Hitting the Road With Your Golf Clubs

By: Roy Eshbaugh

Plenty of new challenges can affect our game when we play golf on a strange course – the course design, wind, climate and more. The one thing that we can have in our favor is familiarity with our golf clubs. So despite the hassle, our first impulse is to take our golf equipment with us.

Before you start packing your golf equipment for air travel, take a look at these options. Your decision will depend on a number of considerations. These include your budget, how many rounds you plan to play at your destination, and the importance of playing at the top of your game.

Here are three key options: 1) rent shoes and clubs at the destination, 2) ship your equipment to the resort, or 3) take your golf equipment on your flight as checked baggage.

Renting Golf Equipment

For trips when you’ll play only a couple rounds of golf, rental can be a great choice. This option saves you from the hassle of packing your equipment for safe travel and lugging it around airports.

Most courses rent clubs, a few rent shoes, for a reasonable daily fee. But call ahead to make sure they offer rentals. Also make sure they carry your shoe size. The potential drawback of renting is that the golf course may mix and match sets or rent clubs that are dated. Clubs are generally rented on a first come-first serve basis. Make sure the course has enough sets on hand or that you are playing early enough in the morning, that their inventory won’t be an issue.

Some golf equipment manufacturers offer rentals of demo clubs. They will arrange to have them waiting at your destination. The downside is that even though the equipment may be state-of-the-art, it doesn’t come with the familiarity of playing with your own clubs.

Shipping Your Golf Equipment

When your equipment is shipped for you, you can board the plane hassle-free (at least in terms of your golf clubs). When you arrive at the resort, your clubs are waiting for you. Several companies offer shipping services specifically designed for golfers. The major question is whether you are willing to pay for the convenience and peace of mind.

Taking Your Clubs with You

If you opt to take your clubs with you, be aware that golf clubs are not permitted as carry-on baggage on any commercial airline. They must travel in the plane’s baggage hold. You run the risk of broken clubs, equipment sent to the wrong destination, missed flights due to inspection of the golf bag, and charges for excess weight or oversized baggage. Some airlines are now charging $25 for an extra piece of luggage.

Preventive measures, though, can minimize these risks. First of all, get a sturdy golf travel bag. Based on your budget, frequency of golf travel, and attachment to your clubs, you can choose a hard case, soft case or hybrid case. Soft cases will protect the clubs from getting scratched, but if a 50 pound suitcase is dropped on the heads, the shafts can snap pretty easily. A hard case is much better protection from broken shafts.

Hard shell bags are made of high impact material and are practically indestructible. They are also costly. Depending on the brand, you may or may not be able to fit your golf bag inside with the clubs. Before buying, be sure the case size and weight fall within the limits of airline baggage restrictions. Also consider where you’ll be traveling. Their size and form may not fit well in the typical taxis and rental cars of many countries.

If you opt to travel with a soft case – which is not recommended for air travel – be prepared to kiss your clubs goodbye. To minimize potential damage, place the clubs inside your golf bag with your head covers on, and then put the bag inside the soft travel case. Most airlines require you to sign a damage waver. Some won’t even let you use a soft case.

The best solution for air travel is a hybrid golf case. It has a soft exterior and a hard inner core, usually made of high impact plastic. Although hybrid golf travel cases are costly, they offer the advantages of light weight, ample protection, and conformity with airline size and weight guidelines. The hybrid case also serves as your golf bag on the course.

A final word on traveling by air with golf equipment. Airline companies’ baggage rules can change at any time. For example, United Airlines recently announced a change in its free baggage allowance. Most airlines check golf travel cases free of charge as long as they fit within the size, weight and number of bags limits. Typically they allow one golf bag carrying 14 clubs, 12 golf balls and one pair of shoes. To avoid unexpected charges for overweight, oversize or excess baggage, check your airline’s current rules before packing for your trip.

Whether you travel with your clubs, ship them or rent some at the course, a little bit of planning makes for a more enjoyable golf outing.

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