packing golf clubs for a flight
Packing your golf clubs correctly is vital for your precious clubs safety during flights – canva

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You’ve been working hard all year and are finally ready for your golf trip. You take your flight to your destination, collect your golf bag and… find out that your clubs have been damaged in transit. A disaster that can be easily avoided with these useful tips.

When you’re packing your golf clubs, make sure to keep them tight and secure, remove any adjustable heads, and fill up any empty spaces with your golf shoes and extra clothing. Once you’ve done that, put the whole bag into a travel case and make sure there are no loose ends hanging out.

Keep reading and you’ll learn more about each of these steps along with some extra tips. When your clubs are safe, you’ll be able to relax while you travel and enjoy your golfing trip once you arrive at your destination.

How to Pack Golf Clubs for a Flight

When you’re packing your golf clubs for a flight, there are several steps to take. You need to prepare the clubs, pack them tight, then protect everything with a good travel bag. Keep in mind that the main way your clubs can be broken is if your bag is dropped on its head. The force will be absorbed by the tallest clubs and they will snap. That’s the main danger to avoid. Here’s how:

1. Take Out Any Fragile Items

If you have any fragile items that can be damaged in transit, make sure to take them out before you start packing the rest of your gear. One key example is your rangefinder. This device can easily get broken with even a small crash. Take it out and put it in your carry-on bag or checked luggage.

2. Group the Clubs Together

Your golf bag likely has dividers for easily selecting your clubs. Try to put as many clubs as possible into one or two dividers. The more clubs you group together, the more they can protect each other.

3. Remove the Heads

Some golf clubs have adjustable heads that can be removed from the shaft. You should have a special wrench that can be used to do this. Before you start, check the settings of the head. You can even take a picture of how it’s set on. This way, you can easily replace the heads with the same settings as before your trip.

Once you’re ready, start removing the heads. Place each one into its own head cover and pack them into your golf bag. These clubs, usually drivers, tend to be the tallest in your collection. Shortening them will protect the shafts and heads, and there’s a great device to absorb the force (more on that later). But first, you can move onto the non-adjustable clubs.

4. Protect the Irons

Iron clubs aren’t adjustable, so need to be protected in other ways. Start by covering the heads with a protective material. A handy trick is to use the socks you’re taking on your trip. You’ll save space in your main bag and add a protective layer to your irons. Otherwise, you can get yourself a dedicated golf club’s head cover.

Next, turn all the irons into the bag, facing away from the outside. Try to get them as close together as possible.

Dedicated golf head covers
Dedicated golf clubs head covers – Craftsman golf

5. Weave a Towel Through Your Clubs

Get a towel or other piece of fabric and weave it between all the shafts. Don’t just wrap it around the outside. Move in and out around each club. You’ll bind them all together but also avoid them scraping off each other.

If they’re already bunched together tightly in the dividers, this can be tough. If you’re having trouble, weave the towel around a few at a time. Group the clubs into twos and threes. Finally, tuck the loose ends of the towel into the bag to keep it secure.

6. Use a Travel Rod/Stiff Arm

The key device to protect your clubs if your bag falls on its head is a Stiff Arm. It’s a telescopic rod with a protective pad on the top. You place it inside your bag with your clubs. The top should be above your tallest club so that it absorbs the energy from a fall. You can easily get one from Amazon for about $20.

If you don’t want to spend money on a Stiff Arm, you can use a broom handle or a shower rod. Anything long and strong enough to take the hit instead of your clubs.

stiff arm in a golf travel bag
Stiff arm in a golf travel bag – Jef World of Golf

7. Cover the Bag

Once you have everything packed in tightly, use your bag’s rain hood to cover the top. This can give your clubs and rod an extra squeeze and make sure they don’t fall out.

8. Pack It All Into a Case (Golf Travel Bag)

Now that your golf bag is packed tightly, it’s time to get out your travel case. Take the bag and place it inside the case. This will be your outer layer of protection. It’s also going to help you claim on your insurance if there is any damage to your clubs.

SunMountain Clubglider is one of the most recommended cases
SunMountain Clubglider is one of the most recommended cases – SunMountain

Some airlines only cover damage to golf clubs if they are packed into a hard case. If they’re packed into a soft case, you might lose out.

However, there are several pros and cons to both hard and soft cases: 

  • Hard cases are very sturdy, so offer the best protection. However, they are heavier and much more difficult to fit into a car.
  • Soft cases are light and much easier to handle, but don’t offer as much protection. And, as mentioned above, they aren’t always accepted by insurance companies as adequate.

If you’re not sure which would work best for you, take a look through our article on the best travel bags for golfers. There are plenty of options, so you’ll easily find the best one for you.

9. Fill Up the Empty Spaces

There might be some empty space in your golf travel case. You want to make the whole package as tight as possible, so fill up the spaces with clothes, towels, and shoes. Anything soft that can absorb any of the pressure put on your bag in transit. Make sure you’re not leaving anything important, check them with our compact golf trip packing list.

Make sure to keep an eye on your bag’s weight though. You don’t want to go over the limit and pay extra fees to the airline.

Can you bring golf clubs as checked baggage?

Yes, you can bring your golf clubs as checked baggage. They qualify for the same rules and restrictions as other pieces of luggage that go in the hold of the plane, including weight restrictions. Make sure you don’t exceed the standard 50 lb (23 kg) or you’ll have to pay extra.

Here’s a good example of a popular airline’s golf club policy: Southwest Airlines golf clubs policy. If you fly with Southwest, you’ll get to take your golf clubs and an extra piece of checked baggage for the price of one. And, even if you go over the weight limit, their overweight fee is cheaper than other airlines.

Are golf bags oversized luggage?

Golf bags are usually considered oversized if measured by luggage standard, but many airlines provide leniency for golf bags by increasing the maximum size or waiving the oversize rule altogether. For example Delta increases oversize limit for golf clubs while JetBlue waives it completely. You can calculate the linear inches of your bag by adding the length, width, and height together.

The average size of a good golf travel bag is 80 linear inches so if your airline can accommodate this number without incurring any extra fee, you’re good. That being said make sure with your selected airline and measure your golf travel bag before you pack.

Another alternative: bring an adjustable golf club. It’s compact enough to be slipped between your clothes in your checked luggage. It won’t provide the same experience as having a whole club set, but you can avoid the hassles of bringing your own clubs.

Do airlines cover damage to golf clubs?

Yes, some airlines cover damage to golf clubs, but not many. However, there are many issues that can arise. Certain airlines don’t cover damage at all, while others will only cover it if your clubs are in a hard case. You should look into each airline’s policies. Checking your homeowner’s insurance can be a good idea too. For more information on insuring your gear and other tips, you can read our article on how to travel with golf clubs.

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