As a frequent traveler and avid golfer, I want to show you that flying with golf clubs is actually quite easy. If you read this and follow the instructions, you will arrive with your clubs at your destination ready to play some golf and make some memories.
Flying, in general, is a hassle for most people. Planning the trip, purchasing the tickets, and then making sure to pack everything you need can make even the best planner a little nervous. With that said, adding golf clubs to the packing list can be even more daunting if you are not used to it. Whether you are going specifically to play golf or you are taking a vacation and want to play a round or 2 while you are there, you want your own golf clubs and equipment. I will let you in on a little secret…It is not as difficult as you may think.
What You Will Need
To make your travel day as easy as possible there is some equipment and information that you will need. You have 2 main goals for traveling with your golf gear; get them there safely and do not blow your vacation budget doing it. If you have each of the following 3 things, you will increase your chances of getting your clubs to your destination without incident.
Golf Travel Bag
Not all golf travel bags were created equal and it is really important to choose the right one for your travel day…Read the full review of our top 5 best golf travel bags. In fact, in terms of getting your golf clubs to their destination safely, a good travel bag may be the most important factor you have to consider.
Our top choice for a golf travel bag is the SunMountain ClubGlider Tour bag. This is a heavy duty, soft case golf travel bag that can hold either cart or stand bags easily. It only weighs about 13 pounds so that you can fit all of your clubs in a container weighing less than the 50 pounds most airlines accept. It is strong enough to keep your clubs safe but it is also very portable and easy to maneuver through an airport and into a rental car.
A good golf travel bag will protect your clubs, allow you to pack even the biggest and longest driver out there, be lightweight enough to be a checked bag, and give you a little extra space for a few other things.
On the other hand, if cost and ease of transportation are not a concern and you want maximum protection for your precious golf clubs than another great option is the SKB Deluxe Slimline.
The hard shell case is top-of-the-line in terms of protection and most golf club sets will fit inside at less than 50 pounds.
For a list of features and a review of some of the best golf travel bags, just go to our review on the Red Birdie Golf website. Choosing the best bag really is the best thing you can do to protect your clubs on a trip.
Your Airline’s Baggage Policy
The next thing you will need is a copy or a working knowledge of the baggage policy of your chosen airline. For instance, Southwest Airlines has one of the more liberal baggage policies out there. They accept 2 checked bags that are 50 pounds or less, 1 carryon bag, and 1 personal item. Prior to booking your trip, simply google each airline’s baggage policies to find out what you can and cannot carry and how much it will cost. Here are a couple of things to look for:
- How many bags can be checked?
- Can I check additional bags for a fee?
- How much can each checked bag weigh?
- Do you have to pay for carry-ons or personal items?
- If your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, what is the excess weight charge?
- If you are traveling internationally, are the rules different?
- Do golf travel bags fall within the limits of how big a checked bag can be?
The answer to each of these questions is airline specific, but it is easy to find these policies with a simple google search. The above questions are simply the ones that you need to find answers for to ensure that your trip will not be interrupted before it even begins.
A Non Stop Flight
The last thing that will be very important for the success of your trip is a non-stop flight to your destination. This is not always possible, but the fewer times your golf clubs are loaded and unloaded onto a plane, the better. If you are flying from Portland to New York City and the non-stop option is slightly more expensive than the 3-stop alternative…Take the non-stop flight every time.
Alternatives To Flying With Your Clubs
There are some situations that make flying with your clubs impossible. When that is the case, the following options will allow you to still spend some time on the course during your trip, and possibly even with your own clubs.
If you want your clubs to arrive at your final destination insured, guaranteed on time, and with no work on your part on your travel day, then Shipsticks might be the perfect alternative. Here is how it works:
- Use their online software to schedule the shipment of your clubs.
- Print and attach the label to your clubs.
- Either drop off your bags or have them picked up by a Shipsticks provider.
- Track your clubs until they arrive at your destination…Probably even before you do.
It really is that simple and your clubs are insured for between $1,000 and $3,500. Your first thought is probably that this service will cost too much to be viable. When I first heard of this service, I thought the same thing. However, even shipping across the country, you will not pay more than $100 as long as you have 3 days notice or more. It is a really good service for not that much more than most airlines charge for a checked bag.
Lugless is the same principle as ShipSticks, but with a different pricing structure. They also ship any luggage to your destination for fees based mostly on distance, but they ensure your package arrives at your destination in the time provided.
