If you stumbled upon this page, chances are that you are planning a golf trip – and that you are planning to go further than your local golf course. More precisely, you are planning to go on a golfing trip by a plane.
While getting your golfing equipment to your destination is easy if you are driving – just throw it in the trunk of your car and go – it gets a bit more confusing when traveling by air. Especially nowadays when airlines make it sometimes hard to figure out even what the regular luggage allowance is.
Because of that, I looked into the issue and am reporting my findings back to you.
Continue reading to learn what the best golf club cases for air travel are (if you can’t wait, here’s one of them: SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case), how to pack your golf equipment before heading to the airport in a way that doesn’t get it damaged, and what the airline rules are when flying with golf clubs and other equipment.
4 Best Golf Club Cases for (Not Only) Air Travel
First, let’s take a look at some of the golf club cases that are suitable for air travel.
While the one that’s best for your needs will differ, in most cases, the SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case will be the ideal one to get if you plan to fly with your golf equipment.
Also keep in mind that if you go with the Samsonite and Founders Club cases, the airline might require you to sign a limited release when checking the bags in as one of them is not a “true” hard case, and the other one is soft shell.
Anyways, let’s jump in.
SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case
The SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case is one of the most popular hard shell golf cases for air travel, and rightfully so. It’s made in the United States out of high-quality polyethylene, and is made to the ATA Spec 300 specifications meaning it’s very durable.
Measuring about 82 linear inches, it is small enough to fit within most airlines’ golf equipment luggage allowance. Yet, it’s large enough to fit most common golf bags. That said, some users found its internal dimensions of 48 x 14 x 11 inches not enough to fit their bags – and so, make sure to measure your regular golf bag before getting this case.
The case weighs about 18 pounds, and is equipped with TSA-approved locks.
While the case comes with a “Million Mile Guaranty” and a 1,500 USD club coverage, many users reported not having had to use it since the bag is sturdy and protects the clubs inside perfectly.
Overall, if you are looking for a hard case for your golf equipment and your bag will fit into this one, then it should certainly be at the top of your list of cases to consider.
HUNSAKER USA Iron-Locker Hard Sided Golf Travel Case
If your golf bag doesn’t fit into the previous case, make sure to check the HUNSAKER USA Iron-Locker Hard Sided Golf Travel Case which is quite similar. It comes with a lifetime warranty, and is made in the United States.
Its inside dimensions are 50 x 14 x 11.5 inches, and it weighs almost 20 pounds when empty. Because of that – even though it is equipped with three different handles and a pair of wheels – it can get quite heavy to carry around an airport when fully loaded.
While you will need a (ideally TSA-approved) lock to actually secure the bag, the case is equipped with sturdy metal latches that prevent the bag from opening.
Also, unlike some of the other models which split open, the HUNSAKER USA case has a removable top. Depending on your preferences, you might find that easier or more difficult to use.
Overall, though, while the SKB seems to be more popular, I wouldn’t stay away from this bag either – especially if the SKB is a bit too small to fit your golf bag.
Samsonite Hard Sided Golf Travel Case
While the two cases above were “true hard cases,” the Samsonite Hard Sided Golf Travel Case is made out of ABS – and so is more one of those suitcases made out of fairly thin plastic.
Because of that, it will not protect your clubs as well as a true hard case would. At the same time, though, at just 5 pounds, it is considerably lighter than any of those. And so, if your equipment is heavy, this case might present a good compromise between sturdiness and weight.
It can hold clubs up to 46 inches long and fit a golf bag that is up to 10.5 inches wide.
One of the biggest advantages of this bag is the fact that its equipped with 4 spinner wheels, as well as 2 inline wheels – and so, you can either pull it or push it. In other words, it’s much easier to carry around than the SKB or HUNSAKER USA cases.
Overall, though, since it closes with a zipper rather than latches – and is less sturdy than the earlier options – I would only recommend this case if your equipment in combination with the true hard cases would be too heavy.
Founders Club Golf Travel Bag with Hard Shell Top
At about 10 pounds, the Founders Club Golf Travel Bag with Hard Shell Top is fairly light. The main reason for that is that it’s – for the most part – soft shell. What makes it alright even for air travel, though, is its hard shell top designed to protect your golf club heads.
The bag is made out of 600D polyester, and is equipped with a pair of inline wheels to make carrying it around easy. Just as with the Samsonite above, one of the downsides of this bag is the fact that it uses zippers rather than latches to close.
On the other hand, its advantage is that it can be folded when not in use, and so it takes up very little space in storage.
Overall, though, unless something prevents you from getting one of the first two cases on this list, I would avoid getting this one. And, if you decide to get it, you should consider getting a backbone for extra support to go with it.
In fact, you might find that one useful with the Samsonite bag above as well.
How to Pack Golf Equipment for Air Travel
First, let’s take a look at what TSA says about traveling with golf equipment.
In its “What Can I Bring?” database that lists details of what items can be brought onboard, what items can be checked in, and so on, it lists four golf-related items: clubs, divot tools, balls, and tees.
Quite understandably, while it lists the latter three as permitted in both carry-on and checked luggage, golf clubs are only allowed in checked luggage.
