Last post I explained about picking a perfect carry bag for the traveling golfer. Now I ask, what should you put in that bag besides balls and clubs?
Let me preface this by saying I play golf all over the world, in every season and condition, often on short notice, and I don’t really like unpacking and repacking my bag all the time, so in short, my bag weighs a ton, as I keep it ready for anything I might encounter, including sleet and high winds. I treat golf travel like the Boy Scouts treat the wilderness, with the motto “Be Prepared.” So you might not want or need everything on this list, but these are the best, all personally tested and backed by many thousands of miles of experience.
Rain Gear: I have extensively tested rains suits from various manufacturers, and my general advice is that any of the major brands, including Sunderland, Sun Ice, Adidas, Nike, etc will keep you pretty dry in normal rain conditions. I like the newer “soft shell” fabrics, the ones that feel like smooth fleece, because they are quiet, light and comfy. That being said, if you might play in hail and pouring rain, or on the leading edge of a hurricane, and you can afford it, I suggest you do what I do, and what a lot of PGA Tour pros do, and invest in the Rolls Royce of rainwear, Zero Restriction. There is no doubt in my mind after years of playing in the rawest conditions, that a) GoreTex based fabrics are the best and b) the ones made by Zero Restriction are the best of the best. They take everything about golf into account, even make hats specifically designed to fit with the collars of their jackets and avoid pouring rain down the back of your neck. They have handy features like cuffable bottoms you can send to the tailor for perfect fit, belt loops, an underrated raingear feature, and great inside pockets. Trust me, it the best you can buy. Another very worthwhile investment is a GoreTex baseball cap, not always easy to find but available in better pro shops, especially in rainy locales. I got one at Bandon Dunes.
Cold/Wind Wear: I’m not a sweater guy, and I am not really a vest guy, but I am fan of the light, unlined short sleeve windshirt. It solves the problem of cool and windy weather not quite bad enough for the rainsuit, and it gives me a chance to flex my pipes on the course like Tiger. I used to carry the version with zip off sleeves because it seemed to cover more bases, but at the end of the day it is one more gizmo that is a pain to use. I carry the short sleeve windshirt rolled up in addition to my rain suit.
Rain Gloves: Some people shun these like the plague, but I can’t imagine playing in the rain without them – plus they keep your hands warmer. Any pair, like Footjoys, work great, but again, the best – and priciest – are Zero Restriction. I keep them in the zipper pockets of my rain jacket since the only time you will ever use them is when you also use your jacket, and that way you know where they are and they don’t get lost.
Rain Hood: In a previous post I mentioned my secret foul weather gear weapon, the Seaforth Rain Hood, for your clubs. Get one, it is the best. Don’t settle.
Laser Rangefinder: Also covered in a previous post. The traveling golfer will inevitably play courses that are unfamiliar, and this covers more bases than a GPS. You don’t have to do stuff in advance, like downloads, and you don’t have to worry about whether the course has been mapped. However, when the battery dies it dies very suddenly, here one minute, gone the next, and these can be hard to find abroad, so I carry an extra. You should too. NOTE: I have nothing against GPS. If you are tech-obsessed and want to deal with the downloads and stuff, by all means go that route.
Camera: I take pictures when I travel, and the best investment I made was a neoprene case for my little digital camera that has a carabineer style hook I hang from the otherwise useless towel loop on my carry bag, along with my laser rangefinder. You are more likely to take pictures if you don’t have to go fishing for the camera.
Cigar Stuff: I like stogies on the course, though I never smoke them otherwise. Weird, I know. Anyway, if you are like me, invest in a windproof lighter, one with the jet fighter type flame. Believe me, it will pay for itself. Also carry a good cutter.
Sunglasses: I am not going to get into whether the “Golf specific” models really help your read greens better or not. Pick a pair you like, cheap or expensive, fashionable or plain. But whatever you do, get a pair for golf, and keep them in your golf bag (in a case). Otherwise they will inevitably get forgotten at least once when you go to play.
First Aid Kit: I am not by nature a worrisome guy, but you can’t imagine how many times playing partners have asked me if I have aspirin. Occasionally, after a lot of whiskies, I might even need some myself. Bandaids are also an evergreen item on the golf course. You are less likely to use insect sting stuff or antacid, but you never know, and back-up emergency sunscreen is handy too. Years ago I played in a friend’s member guest and instead of the usual golf shirt or towel, the gift was a cool, small, and very well packed first aid kit for golfers with all this stuff in it, that I now carry. Buying something like this is easier and neater than trying to build it yourself.
Sunscreen: I am a bit anal about this since I spend so much time outdoors, and I use only the really good European stuff with Mexoryl as the active ingredient, hard to find in this country but better than our stuff. Anyway, whatever you use, use a high number (I use 50) but most importantly for your golf bag, get a spray bottle. That way you can update during the round without getting your hands greasy. Trust me, it’s the way to go.
Insect Repellent: Only necessary in certain places like Minnesota, but when you need it you need it. Don’t buy into all that homeopathic organic stuff. I don’t use much insect repellent, I am sure it is bad for you long term, but if you are only using it when you need relief, use the good stuff: 100% DEET. Studies have shown it is the only ingredient proven effective, and even most “heavy duty” formulas are light on DETT. Buy one like Ben’s 100%. Also, very important, put it inside something, like a heavy freezer bag. If it leaks, it can dissolve your golf bag. Really. I had to trash a howl carry bag due to an insect repellant leak. Now imagine what it does to your skin.
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