If you have ever used UPS or Fedex to deliver any package, then you know how this process works. You go to a local shipping store, they weigh and size the package, find out where it is going, and give you a price based on all of those variables. The main difference in using one of these services is that, unless you want to pay a lot of money, you need a little more notice and these companies do not always give you a specific day or time that the package will be delivered. There is also the issue that tradition tells us that these companies will not be as careful with your clubs as Lugless or ShipSticks.
You may not want to hear this, but depending on the nature of your trip, renting a set of golf clubs may be your best option. For instance, if you are going on a family trip and hope to spend one afternoon on the course or if you are staying an extra day at the end of a business trip.
This is a bad option for many avid golfers because a set of rental clubs are unknown and they are not what you are used to. There is no way to know how well they have been kept up with and you do not have the knowledge of the pros and cons of every single club in that set like you do for your own clubs.
If you cannot pack your own clubs, do not have the willingness to follow the instructions in this post, or are prohibited for any reason by travel restrictions, just call ahead. Perhaps the course closest to you has rental options and at the very least you can spend a day of your trip on the links.
The best and easiest alternative is ShipSticks. With their pricing structure, there is a good chance that you will not spend much more than you would have by checking a potentially overweight bag at your airline’s counter.
The added value is that you do not have to worry about anything on the day of travel. This is especially comforting to those who want to focus on their trip or parents who will have to focus on their family.
Instructions For Flying With Your Clubs
Packing a Travel Bag
Now that you have seen our choice for the best golf travel bag out there, the SunMountain ClubGlider Tour, the next step is knowing how to pack it effectively.
What To Pack
The average set of 14 golf clubs plus a cart bag weighs about 30 pounds. If you add the 13 pounds that the SunMountain Bag weighs then you have very little room to pack anything else. With Southwest, this is not a problem because you have the ability to pack another checked bag.
With most airlines, however, this means 1 of 2 things. Either you pack the majority of everything else you need on your vacation in a carry-on bag, or you pay the extra money for a second checked bag. We suggest using a bag weigher/scale at home (these are surprisingly accurate) prior to your trip.
The key is to pack light and only pack the clubs and the gear that you need. Think about purchasing golf balls at the pro shop or sticking a dozen in your personal item.
Pack your lighter weight stand bag rather than your nice, big cart bag. If your trip is golf specific, focus on getting your clubs there at the expense of other things.
However, if it is a family vacation or a business trip, your clubs and equipment have to take a backseat and you can only bring what makes sense to your trip.
How To Pack
Here are a few tips on how to pack your clubs and your other gear so that you get everything that you need on your trip without taking anything extra or spending more money:
- Pack to protect your clubs. Wrap towels, shirts, or pants around each of the club heads so that they do not hit against each other.
- Pack your clothes and other gear in a carry-on bag.
- Unscrew the heads off of your driver and woods and wrap them in a towel to make extra room.
- The more graphite shafts you have available, the lighter and the better it will be.
- Pack for the trip you are going on…do not over pack!
- You can buy snacks and golf balls when you get there.
One of the most important things to remember is not to pack any of your valuables and electronics into your golf travel bag. This is not because the bag would not protect it, it probably would.
However, small valuable items like jewelry, electronics, lucky charms, etc. will fit either on your carry-on bag or on your person and you do not want anything to be lost or misplaced on route to your destination.
A checked bag is often opened and surveyed before the flight and you just never know where your valuable items may end up.
This gets its own special section because of how important it is to remember. If you are taking your clubs on the trip, chances are other golfers are doing the same thing. Putting your name and some form of contact information is vital just in case someone mistakenly picks up your clubs instead of theirs.
In addition, and especially if you purchase a fairly plain looking golf travel bag, do something to make it stand out. Tie a neon green ribbon around it, or put some stickers of your favorite bands or sayings across the surface of the bag so that it is easy to identify at landing.
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and that it helps you enjoy a round of golf no matter where in the world you end up traveling. One of the best things you can do on a vacation is to get out and play a round on a course that you would never have gotten to play otherwise and it is infinitely more fun if you can play that round with your own clubs.
Some of my best memories have been spending time on the golf course with my Grandfather, wife, or son on vacations and I hope that you can enjoy some of those same memories.
Just follow the above instructions, and it is really not that difficult to travel with everything you need for a wonderful vacation…including your golf clubs.
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