As any avid golfer can tell you, there is no substitute for using your own golf clubs. Having clubs you’re accustomed to is particularly important while traveling, especially if you have a custom-made set or are making that once-in-a-lifetime trip to hit the links at St. Andrews or Pebble Beach. Or maybe just a regular golf trip visiting one of the fantastic golf courses in Colorado, whichever you prefer.
You might think traveling with your golf clubs is difficult and not worth the hassle but read ahead for traveling tips on how you can make the process simple, worry-free, and efficient while protecting your valuable equipment.
Here are 14 Tips on How to Fly with Golf Clubs:
1. Choose a golf travel bag
Don’t skimp when deciding which golf travel bag to purchase. Consider it an investment and purchase the best golf travel bag you can afford. Buying a golf bag that is designed expressly for travel is very important in order to protect its valuable contents. These bags are built to withstand rough handling and do not feature protruding pieces that can easily get caught on baggage handling equipment.
Price shouldn’t be your only consideration when purchasing a golf bag—think about weight, padding, type of wheels, and whether you’d prefer a hard or soft case. Weight can be a significant factor to consider in your decision if you will be responsible for hauling your clubs in and out of the car’s trunk or if you have physical limitations for lifting.
2. Find a direct flight
The best way to ensure your clubs end up at the same destination where you are is to fly direct. A tight layover is the perfect way for your bag to miss getting transferred to your connecting flight. No layover means a lower chance that your golf clubs stay in Atlanta when you touch down in Arizona.
Choosing a direct flight may cost more or be less convenient, but doing so could be worth the money and inconvenience, even if it’s simply to avoid the headache of losing or delaying the arrival of your equipment.
3. Take pictures of your gear
Take pictures of each of your clubs, your bag, and any accessories you pack inside it. You will be thankful you took this precaution if any damage or loss occurs in transit and you need to file a report with the airlines. They have the right to ask for proof of your property’s condition before your flight.
4. Checking your golf bag
Unfortunately, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t allow golf clubs as carry-ons because they could be used as weapons. However, checking your golf travel bag is an acceptable transport method since most major airlines have a weight limit of fifty pounds (23 kilos) for checked luggage. Most full golf bags will not exceed that limit even if you stow accessories such as shoes, tees, balls, and rain gear inside.
If you’re a frequent traveler, a luggage scale is a great tool to ensure your bags are never over the limit to avoid costly overweight fees. Which bring us to the next tips:
5. Know your airline’s policy about golf clubs
Be sure to check the airlines’ rules about traveling with golf clubs, especially fee (if any), if it counts as a regular checked bag, and overweight/oversized charges. Being aware of the policy allows you to pack in the most efficient way to incur as little charges as possible.
Here are some of the most common ones:
- United Airlines golf clubs policy
- American Airlines golf clubs policy
- Delta Airlines golf clubs policy
- Southwest Airlines golf clubs policy
- British Airways golf clubs policy (UK based)
- Air Canada golf clubs policy (Canada based)
- Alaska Airlines golf clubs policy
- JetBlue Airlines golf clubs policy
- Frontier Airlines golf clubs policy
- Spirit Airlines golf clubs policy
- Allegiant Air golf clubs policy
- Sun Country Airlines golf clubs policy
- WestJet Golf clubs policy (Canada based)
- Hawaiian Airlines golf clubs policy
- Volaris golf clubs policy (Mexico based)
- Aeromexico Airlines golf club policy (Mexico based)
- Virgin Atlantic golf club policy (UK based)
- Viva Aerobus golf clubs policy (Mexico based)
6. Watch your head!
Many clubs come with removable heads, which means you can store them in your carry-on to keep them from getting damaged. Removing the head and transporting it in your carry-on bag will add another layer of protection as you can be sure that they won’t be roughed up by airport baggage handlers.
It’s a good idea to document the settings by taking a picture of the club on your cell phone before you remove the head. You don’t want to waste time figuring out your settings to reattach the head when you get to your destination and are eager to get on the links. Don’t forget to pack the wrench to reattach them!
