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Long golf trip on tap? Here are packing tips from a journeyman

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

For those of you getting ready for an extended overseas golf trip, I have two words for you - actually one hyphenated word if you want to be technical.

Golf travel packing
The largest, bulkiest item you will pack, unless it's your golf clubs, is your suitcase.
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Wrinkle-free.

I discovered wrinkle-free some years ago, and now I won't leave home without it.

The largest, bulkiest item you will pack on your golf vacation, unless it's your clubs should you choose to take them, is your suitcase. Wrinkle-free will set you free.

There are any number of companies that sell wrinkle-free golf clothes, but my wrinkle-free company of choice has nothing to do with golf. It's a company called TravelSmith.

This might sound like a plug, and it is, sort of. But I've found that virtually all my traveling golf clothes come from TravelSmith. That includes what the company calls its "indestructible tee-shirts."

I'm not yet ready to call them "indestructible" -- I'll make that judgment in about a decade -- but the four indestructible tee-shirts I purchased from TravelSmith have lasted for years and have taken me around the world, from the Caribbean, to Italy and to Ireland and Scotland, not to mention South Africa, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The only drawback is they have no collars, which many golf courses require. However, these tee-shirts have about them the look of silk -- and I've never been turned away from even the most exclusive club.

You can wear them in the hottest weather and sweat like a goat. (Don't believe that junk about "wicking away moisture." If it's hot, you're going to sweat.)

With these shirts, you throw them in a sink, wash them out with a little Woolite, hang them up and they're ready for another 18 or 36 by morning. They allow you to pack only three, or even two shirts, and they take up very little space.

The same with TravelSmith's trousers and shorts. They aren't designed specifically for golf -- who says you have to buy golf clothes from a golf company? -- but I've worn them on golf courses from Saigon to Johannesburg and nobody has ever accused me of being woefully misclad. As a bonus, they have zip-up security pockets.

I can go on a two- or even three-week golf trip and pack all my clothes in a small travel bag. Make sure you bring the Woolite or you'll find yourself extremely unpopular. The only disadvantage of TravelSmith stuff is it's a little too expensive, compared to others.

To carry or rent golf clubs?

Now, with the clothes situation solved, here's the other big question: to rent clubs or bring your own. I loathe dragging a cumbersome bag around foreign shores. I can relate any number of horror stories, but after one particularly horrible incident in Scotland, involving the part-hyena owner of a bed-and-breakfast-from-hell, I decided I'd be leaving my weapons at home on future trips.

I had mostly good luck with rental clubs until I got to Malaysia. The clubs I rented there could be called "golf clubs" only in the strictest, technical sense, in that they had a club head and shaft. I think they made them out behind the maintenance shed with a hammer and nails. They were as finely balanced as an ox plow. I, quite literally, could not hit a golf ball with them.

So now, I'm back to dragging my sticks through interminable airport lines. You have two choices here. You can get a large bag, and I would definitely recommend a hard-shell, that can hold a lot of your accessories, like golf shoes, golf balls, and other detritus, and will take the load off your suitcase.

Or, and this is my choice, you can get a bag that doubles as a field bag. In other words, one you can take from the airport and stick right on the cart or over your shoulder. They generally aren't as big, and you might have to leave one or two clubs home, but it's worth it.

There is a wide range of good bags in this category, at just about every price level. Make sure you find one with quality wheels.

Here are some other tips I've learned in my wide-ranging travels, through trial and mostly error.

• Golf balls can be expensive in some countries, like Bermuda, for example. Bring a couple dozen with you, depending on the length of your trip.

• Always pack a small, lightweight raincoat. Always.

• Maybe you do or don't like the style of Jim Furyk, but performance camp shirts are very versatile. They can be worn on the golf course or in fancy restaurants. Plus, you can wear them untucked and not be considered a slothful bum.

• If you're taking both your laptop and digital camera, as I always have to, get a bag that will hold them both so you can stuff it all into the small, storage bin on the airplane.

Make sure it's a backpack, because now you have three bags -- your suitcase, golf travel bag and computer/camera case, and you only have two hands. I have a sturdy Skywinn that works well; it has wheels as a bonus.

• On a related note, make sure you have the correct, electrical adapter for your laptop. Hotels don't always have them.

• If you have multiple connections and have to go through a lot of security lines, consider wearing sandals on the flight, although not all airport security checkpoints make you reveal your nasty feet as U.S. officials do.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
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