates directly from the shipper’s website to ensure you are notified. Problem solved.
On arrival, our clubs were held in club storage at Erin Hills and then delivered to our room without us lifting a finger. More enjoyable than traveling with our clubs, for sure!
Erin Hills to Residential Community
Coordinating pickup of the clubs from Erin Hills was even simpler than at home – we simply left the packed clubs in our room (the bellman took them to Erin Hills storage) with a new shipping slip affixed, and off we went. If you are looking for something easier than that, you won’t find it. It was a much shorter trip from Wisconsin to our vacation home in Michigan, so the shipping charges ($39.99) were not much more than the second bag fee we would have paid on our Delta flight, and actually lower than the second bag fee on some airlines.
We left Erin Hills on a Sunday, and with no weekend pickup, the clubs were held by the resort until UPS came to get them on Monday. As with the first leg of our trip, we didn’t see tracking information until late in the day of pickup (Monday at 10PM), though undoubtedly it was picked up earlier by UPS. Interestingly, the Tracking page on the Ship Sticks website showed a “To” address with WI (Wisconsin) as the state instead of MI (Michigan), meaning that this information is for whatever reason being manually entered into their systems. So while not accurate, it was minor and wouldn’t override my shipment in any way – this (incorrect) information is just for reference on the Ship Sticks website. When logged in to the Ship Sticks you can also view profile information and shipment history, though we received timeout and web reference errors whenever we tried to view shipment history throughout all three legs. This wasn’t the only place where we ran into errors – the site also has a couple of links that don’t work. A little more polishing seems to still be needed…
The clubs arrived as scheduled on Wednesday in the early afternoon, and on this leg we were notified via email as promised that our clubs had arrived. Now batting .500 on confirmation emails.
Residential Community to Home
For the final leg home we set up shipment selecting the slowest (aka least expensive) option, which was $59.99 for shipment leaving on a Monday and delivery on Friday – the most expensive option was overnight delivery for $159.99. We picked up $1,500 of additional insurance (in addition to the $1,000 of coverage already included), which cost an additional $3.75.
Curiously, though the site saved our credit card information, it didn’t automatically save our shipping locations (ala Amazon, for example), so we had to re-enter both our pickup and destination addresses again. We manually added these addresses to our Ship Sticks Address Book later, and these address will now populate for future shipments.
We checked the Ship Sticks site and confirmed our clubs were picked up on Monday (a pickup scan just before 10AM). Great. What wasn’t so great was that at 11PM on Friday our clubs still hadn’t arrived. Here is where Ship Sticks isn’t able to keep up with the major alternatives – their office hours are only Monday-Friday 8:30PM-5:30PM EST. So at 11PM PST we weren’t able to reach anyone by phone to get additional tracking information. We tried calling UPS, waiting 17 minutes to get through, and once we did we found that unless you have a UPS tracking number, they are unable provide any information (even though they had our delivery address and name they claim they can’t track a shipment…which makes no sense to us). Unfortunately the Ship Sticks Tracking ID information that is provided won’t help you track your clubs outside of the Ship Sticks website. Ship Sticks has an after hours email support contact, so we sent an email and received a response about 4 hours later that Ship Sticks was investigating. This made it even more clear to us that best practice is to follow-up with a call to Ship Sticks after your clubs have been picked up and request the UPS or FedEx tracking number so you can track the clubs on your own. We replied to the Ship Sticks email asking for the UPS tracking number, but received no reply.
A Ship Sticks representative called us mid-morning next day to apologize and said they were looking into why our clubs weren’t delivered on time. The representative said they knew that something went wrong with the shipment on Friday due to the scans they saw in the system, and that they contacted UPS and were told that the bag was out for delivery, which it obviously wasn’t (no fault of Ship Sticks, certainly – they were looking into it). We returned the Ship Sticks call at the number provided to provide more details, but nobody was available, so we sent another email requesting the UPS tracking number and any status update. We received an email later that afternoon that relayed “according to UPS your updated delivery date is Monday” (given there is no weekend delivery of ground shipments) along with our UPS tracking number.
The company did note in their voicemail and email responses (that all came quickly) that Ship Sticks has a $200 late bag consequential policy in place so the company will cover for club rental and purchases of incidentals (shoes, glove, balls, etc.), and that I would need to submit an itemized receipt to be reimbursed. They also kindly offered to refund the order, which I accepted.
The company followed-up by email on Monday morning to let us know the clubs were out for delivery, and sure enough they arrived a bit after 10AM PST, safe and sound. Given that we had the UPS tracking number, we set up an alert from UPS on delivery, which we received at 10:20AM so we knew they were at our door. A Ship Sticks email (they didn’t call to check-in again) confirmation did arrive for delivery, about 30 minutes after the UPS notification. Concluding batting .666 on delivery notification emails.
Ship Sticks has done a nice job of setting up an extremely user-friendly interface to make the process of setting up club shipments as simple as you can imagine. And we have to say, traveling without the hassle of clubs may prove to be addictive.
