Whether you’re planning a golf trip for the first time or you’re a seasoned jet-setter, traveling with your golf clubs can be daunting, costly, stressful, and quite frankly a real hassle.
For most people traveling is a love-hate relationship; It’s exciting going on a golfing trip with your friends or family but getting to your destination is where the real stress starts. In and out of cabs, buses, and trains and long lines at the check-in counter are never fun, particularly when you’re lugging around a huge golf bag that weighs 30lbs.
Golf clubs are an expensive investment, and golfers treat their clubs like part of the family, so the thought of them getting damaged or, god forbid, lost can be a stressful experience. As a professional coach, I’ve traveled 32 weeks of the year for more than 20 years, and although I’ve been pretty lucky with my baggage, I’ve had some things go missing on more than one occasion; luckily, nothing too expensive, but still, not a pleasant experience.
So does traveling with your golf clubs really have to be that stressful, or are there things you can do to make your next golfing trip stress-free and enjoyable? Fortunately, there are.
In this article, I’ll share with you the top travel tips I’ve learned over the years and give you the best strategies to make traveling with your golf clubs simple, easy, and cost-effective.
You’ll learn everything from booking a flight and checking in to packing your clubs and choosing the right bag.
So without further adieu, Let’s get into it!
Non-Stop Flights are your new Best Friend
- 1 Non-Stop Flights are your new Best Friend
- 2 Take Advantage of your Cell Phone Camera
- 3 Pack Your Clubs like your Life Depends on it
- 4 Remember to take Everything
- 5 Choosing the Right Sized Golf Bag
- 6 Be Sure to Check the Airline Policy
- 7 Never Book a Window Seat
- 8 Ship your Golf Clubs and Baggage Ahead
- 9 Avoid Injury Lifting your Heavy Golf Bag
- 10 Don’t Worry be Happy
- 11 Keep Your Water Intake Up
- 12 Allow Plenty of Time to Adjust
- 13 Get Some Rest you Deserve It
- 14 The Final Wrap
Although I’m a seasoned traveler and have literally taken thousands of flights, the fear of flying is still strong with me, but for many golfers, the most fearful aspect of flying is the possibility of losing or damaging your clubs. Just the thought of seeing a complete stranger walking off with your clubs at the baggage carousel is enough to make any golfer break out in a sweat.
Booking non-stop flights is the best strategy for traveling with your clubs because fewer stops mean the less likely your clubs will get damaged or lost. Although non-stop flights are not always available, you should do your best to limit the number of stop-overs on your next golfing journey.
The only real downside to non-stop flights is that they are generally more expensive than other flights, but if the price difference is not too much and you can afford it, then non-stop flights are your best option.
Take Advantage of your Cell Phone Camera
This next tip has saved me on a few occasions, and I’m sure it will help you too. Before you take your next golfing trip, take everything out of your golf bag and place it on the table. Now, grab your phone and take detailed photos of everything in your bag.
Make sure you take photos of every club in your bag, including your driver and putter. Zoom in on any markings on your golf clubs that can help you and airport staff identify them if they go missing. Having a detailed record could save you a ton of time and money, not to mention your golf clubs.
You can keep the photos in a google doc, so that way, you have written and photographic proof with time and date stamps before you travel; it’s not foolproof, but its a good tip, and as the old adage goes, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Pack Your Clubs like your Life Depends on it
I’m a pro coach, but I also have another profession; yep, that’s right; when it comes to packing your bags for travel, I’m one of the top pros out there. Ok, but all jokes aside, the way you pack your golf clubs could make them or quite literally “break” them.
If you’ve traveled, there’s nothing worse than seeing baggage handlers completely ignore the twenty fragile stickers on your bag and throwing your clubs around like a bag of marshmallows. Golf clubs are expensive and, unfortunately, very fragile, and if any heavy weight is placed on them, the shafts can bend and even snap.
Many golf clubs allow you to take the clubheads off, and if your clubs enable you to do so, I highly recommend it; this way, they are not sticking out of the bag, meaning they are less likely to get damaged. If you can take your clubheads off, wrap them in a soft bag with bubble wrap; if you don’t have bubble wrap, simply wrap them with socks or towels.
