Heading out on a golf trip, or any other kind of trip? Don’t leave home without us! The experts at the A Position—along with special guest Gary Player—offer suggestions for flying high (or driving long) and landing soft. Player has flown more than 13 million miles in his amazing six-decade career. Our writers have covered territory from remote to renowned, and learned a few things crammed back there in coach and riding the chicken bus. Here’s some of what they’ve gleaned.
The day you leave, do excessive exercise so you can sleep. Get “on the clock” immediately after take-off, setting your watch to local time at your destination and trying to adjust your eating and sleep schedule accordingly. No carbs or meat on the plane, only fruit, salad, or vegetables. You’ll get blocked up otherwise because you’re not moving for 20 hours. Make sure you get up periodically and move your legs, pick them up to your chest. Get some blood circulating. Drink lots of water with lemon squeezed in it. Airports and planes are the worst places to contract some type of illness because the air circulation is so poor. Take garlic, if you can. I chop it up and swallow a spoonful—don’t chew it—with honey. And take plenty of Vitamin C. When I arrive, I take a cold shower, then a hot one, then a cold one, then a hot one. Get the blood circulating. If I can, I go to the gym or take a good walk because you’ve been denied light and good air for so long. In general, it takes one day to recover from one hour of time change.
The masses are revolting. And nowhere is this more apparent than at the airport. “Remember when airline travel was viewed as glamorous?” a golf-writer buddy recently asked as we observed as a parade of travelers clad in flip-flops, cut-offs, and tank tops traipsed by. The airport was Hong Kong’s, proving that slovenliness knows no boundary or nationality. No fashion plate myself, I first made a blazer part of my travel uniform because the buttoned inside breast pocket provided relief from passport-loss anxiety during international trips. But anecdotal evidence convinces me that airline personnel—especially those of a certain age, who yearn for the civility of bygone days (Steven Slater, call your office)—reflexively respond to a presentable passenger. I recommend a sport coat, but even the most nominal attention to your attire evinces a sense of decorum, currently in short supply.
—Tom Harack, tomharack.com
As someone who flies a lot, I hate paying for my clubs. But renting is expensive, so the answer is free baggage. The best solution, given that all major airlines are in three global alliances, is to achieve frequent flier status on one carrier. It’s not that hard, especially with aggressive credit card offers counting towards elite status. For example, the Delta SkyMiles American Express card waives baggage fees for card holders, and at $100 per round trip for clubs and another bag, it doesn’t take many flights to cover the annual fee. Whatever airline you make status on (usually by “flying” 25,000 miles in a year) gets you free bags on that airline and its partners, plus better seats and faster check-in. I like Star Alliance because it includes US Airways, United, Continental, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, TAP, Air New Zealand, Air Canada, and others. American is in OneWorld and Delta in SkyTeam.
—Larry Olmsted, larrygolfstheworld.com
If it takes four hours or less to drive where you are flying, drive. There are many reasons for this, here are a few: no airport parking; no boarding passes; no flight delays; no TSA security checks or arrogant agents; no middle seats surrounded by Chatty Kathy or Snoring Sam; no lost or damaged luggage or silly fees to pay; few limits on what to pack; no renting a car when you get there. You can come and go as you please and you may find a great, undiscovered course en route.
—Janina Jacobs, janinajacobs.com
The self-guided voyage through one of golf’s wonderlands—think of the U.K. and Ireland—requires a certain mindset, not unlike moving to the back tees when you usually play from the whites. It’s harder but worth the try, especially if you like the pubs, the views, and the chance encounters that are the fruits of unpredictability. That said, understand that you will get lost. When you do, don’t try to figure out where you goofed. Stop, ask, and if the response is “Oh, that’s easy,” you’re in for more trouble because it’s never easy. But listen anyway. Best bet: Don’t ask for a road or a village but say the name of the course or club you’re looking for. Golf is a lingo everyone in the British Isles handles with aplomb.
