It only takes one wrinkle a stolen passport or a lost bag to turn your golf trip from a fiesta into a fiasco. Once you've settled the basics (where to play and stay), spend time preparing for the most common emergencies that can spoil things, especially if you're traveling overseas. "Preparing ahead of time will allow you to mitigate any problems that arise," says Amy Ziff, advice columnist for travel web site Travelocity. Here's how to handle five common snags.
Make two photocopies of your passport. Leave one at home and take the other copy with you. Make a note of the phone number of the U.S. embassy. If you have a copy, the embassy should able to replace your lost passport within 24 hours.
Don't carry any more than two credit cards, and dump all those gift cards you've been carrying around since Christmas. There's also no need to stuff your money clip with Benjamins even the most remote locations have ATMs.
If you arrive ready to play but your clubs are MIA, alert the airline immediately. And pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. Less than 2 percent of bags disappear for good so chances are you'll see your luggage again.
Many insurance policies don't cover you if you fall ill outside the United States. If you have a chronic illness, check with your insurer in advance to see if you're covered.
Tip No. 1: Don't book the last flight of the day. Miss it and you'll be spending the night in a motel with a bed that takes quarters. Tip No. 2: Be nice to the airline folks. They can make good things happen in bad situations.
ASK TRAVELIN' JOE
Dear Joe, My son recently moved to the San Diego/La Jolla area and I will be visiting him soon. Can you recommend a few decent courses with a good pace of play in the $50-$100 range? Brian Moors, Floral Park, N.Y.
The only things that tend to go fast in Southern California are televised car chases, but try Encinitas Ranch ($72-$92; 760- 944-1936), just north of La Jolla. If things are slow, at least you've got great ocean views. Or you can drive 30 minutes inland to Barona Creek ($80-$110; 619-387- 7018), an excellent casino-resort course with firm, fast greens.
I'll be visiting the Florida Keys this month. Is there enough dry land to warrant bringing my clubs along or should I just pack a bathing suit and sunscreen? Joe Chmielewski, Foley, Minn.
"Leave the gun, take the cannoli," Clemenza said in The Godfather. In the Keys, you should leave the sticks, take the sunscreen. Ocean Reef in Key Largo offers two solid courses, but it's strictly for stay-and-play deals. Key West Golf Club is a fun but pricey Rees Jones design cut through mangroves ($160; 305-294- 5232). If you get the itch, rent their Callaways for $40 and play away.
Joe Passov has played more than 1,100 courses in 21 countries. If you need travel directions, zip him an e-mail at email@example.com