The next point to take care of are the club shafts. One of the best tips and easiest ways to protect your shafts is to tie them together; the same way that rope is stronger than string, bundling your shafts together reduces their chance of bending and becoming damaged. I suggest tying them with a couple of pairs of socks; this way, you can tie them firmly without fear of damaging them.
The last thing you can do to guarantee protection is fill the rest of your golf bag with bubble wrap. You can use towels, but with airlines so strict these days on weight, bubble wrap is your best option; plus, it’s cheap. If your clubheads don’t come off, don’t worry, you can buy head covers or place socks or towels around them to keep them protected. Some pro golfers even put their clubs in their bags “upside-down” to protect the clubheads.
Remember to take Everything
Mum was right; I’d lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on. The number of times I’ve arrived at a tournament and have forgotten a training tool is embarrassing, although I have gotten a lot better in recent years.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at the hotel or course and realizing you’ve left your golf gloves or foam roller behind. Make a checklist of everything you need, and then one-by-one, check it off and be sure to double-check it.
Extra gear that you’ll need and won’t want to forget:
- Golf shoes
- Golf balls
- Fitness equipment like foam rollers
- Appropriate clothing for your destination
For the more valuable equipment like rangefinders, your best option is to take them with you as “carry-on” luggage; this way, you’ll guarantee their safety. Many golfers also use specific watches that can be quite expensive, so make sure you keep them with you at all times.
Choosing the Right Sized Golf Bag
Choosing an appropriately sized golf bag is the easiest way to make your next golfing journey an enjoyable traveling experience. Anytime you travel, you’re always best advised to take the smallest sized bags you can, and when it comes to your golf bag, the same rings true.
It’s true that larger golf bags do a much better job at protecting your clubs, but in my opinion, the downsides of taking your tour bag with you far outweigh the positives. Now, that’s not to say you should never take your biggest bag because, on some occasions, it makes more sense, particularly if your going away for an extended period; in this case, your best option is the larger bag.
Another critical decision to make is whether you take a hard case or soft case golf bag. Now, although soft cases are cheaper and much lighter, they also offer little to no protection. Your best option when traveling is to take a hard case golf bag in almost every situation. These bags provide excellent protection for your clubs and definitely help put your mind at ease.
One crucial point to note here is that many airlines will not offer insurance for sporting goods that are not packed in a hard case, so as you can see, taking the hard case is your clearly your best option.
Be Sure to Check the Airline Policy
Taking the time to read through the fine print carefully has never been my strong point, but let me tell you, reading the fine print makes more sense than ever when it comes to baggage policies.
These days airlines are charging ludicrous fees for overweight baggage, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pay additional baggage fees; mind you, I don’t go down without a fight and always let the staff know how misleading their policies are. Take the time to check the policy, and if you’re unsure, call the airline and speak to someone.
The last thing you want is to start your trip by having to pay, in some cases, hundreds of dollars of additional fees. I can tell you a funny story where a young pro golfer who was strapped for cash actually threw his spare clubs in the airport bin to avoid extra baggage fees.
Never Book a Window Seat
Traveling on planes can actually take quite a big toll on you physically and mentally, but thankfully, you can do a few things to stave off exhaustion and make the journey a fun one. One of the best tips I can give you is to always book an aisle seat.
An aisle seat allows you to get up anytime you like and take a stroll to help stretch your legs; now, while the back of the plane is not the most scenic and hygienic place to stand, it does allow you to perform a few stretches and get the blood moving.
Many flights can be over 8 hours and require you to be seated for long periods, which can cause a harmful and even fatal condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. Sitting for long periods of time can cause blood clots in the body, typically in the legs. These blood clots can break free and head towards your lungs, causing Pulmonary embolism, PE.
Making sure you’re stretching and walking around as much as you can helps prevent DVT. Steering clear of alcohol will also help to mitigate the chances of swelling and inflammation. Finally, my top tip is to request an “exit seat” when you’re at the check-in counter; exit seats have unlimited foot room and give you a little sense of what it must be like up in first class.
Ship your Golf Clubs and Baggage Ahead
As I mentioned earlier, airlines seem like their going out of their way to make air travel more and more expensive, but as the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
Over the last few years, many companies have popped up offering shipping services for golfers and their clubs. One of the best, if not the best, is Ship Sticks. This company provides affordable shipping and is an excellent alternative to checking-in your clubs. Ship Sticks pick up your golf clubs and ship to more than 180 countries.