With that in mind, how should you pack your equipment so that your golf clubs and other equipment arrives at your destination in one piece, undamaged?
First, you will have to get a travel golf bag which is completely enclosed as opposed to your regular golf bag with open top.
While there are both soft shell bags (like the Athletico Padded Golf Travel Bag) that are fairly low-cost, if you have a nice set of clubs, it’s preferable to get a hard shell case (like the SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case) that will offer better protection.
As for actually packing the equipment, it’s about as simple as it gets since all these bags are designed to fit your regular golf bag inside. And so, rather than having to reload all your clubs, etc., you will simply place the golf bag into the travel case and close it.
Before closing the bag, though, pad the area at the top around your golf club heads with clothing to prevent them from potentially moving around the case and getting damaged (or at least use head covers). Just keep in mind that some airlines might have policies against including non-golfing items in your golf bag (or charging you extra baggage fees if you do so).
One last thing – make sure not to place any loose items (tees, etc.) into the bag, as they might get lost in case the TSA (or other security agency) decides to open your bag for inspection. And, since these cases tend to attract more attention than regular suitcases, you should try to get one that has a TSA-approved lock – that way, you will not have to leave your bag unlocked or worry about getting it broken by the TSA.
For a more visual demonstration of how to pack for a golfing trip, check the video below.
Flying with Golf Clubs and Other Equipment: Policies of Major Airlines
Finally, let’s take a look at the golf equipment baggage policies of some of the major airlines.
If you can’t find your airline in the list below, just search for “[airline] golf clubs” and you should find the policy of your airline easily.
Also, even if your airline is listed below, you might want to check directly with the airline before your travel since the policies change from time to time.
American Airlines permits travel with one golf bag which counts as a standard piece of checked luggage that contains up to 14 clubs, 12 balls, and one pair of shoes. It does not allow swingless golf club Power Strips in the bag, though.
The bag can weigh up to 50 pounds, and officially should not contain anything else other than the items mentioned above – otherwise oversize charges may apply.
In case your itinerary involves Brazil, you will be required to pay a golf equipment fee of 42.50 dollars.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines allows its passengers to travel with a single golf bag which counts as a standard piece of luggage – and so, depending on your booking class, elite status, and so on, you might have to pay a baggage fee or not.
The bag can weigh up to 50 pounds (if it exceeds that, overweight luggage fees will apply). However, it is not restricted to the standard 62 linear inches (sum of its width, height, and length) size limit. That said, bags larger than 115 linear inches are not allowed on Delta – regardless of whether or not they are golf bags.
The airline is a bit less specific (which is good) in its definition of one item of golfing equipment as it states that it contains: one golf bag with a set of clubs, balls and tees, and a pair of shoes.
It also specifies the type of luggage the equipment can be carried in. It assumes responsibility for your equipment if it’s in a hard shell case. On the other hand, if your equipment is in a soft shell bag, you will be required to sign a limited release.
Similarly to the other two major airlines, United’s passengers can check one item of golf equipment. And, that item counts towards their standard baggage allowance.
The airline defines an item of golf equipment as follows: one golf bag containing one set of clubs, golf balls, and one pair of golf shoes. The golf bag that the equipment is in can be more than the standard 62 linear inches (as long as golf equipment is inside the bag), but standard weight restrictions and overweight fees apply.
United Airlines also mentions on its website that the golf equipment must be in a “suitable container” and that the golf bag must be in a “heavy, rigid carrying case.” Just like Delta Air Lines, while it assumes liability for equipment in a hard shell case, it does not do so for golf equipment in soft shell bags.
The airline also takes the time to inform its passengers that golf equipment – just like any non-standard luggage item – might take more time to appear on the luggage belt than standard luggage items, regardless of whether or not the customer is eligible for priority baggage handling.
Unlike American Airlines, Delta, and United, Lufthansa charges an extra fee for transporting sports equipment including golf equipment regardless of your standard luggage allowance. The fee is anywhere between 80 USD to 300 USD depending on your route.
That said, the fee is waived for Star Alliance Gold members (routes to/from the US and Canada are excluded) and SWISS Golf Traveller members who are not holding an “Economy Class Light” ticket.
As for what constitutes a piece of golf luggage for Lufthansa, that’s similar to the other airlines: a golf bag with a set of clubs, balls, and tees, and a pair of golf shoes. And, the bag can measure up to 200 linear centimeters (78 inches) which is larger than the allowance on the American airlines.
While the thought of packing your golf equipment and checking it in at an airline counter – thus losing control of it for a few hours – might seem daunting, it is not as bad as it looks.
The key to ensure that your golf clubs get to your destination undamaged is to get the right case for your golf bag and equipment. Even though there are soft shell cases, I recommend getting a true hard case – like the SKB 2SKB-4814W Deluxe ATA Golf Travel Case or the HUNSAKER USA Iron-Locker Hard Sided Golf Travel Case.
When it comes to airline policies regarding golf equipment, the major US carriers among others let you take a piece of golf equipment as part of your regular luggage allowance. Other carriers – such as Lufthansa – charge separate sports equipment fees.