Tips For Traveling With Golf Clubs: Airline Rules

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Traveling with golf club

Traveling with golf clubs? Heading to a golf cation to the famous Scottish links? Do you want to sink a few at the sacred course of St. Andrews with your own golf clubs? Or maybe you are hopping between prestigious tournaments and air travel is the only medium.

You might have to fly your golf clubs across a couple of oceans. But here’s the catch. This is no light load. There are specific rules for this kind of luggage on different airlines. As a fair warning to the enthusiastic golfers, I created this post on the airline rules for traveling with golf clubs.

I go into some useful tips in this regard. I also explore the golf baggage rules of some common local and international carriers.

Tips for effective air travel with golf clubs

Select which type of carrying case you will carry. There are two types each with their own advantages:

Hard Case:

These are hard-shell cases to carry your golf clubs. These are obviously the safe choice for handling in transit. These are also heavy although manufacturers use lightweight but strong materials to design this.

Soft Case:

These are made of softer, more pliable materials. As a result, you can dedicate more weight to your golf gear. The off-side? These can’t offer the same protection as the hard-shell carry cases.

There’s also the choice between stand bags with their spindly legs and the carry/cart bags. We suggest the latter. Air travel is vicious to the stand legs and ends up snapping them in half every time. Carry bags are lightweight. Cart bags are usually more protective.

Travel plans

Travel Plans

Always try to book a single flight from your place to the destination. Lugging around the golf bag is not fun! And the airline rules for different carriers may differ. Some airlines would ask you to leave the luggage on the regular luggage belt. Others prefer them to the oversized luggage reception.

If you carry a hard-shell case golf bag make sure you have a cab or another vehicle to the driver to and from the airport. These heavy bags are not for public transit.

Golf Club Protector

This is a small umbrella-like device with a long handle like this.

This sticks out farther than any of the golf clubs in the bag. Seal the top of the bag based on this height. This way, if the golf bag is toppled and falls upside down, this arm will bear the impact instead of the clubheads.

Clubhead protection

Any change to the composition of a clubhead will severely impair its ability to behave according to your impulses. Club headcovers keep them from clunking around with each other. If you don’t have enough covers, slip on your socks on the clubheads.

You are likely to carry some layers to keep yourself warm. Drape these around the clubheads to prevent movement while in transit.

Golf balls

While these count as golf gear, pack the golf balls separately in your other luggage. Or buy the golf balls from your destination location. Try to bring only an optimum number of balls. These tiny spheres collectively weigh a lot.

Identification

Ensure you have some kind of robust luggage tags on your golf bag. Or else tie a fluorescent string around it to differentiate it from other people’s golf bags. A colorful scarf will also do the deed.

Golf electronics

Carry your golf laser rangefinder or golf GPS in your carry-on luggage. These are sensitive and expensive instruments worthy of being under your wing.

Alternatives

Consider other options. You can send your golf clubs via a shipping service. Since they are responsible for your golf clubs, these will reach safely. But they may cost quite a bit.

There’s also the option of club-lending services. Some of them offer premium clubs that you might be used to. Here’s a lender.

Pictures

Before completing the packing process, make sure you photograph all the items inside the golf bag. This will serve as proof in case the worst happens.

Airline rules

We selected the top domestic and international airlines and collated their golf club rules all into one place.

A. American Airlines

You are allowed to carry 1 golf bag with a maximum of:

  • 14 golf clubs
  • 12 golf balls
  • 1 pair of golf shoes

Swingle’s golf club load strips are not allowed.

The maximum weight stipulation is 50 pounds.

American Airlines will charge you the same fee as the first or second baggage fee for the golf club based on your destination. Excess baggage will incur excess baggage fees. The authorities may ask you to open the golf bag at the airport. If any other item than that mentioned above is found in the bag, extra-oversize/weight charges will be levied.

B. Delta Airlines

They talk in terms of one golfing equipment which is defined as consisting of:

  • One golf bag with one set of golf clubs
  • Golf ball and tees
  • One pair of golf shoes

One golf bag with the above equipment will be allowed as checked baggage. A checked baggage fee will apply. Oversized baggage fees will be waived for golf bags that exceed 62 linear inches, but bags exceeding 115 linear inches are not allowed.

Maximum Weight is 50 pounds.

Golf clubs can be carried in:

  • Hard-shell case
  • Soft-shell case if a limited release has been signed
  • Delta deems itself not responsible for damage noted at the time of check-in or damage resulting from over-packing the bag.

C. JetBlue Airlines

A golf bag will be accepted as a checked bag with no additional or overweight fee subject to maximum weight requirements.

Maximum weight without fee: 50 pounds.

One golf kit counts as having:

  • 14 golf clubs
  • 3 golf balls
  • one pair of golf shoes

They recommend packing in the hard-shell golf bag. JetBlue will not be liable for damage to contents in the soft-shell bag. But they will accept them.

D. Southwest Airlines

Golfing Equipment allowed will include:

  • Golf clubs
  • Golf balls
  • Golf shoes

Maximum weight without overweight charges: 50 pounds

Soft side and hooded bags are subject to limited release. Hard side golf bags can be carried without that formality.​

E. United Airlines

United allows one item of golf equipment as defined by them per customer as checked baggage.

Their definition of one golf equipment consists of:

  • 1 golf bag containing 1 set of golf clubs
  • Golf balls
  • One pair of golf shoes

All items must be properly encased in a suitable container. The golf bag must be covered or enclosed in a heavy, rigid carrying case.

United does not consider itself liable for damage to golf equipment that is not contained in a hard-sided case. Excess Valuation may not be purchased for golf equipment that is not contained in a hard-sided case.

First or second checked bag service charges may apply.

Golfing bags measuring over 62 (158 cm) total linear inches (L + H + W) that contain golf equipment will not be subject to any applicable oversize checked baggage service charges. Overweight baggage charges are applicable. Golf bags that do not contain golfing equipment will be subject to any applicable oversize and overweight checked baggage service charges.

Note: All customers, including MileagePlus® Premier® members, who check a golf bag may experience a delay in receiving their bag at the baggage claim due to the manner in which oversized items and sports equipment are required to be loaded, unloaded and delivered to baggage claim.

F. Virgin America

One bag of golfing equipment includes:

  • one golf bag containing no more than 14 clubs,
  • 12 golf balls
  • One pair of golf shoes

All must be properly encased, as Virgin America will not assume responsibility if the packaging is improper.

NOTE: These rules may change. Please contact the individual airlines before traveling to confirm these requirements.

Conclusion

Carrying your golf gear through air travel is no small feat. But you can make the process easy with a few simple tricks. Being organized inside the golf bag and in your travel plan is your best bet. You can:

  • Take all precautions to protect them while minimizing weight
  • Know the rules of the proposed airlines.
  • In spite of this, be ready for the worst.
  • And be ready to be persistent and get the mischief-makers to pay their dues