—Timothy Nolan, tgpnolan.com/
A good trip starts with getting where you’re going without too much aggravation. And for improving the quality of a long flight, nothing compares to noise-dampening headphones. When I’m ready to sleep I disconnect from the entertainment system and keep the headphones on to extinguish the ambient noise. Submerging into a tranquil bubble of silence, I drift away from the clanging of the galleys, the heavy footfall of restless passengers, and the clamor of call buttons. I usually don’t wake up until I begin to feel the pressure of our final descent in my ears. Flying may have lost its glamour, but noise-dampening at least restores some tranquility to the experience.
—John Strawn, johnstrawn.com
Play the great courses twice. Too many travelers succumb to the desire to see as many courses as possible during a week or two, putting themselves on a grueling, two-a-day schedule. They walk off the 18th green at a place like Royal County Down with bittersweet thoughts, thinking how much better they would have played if only they’d known what was beyond each dune, or if they hadn’t felt so intimidated. Then they get on the bus for Portrush. Avoid this when you plan your itinerary. Book a great course, stay the night, then book it for a second round the next day. A great course is like a great novel: It will always reward a second reading.
—Robert Cullen, bobcullengolf.com
There are few things as condemnable as airline baggage fees. When first instituted in 2008—after the average price of gasoline reached $4.11 per gallon—American, Delta, Continental, US Airways, et al said (with straight faces) that the fees offset the extra fuel needed to carry the weight of our clothes. By the end of that year fuel prices were less than half their peak, but in first quarter of 2010 we’ve been bilked for more than $760 million. At $25 for a first bag and $35 for golf clubs, it’s time to strike back. Instead of checking both bags, stuff your golf club travel bag with toiletries, check it, and walk through security rolling your clothing in a bag so big the gate attendants can’t possibly let you carry it on. You’ll have to check the roller but don’t worry, they don’t charge for bags checked at the gate—yet. Put on your straight face and say “okay,” knowing you’ve saved $70 round-trip and extracted some small measure of revenge.
—Jason Kerkmans, www.jasonkerkmans.com
Traveling is great except for the traveling part, especially flying. Here are some ways to smooth out your next trip. Take two books on board, one for you and one for your boring seatmate: When Mr. Chatty starts droning, hand him a book; subtle as a flying mallet but it works. For your return trip, pack dirty underwear in your travel bag around your club heads; it prevents airport theft. Place a piece of wood—a hockey stick shaft is ideal—in your travel bag so snugly that it barely fits; this helps keep your club shafts intact when baggage handlers play catch with your bag. And here’s a car tip: If you’re traveling solo, never book a room in the heart of a European city. Even with GPS you’ll get hopelessly lost.
—Tim O’Connor, timoconnor.ca
Even in the Internet age, a good travel agent is worth his, or her, weight in gold. If you want value, a good agent can instantly search dozens of air and hotel booking engines, relieving you of the tedium of hopping from site to site. An experienced agent who knows what you want and values your business will bend over backwards to get you room upgrades, preferred tee times, fresh flowers on arrival—you name it. And if something goes wrong, the travel agent is your personal ombudsman.
—Brian McCallen, brianmccallen.com
Act like a local. If you’re in a country where the men cover their legs at all times, put on a pair of pants and leave the shorts in your suitcase. Buy a pair of shoes in a local store—and not the local Nike store. Trade the Frappuccino for a mango lassi. Remove your hat in the clubhouse and when you shake hands after a match. Take an afternoon siesta rather than rolling your eyes that the bank is closed. Learn to say “please” and “thank you” in the prevalent dialect. Don’t show up at a restaurant at six in a country where they eat dinner at ten. And when you do show up, point toward the fattest man in the room and say, “I’ll have what he’s having.” However, if the local delicacy goes by the name of “Fluffy” or “Rover,” well, everyone has to draw the line somewhere.
—Jeff Wallach, jeffwallach.com