The worst part of living in the great white north are the Canadian Winters. It’s the last week of March and I still wakeup to shovelling the drive way on the way to work. This basically means a golf vacation down south is a must for us golfers living up north.
This past January, we went to Phoenix for a week of golf and sunshine to break up the monotony and keep our spirits up. In Phoenix, golf courses are plentiful and tee times are easy to find.
If you’re only comfortable with your gamer set of clubs and rental is out of the question, then here are some things we learned from our trip and what it’s like to be flying with our golf clubs.
1. Knowing Your Limits
Begin by checking with your airline’s excess baggage policies. We flew WestJet and by default, allows for one checked bag of 22 Kg/50 Lbs.
The two golf travel bags we had were about 8 lbs each and both our regular golf club bags weighs about 30lbs each. WestJet also allows for one standard carry-on and another bag for personal items that can be brought on flight.
Knowing these details can save you from a lot of pain at the airport- on our way out, we saw a husband attempting to repack 5 extra pounds of clothes from his wife’s luggage. It was a big struggle and he’s fighting with underwear and stockings all over the airport floor. While it’s mildly amusing for us, it was sheer panic and embarrassment for the poor man!
2. Packing Smartly
Knowing your limits then opens up your packing possibilities. We had about 12 lbs left over for some extra items.
Jam your Golf Travel Bag up to the limit!
In fact, we found that we can pack our shoes, and all our dry-fit golf clothes, and even stuff in an extra dozen balls into the golf travel bags and still make it under the limit.
We used a Heys luggage scale from Costco that’s super handy and very exact (to the .5 lbs or kgs).
If you arrive at an airport early, it’s a good idea to find an empty airline counter and just plunk your clubs or suitcase on there and check the weight. At least you’ll have time to calmly repack or else buy an extra suitcase or bag from the duty free shops. It’s often better to pay for a 2nd or 3rd piece of luggage than to go over the weight limit.
We found that with the clothes and clubs taken cared of, our carry-on bag is more than enough room to carry our electronic gadgets and personal items. This way, we were able to fly within the limits comfortably without being nickelled and dimed to death by the airlines with extra luggage fees.
3. Picking the Right Golf Travel Bag
The luggage handlers are not going to be as careful with your clubs as you are. There are lots of stories of snapped club heads and bags being tossed or falling off conveyor belts onto the tarmac. So invest appropriately and protect your clubs with a good bag.
Hard Case or Soft Case?
The first consideration is whether a soft case is good enough? Obviously, a hard case offers more protection- but on the other hand, is clumsy and takes up a lot of room. Consider loading 2 cart bags into the trunk of a sedan for your regular weekend games- you might even be forced to load the driver separately from the rest of the bag already. Now, consider arriving at the airport and getting a random rental car, with maybe one or two hard cases?
Hopefully, you planned on getting an SUV or else, there’s going be some creative Tetris level manoeuvring to get the bags from the airport to your hotel.
A soft case offers slightly less protection, but is much easier to load into a car and also to store at home.
The Caddy Daddy Constrictor 2
I found this Caddy Daddy Constrictor 2 Travel Bag from Amazon for well under $100. It is well made, high quality material and protects my clubs good enough.
Quality construction. Only weighs about 8Lbs. Extra pockets for shoes (I put golf shoes on one side and toiletries on the other).
It doesn’t stand up straight on its own. It tips over if left unattended and I found some of the extra protection I had inside the bag broken. Luckily, my clubs were just fine. Also, it’s very difficult to move around compared to the Ping bag below. It must be dragged around on two large quality wheels but it’s difficult to turn and handle in general.
The Ping Foldable Travel Bag
We packed my wife’s clubs in this wonderful Ping Folding Travel Bag. The retail price more than twice the price of the Caddy Daddy but some slight differences here makes moving through the airport much, much easier and almost worth the extra cost.
