How to travel with your golf clubs
The impending Ryder Cup "clash" between European and US teams is likely to see wannabe top golfers flocking to the greens of Europe (and further away) just like Wimbledon inspires wannabe Tim Henmans to the local tennis courts. Well, for a fortnight or so anyway.
Golf clubs can be extremely bulky and the eternal problem for travellers with them is how to get them from home to destination. Whether they're transported by land, sea or air, problems are bound to arise, so here's some tips on how to smooth out any that may come up.
Which type of bag is best?
There is a certain amount of debate about this. Hard bags are solid and will protect the clubs, but they are heavy and bulky. Soft bags are lighter but offer less protection. Hard bags are more expensive but in the long run, aren't they a better option?
If you chose a hard bag
Avoid your clubs moving around in the bag by stuffing them with clothes. Use old ones if you don't want to crease the new ones. But leave the chequered trousers behind. They might have been fine for Lee Trevino in 1975 but only Rupert the Bear can get away with them these days.
Protect your head(s)
Make sure your woods have head covers to prevent damage while transporting them. Even if they're in a hard case and you've stuffed your excess clothes around them.
Don't lose your clubs
Identify them clearly on the outside of your bag with your name and address, just in case they (or you) miss a flight or a connection. And make sure they leave the airport on the same flight as you do. This is not always the case and increases the risk of you not having a happy reunion with them at the other end
Reserve your taxi in advance
If you're going to the airport in a cab, remember to order it well in advance and tell the company that you've got some bulky luggage. You don't want to antagonise the driver who turns up with just enough time to make the flight in a car that's not big enough.
Don't be stung by excess baggage charges
Different airlines have different policies regarding excess baggage, especially when it comes to golf clubs. Be sure to check well in advance and you will generally be restricted to 23kg free allowance. One notable exception is Virgin Atlantic who will let you carry one bag with a maximum of 14 clubs, a dozen balls, a pair of golf gloves and an umbrella. In addition to your normal allowance.
Skip the airlines entirely
You could always ship your bag to your destination. There are a variety of specialists in shipping clubs but there's nothing stopping you going to the big transporters like FedEx, UPS or DHL. Allow extra time for shipping. It will give you some time just to relax a bit before they get there, or alternatively send them a few days in advance so they're there when you arrive. Don't forget to insure them though.
If you're one of the many that combines business with golf or are not bothered by which clubs you use, you can always rent them. It won't cost too much and at least you'll avoid the hassle of having to cart them through airports. Sometimes though the quality isn't great so it would be an idea to call ahead to see what's on offer.