Bringing clubs when you travel has never been easier -- or more difficult. On the plus side, golf travel bags and covers have been designed so you can easily pack and roll them everywhere, no lifting necessary.
The bad news? Several airlines -- led, ironically, by Delta, the official airline of the PGA Tour -- are considering tougher policies that would require a hard-shell case, well-padded, soft-sided travel covers, or an extra fee for a cardboard box they supply. Now, if your clubs aren't in a hard case, you'll probably have to sign a liability release, which Delta's folks say is due to the "fragile nature" of clubs.
The way we abuse our sticks, fragile might be the wrong word. But better safe than sorry. If you want to globe-trot with your clubs, here's what to look for in a travel bag/cover, followed by seven that fit the bill.
- Light weight. A golf bag, 14 clubs, balls, and travel cover can weigh up to 35 pounds. You'll be lifting it all from the car trunk, onto the airport escalator, and so on, so choose wisely.
- Ergonomic design. Once loaded, if the bag is top- or side-heavy, you'll have a tough time managing it and a suitcase.
- Easy access. Getting to your gear should mean undoing as few fasteners as possible. But they also must provide good security.
- Length. All the travel covers listed can accommodate at least a 46-inch driver.
- Separate shoe compartment. Don't pack dirty spikes in the suitcase with your nice sports coat.
- In-line wheels. You want to be able to roll your travel cover through airports, hotel lobbies, etc.
- Handles. Strategically placed, they ease hoisting the bag/cover in and out of the car.
Bag Boy T-950
This all-weather, 12-pound cover secures standard stand bags with an interior strap that minimizes shifting. Lined with thick padding, its bottom is a hard shell. Anti-burst, locking straps ensure it won't come undone in transit. Holds up to a 48-inch driver.
Notable: Two removable pockets zip together to form an overnight bag/briefcase. ($160, bagboycompany.com)
Durable and well padded, this case holds golf bags up to 9.5 inches in diameter. Two pockets zip-off, creating a slim duffel. The bag also includes a support backbone and elastic tie-downs in one shoe pocket. Accommodates a 47-inch driver. Weighs 11 pounds.
Notable: Luggage hooks that zip away until needed. ($139, 800-521-6197)
Club Glove Last Bag
Most Tour players -- even Tiger Woods -- travel with the $299 XXL (the standard version, shown, is slightly smaller but otherwise identical). DuPont Cordura(R) Plus nylon, extra-thick foam padding, and a clubhead security strap protect clubs well. A hard-plastic base shields the bottom. Big enough for any bag up to 10.5 inches in diameter, it weighs 12 pounds.
Notable: Two locking shoe pockets with removable shoe bags. ($249, club glove.com)
Made of diamond nylon ripstop and accented by durable polyester, this bag cover is weather resistant. A padded top protects clubheads, while internal cinch straps prevent clubs and bag from shifting in transit. A mesh pocket inside is ideal for shoes. With padded shoulder strap, it weighs just seven pounds.
Notable: Designed specifically for stand bags. ($139, ogio.com)
This hybrid bag/cover is designed to replace a standard bag on trips. Made of high-compressed plastic and reinforced with two steel rings, its inside is padded. The cover detaches for access and locks for security during travel. Detachable shoulder strap adds to its ease of use. There also are pouches for rain jacket and balls, as well as a shoe compartment. Takes a 48-inch driver.
Notable: Weighing less than 7.5 pounds, it could easily function as a full-time carry bag. ($149.95, porterline.com)
Quilted and fully padded, the latest piece of Samsonite golf luggage features a reinforced bottom, zip-off front pockets, and a non-slip cushion shoulder strap. Front webbing has reflective stitching, extra-large zippers, and security lock. Weighs nine pounds.
Notable: Three rubber carrying handles. ($100, 212-268-8070)
Trav-A-Lite Ultima Pro
This rugged combination bag/cover can be slung over a shoulder or strapped on a cart. Weighs less than six pounds and holds a complete set of clubs, ball retriever, and umbrella. It has two full-length dividers, removable locking cover, and padded shoulder strap. Lacks a shoe compartment and wheels, but that might be a fair trade for its compact efficiency. Holds a 48-inch driver.
Notable: Removable accessory pouch with two large pockets attaches with Velcro(R). ($164.95, travalite.com)
Want your clubs but not the hassle of carrying them? Golf Bag Express (the-ojai-group.com) will ship to any U.S. destination via UPS, while Sports Express (sportsexpress.com) ships throughout the U.S., U.K., or Ireland via FedEx. Golf Bag Express will supply prices upon request, while Sports Express charges $55 per bag, each way, from Los Angeles to New York, and $136 each way from L.A. to Scotland. Want to try a different set of clubs? ShipGolf.com rents and ships top-brand models to any U.S. destination: To New York, shipping runs $40 each way; club rental is $45 for the first day, $15 per day after.
Or call the resort or club you'll be visiting and ask about renting; top-name clubs usually run $15 to $35 a round.