October 7, 2021
Mel Reid shared some breaking news on social media a few weeks ago. It concerned their driver. The club had caught on a flight in transit. Reid was not the first female golfer to suffer this calamity, and she will not be the last, as traveling with clubs comes with risks, costs and headaches. With that in mind, here are 5 things to know before putting your sticks on a plane.
1. Read the fine print
Most airlines treat golf clubs as standard baggage, which means there is a weight limit (usually 50 pounds) but no oversized baggage charge. If your clubs are lost, the carrier will replace them.
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Damage is another matter. Not all airlines compensate for this. They also don’t allow you to just put everything in your golf bag. For example, under its current policy, American Airlines allows clubs, balls, tees, and a pair of golf shoes. If you think about being sneaky, think again as you may be asked to open your bag at the airport. If you packed anything beyond the approved items, charges will apply.
Because guidelines can vary, watch out for the fine print. It’s not a compelling read (if that’s what you’re looking for, try the safety precautions in the backrest pocket), but it will keep you safe from an unpleasant surprise.
2. Fly direct
It’s hard to tell which is more frustrating: missing out on your connection or getting to your destination without a hitch, only to find that your thugs didn’t. The best way to avoid both of these risks is to take a direct flight whenever you have the option. It will almost certainly cost more. But paying extra can save you a ton of headaches, as golf clubs are one of the most likely items to be left behind on a close connection, especially on a small regional flight.
3. There are things that money cannot buy
With rare exceptions, every club in your pocket can be replaced. The same does not apply to souvenirs with sentimental value. A lucky coin. A vintage headgear. A completed scorecard from a round you played on a bucket list course. If you are traveling with a golf item that you couldn’t lose, carry it in your hand luggage instead.
4. You can take protective measures
When it comes to protecting your sticks from airline damage, a quality travel bag is your first and best line of defense. But there are many other simple, protective steps to take. A stiff arm, for example, gives a travel bag vertical stability and protects your clubs from all kinds of stress. In the absence of the original, a sturdy broomstick or a telescopic ski pole can serve as a debut.
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Or, if you really want to go the MacGyver route, get yourself a standard bucket (like the one you use to wipe the bathroom) and place it over your clubs as a protective shield before sealing them in your travel bag. Another option is to flip the clubs in your pocket to better protect the club heads, although this is easier with irons than drivers and fairway metals.
Speaking of clubs, many of the heads these days are not only adjustable but also removable. If you have the time and inclination, you can remove them at any time before your trip and stow them in your hand luggage.
5. You could always send them
Capitalism is not perfect, but it creates an abundance of consumption opportunities. Instead of entrusting your clubs to an airline, you can always ship them to your destination. A number of companies offer this service, along with a guarantee that your clubs will be waiting for you without a scratch. Depending on where you are going and how fast you need your clubs to get there, these services can be cheaper than an airline baggage fee.
Josh Sens, a golf, food and travel writer, has been an author of GOLF Magazine since 2004 and now contributes to all GOLF platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also co-author with Sammy Hagar of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.