Imagine the following scene: I’m walking on 23rd street toward my car. There’s glass everywhere, and I carefully plot each step around it. I look up. My rear passenger side window is busted. Really. I try to stay calm and assess the scene. Ok, my phone charger is gone. A bag of coins I use for parking is as well, and my car’s insurance and owner’s manual are torn up on the sidewalk.

A woman with her dog hurries by. Does she think I’m breaking into my own car?

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Clubs! Where are my clubs? I pop open the trunk. Oh. My. God. My prized Texas Mid-Amateur participant headcover; that new HZRDUS shaft I’ve been trying to work myself into; the set I shot my career-best 70 with. Everything is gone.

Here’s the thing about stealing gear from someone who’s worked in the golf industry – you can run with my clubs, but you can’t really hide them. I know my equipment very, very well, and I am determined to track it all down. I call every golf store in the area, and I obsessively check – and recheck – ads on eBay and Craigslist. Three weeks later, just when I think I’m the victim of an elaborate, underground, golf-club-stealing crime ring, there they are – listed for $2,000 and mere blocks from the scene of the crime. As panicked as I am, there’s no chance that my jumbo grip, 1-inch over, and 3-degree upright sticks will command $2,000 on the open market. Still though, I need to work fast!

I immediately call the local police precinct to explain the situation. Even with a filed police report in hand, I sense there isn’t much they can do. After a day without hearing back, I catch a break. Through a friend, I am put in touch with another police officer. He’s a golfer and a member at a course I know well, so there’s instant rapport between us. He essentially tells me where to go, who to talk to, and what to say.

Meanwhile, I start a dialogue with the person who has my clubs. At this point, all I know is that they’re still available, he wants two grand, and he can meet up at 7pm.

Following the golfing officer’s advice, I head down to the police station. After an hour or so of waiting, form filling, and transfers, two officers come out. Unfortunately, they aren’t golfers. “We’d love to help,” they say. “There’s just one problem; we don’t have any plain clothes officers working right now. So, if you want to do this, you need to meet the seller yourself. Confirm it’s your property, and then we’ll move in.”

I’m not one to be confrontational. Unless you tee up in front of the box – which for some reason really bothers me – I tend to mind my own business. In golf and in life. Not once did I consider having to face this person, so it was a major snag in my plan. I also don’t live in the best part of town, and masterminding an undercover sting operation a few blocks from my apartment wasn’t a great look.

The officers do what they can to quell my uneasiness, and I ultimately decide to play along.

I suit up. Baggy jeans, a hoodie, and the most nondescript hat I can find – ironically, a Fisher’s Island Club hat I borrowed/stole from a buddy who played there. 20 minutes later, I’m on a street corner waiting for someone to surface from a run-down San Francisco Victorian. The cops are nearby, and we’re in communication over text. A few moments later, a guy wheels a fully-loaded travel case towards me. We shake hands and he introduces himself. He starts telling me a story about how he got the clubs a few months before. For two of the most drawn-out minutes of my life, I stand there quietly. Listening. Trying to understand what would possess anyone to break into a car and take something from someone they know nothing about. And then, just when I think the cops found something better to do, two police cars rush in. Handcuffs clip together, and that’s that.

All my stuff is there. Even a bag-tag with my name on it hangs in plain sight. I walk the officers through every detail (the burden is on me to prove ownership). “There’s a dent on the 60-degree wedge half way up the grip; my left shoe is missing a spike; there are golf balls from my bachelor party, but the personalized logo is a bit crude, so maybe don’t include that in your report!” They loved the detail.

I ride with the officers to the precinct to give a full statement. A few days later, I’m called by the District Attorney’s office; they’re prosecuting for possession of stolen property and need me to testify. The city wins, and my clubs are returned from evidence a few weeks later.

Believe me, a lot of effort was expended here. When I’m standing over that 6-foot putt for 69 and my first ever round in the sixties, hopefully I’ll say it was worth all the trouble and drain the putt.

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Alex is a mechanical engineer who has spent the past six years in golf equipment R&D. Always focused on metal woods, he has extensive experience in club design, manufacturing processes and testing methodologies from his time at Adams and Callaway Golf. Now that the golf industry gig is over, he’s done playing favorites. The GolfWRX chapter is all about finding the best 14 sticks to take his game to the next level.

Alex is also an avid golfer. He's often referred to as “The Launch Monitor Hero" and is always up for 36. He’s the co-founder of an addicting game called Office Golf, and he was once six shots from qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Am.

