Flying commercial today can be about as much fun as a root canal. Between all the security measures, smaller flying capacity from the airlines left that aren't bankrupt, and the lack of service as well as being nickel-and-dimed to death from all the "fees," it truly has lost its luster from just a few years ago (remember hot meals, anyone?).
Bringing your golf clubs can be a pain. Don't get me wrong, the excitement of going on a golf trip can help temper the hassle of getting your clubs loaded up in your travel bag and then dragging it through the airport and then hoping that some baggage handler doesn't either test your bag's limits of abuse or you experience the dreaded lost or delayed luggage scenarios that will completely ruin your golfing experience.
I just got back from flying the friendly skies, so follow along as I share some musings that hopefully make traveling with one's clubs a bit more enjoyable.
Just Ship It
Skip the airlines entirely and ship your bag to your hotel or golfing destination. While there are various companies out there that specialize in shipping clubs, cut out the middleman and go directly to the big guys like FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the USPS. As long as you allow some extra time for shipping you can save a few bucks while using their ground services as opposed to waiting until the last minute and having to use overnight or air. Make sure you add some insurance to cover the entire contents of your bag such as rain suit, golf balls, shoes, bag, and travel bag.
If you're only going to get to sneak in one round during a business trip or aren't too particular about the clubs you use, you can always rent from the course. This typically doesn't cost too much but often times the rentals are less than to be desired so it may pay to call ahead to find out what the course has to offer. Several of the nicer courses I've played had complete sets from the major manufacturers so it may give you an opportunity to try out some newer equipment.
Hard Case vs. Soft Case
You've decided on bringing your clubs but now have to decide what kind of travel case you want to buy. Let me offer a bit of advice: don't skimp. Sure, you can get a travel case for around $50 but I'm guessing you've spend a decent chunk of change on your clubs and bag so why ruin your investment by going cheap on your travel bag? No one likes to dump a couple hundred bucks on a bag that you may only use once or twice a year but think of it as a mutual fund. It's something you'll hold onto for a long period of time.
Prior to this year, I've used a hard shell case for my travels. It protected my clubs nicely but it is a bit of pain to lug that heavy thing around the airport. In addition, make sure you have a rental car that has a large enough trunk to handle it as they take up quite a bit of room. Nothing worse than trying to cram that into the back of a "intermediate" sized car as well as the rest of your luggage. And if you have a few additional golf buddies with you?
This year I was fortunate enough to try out a ClubGlider and, having gone through its maiden voyage last week, my hard case is up for sale. If you haven't checked out the ClubGlider yet, do so now. Now. It was so incredibly easy to walk through from the parking lot and around the airport and was actually easier to control than my other luggage. The best word to describe it is smooth. If you travel and like to bring your clubs along, you are doing a disservice not to give this bad boy a try.
Whatever you decide to do, try them around the golf shop before you buy so you can test the ease (or lack thereof) of mobility as well as storage pockets for shoes, clothes and whatever else you think you'll need for your trip.
Protecting forged irons is a must as they can take a bit of a pounding when making their way through the baggage claim system. I don't mind a little "bag chatter" to show some character but I don't want large chunks missing either.
I opted to be Mr. Cheapo and just wrapped them up with some bubble wrap I had lying around the house. Next time, I'm leaving the bubble wrap at home and opting for some neoprene iron covers that I can just store in my travel bag when not in use (I'm not going to use them on a course, but that's for another discussion!).
Another item I opted not to get due to time constraints that I luckily I didn't have to rely on was the Stiff Arm by Club Glove. I like the added protection but think the same thing can be accomplished by using a broom handle and a toilet plunger (if you've used this method, post in the comments and let me know how it went).
Finally, get a TSA recognized lock to keep your clubs from wandering off when not in your control. It will also prevent your lock from having to be cut off if you bag gets searched.
One other travel tip is to make sure your clubs are covered under your homeowner's insurance policy in the event of their disappearance. Check with your agent to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Also, bring a little extra cash along as airlines are now charging for multiple checked bags as well as tacking on fees based on weight. If possible, just check your golf bag and you will save enough to buy an extra dozen of golf balls.
Flying with your golf clubs can be a pain but hopefully by planning ahead and having the proper travel equipment, you'll spend less time worrying about your clubs and more time enjoying your rounds of golf.