Placing an order is as simple as a phone call or using the Ship Sticks app. An on-time guarantee is an attractive selling point for the company, as is the ability to track your clubs and free insurance. Shipping your clubs is probably the best way to guarantee they aren’t broken and or lost by baggage handlers who, quite frankly, couldn’t care less about your valuable clubs.
Avoid Injury Lifting your Heavy Golf Bag
This next tip might sound a bit silly but let me tell you, it can protect your back and save your golfing trip from becoming an unplayable one.
Learning how to correctly lift your golf bag takes the stress off your neck and lower back, which helps to reduce the chance of an injury; that’s the last thing you want right before your golf trip. Bending down with your knees, keeping your back straight and your core tight is the best technique for picking up your golf bag.
While at the airport, take advantage of the luggage carts to avoid lugging around a 30lb bag with you. Back and hip problems are very common in golf, so doing everything you can off the course to prevent injury will ensure your golfing holiday goes off without a hitch.
Don’t Worry be Happy
Flying can be stressful even for the most seasoned jet-setter; the long waits, the inevitable frustration at airports, and the horrendous food can all knock our immune systems for six.
One of the best things you do to keep your immune system strong during the flight is actually performed the day before. Scheduling a light workout session the day before flying keeps the blood moving and helps alleviate some of the stress that comes with the flight. The critical point here is not to workout too hard; this can have the opposite effect, and instead of feeling refreshed and ready to go, your body is working overtime to repair itself; which is not ideal when you’re flying the next day.
Traveling with a compromised immune system means you’re much more likely to pick up a bug on the plane, and as we all know, planes are basically “Petri-dishes” flying 500mph and 38,000 feet up. Be careful of what you touch, if you know what I mean, and do your best to avoid the food. You’re always much better off taking something with you like beef jerky or trail mix.
If possible, take some natural hand sanitizer with you on-board to help reduce the chance of getting sick. You don’t have to go over the top and walk around wearing gloves and a spacesuit, but any preventative measure you can take is better than nothing at all.
Keep Your Water Intake Up
When you fly, the air circulating in the cabin is extremely dry, so it’s of the utmost importance that you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or a mixture of water and sports drinks. Sports drinks are a good choice because they contain plenty of electrolytes, but in all honesty, good old plain bottled water is all you need during your flight.
Make sure you steer clear of alcohol before and during flying because it can dehydrate the body, causing not only headaches but inflammation, which can further exacerbate DVT. Staying hydrated also helps reduce the exhausting effects of jet lag which can be a significant problem, especially if you’re playing in a competition.
Allow Plenty of Time to Adjust
An athlete’s body is finely tuned, and changes in time zone, jetlag, and weather conditions can all wreak havoc with the body’s internal clock. Prior to leaving for your golfing trip, you can make changes to your bedtime and waking hours which can help to simulate the conditions and time zone at your destination.
Another good tip is when you arrive at your destination, try to spend as much time as possible in the natural daylight, particularly late into the afternoon; this can also “trick” your body into acclimatizing quicker.
My favorite top tip is to head straight to the hotel gym for some light cardio and stretching exercises. The quicker you can get the blood flowing, the faster you can start the recovery process and be ready for your competition. The keyword here is “light;” 30 minutes of light jogging or stationary bike is all you need; follow that with 30 minutes of stretching.
Get Some Rest you Deserve It
Traveling is a stressful experience and can take a physical and mental toll on the body, so it’s so important to get some rest. After you’ve finished your light training after arriving, it’s time to sit back, put your feet up, and have that nice glass of wine you deserve.
The first night’s sleep is critical. Making sure you turn off all your devices and keep the room as dark as possible will help you get a good night’s sleep. Hotels rooms are notorious for having annoying LED lights, so do your best to find them and cover them up with a towel or blanket.
The Final Wrap
Well, I hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide on how to travel with your golf clubs and how to mitigate many of the adverse effects that come along with it.
By following these simple and practical tips, you’ll not only arrive with your golf clubs in one piece, but you’ll be in tip-top condition to play the best golf of your life.