How to Pack Golf Clubs for Airline Travel – 12 Helpful Tips

You and the gang are ready. You’ve mapped out the golf courses you’re going to play, where you’ll stay, and all of the other details for your golf vacation. 

All that’s left to do is to pack your golf clubs for the trip. But… how do you pack your golf clubs for a flight so that they don’t get broken?

After all, it is a golf trip, so your clubs are kind of important. Just a little. 

That’s why, unfortunately, you can’t just toss them in a travel case and call it good. 

No, there are certain things you should do when packing your clubs to make sure they arrive in one piece. Or 14 pieces to be exact. Let’s take a look!

How To Pack Your Golf Clubs for Airline Travel

Depending on your set up (clubs, type of bag etc…) not all of these tips will apply to you. However, feel free to scan through and select the ones that make the most sense for you!

1. Invest In a Golf Travel Bag

The best way to ensure your clubs will be safe on your journey to a golf destination is to invest in a quality golf travel bag.

This serves two purposes –

The first – and most obvious – is that it will protect your golf clubs from getting scratched, scraped, scuffed, or snapped during transport.

The second reason is a little less clear. Many airlines will not accept responsibility for damages to clubs that are not stored in a golf travel bag. 

Let’s take a look at what United Airlines had to say about this:

“You must properly encase all items in a suitable container. The golf bag must be covered or enclosed in a heavy, rigid carrying case. We’re not liable for damage to golf equipment that’s not contained in a hard-sided case.”

There are two main types of golf travel bags – hard-sided and soft-sided.

Hard-sided Golf Travel Bags – These are the safest option and offer the most protection for your golf clubs. However, in exchange for this protection, hard-sided carrying cases come at a higher cost.

Soft-sided Golf Travel Bags – This option provides the combination of decent protection at an affordable price. That said, remember that most airlines will not compensate you for damages that occur to clubs transported in soft-sided cases.

2. Tape Golf Bag Legs To Bag and Remove Straps

If you have a cart bag, this does not apply to you and you can skip to the next step. However, if you have a carry bag with straps and legs, here’s what you should do:

Secure Bag Legs With Tape

You never know when the legs of your golf bag will extend. When this happens, they can get caught on things and bend. To avoid this, consider wrapping a single strip of tape around the middle of your golf bag so that the legs cannot extend. 

If you have an extra belt, you can choose to use that instead of tape as well.

Remove Carrying Straps

This is especially important if you’re traveling without a golf club carrying case. The straps on your bag can be a nightmare for baggage handlers. They can get caught on other luggage and cause problems.

When checking your golf bag, chances are airport staff will ask you to remove them anyway. May as well take them off ahead of time so you don’t hold up the baggage line at the airport!

3. Remove Club Heads

When golf clubs break, it usually happens at the point where the clubhead meets the shaft. Luckily, most modern drivers and woods have clubheads that can be easily removed, significantly reducing the chances of this happening. 

Use a club tool to remove the clubheads, place them inside their headcover, and store them in a compartment of your bag.

If you do this, just be sure to remember to pack your clubhead tool. The last thing you want is to arrive at the course with no way to reattach them!

4. Cover Irons

If a club breaks during a flight, it’s usually the driver or woods. This is partly because they’re the longest clubs, and partly because they have graphite shafts. In fact, I’ve never seen an iron break during transport. 

However, if you don’t properly cover them, the clubheads of your irons can easily get scratched. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure they’re covered.

To do this, you can use a few pairs of old socks, or even some that you’re planning to wear during your trip.

5. Tape Together Shafts If Possible

It’s pretty easy to snap one twig in half. But get a bundle of 14 twigs, and it becomes much more difficult. The same is true with your clubshafts. 

Consider taping them together to take advantage of their combined strength. 

This works best if your golf bag has large pockets for your clubs. However, if you have a 14-pocket bag, you might want to consider taping them together in groups of two or three.

6. Fill Extra Space With Clothes

This hack is great for two reasons. First, packing clothes around your golf bag in your travel case reduces movement inside the case. If there’s less room to move around, there’s a smaller chance of them rattling around the case if baggage handlers take a less-than-gentle approach when loading them on the plane.

Also, it allows you to save room in your other bags. If you pack clothes in your golf travel case, you might not even have to pay to check an additional bag!

7. Pack Golf Devices With Batteries in Carry-on

Here’s what the Federal Aviation Administration had to say about traveling with devices that contain batteries:

“Devices containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible. When these devices must be carried in checked baggage, they should be turned completely off, protected from accidental activation, and packed so they are protected from damage.”

They don’t specify it, but one can assume that these rules also apply to golf devices like laser rangefinders and golf GPS. 

It also never hurts to bring the device’s manual on board so you can prove to airport officials what your device is and what it does.

9. Use a Stiff Arm

Because your driver is the longest object in your golf bag, it typically takes on the majority of contact. Of course, if you remove your clubheads as mentioned before, this will not be an issue. However, if not, it might be a good idea to use a stiff-arm.

A stiff-arm is a device you put in your golf bag to take on any verticle impact during transport.

For it to be effective, it needs to be longer than your longest club.

The rounded end absorbs the force of impact so that your golf clubs are protected. If you have a hard-sided golf travel case, you won’t need one. But if you have a soft case, a stiff-arm can be extremely helpful.

9. Get a Non-Stop Flight

Golf clubs are most vulnerable to damage during the loading and unloading of baggage. By that logic, the less they are handled, the less chance they will have of breaking.

That’s why a direct flight is a good idea for those looking to prevent damage to their clubs. 

Think about it – if you have a re-direct, your clubs are being handled four times, twice on the original flight and twice on the connecting flight.

If you have a direct flight, they only need to be handled twice, meaning your clubs are half as likely to be damaged.

10. Add a Tag to Your Bag

Luggage gets lost. That’s a fact. 

According to SITA – the world’s leading specialist in air transport communications and information technology – airlines mishandled 24.8 million bags in 2018 alone.

Unfortunately, many of these included golf clubs.

Adding a tag to your bag that has your full name, email address, and phone number can help increase the chances of your bag being recovered if it gets lost.

11. Consider the Weight

When packing your golf bag for air travel, it’s also important to consider the weight. Many airlines consider golf clubs to be oversize baggage BUT they won’t charge extra for them UNLESS they exceed the weight limit. 

For most airlines, the weight limit for checked baggage is 50 lbs, and the overweight fee can range anywhere from $50 to $200.

12. What to Pack in Your Golf Bag

Finally, perhaps the most important factor for properly packing your golf bag for air travel is to simply make sure you have everything.

For a list of the golf trip essentials (and a free downloadable PDF golf trip packing checklist), please see this article:

26 Essential Items To Pack For A Guys Golf Trip

The Takeaway…

Packing golf clubs for airline travel can be stressful.

You want to make sure you have everything… But you also want to make sure you’re doing all you can to make sure your clubs don’t get damaged.

In this article, we cover 12 helpful tips for packing golf clubs:

  1. Invest In a Golf Travel Bag
  2. Tape Golf Bag Legs To Bag and Remove Straps
  3. Remove Club Heads
  4. Cover Irons
  5. Tape Together Shafts If Possible
  6. Fill Extra space with clothes
  7. Pack Golf Devices With Batteries in Carry-on
  8. Use a Stiff arm
  9. Get a Non-Stop Flight
  10. Add a tag to Your bag
  11. Consider the Weight
  12. What to pack in your golf bag

Don’t forget to consider these points when planning your next golf trip.

Safe travels! 

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