Each of the last three years I've traveled to the British Isles or Ireland for two or three weeks of golf.
To date, I've logged about 50 days of golf travel over there with about nine more to come starting this week. This time I'll be hanging around Scotland's East Lothian region, just southeast of Edinburgh, for a week and two days of golf in St. Andrews.
By now I'd like to think I know how to pack for a links golf trip. This trip I'm hoping to squeeze everything into a carry-on suitcase, golf bag and back pack. If I lug anything more than that through the airports, my back will be in a shambles before hitting the first tee - not to mention the space limitations of my rental car. "Midsize" in the U.K. is not "midsize" in the U.S.
Packing tips for the golf traveler
To help you plan your next (or first) links golf vacation overseas, here are the bare essentials I'm bringing along:
For starters, I've got my Canon XTi Rebel camera bag, which can also fit a small video camcorder. If I'm going to be making ugly scores on these courses, I may as well get some pretty pictures.
For clothing, I'm only packing three golf polo shirts (all three are among my most wrinkle-resistant). You're asking, "Three shirts for nine or 10 rounds?" First off, they'll probably be covered by my waterproof jacket most of the time. Secondly, I'll be playing with different people every day. They'll be none the wiser.
I've got my navy blue, Under Armour ColdGear mock turtleneck. It will keep me plenty warm and is light as can be.
I'm bringing one sweater vest. They warm your core temperature without the added bulk that might constrict your swing.
My Royal Dornoch winter fleece cap is coming along. It'll be 45-60 degrees out there, and this thing bottles in the heat better than anything else I own.
I've got loads of long, black, comfy socks. Heeding the advice of Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump," I'll change my socks often to keep my feet nice and dry.
As for equipment:
Many players bring half-sets of clubs over there, leaving their other half at home so they can walk more comfortably. I tried that in Germany last summer and hated trying to hit half irons all the time. I'm bringing all my sticks and will probably wrap the three polo shirts around the top of the clubs for extra padding.
I don't want to pay high prices for golf balls (but you can lose balls in the gorse quickly), so I've got a dozen brand new Maxfli Noodles in my bag, plus another dozen used shag balls for holes where I'll have little chance of hitting the fairway. On a windy day on the links, your swing can get out of rhythm quite fast, and suddenly fairways look as wide as one of Scotland's narrow village roads, and you start hemorrhaging balls.
One thing I would like to bring with me is a boring, low-trajectory, reliable tee ball. You can't just pick that up off the shelf at Target though.
I'm not going to bring my umbrella. It's always too windy for one anyway. Waterproofs will do the trick.
I'm bringing extra golf pencils because some clubs in the U.K. charge 10-20p for pencils. Seriously.
A couple books are going in the bag in case of rainouts, which are likely in April. As are very detailed driving directions to every club (in some cases, two different routes). AAA.com and Google Maps have good trip planners with turn-by-turn directions. You can rent GPS units from most rental car agencies now, but they can cost 10-20 pounds a day, almost as much as the car.
I've got my laptop, of course, (and my U.K. power adapter), so I can bring my loyal readers wonderful blogs and photo dispatches all trip.
I'm not bringing any Bermuda shorts. Sure, I might see a few Scots teeing it up in shorts despite temperatures in the 50s, but mine are saved for playing golf in Mexico next month.