November 7, 2022
In life as in travel, it is easiest to learn by doing.
Anyone can extoll the virtues of carry-on luggage to you, but you won’t understand them until you’re watching the baggage claim belt circle for the 10th time without seeing your beloved roller bag. Anyone can stress the importance of arriving two hours early for an international flight, but you won’t agree with them until you’re watching your plane taxi down the runway from the safety of the terminal. Anyone can explain the inanity of TSA luggage rules, but you won’t fully despise them until you’re emptying out a 4 oz. shampoo bottle while your partner stares angrily in your direction. And that’s just at the airport!
No one is born a good traveler. To reach that status, one must survive an unfortunate and overwhelmingly unpleasant series of travel failures. Flight delays and cancellations, booking errors and “misunderstandings,” language barriers and rude foreigners, seasickness and food poisoning. These afflictions are only the baseline for the failures you can hope to achieve in your first year of traveling.
Heaven, hell and home: Lessons from my first European golf vacation
So why bother? Because travel is our small world’s biggest gift — the easiest and fastest education you can receive about the world, humanity, and yourself. And, if you’re like me, travel can bring you to places worth even the worst travel screwup; where your perspective on the world (and, with any luck, your perspective on golf) can change forever for the better.
Fortunately, you needn’t experience every travel mistake firsthand. Some screwups can be learned before your plane ever leaves the gate. Today, we’re helping you with one of the biggest potential minefields: packing, by teaching you our 5 keys to pack for any golf trip, no matter the temperature.
For years, I used a backpack duffel. It was a good, durable bag — great for checking or carrying on. But then one day, my partner gifted me my first hard-sided roller bag, and my life was changed for the better.
The ease of getting through an airport with a roller bag can’t be overstated, particularly when you’re already lugging a golf bag to the checking area. A good bag, like mine from Victorinox, will feature expandable zippers, a durable shell, and plenty of pockets for separating clean and dirty clothes. Some bags even come with their own built-in charging ports. For bargain travelers like myself, it can be hard to justify the price point that comes with a hard-sided roller, but trust me when I tell you this one has changed my golf life for the better.
1A. Golf luggage
So long as you have a golf travel bag that will protect your gear without breaking it, there’s no wrong choice, but not all options are created equal.
Some bags, like this one from Caddy Daddy, feature more rugged material and larger pockets for storage. For the chronic over-packers (or souvenir shoppers) that’s a big deal. For those of us who travel upwards of 20 times per year with their clubs (*coughs in my own direction*), the extra $100 for a better bag might be worth the hassle. For those who might fly only once, it might not be. Purchase your gear accordingly.
1B. Golf luggage accessories
Every golf bag needs a stiff arm, if not two of them. Sure, you can get away without it from time to time, but the cost of one of these ($40) is well worth the peace of mind you’ll have knowing your brand-new, $500 driver won’t be snapped in half when you retrieve it from the baggage claim.
For years, my friends and loved ones reviled in my complete and utter inability to pack shoes for golf trips. Some trips, I’d head out the door with four pairs packed for four days on the road. Other times I’d bring only one pair, only to wind up shelling out for a new pair at my new destination.
The problem, it turned out, wasn’t me, but my golf shoes. For most trips, I’d pack a pair of tried-and-true spikes for the road in addition to a pair of running shoes (for workout purposes) and a pair or two of nicer casual shoes (usually white sneakers) for dinners out. By the time I’d left my apartment, shoes had taken up half the space in my luggage.
Then I found out about Adidas’ Samba and Stan Smith golf shoes, a new twist on the iconic do-everything shoes that were a part of everyone’s athletic prime. These shoes are the silver bullet. On the golf course, the treads on the bottom of the shoes provide ample support even for high-swing-speed players (humble brag), while the instep is comfortable and well-cushioned for walkers. Off the course, the Sambas are stylish, sleek and very easy to maintain, making them a perfect addition to most 19th hole fits (and beyond).
And the best part? When I leave on my next golf trip (in a week and counting), they’ll be the only shoes I bring with me. That’s a major win, both for my pride and my travel cred.
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Adidas Sambas and Stan Smith Golf Shoes
Inspired by the uber-popular shoes, Adidas’ Special Edition Sambas and Stan Smith shoes blend style and comfort for continuous wear on-and-off the course.
In a word, layers.
But James, you’re thinking, I have a trip booked for Pinehurst in the middle of August. I don’t need layers!
You, dear reader, are wrong. There is not a golf trip on this great earth in which a performance-fabric quarter-zip and a rain jacket are not prudent additions. You simply never know when the weather might turn, and you never want to find yourself dependent upon the pro shop should that happen to you.
On clothing, another rule of thumb: you can re-wear bottom layers, but you can’t re-wear tops. If you need to save space, lose a few pairs of pants or shorts (and don’t ever forget a belt!).
Some requirements: A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shave gel, a razor and body wash.
Some very helpful luxuries: Wrinkle spray (this has saved my life on several occasions), travel-sized cologne (small, effective, space-conscious), multivitamins (travel can run you down!), Pepto Bismol (see above re: food poisoning), lip balm and baby powder (for chafing, dryness or both).
What I spent on a luxe 4-day golf trip from NYC to Whistler
5. Miscellaneous necessities
Underwear: Take the number of days you’re traveling and add two to it: you have your number of pairs to bring.
Socks: Same rule as above, but make sure to stock up on high-quality athletic socks. Nobody wants their trip ruined by blisters on day 1.
Phone chargers: Always keep a backup in your backpack or tote.
Passports: Find a safe space to keep it (preferably a small pocket). Never move it from that location. If it is pinned underneath something in your bag, don’t tug on it. The surest way to delay any trip is to rip your passport in half (speaking, sadly, from experience).
Advil: Buy a small container of Advil and Tylenol. Mix the two together. Stick one container in your golf bag and one in your backpack. Use accordingly.
Nuun: Dehydration is a quick travel killer. Buy these electrolyte-infused tablets and keep them in your bag for safe keeping. You’ll need them sooner than you think.
Sunscreen: Buy it and stick it in your golf bag. Your skin (and wallet) will thank you.
1 dozen golf balls: Bring more than you need.
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James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at [email protected].