Tony Judge & Gerry McKernan

Clubs to Hire

Business Purpose

Clubs to Hire enables travelling golfers the luxury of booking their favourite sets of golf clubs online prior to travel and collecting them on arrival. We cut out all the hassle and a lot of the cost associated with golf travel.


Personal Bio

After working for 5 years as a Marketing Executive for the Smurfit Group at Smurfit Paribas Bank, Tony became Director of Golf at Mount Juliet in 1995 and oversaw the successful hosting of the Irish Open, growing turnover by 100%. He then left to run St Margaret’s Golf and Country Club in 1998, before moving to South Africa in 2000 where he ran an IT company with 180 staff and 7,000 clients.  He returned to Dublin in 2003 and set up a very successful investment property business.  After the market crash, Tony decided to set up Clubs to Hire with Gerry McKernan in July 2010.  An avid golfer, Tony plays golf at Royal Dublin and holds a handicap of 5. He is married to Georgina with 2 kids and lives in Clontarf.


Company Bio

Clubs to Hire was founded in Dublin in 2010 to give a real alternative to travelling golfers who wanted to avoid paying excessive airline charges and remove all the hassle associated with putting their golf clubs on a plane.  Clubs to Hire is the Hertz of golf travel, enabling customers to book a set of golf clubs online prior to travel.

Clubs to Hire offers a massive range of choice and therefore can cater for all golfers.   To date, Clubs to Hire has rented 125,000 sets since inception in July 2010.  Currently offering their service at 21 locations in Europe and Africa, Clubs to Hire operate 2 retail stores at the arrivals hall of Faro and Malaga Airports.  Clubs to Hire currently employ 32 people and indirectly contract other services.  At present, they have 30,000 loyal clients on their database and are on track to rent 50,000 sets of clubs in 2014.  As the only golf rental company with a live booking system, the company has been profitable since 2012 and has no debt.  With 5 million golfers in Europe and 30 million in the US, Clubs to Hire plans to grow extensively and will add additional locations in Europe during 2014. They hope to enter the Middle East and US market during 2014/15. 

This market is growing significantly as the economy continues to improve and people want more convenience and value for money. The company’s current target market is the golfer going on a golfing trip from 1 to 14 days.  Their German business is showing signs of significant growth, increasing from 3% to 15% in 2013 alone.  The company has also just agreed on a deal to be the exclusive golf club supplier with German travel giant TUI.



What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?

The light bulb moment came during a conversation with my business partner Gerry McKernan. We knew that nobody was catering for the market properly and no alternative was available to putting the clubs on a plane.


How did you secure your first investment?

Directors’ investment.


What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

When we first opened we were getting bookings on the website, but the suppliers did not send the sets when promised. We had to hire sets from local golf clubs to look after our early clients. Eventually the sets arrived and we were up and running!


What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

Securing the lease deal at Faro Airport.  In 2014, 250,000 golfers will fly into Faro alone.


What are the biggest challenges you face now?

Funds and resources to expand.


What is your biggest business achievement to date?

We have supplied 125,000 sets of clubs since inception. We continue to grow our markets and have done this with no bank financing or debt.


What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

Worst: People will not rent as they want their own clubs.

Best: Keep it simple and always under promise and over deliver.


What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?


Make sure your product gives a real alternative or solution to an existing product or service.  Always be very service orientated.


Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?

I never enjoyed working for others and always wanted to set up a business of my own.


Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?

Not really as we are dealing across Europe. Perhaps when we enter the US this will help!


How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?

We always look at ourselves and ask if we can do things better. Clients will often assist you with this feedback. We have lots of new ideas to tag onto the business going forward.


When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?

Loyalty and service orientated people is what we look for.


Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?

Yes, business has picked up every year since we opened. We opened in mid-2010 during the worst downturn in Europe. As Europe improves, clients will take advantage of our service.


What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Foresight, dedication, hunger and lots of hard work.


If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?

It would have to be web related as the web never sleeps and the possibilities are endless.


What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?

It’s easy to book our product and we offer great value at great locations.  We remove all the hassle and a lot of the cost associated with golf travel. We also allow golfers to experience the latest sets in the market for a fraction of the cost.


What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?

Less golf with my mates! Lots of hard work and, because the business is online, I am always on call.


How do you recharge your batteries?

I like to play golf and enjoy socialising with my family and friends.

Year: 2014
Category: Emerging
Sector: Retail



Phone: +353 1 833 3323

Address: 162 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3, Ireland

Twitter: @Clubs2Hire

Facebook: facebook.com/clubstohire