As a golfer, there are few things that you can do in this game which will be quite as enjoyable as taking a golf vacation. Taking a trip to play new courses at a beautiful destination is likely to be one of the highlights of your golfing life. There are countless great GolfGetaways across the U.S. and around the globe, and many of these golf vacations can be combined with other sightseeing and tourist activities.
While there is a ton to like about taking a golf trip, one of the downsides is the task of bringing your clubs along for the journey. As a serious golfer, you certainly don’t want to rent clubs - no one plays well when they are forced to use someone else’s clubs. You need to have your own sticks along for the journey, meaning you have two options - fly with your clubs or ship them ahead. Neither option is perfect, but one will usually be better than the other based on the specifics of your trip.
The matter of money
First and foremost, you are going to want to think about how this choice affects you from a financial perspective. After all, taking a golf trip is an expensive endeavor to begin with, so spending more than necessary to transport your clubs would be a mistake. So, is it more affordable to fly with your clubs, or to ship them ahead with a service like ShipSticks? Generally speaking, it is going to be considerably less expensive to simply travel with your clubs as opposed to having them shipped separately.
Depending on a number of variables, including the airline you are traveling and how many other bags you have, it is likely that you will pay somewhere between $20 - $40 to check your golf bag on your flight. Shipping your clubs to your destination ahead of time will be more expensive, but cost isn't the prime consideration when shipping golf clubs. Short trips will usually cost between $40 - $50 for shipping, and longer journeys will be more expensive than that. However, you'll get the benefits of not needing to lug your clubs to the airport and to your destination once you land, as well the assurance that your precious sticks will get a white-glove treatment all the way to where you're staying.
While plenty of people will decide to travel with their clubs to keep costs down, there are some benefits to shipping your clubs. The biggest advantage of this option, of course, is convenience. Anyone who has pulled a golf travel bag through a crowded airport while running late for a flight can attest to the difficulty of the task. There’s no doubt that your flying experience will be significantly less stressful when you know your clubs are already waiting for you at your ultimate destination.
It would be one thing if you only had your golf bag to consider, but as you are headed out on a golf trip, you almost certainly have at least one other piece of luggage. And, if you are traveling with other golfers, you may have several pieces of luggage and three or four golf bags to deal with. The load of baggage could quickly overcome your vehicle, making the task of getting to the airport far more complicated. Reducing that luggage load could be a big help as you try to get you and your party together and headed where you need to go.
What are the risks?
When all's said and done, you really only want one outcome from this process - to be standing on the first tee of a beautiful golf course with your clubs in hand and ready to go. On this point, both options are likely to deliver, although problems can always arise. Of course, checked bags have been known to miss their flight on occasion, so there is no guarantee that your clubs will get off the plane when you do. However, the same can be said of shipping your sticks ahead, as packages can certainly go missing as well. Since you won’t be able to prop your clubs up in the seat next to you on the plane, you are just going to have to hope that they do arrive - no matter which method you select. By choosing to ship ahead of time, however, your clubs will typically beat you to your destination, and you'll know it before you get there.
Another convenience point
It was mentioned above that it is not particularly convenient to walk through an airport with a large golf bag, along with the rest of your luggage. While that is true, there is another point to think about with regard to convenience - if you ship ahead, you have to go through the process of setting up that shipping. Even with a service like ShipSticks, there is going to be some degree of legwork required on your end. You will need to arrange for the shipment, and you will either need to drop off your clubs to be shipped or be home when they are picked up. This is not be a hassle, but it is another thing to think about in advance of your trip - especially if you're a little flighty.
Is shipping your golf clubs ahead to your destination the right call? Is it putting them on the plane with you? It all depends on what you want out of your experience. If cost is the sole driver of your choice, pick the airlines, though you may not save that much money in the end. If you care more about convenience and peace of mind, then shipping your clubs ahead of you is the right play.
Dan Wheeler lives in Los Angeles and writes about golf equipment at GrumpyGopher.com.