Golf

Golf and travel go together like peanut butter and jelly. In fact, I’d posit that travel has kept me interested in golf for many more years than my game (or lack thereof) ever could. The idea of playing golf along the coast of the Dominican Republic, or on a scenic stretch of Cape Cod, or among the alpine marshes along the Yampa River in Colorado — this is what keeps me in the game.

But traveling with golf clubs — or its alternative, renting golf clubs — creates the only hassle in this equation. In fact, I’ve spent years wrestling with the conundrum myself, but have ultimately come to a few conclusions. So which option is right for you?

Renting

Torrey PinesMajor pros: One less bag to check if you are flying; sometimes better clubs (if you haven’t replaced yours in the last few years).

Major cons: Adjusting to how a different set of clubs performs.

After years of bubble-wrapping my clubs and packing them like Ming vases for our annual trip to Cape Cod, I gave up. For me, it was an easy decision. My golf game was so inconsistent, I knew that I’d play just as well (or just as badly) with rented clubs. And, as I discovered on some of Cape Cod’s nicer courses, their clubs were newer and in better shape.

The only problem? The first time, I forgot to pack golf balls, tees, my glove, and ball-markers, which were all loaded — as you would guess — in my golf bag. So at the pro shop, I not only had to drop $50 on rentals but another $45 on balls, tees and a new glove.

How much will you spend: Between $50 to $80. At higher-end golf courses (for instance, the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island), you can expect to pay around $70 for 18 holes. But every now and then you’ll find an exclusive course with lower rates. At Torrey Pines in San Diego, club rentals cost only $50 for 18 holes.

Bringing Your Own

GolfMajor pros: Muscle memory, since you are golfing with the clubs you know.

Major cons: Hassle of packing and checking your clubs on an airplane.

Bringing your own clubs certainly has its advantages, especially if you fit into the category of golfer who can perform consistently with the same set of clubs. But if you are taking those precious clubs on an airplane, be sure to protect them with the right luggage and internal packing. The PGA offers a series of tips on their site that I find extremely helpful. However, keep in mind that golf bags — like skis — are considered oversized luggage. When you arrive at your destination, they’ll come out at baggage claim last.

If you really don’t like waiting at the baggage carousel — or you really don’t like dealing with the airlines — you can also have your clubs shipped in advance, but that quickly becomes cost-prohibitive if you want them sent any faster than FedEx Ground … or if you are shipping them internationally.

How much will you spend: It used to be that the main advantage in bringing your own golf clubs was saving money, but with airline baggage fees, that’s no longer the case. Airlines can charge between $50 and $100 per oversized luggage item depending on the airline and whether your flight is domestic or international. That quickly makes the issue of “bring ’em or rent ’em” a wash on cost.

What Works For Me

Today, my golden rule is that if a plane is involved, I pack two golf-oriented Ziploc bags (one with 10 golf balls, the other with the rest of the accessories) into my suitcase and I rent from the pro shop. But if I’m on a golf road trip — such as a drive up to the mountains outside of Denver, where I live — I bring my own clubs.

However, several of my golf buddies — who are much better than I am — swear by bringing their own clubs. For them, that set of irons and woods are an extension of their swing, so they always bring them, no matter the cost or hassle.
It must be nice to be that good at golf.

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