Have clubs, will travel: Tips for fun golfing trips

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

I am the luckiest person in the world. This chicken farmer’s daughter from rural Maryland grew up to become a college graduate, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a golfer and a writer. Best of all: a golf writer for the Brunswick Beacon.
How cool is that? My dreams have all come true.
Because of my husband’s business (partner in a large accounting firm), I had the opportunity to travel with him here and abroad. His business trips often involved golf with clients. As we got to know fellow golfers in our neighborhood, at other clubs, and in the world of business, we were invited to play in guest days and various charity events.  
My family is from Finland and I am bilingual. My cousin Hannu Latomaa is a golf fanatic and belongs to several clubs in and around Helsinki. When we visit him and his wife, golf is always on the agenda.
Gene and I have played golf in Spain, Finland and Bermuda, and in Quebec and Ontario, Canada. We have also played in such diverse places as California (Pebble Beach), Alabama (The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail), Texas, Arizona, Montana, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado and Oklahoma. We’ve played in most of the Eastern states, so I won’t list them here.
Gene once played in Hong Kong, but I was not invited on that trip.
Today, golf and travel are still a big part of our lives and we love it. Over the years I’ve developed my own handy-dandy list of tips for comfortable, easy golf travel.
1. Clean out your golf bag. You won’t need those old cut-up golf balls that you dredge up out of the pond behind your house. Take a few nice golf balls and if you run out, you can easily purchase more. Throw out old golf gloves, scorecards, large cans of bug spray, extra bottles of water and the 200 tees and ball markers that languish in the bottom pocket of your bag. If you’ve got a heavy “cart bag,” buy a smaller, lighter travel bag.
Unless you are going to a desert, add a rainsuit. If you’ve traveled a vast distance and paid a huge amount of money to play at a very special course, you’ll want to tee it up, even if it’s raining.
2. Consider shipping your clubs. Several of our friends do this regularly. If you ship your bags, you won’t need to lug them in and out of airports and you won’t have to pay the extra large-bag charge that most airlines require these days.
I checked out several shipping companies and found Ship Sticks (www.shipsticks.com). They will pick up your clubs at your home, office, or golf club or you can drop them off at a UPS store. They will deliver your sticks to a vacation rental, golf club or hotel.
Shipping my clubs from Ocean Isle Beach to Pebble Beach Golf Course by Ship Sticks would cost $159 (overnight), $128 (three-day shipping) or $59 (ground).
I spoke with the FedEx office on Highway 17 in North Myrtle Beach. I was told they have special boxes for golf clubs and they ship clubs on a daily basis. All you need to do is bring in your clubs. They will pack them and ship them for between $40 and $80 depending on the weight of the bag and its destination.
3. Select your clothes carefully. If you are going to a member-guest day at the Jupiter Hills Club in Florida, you might need a cocktail dress or two or three. Your husband will probably need a sports jacket and/or tuxedo. Some clubs specify country club casual,’ which means a button-down shirt and sports jacket for men (no tie). For women, it will be slacks and a silk blouse, perhaps a skirt or casual dress. Check with your host.
At many prestigious clubs, denim is not permitted in any form. I sat at a meeting at our club in New Jersey while this very subject was decided. The problem was that designer jeans may cost several hundred dollars and a pair of Levi’s jeans may cost $15 on sale. The problem arises because no one wants to be the arbiter of which jeans are appropriate, certainly not the club manager or the golf pro.
Denim of any sort was outlawed that day, including denim shirts and skirts.
4. Plan your wardrobe so you don’t take four suitcases. Take sneakers or comfortable walking shoes and one pair of dress shoes. I love shoes and Gene often calls me Imelda Marcos because of my extensive shoe collection, but when I travel I take outfits that will go with black/white shoes or brown/beige shoes. I leave my funky green platforms and my orange slings at home.
If you pack clothes that coordinate, you’ll have smaller, lighter suitcases.
5. Wash your clothes on the trip. If you are traveling to California on a month’s golf-drive-golf trip, you don’t need an outfit for every day. Most motels, hotels and condos have washing machines. Most hotels and motels have laundry service.
6. Gene and I often drive, even on longer trips. We have had several wild and crazy plane trips.
We went to Bermuda last December for a pro-am. Our plane to Atlanta iced up in Myrtle Beach that morning. They have no deicing equipment, so they rolled the plane into the sunshine and waited for the ice to melt. We missed the flight out of Atlanta. Of course, driving to Bermuda was not an option, so we flew from Atlanta to Boston and then to Bermuda, early the next morning. Gene still made the practice round.
If we have an early morning flight out of Myrtle Beach, we go down the night before, enjoy a pleasant dinner, get a good night’s sleep at a nearby hotel and fly out the next morning. Broadway at the Beach has several motels and restaurants and you can practically walk to the airport from there.
7. If you’re on a car trip, take turns driving and stop every two hours. Walk around, get a snack, buy a newspaper or magazine. If you are a senior, this is really essential to prevent blood clots in the legs.
The American Society of Hematology advises travelers to stretch their legs and walk around every two hours whether they are traveling by car, bus, train or plane. Do not cross your legs or remain in the same position for a long time. Raise and lower your toes and heels alternately; make circular motions with your ankles; raise your knee toward your chest and hold for a few seconds.
8. Avoid boredom by bringing video games, crossword puzzle books, audio books or a Nook, Kindle or other device. Gene and I have an extensive CD collection and often play music as we travel. There’s nothing like listening to Johnny Cash sing “A Boy Named Sue” as you’re driving over the mountains into Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Golf travel is fun. We also sightsee and go to museums and concerts and historic sites, but golf adds another whole dimension to our trips.
Have clubs, will travel.
Golf Gab groaner:
Golfer’s prayer: “Dear God, thank you for encouraging my wife to take up golf. Please don’t let her ever get better than me.” (From the book, “A Round of Golf Jokes,” a compilation by Helen Exley.)