Where we’re from, the sunny season is already in full swing. This is the time of year when golfers from colder climates flock to Arizona, looking to escape the snow-covered confines of home and get a head start on the golf season.
(Not to gloat, or anything. When it climbs past 110 degrees in Phoenix, you can bet we’ll be somewhere on the East Coast, artificially extending our own golf season.)
If you’ve ever tried to fit in a round of golf while on vacation, you likely had to work out the logistics of how to travel with golf clubs. There are three viable options, each with their pros and cons: shipping your clubs separately, checking them in with the airline, or renting them on location.
I have experimented with all three methods while out on business trips over the past several years, and found each method to be useful under different circumstances. Here’s my take on when to go with which option.
Ship Your Clubs
|Image credit: fedex.com|
Traditional shipping companies like FedEx offer dedicated services to ship your golf clubs. I went this route a few times when I had to move across country or temporarily relocate for work. They have dedicated shipping containers and will pack the clubs for you in the store.
This is my preferred method for one-way trips (moving) or if I’ll be somewhere for an extended period of time. Employees of dedicated shipping companies tend to be more careful with whatever they pack and ship, and the option to insure the shipment adds a little extra peace of mind.
The drawback is that it’s usually a bit more expensive, and a lot slower. If you’re taking a one-way trip, ground shipping is still the way to go. But for quick vacations, the extra cost and planning requirements make this a real hassle.
- Product is carefully handled, with option to insure shipment
- Most companies have a tailored club shipping service, with proper boxes/packaging (and sometimes, a flat rate to ship clubs).
- Slowest method available: can take 4-6 days or more for standard ground shipping
- Almost always more expensive than renting; also beaten by airline shipping rates in some cases
- Gets more expensive the further you travel (not true with the other methods)
You can use FedEx Rate Tools (link http://www.fedex.com/ratetools/RateToolsMain.do ) to get a reasonable estimate on club shipping costs.
Throw Them on the Plane
If you have a specific date and time set for a round on vacation, it can be a real pain to lock down the timing and delivery logistics. If you fly out on Friday and have a tee time Saturday, using a traditional shipping company can leave you high and dry if they miss their delivery schedule or have trouble coordinating a delivery to your hotel.
Other times the trip itself comes as a last-minute surprise, and there’s no time to make the separate FedEx run to get your clubs on a truck before you have to be at the airport.
In times like these, the airline can ship your clubs as a checked bag. It’s a decent option if you didn’t have time to prepare for the trip, and in some cases it can actually be cheaper than the alternative. It all depends on the airline’s checked baggage fees – which can fluctuate wildly between airlines.
Some airlines advertise free or cheap checked bags as a marketing tactic. Since the first checked is almost always cheaper than the second, this can turn out to be a money-saving option if you are just traveling with a carry-on, and don’t have any other bags to check. This option only works on shorter trips, but it’s a great feeling to bring clubs along free of charge.
Be wary, though. Airlines have a nasty reputation for nickel and diming customers, and many charge outrageous fees even for the first checked bag (over $100 apiece at this point).You might get blindsided by a fee at the airport, only to be forced into paying it because you can’t miss your flight.
Please do your research carefully (I recommend calling your airline) before going with this option.
- Can be less expensive if you travel with a light carry-on and only check your clubs
- Faster & more convenient than shipping – grab them right off the baggage claim so you don’t get stranded without clubs
- Can be quite a bit more expensive than shipping, especially if you have other bags to check
- Airline employees are not trained in safe packing/shipping – they are more likely to damage or lose your clubs
- Less insurance payout for lost/damaged clubs than a dedicated shipping company
Rent Golf Clubs When You Land
Of course, there’s another option if you don’t want to carry around bulky clubs and risk losing them in transit: just rent clubs when you land.
Daily or weekly rentals are typically the best option on shorter trips. You can typically cover 3-5 days of local rentals before shipping clubs out becomes a competitive option, cost-wise.
For example, we rent golf clubs in Arizona starting at $25/day. We offer delivery and pickup so that you don't have to worry about lugging them around or losing track of them once the round is over.
By comparison, round-trip FedEx ground shipping costs $103.76 to ship a 35 lb. bag of clubs 1800+ miles (roughly the distance from Phoenix to Chicago or Atlanta). Airline bag fees are typically $70-$200 for the same trip, especially if you have another bag to check. Both of these options prevent you from traveling light on short trips.
Rental clubs are also nice because the sets are nearly new and always in great shape. If you have an older set and want to check out the latest advancements in club tech, picking up rentals is a great way to test drive new clubs. (We are not responsible for any impulse purchases you may make when you return home.)
How do you typically travel with your golf clubs? Let us know in the comments. And if you do make it out or way, be sure to golf like the locals with our guide to the best golf courses in Arizona – lovingly maintained by 3 Arizona natives and avid lifelong golfers.
See you on the course!