I’m a veteran of more than 100 golf trips the past five years, and even I forget to pack the necessities to survive on the road.
Razors, dress shoes, golf hat, underwear — yep, I’ve left home without them.
Packing properly can make or break any golf trip. The obvious stuff — clubs, golf pullovers, pants and shorts — is easy to remember. It’s the little detail-oriented things that get forgotten. Golfers who don’t have the proper tools to travel comfortably make life harder on themselves. They can’t make pars in the rain without rain gloves. Those who end up as the group mooch — borrowing sunscreen, balls, tip money and tees from everybody else — endure relentless heckling. Pack light, but pack right.
Here are the things golfers too often forget to pack:
Make a shoe plan
I’m a big advocate of bringing an extra pair of golf shoes in case the first pair gets ruined by water or mud. If your golf itinerary involves a day off, make sure to bring walking/tennis shoes, too. I like to solve both needs by wearing street golf shoes to the airport. That way I don’t need to pack a backup pair of golf shoes or that extra pair of walking shoes, either. My trips always require dress shoes for dinners at nice restaurants.
If you’re playing Muirfield in Scotland, you’ll need them. If you’re at a three-star resort in Myrtle Beach, you can probably live without them. I also keep a pair of lightweight flip-flops permanently in my golf travel bag. They’re always ready for a sandy beach or an indoor pool.
Prepare for any weather
I don’t care how many times you check the weather — it can change in an instant, especially in coastal or mountainous golf destinations. Bring the rain gear, umbrella and rain gloves every time, even if the forecast indicates otherwise. You’ll thank me later.
On the flip side, always keep sunscreen in your bag. I keep my second-favorite pair of Oakley golf sunglasses in my travel backpack, so they are never left behind. My eyes are super sensitive to bright sunlight. I can’t enjoy golf without some good shades.
Golf trips are supposed to be escapes from computers and e-mails, but in reality, everybody needs to stay in touch with work and family back home. If your golf trip involves a lot of driving — like a stay and play at multiple stops of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail — a cell phone charger that plugs into a car lighter is a must.
Even better, I like to bring a car charger with a traditional plug on one end. That way I can charge anything I need — a phone, a computer, a camera battery — while on the run. Bringing an extra plug converter when traveling internationally is usually a hit with large groups.
How much money you keep in your wallet on vacation remains a personal preference, but here are a couple of key cash tips I abide by: Bring lots of singles, and if you’re traveling internationally, exchange your money at home. Single dollar bills come in handy for the onslaught of airport shuttle drivers, golf cart girls and club cleaners looking for a tip.
Golfers who don’t carry singles end up giving out a few more $5s than they’d like. When it comes to getting foreign currency, did you know that most banks you have an account with will exchange money at no extra cost? Stop into your local bank or credit union branch, and if they don’t have the currency you need, they can order it to pick up within 24-48 hours. The hassles on the front end tend to be worth avoiding the extra charges of exchanging money at the airport or an overseas hotel.
I’m all for “saving the trees,” but sometimes bringing a printed copy is the smart way to go. It’s especially wise to bring a printed schedule with tee times, phone numbers of courses, resorts and head pros, and confirmation numbers in case your phone dies or key e-mails accidentally get deleted. If you are traveling internationally and your passport gets lost or stolen, a hard copy might be the difference between getting home on time or an unwanted extended vacation.
If you’re on a marathon golf binge — such as my recent 240-hole, 12-day Scotland golf trip — you’ll need plenty of medication for aching golf muscles and feet. Bring extra Advil/Motrin because everybody will be begging for it at some point. My allergies have gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, so some Claritin isn’t a bad idea, either.
Bring enough golf essentials
Before a trip, I always take stock of how many golf balls I have in my bag. Buying balls, gloves, tees, insect repellent, etc. — the essentials golfers should never be without — is like giving away money on a golf trip. Pro shops are money pits for suckers.
Pack healthy snacks
Eating healthy is virtually impossible on vacation, especially with golfers who imbibe after hours. Throw a few granola bars or nutrition bars in your golf bag. They’re ideal for days when you get tired mid-round or sleep in late and miss breakfast.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should leave the business cards at home. Stuff a few extra in your golf bag and wallet. Who knows who you might meet in the Tap Room at Pebble Beach Resorts or the Ryder Cup Lounge at Pinehurst Resort? Maybe that person could be a great business contact or, better yet, a member at some swanky private club. Don’t miss your chance to impress and stay in touch.
I always bring my swimsuit, even to colder climates such as the British Isles, just in case there’s a hot tub to soak in after golf. I also bring an extra set of gym shorts and a comfy T-shirt: Not necessarily for a workout, but in case I need them as pajamas if I have to share a room unexpectedly.
Bring a backup battery for your range finder, too.
If you’ve got more suggestions on what to bring, please let us know in the comments below.