Tips for the travelling golfer
With CHIP SCHOTZ
There are standard checklists for all travellers but travelling golfers should pay particular attention to relevant detail.
This information generally relates to the golfer travelling overseas by plane, but much is also relevant to domestic travel.
First and foremost, make sure your insurance is adequate and check what it covers, particularly golf equipment. If you lose your clubs remember to put a claim in to the carrier (airline etc) and insurance company for all losses – luggage, bags, clothing, etc. If you have recent purchases, keep your receipts. Taking a photograph of your golf gear before you go also will help.
If going overseas and you are not familiar with local customs and laws, check first. For example, in the Middle East a weekend may be Friday and Saturday and different green fee rates may apply.
Clean out your kit. Don’t take old cards, old gloves, broken tees and unnecessary material. You will find a golf shop at almost every course.
Travelling with golf clubs can be expensive, above and beyond the baggage fees airlines charge for standard luggage. So check baggage allowances if you are flying. Some airlines offer deals for carrying golf clubs.
A set of clubs can weigh up to 20kg. Better to ditch your regular big-name logo bag for a lightweight model. You may also wish to use a wheeled golf bag travel case; much easier to drag your clubs around in airports on wheels than carry them over your shoulder while grappling with other luggage. Travel cases come in a variety, from aluminium to extra strong fabric. Go for light weight and lockable fasteners.
Travelling in a group can have advantages but first check the number required for a “group”.
Airport group check-in can mean a long queue. The advantage is that group members may be able to aggregate their luggage weight then average it, reducing the risk of individuals having to pay penalties for over-allowance weight. I heard of a group travelling to Asia doing this on their way to Hongkong and did not have an excess baggage problem. On the way home, however, the airline split up the group for checking in separately. The result: some exceeded the limit and had to pay for the excess while others had weight to spare. Group check-in also makes it more likely all your gear will be available at the “oversize” counter at around the same time on arrival, which saves time when you have to link up with land transport.
A group can also hire a bus or coach, sharing the cost. Hire cars obviously are more suitable for an individual or a pair, but check that golf clubs will fit.
Don’t worry about taking golf balls. They add to your weight and there wouldn’t be a golf course that doesn’t sell balls, either new or used. You can also lighten the load by leaving out an umbrella; you can always get one at a course and some courses even lend them.
Shoes are a matter of personal choice but lightweight ones are recommended. Make sure they are waterproof as it is likely that you will encounter wet conditions sometime.
Don’t take an excessive number of shirts. A couple of quick-dry ones can be washed and dried overnight, and you will probably buy souvenir shirts anyway. But take enough socks to have a fresh pair every day as they take longer to dry and make sure they are suitable for a lot of walking if you won’t be in a cart.
You may find a GPS unit handy for working out distances. Courses around the world can be pre-loaded. Most courses still use imperial measurements (yards). If you are used to metrics, find a conversion chart.
Make sure you know what your “home” handicap is if you have one (see later reference).
Be wary of buying clubs overseas. Factory seconds and fakes may be cheap but they come with no guarantee of durability or quality.
Finally, take a camera or camera/phone (and charger). Consider a diary for recording scores and your thoughts.
Most details of your trip will be made before your leave, either through a golf travel specialists or through your own research. But there will still be things to do and double-check.
If you have arranged a package and have a nominal tour leader, many aspects of the trip will already have been put in place. But you should make yourself familiar with the details.
Do your research before you confirm your game
You have chosen your courses and established availability. If you are a member of a club at home your may be able to take advantage of reciprocal rights with a club that’s on your itinerary or wish list. Reciprocal rights can involve considerably reduced green fees and other benefits.
Use the internet to find out about the courses you intend to play. A course map may be available. If you use a GPS check that the course you want is loaded.
If you are looking for a package, check what is covered. Packages can be available for individuals as well as groups and can include accommodation, meals, green fees and cart hire.
Find out what weather you can expect. Some courses close in winter. At others, excessive heat and pollution may be a problem. Still others are affected by such incidents as typhoons and hurricanes in certain seasons.
