Southwest airlines golf clubs policy
A Southwest plane – Miguel Ángel Sanz (unsplash)

If you’re flying in, around, or to the Southern and Western parts of the US, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen Southwest Airlines. Having commenced services in 1971, it’s one of the most recognizable US aviation companies with over 50 years of experience in the industry. If your next golf trip is in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, or another of the 121 destinations they serve – let’s get you up to speed as to how to pack your golf baggage with Southwest Airlines.

Does a golf bag count in the checked baggage allowance in Southwest?

Their official policy is that sports equipment bags can be brought on as a substitution for a free checked baggage item. Meaning you needn’t pay any extra if you want to travel with your clubs. That does however mean that you’ll have to work within the regular weight and size allowance.

Weight and size allowance if you check your golf bag as a free checked baggage item

The weight allowance is 50 lb (23 kg). These rules are pretty much the standard and airlines across the world usually follow suit, the conditions when flying with British Airways is very similar.

It must also comply with the linear size specifications of 62 linear inches in size (outside length + height + width). This limit isn’t so great because good golf travel bags are usually sized around 80 linear inches so your bag will be very likely to be considered oversized.

When you pack your clubs for air travel, be sure to follow these simple tips on traveling with golf clubs.

The fee to pay if your golf bag is considered overweight, oversized, or both

The excess fee in Southwest is quite cheap at $75 (for example you have to pay $150 on American Airlines and $100 on Air Canada). This is the rate for overweight and oversized. However, in the situation that your bag is both overweight and oversized, you will only be subject to one fee payment.

Fee aside, Southwest is at least somewhat generous with what they still allow to fly, as the overweight allowance extends to 100 lb (45 kg). Meanwhile, their oversize allowance extends to 80 inches, which is still not that great.

Of course, you’ll have to pay that both ways if you decided to overpack both on your outward and return flights. If your luggage is over 100 lb (45 kg), the airline will reject it from flying altogether.

How many free checked bags can you take in Southwest?

Southwest Airlines typically allow passengers to take two checked bags at no extra cost on their flights. This means you needn’t stuff your bags senseless and encroach on the allowance as you can have distinct bags for golf equipment and other travel requirements, even if you are traveling by yourself.

Southwest recommendations about travel golf bags

Southwest encourages all traveling golfers to use a hard-sided golf bag. Passengers who bring soft-sided bags will only be accepted on a conditional basis. While these conditions are not entirely clear from the website policy page, at the airport you can expect to sign some kind of waiver, negating the company from any kind of responsibility for damages to the bag and its contents. Also, your golf bag should not contain anything other than the usual golf paraphernalia: golf clubs, balls, tees, and golf shoes.

Here are our recommendations of the best golf travel bags with size info, check them out.

Alternative: shipping your clubs

Now if you’re shuddering at the thought of all the hassle and potential pitfalls, then there is an alternative to flying with your clubs. Posting your clubs to your destination is a very credible option with services like now operating throughout the US and in multiple countries. This allows you to save the fuss of packing, and the effort of lugging heavy bags around airports and gives you peace of mind.

Can you gate-check golf clubs on Southwest?

Gate-checking is the process where passengers check their baggage at the gate instead of at the check-in counter. You can’t gate-check your golf clubs since you won’t get past security check carrying golf clubs.

Is it cheaper to fly with golf clubs or ship them?

On paper, it is cheaper to fly with your clubs. After all, with companies like Southwest, you pay nothing to take them on and you get two checked bags for free anyway. Now, if you’re going to exceed the weight/size allowance, the answer changes.

At this point with fees for overweight and oversized luggage, it becomes much cheaper to just ship them to your destination.

Remember that some companies will charge for the luxury of bringing sports equipment and/or for a second bag (you might want a change of clothes for your trip). Compare this with the cost of shipping and you might find it cheaper to travel without your clubs.

Should I fly premium class for my next golf trip?

If you have an expendable income, why not? The more money you put into aviation experiences, typically the better time you will have. The big tangible advantage is that the premium classes tend to have more baggage weight allowance. This will come in handy for those extra golf balls, or if you really want to justify bringing that luxury golf club you want to show off.

Things to remember when taking your golf clubs on a flight

No matter which company you’re flying with, pack light. Assess your needs for the trip and leave any club you’re not going to use at home. Your limited-edition Titleist 9-Iron signed by Justin Thomas is very nice but you’d hate to damage it in transit. Or even have it send you over the weight allowance and have to pay $75 for a club you’re going to use less than twice during your trip.

Direct flights are your friend during the booking process. If you’re heading further afield then it is possible you’ll have a few legs on your journey with multiple flights and even some road-based travel. In such a case, shipping your sticks will be easier as you’re less likely to encounter issues as you needn’t check and re-check them as you fly in and out of different airports.

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