Given that Ship Sticks is acting as the liaison for our club shipment and not the actual shipper (which is UPS or FedEx), however, it seems that they have the opportunity to add more value. For example, Ship Sticks knows when your packages are picked up and delivered, and should notify you appropriately each time. Likewise when our clubs hadn’t arrived by 7PM on the expected date of arrival (the late end of the delivery time for UPS), it seemed like a great opportunity for Ship Sticks to proactively reach out with updates instead of waiting for us to contact them. The online shipment/tracking information isn’t updated to alert customers of changes to the delivery date, nor do they send emails to let you know of updated information. We don’t know if the company has the muscle to try to to get our clubs delivered on a Saturday since they didn’t arrive on Sunday, which, as mentioned above, is only available if you select overnight service in advance.
This then begs the question of why you wouldn’t just use UPS directly – the on-time result may not be any different (we don’t blame Ship Sticks for our clubs not arriving on schedule), but you have quicker access when problems arise and 24×7 support (and perhaps even the ability to go to the shipper’s local center to pick up the shipment if it wasn’t delivered as scheduled and you are in a pinch).
If we had a locked-in tee time to play the weekend we returned home we would have heeded the advice of the Ship Sticks representative who recommended we set up the shipment to arrive at least a day prior to play. In that case, we would have needed to select the $129.99 option instead of the $59.99 option for 5 day, which would have bumped up costs quite a bit.
In the end, what we really wanted was for our clubs to arrive on time and with no damage, and it’s pretty much what we got – no damage for all legs, and on-time for two of the three. This isn’t the least expensive way to get your clubs to their destination, of course. If you are looking for a cheaper route, haul your clubs with you when you travel (of course, some ways of traveling are easier than others). But there is definitely value to the ease of the traveling experience using Ship Sticks.
Ship Sticks offered the lowest total rate for all three legs compared to the largest alternatives: FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). We are guessing the difference in what we found in pricing through Ship Sticks versus going to UPS directly is that UPS likely gives Ship Sticks a preferred rate that we can’t obtain on our own. Our lowest-cost rate from Ship Sticks worked out to around $160 for all legs. If you have money to burn, there is always overnight shipping as well. At $420 for our full trip, this isn’t an option we would have considered, but if we had the cash…maybe. You can save some dollars: USPS had the lowest cost for the shortest leg by a good margin. It’s also generally less expensive to bring your clubs on the plane, either putting your clothes in with your clubs an incurring only a single bag fee, or incurring a 2nd bag fee that is usually less than the ground shipping with Ship Sticks.
Below are details on Ship Sticks pricing versus the competition (as determined via the competitors’ websites). Days are indicated in parenthesis in the table below and are business days.
Table 1. Shipping Costs: San Francisco Bay Area to Erin Hills, WI
|Ship Sticks||$159.99 (1)||$129.99 (2)||$129.99 (3)||$59.99 (4)|
|FedEx||$622.25 (1)||$473.50 (2)||$353.21 (3)||$101.35 (4)|
|UPS||$490.85 (1)||$358.21 (2)||$278.20 (3)||$68.17 (4)|
|USPS||$203.62 (1)||$105.86 (2)||N/A||$72.04 (5)|
|Southwest Airlines||$0 (bags fly free!)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Table 2. Shipping Costs: Erin Hills, WI (53027) to Northern Michigan (49740)
|Ship Sticks||$99.99 (1)||N/A||N/A||$39.99 (2)|
|FedEx||$296.77 (1)||$158.69 (2)||$144.07 (3)||$69.63 (2, yes 2)|
|UPS||$236.49 (1)||$124.13 (2)||N/A||$49.02 (2)|
|USPS||N/A||$49.55 (2)||$24.43 (3)||$24.43 (3)|
|Delta||$35 (2nd bag fee)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Table 3. Shipping Costs: Northern Michigan to San Francisco Bay Area
|Ship Sticks||$159.99 (1)||$129.99 (2)||$129.99 (3)||$59.99 (4)|
|FedEx||$623.46 (1)||$474.40 (2)||$354.42 (3)||$102.24 (4)|
|UPS||$492.07 (1)||$359.42 (2)||$279.41 (3)||$69.06 (4)|
|USPS||$203.62 (1)||$105.86 (2)||N/A||$72.04 (5)|
|Delta||$35 (2nd bag fee)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Table 4. Total Shipping Costs For Trip (3 legs): CA – WI – MI – CA
Prices above as of Summer 2014 calculated using the website for each service.
Shipping rates based on 42 pounds with dimensions 51″ H x 19″ W x 16″ D (Club Glove Last Bag, with girth of 48″) and declared value of $1,000.
FedEx rates calculated using standard overnight, 2Day, Express Saver and Ground. UPS rates calculated using Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air, 3 Day Select and Ground. USPS calculated using Priority Mail Express 1-Day, Priority Mail 2-Day. In some instances, USPS did not offer overnight or 3 day shipping, so there is no total listed for those delivery options. Note that some companies, such as FedEx and UPS, may allow the customer to select other service options for more focused delivery times in the A.M.. USPS provides for Saturday delivery with Priority Mail.
For total trip costs, if a service did not provide all classes, we selected the least expensive option to still arrive in the same or lesser number of days. For example, on a leg from Wisconsin to Michigan where there is no 3-day option, we used the least expensive Ground option for Ship Sticks, which still arrives in 2-days. Shipping prices exclude tax (generally about $4 for each leg) and any additional insurance beyond what is included in the base offering for Ship Sticks. Tax is included for FedEx and UPS.
For travel within the United States, the majority of airlines charge $20-$25 for the first bag and $35-$40 for the second bag. Baggage fees vary widely with travel to locations outside of the United States.