Check that you can get a game on your preferred dates. You can only do that by direct contact with the club or course. And check to see if there are any limits on handicaps as some courses will not accept players without official handicaps while others have a maximum limit.
If you are keen on competition see if the course or club has a competition you can enter. That way you might be able to play off the competition tees rather than the visitor or social tees.
Check whether the course is fully functional: Are there any temporary greens? Are there works in progress? Have the greens just been renovated (they take about a month to recover fully)? This may help you decide whether you will be getting your money’s worth.
Find out about green fees, equipment hire, locker rent, practice facilities if they are not included in a package. Check on the requirements: Do you have to use a cart or can you walk the course? Can you hire buggies? Are caddies provided and if so what is the cost and tipping rate?
Check what kind of golf clothing and shoes are permissible. Shoes are important. Hilly courses require spikes (generally soft) but they need to be cleaned thoroughly before you enter another country. Customs staff may require you to clean them again or even forfeit them. Spikeless golf shoes are much easier to clean but may not be suited to all terrain.
Find out how long before hit-off time you have to check-in with the starter.
When you get there
After arriving at the airport and collecting your gear, inspect it – particularly the clubs. If items are damaged, and you haven’t discovered this until you get home, you might have difficulty getting a refund or compensation. Report any damage immediately upon arrival. Many airlines have strict reporting time limits for damaged/lost baggage. Don’t play with damaged golf equipment beforel you have reported it. Photograph the damage.
You will have arranged your transport to your accommodation in advance but check the loading of your equipment and luggage.
If you are not staying on the course, arrange your transfer from your accommodation to the course well in advance and check it on the day.
When you get to the course, check for updates on playing conditions. Check on the expected weather – is rain forecast? Are electrical storms possible? How hot or cold will it be?
Check local rules. Find out what tees you will be playing from. Get a scorecard and course information.
You may see references to the Stimp meter. It is used to measure the speed of a putting green by applying a known force to a golf ball and measuring the distance travelled in feet. The higher the number, the faster the green.
Make sure your gear is easily identifiable (coloured tags etc) as you may have to park it with many other sets.
Make sure you have bottled water or sports drink. Snacks also are a good idea.
Many courses are tough on slow players – and so they should be. At one Singapore course, for example, marshals can order slow players to pick up their balls and move to the next tee without completing the hole. Make sure you know the requirements.
If you are travelling in a group it will be quicker to play stableford or matchplay (picking up when you can’t score) than stroke. While your trip is about playing golf you don’t want to spend excessive time on the course in adverse conditions or miss out on some sightseeing and entertainment afterwards.
Carry a simple first aid kit. Include sticking plaster, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
Stay out of the water hazards; you risk infection in water. Wash out any cuts and scratches with bottled water and cover them.
Avoid searching in the rough if you are not aware of what hazards it may contain, living or otherwise. Cobras are not overly friendly chaps.
If you are not travelling in a group it can be useful to see if you can play with a local. Some local knowledge helps when playing a course for the first time.
After the game
Change clothes as soon as possible if you get wet during a round. See if you can dry your wet gear or stow it in a waterproof pack for drying later.
Clean your clubs and shoes if facilities are available. Don’t leave equipment unattended while finalising accounts, enjoying after game festivities etc.
Souvenirs may be expensive and remember that weight of your luggage could be a problem. Scorecards are worth keeping. Photographs are a lasting souvenir.
Confirm all onward travel arrangements, including the trip home) well in advance.
FOOTNOTE: This information is golf-specific. You need also to be familiar with general travel requirements, such as lost passports, availability of money, health situations etc.
Chip Schotz is an occasional columnist in the newsletter of the Box Hill Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia.
My thanks to CM from Box Hill Golf Club for the use of photos of some overseas destinations he and his mates have visited relatively close to Australia- Places include Mission Hills (Shenzen, Dongguan and Hainan Island - China), Singapore, Indonesia, Kunming and Spring City (China), Fiji, Shenzou (China), HongKong, Dubai and Vanuatu.