Well constructed, padded everywhere. This bag has 6 wheels, 4 at the base, and 2 large ones that you can drag along. Subsequently, you can “walk” this bag much like those spinning Samsonite luggages with much less effort. This is especially useful for those of us who are shorter than average! There is an internal strap to prevent your bag from moving. Also, it’s got lots of handles to help with loading and unloading into trunks. Finally, it has a brilliant design that folds “down” to a small cube so it stays out of the way for easy storage.
It costs a little more than other bags. I actually found this bag practically new on Kijiji for about the same price as the Caddy Daddy bag. While the Caddy Daddy bag is nice, I’m actually considering selling that one to get another Ping bag instead for future trips.
So, in summary- balance your need for protection versus convenience, get the best bag you can to make your life easier through the airports, but check Kijiji first before spending full retail on one!
Your airport travel could be as nice and easy as this:
My wife strolling through the Phoenix car rental parkade with her new buddy, the Ping Travel Bag. Also, note that this bag is almost half of her body weight!
4. Packing the Golf Bag
The Stiff Arm
A stiff arm is designed to absorb the brunt of an impact due to a fall or mishandling of your bag. In fact, Club Glove even says that if the arm ever bend and break, then it’s doing it’s job. (And, of course, you’ll have to buy another one). We came up with our own inexpensive solution with a trip to the Dollar Store.
This hand crafted $1.33 stiff arm is made up of a broomstick ($1 buck) and a tennis ball (3/$1.00). The ones we found are light aluminium and feels stronger than the real stiff arm. The only trick is to make sure you have a long enough of a handle that is taller than your driver/3w but short enough to fit in your zipped up travel bag.
If you can fit it, you can flip the clubs upside down so only the handle is stick up out of the bag. I couldn’t do it with my 3W but my hybrid fit nicely in there.
Club Face Protection
We managed to find cheapo but perfect neoprene iron head covers from Amazon and Ebay for under $10.
We once played golf with a couple that had covers on every club and it was the most infuriating round ever. Instead, we just slip them on before the flight and take them all off when we unpack our bags at the hotel to prevent the irons from being too banged up on the trip.
In a pinch, you could also use old socks as well- and if they are old enough, maybe it’ll discourage TSA from rifling through your bag any more than the bare necessity!
Off With The [Driver] Head!
The advent of super adjustable drivers is actually perfect for travel and packing!
Take off the head at home and secure it in the head cover and store it inside a pocket in your golf bag.
This does two things. First, your most expensive club becomes the most protected item in your whole bag. Second, it shortens the length of the longest club in your bag. Without the head, the driver shaft will be shorter than your 3W.
Let’s deal with the Driver Shaft below…
Club Head Protection Part 2
My newest club in my bag is non-adjustable, non-detachable the Cally Xhot 3W so I had to make sure it arrives safely with a little extra effort.
This is just an an inverted pylon traffic cone ($1.25 from the dollar store) to help distribute and absorb forces away from the neck down the shafts below the neck and hosel.
I had to hack saw off the end to fit it through my grips.
I used this as an opportunity to secure my driver shaft as well. A little masking tape to keep it close to my 3W and into the head cover they both go.
From the above pictures, my might be able to see that I managed to fit 4-6 irons into each slot in a golf bag. With some careful planning, I managed to stuff all the clubs into the center 5 out of 13 pockets of the bag. This leaves some buffer room with the empty slots between the external world your clubs and also provide some added strength to all the clubs.
Angry Birds Garbage Pail
I learned about hybrid travel bags and thought it’s a great idea- instead of a rain cover, imagine a snapon/zipped up hard cover, like a top hat for the clubs. That final extra bit of protection can be mimicked by covering the clubs with a simple plastic garbage pail. You might have to test different size pails to find the right fit inside the travel bag.
Phew! That’s all I have for now.
I think the biggest tip is to put in the little extra effort before hand to address easily preventable surprises. Our winters are long here in Canada and we should be rewarding ourselves with a break from winter and not a break in anything else!
Until our next trip, keep your golf clubs protected and have safe travels. Let us know below if you have any great travel tips of your own!