7. Simple precautions
While the above options are great for protecting your equipment, there are a couple of very simple precautions, such as the use of a stiff arm that can be highly effective in the protection of your golf clubs. Stiff arms are long poles placed inside the golf bag to absorb any impact your clubs may encounter in transit. Stiff arms are available for purchase, but it’s easy to improvise simply by using a broom handle or steel rod and placing it in the bag next to your tallest club.
Don’t have removable heads on your clubs? No problem. Simply slip socks over the tops of the heads to keep them from getting damaged. Using light outerwear or other clothing to wrap around the clubs is also effective in protecting them.
8. Consider shipping your golf clubs
If checking your golf gear at the airport sounds like a hassle, and you have enough time ahead of your trip, you can always ship them using a specialty shipper like Luggage Forward or Ship Sticks. Even conventional shippers such as UPS or FedEx will ship golf clubs for a reasonable price and will pack them securely for you.
Give your destination hotel a heads-up letting them know when to expect the package, and make sure you put your name in the hotel’s shipping address so they can cross-reference it with your reservation when the package arrives. Be aware that some hotels charge a small fee to guests to accept packages, so ask them about this ahead of time to avoid surprises at check-in.
9. Finding your bag at the airport
Because of the large size of golf bags, airport personnel will often route them to the oversized luggage area. Don’t panic if all the luggage on the carousel has been claimed and you still haven’t found your bag. Ask an airport employee where the oversized luggage area is located, and you most likely will see your bag there waiting for you to claim.
The age-old trick of tying a brightly colored ribbon on the handle of your luggage to make it easier to identify applies to golf bags, too.
It may sound like a no-brainer but make sure your bag has a sturdy tag with your contact information, such as your full name, phone number with country code and area code, and email address. The greater number of methods of communication you provide the airlines, the better your chances of getting your bag back quickly if it goes missing. Including your home address on your identification tag is not recommended for safety reasons.
It may seem like overkill, but you might want to consider adding a luggage tag to carry-on items, too, in the event someone mistakenly picks up your bag. Be sure to put a second tag inside your checked and carry-on bags in case something happens to the one on the outside.
11. Invest in a luggage tracker
The device GQ Magazine calls a “crucial travel accessory” will give you peace of mind while traveling to your golf vacation destination. Luggage trackers are about the size of a credit card and work with Bluetooth technology that pairs with your phone through an app. These handy devices can tell you where your bag is, even when the airlines struggle to find it.
The range varies from 33 to 328 feet (<10 to 100 meters), and prices range from around $16 to $95. They are sold online or wherever you buy electronics.
12. Insuring your gear
Most airlines will cover the cost of new clubs in case of loss or damage, but not without a hassle involving a lot of time and paperwork. Many people don’t realize that most renters’ and homeowners’ insurance policies will cover your clubs if they are damaged, stolen, or lost.
Check with your insurance agent for details—some insurance companies will only reimburse you if the loss occurs in your home country, and the coverage may not apply when traveling internationally.
13. Travel insurance policies
Many private travel insurance companies will insure golf clubs against loss or delay while traveling with a “sporting equipment coverage” add-on to a traditional travelers’ insurance policy. The cost of these plans varies, and many options are available.
14. Train travel
Don’t rule out the benefits of traveling by train as a way of getting to your destination while seeing the country at the same time. Amtrak trains departing from a number of states will allow you to bring your clubs as a carry-on as long as a reservation for golf equipment is made at the time of booking. However, they accept no liability for anything you carry with you onboard.
Passengers are allowed two carry-ons with a maximum weight of 50 pounds each, and special rules apply.
15. Don’t forget souvenirs!
Think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and make sure your golf bag is full up to the weight limit before you head home. While it’s not a good idea to put expensive or fragile items inside—tote those in your carry-on—you can pack that bag full of all those souvenirs you might pick up in your travels.
Dirty laundry makes an excellent cushion for your clubs, too. Don’t waste that space!
Following these tips will help you have a hassle-free and enjoyable getaway, allowing you to focus on enjoying your golfing vacation while avoiding the most common travel mishaps for golfers. Another option is to buy an adjustable golf club and simply put it in your checked luggage. If you’re considering this option, make sure you’re comfortable with using an adjustable club.