How to Pack Your Golf Clubs for a Flight So They Always Arrive in One Piece

You might think I am obsessive after reading how I pack my golf clubs, but I've flown with them on a lot of golf trips and never once opened my travel bag to find a damaged club (although somewhere there is a baggage handler making his way around a golf course with my driver).

Here are my tips on protective packing, and, of course, I'd love to hear yours, too.

The Theory:

If a club breaks in transit, it usually happens where the clubhead meets the shaft.

Think about it: the rest of the club is protected by the "shell" of the golf bag, but the head sticks out and bears the weight of anything placed on top of it.

So, my entire approach revolves around protecting that point -- where the clubheads meets the shafts.

The Approach

In the old days, I would turn my woods upside down so the heads were inside the bag with the shafts sticking up, but with today's narrower dividers and oversize heads (particularly on drivers) that's usually impossible.

Instead, I go with a "strength in numbers," approach.

For example, a single wooden chopstick is pretty easy to break, right? But bundle 10 chopsticks together and even Dustin Johnson can't break them.

Same idea here: I simply group all the clubs as closely together as possible, preferably will all the shafts in a single section of the bag (see the before and after photos below). It helps to throw a sock over your irons (and putter) to keep them together, and may reduce scratches, too.

Note, too, that I place my tallest club, my driver, in between my other woods/hybrids. The club that sticks up the most is usually going to be the most susceptible to breakage, so I try to insulate it as much as possible.

Once that's done, I throw my rain hood over the whole thing to keep everything in place and as a precaution against rain or leaking engine oil (although if the latter is happening, ruined golf clubs don't seem like such a big deal).

Finally, I put this setup into my golf travel bag.

Once inside, I try to fill up any space above and below the clubheads to further reduce any stress/flex put on them.

In this photo (on my driveway so you could more easily see what I mean), I've placed my shoe bag under the clubheads.

On top, I'll usually put a rolled up golf towel or two.

By the way, there's a product you can buy that largely achieves the same effect as all this.

It's called the Stiff Arm and one of my colleagues never travels without it.

Made by the same company that makes the Club Glove, it's basically a telescoping closet rod with a small frisbee on one end.

Placed down the center of your golf bag and extended up to the top of the inside of your travel bag, it becomes the tallest "club" in your bag and takes the brunt of any weight placed on your gear.

So, am I a freak when it comes to packing my clubs, or do you, too, go to great lengths to ensure they arrive in one piece?

Please share your favorite packing tips or see what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Commented on

Used a 5-way 1" PVC connector and schedule 40 PVC pipe instead of paying for an aluminum backbone type device. If you really want to make it strong you could insert a wood dowel down the center of the PVC pipe. Painters tape the shafts of your woods to the PVC pipe and you're good to go.

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Home made stiff arm out of a broom stick and a tennis ball
Bubble wrap the irons and then a couple rounds of bubble wrap around the whole lot
Foldable Ping travel bag.
Never a problem!!

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I have made a tube out of pvc that slides over all my clubs with a cap on the end. I cut two slits in it and attached it to my rain cover slats with Velcro. Then I place all of it in a padded bag I bought at cabelas works pretty good and it is simple for tsa to put back together correctly

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I prefer pretty much the same set up as Craig. I also use the Eagle Creek packing system for luggage, and place a packing cube or 2 with socks, underwear etc around the clubs, followed by the rain cover and tied tight using a bungee cord (which is needed for any trips to the UK or Ireland if one is using the standard antique pull cart). Do not leave home without the Stiff Arm.

Not a fan of the hard case as it is a royal pain upon arrival, especially in Europe where you are unlikely to find a vehicle that will be large enough to accommodate them. There is always the option of leaving the case at the airport left luggage. However, Glasgow airport charges 10 GBP/day ($16/day) for a standard bag and 20 GBP/day ($32/day) for an oversize bag (which they classify a hard golf travel case), making this option an expensive one.

The Trav-A-Lite style bags are a very good option for cart golf, but they are a rotten for those of us that prefer to carry our golf bag.

After recently switching to the Club Glider travel bag I would never use anything else - I really can be manoeuvred with 2 fingers. It is an absolute must for those travelling with golfing spouses and who usually end of managing both golf travel bags.

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I have been lucky up to now, with no broken clubs. However, I have had 2 soft travel bags ripped, the second one on its first use. I now use a hard case - so far so good.

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I had broken shafts on my 3 and 4 irons on a return trip several years ago with a soft travel bag - went to an SKB hard shell. This worked fine until I started traveling with a couple of engineers who were also golfers. The SKB wouldn't fit in the trunk of many full size rental cars and had to go in the back seat. They started calling it my "sarcophogus"!! So, I bought at Club Glove "Last Bag" three years ago and it has worked fantastic. The uppers have a padded section all the way around the bag and when the outer strap is cinched, it is hard core. I also wrap a soft insulated cooler and a couple towels around the tall clubs which seems to have helped a little more? I routinely do two RT trips a month which amounts to at least 8 different sets of baggage handlers throwing this valuable package around. I know TSA does take every club out of the bag as I've had to reposition the clubs many times to their routine placement. I leave the paper handouts they place in the bag after inspection in the travel bag (must be 50 or 60 of them in there), hoping that they'll not remove all the clubs, but it hasn't seemed to deter their actions!!!!

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Similar to Ed, I cut two heavy scale white pvc tubes, just a little longer than my longest club and put them both in my bag along with the clubs. If the end gets banged, the pvc's takes the hit. I also cut white pvc tubes and lay them in the troughs of sliding doors and windows to help prevent illigal entry. They blend in nicely with the vinyl windows and doors.

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I tour with a rock band and always bring my clubs for summer tours. I typically ship via FedEx, but have checked them on a number of flights as well. I've had an SKB Hard Case for 7 years and have never had a damaged club. SKB offers to cover damage to your clubs up to $1,500. There's a bit of padding where the club heads go, but I also pack it in with shoes and towels like others in this forum. I keep my clubs in the case when stored in the luggage bay under the tour bus to protect against other roadies' luggage and occasional erratic driving.

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To me it seems like you go through a lot of unnecessary work when there are so many hard cases available on the market. I put the rain cover over my clubs, drop them into the case, pack my golf clothes and shoes with them (often all my shoes for the trip along with any security-banned liquids I might want to take), close the case and I'm ready to go. This arrangement has alowed me to almost always (except when traveling internationally for more than a week) just have a carry on for the rest of my stuff, keeping my commute to/from/through the airports simple and keeping my baggage check fees to a minimum, many times $0. My Golf Guard case is padded at the top for extra protection as well. Only once did I have any problems, when it came out of the baggage belt with a hole in one corner. No problem though, the airline had a new one delivered to my front door. Definately the smartest investment I've made in my golf travels.

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My friends and I always take our woods out of the bag as soon as we pick the clubs up from the luggage carousal, that way you can notify the airline immediately if there is any damage.
The airlines also adhere to the "Warsaw Convention"; a system whereby if they have to pay out for irrepairably damaging your luggage (and they stall and fight hard to avoid paying) they calculate the payout based not on the value of the damaged item but on the weight of it, at approx US$20/kg.
My experience - receiving, after 3 months of emails and calls, a cheque for $200 in compensation for a hard-cover bike box that cost $1500 to replace.
They probably also use this "convention" to calculate compensation if they lose your luggage, although I suspect these days most lost luggage is found eventually.

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