35 COMMENTS

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  1. the best part are the details you had to explain to the cops. I know my clubs like the back of my hand, and non golfers would be quite impressed with the minute details i could spew out.

    • Had the same thing last year when my clubs were stolen from my car. I started listing out everything (they got quite a bit as I had extra’s in the car) and on the 3rd club I could hear her just kind of getting uneasy that the level of detail. Told her I’d just email her a complete list and she was relieved.

  2. Someone broke into my car. They ransacked my car and rifled through the trunk. I had about 25 cds in the cab and all my golf equipment in the trunk. All the guy took was a Tim Horton’s card. I thought, “Obviously I have terrible taste in music and I need to get better golf clubs.”

  3. Everyone should take this story to heart and inventory all your equipment based on S/N. It makes for a much easier process identifying the items if they do go missing. This could of course be a week-long job for some of us gearheads :)

  4. My rental car was broken into in San Fran a couple weeks ago. They took all my luggage but not my golf clubs, luckily. I would have burnt the city to the ground to find them had they taken my clubs.

  5. I actually had my clubs stolen from my garage (thanks to my older son forgetting to close it and to me for leaving them there), never recovered, but, as I filed the police report, they said that I should contact my home owners insurance (USAA), I did and a few weeks later (had to show proof of the stolen equipment was actually mine, luckily I had photos of the clubs and where they were in the garage, don’t ask me why) I received a very substantial check to cover the equipment…

  6. Bubba – Please just stay wherever you are in whatever paradise you think you live in. Because I’d truly hate for you to become disillusioned about your life should you ever have the unfortunate opportunity to visit The City. Hashtag IgnoranceIsBlissDude

    • Wow. Those who have never left “The City” have no place lecturing others on ignorance. And leave the superiority complex behind if you have the courage to because otherwise you won’t last 2 seconds here in the better half of America. We don’t call the cops when we catch thieves. They become forgotten. We take responsibility for our carelessness and then take care of our problems ourselves.

  7. This was a wakeup call for me. I live in rural Alabama where there is very little crime but, I’ll never keep my clubs in the trunk again, because I play golf all over the state and visit family in MD. I’m glad you got your clubs back without getting hurt.

  8. Great story. I appreciate how disturbing it is to lose a big of sticks that you finally had the way you want them. Happened to me once and it messed me up for a couple years. What wasn’t clear was the guy that was selling the clubs the same as the one who stole them. What was he convicted of?

    • Thanks, BW. My understanding is that the prosecution/conviction was on felony possession. No one tried to claim that this guy actually broke into the car. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

      • Just saw a movie like this (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) with Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey. “When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor.”

  9. My wife’s car was broken into in January of last year. It’s a mess to deal with and none of it plays out like all those movies and TV shows would have you believe. For starters, if you want your stuff back and the criminal to be punished you’d better be prepared to do some of your own leg work. It’s not that the police department doesn’t care, they just really do have more pressing matters. Unless, you were robbed at gunpoint or assaulted in the process or it’s part of some bigger more pressing criminal act they will only do so much beyond filing the necessary paperwork. We were fortunate in that at least one of the people had repeat violations and jail time to help speed things along. Still, I was the one who pulled our bank records and determined where they’d been spending money, then drove there to see if the store clerks recalled anything suspicious and could provide photographic or video evidence. Ultimately, they nabbed 2 out of 4 possibly 5 people that we know of involved with the crimes that were committed against us following that – identity theft, forgery, grand theft auto, and vandalism to name a few. It’s no fun at all. Glad you got your clubs back!

  10. I’ve stopped carrying my clubs in my car due to this reason. I work in the golf industry, so I hear all the horror stories and cannot fathom losing all the personal items. Clubs can be replaced, but my Fitter of the Year headcover and Scotty Cameron 3wd cover from the gallery after touring Scotty Cameron’s work facility can’t be replaced.

  11. I wonder what punishment the court gave the thief, probably a coupla days community service. Give me 1870’s Deadwood justice any day. Stealing a mans clubs is as bad as stealing his horse!

  12. Alex, how did the guy know to break into YOUR car??? Any indication there were clubs in the trunk? This is my worst nightmare… I never open my trunk if someone is in the parking lot or driving by. Nobody gets to see into my trunk! Although when I’m loading groceries around my Titleist bag some onlooker might be curious…

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