In all, we will play at least nine different courses during this trip. But packing is complicated by the fact that for most of this time we will be traveling on an upscale sailing ship, which means I need to look decent in the evenings, as well.
Most golf vacations probably aren't this complex. First we fly to Dublin, overnight at Portmarnock Hotel (but we don't arrive in time to play the course, which is a pity) and the next day we board the Sea Cloud II for an 11-day Kalos golf cruise.
On this trip we will play three courses in Northern Ireland and then four courses in Scotland, ending up in Edinburgh. And because we figure that we might not be this close to St. Andrews for awhile, my husband and I are renting a car and driving up there for a few days at the new St. Andrews Bay hotel and a few more rounds of golf, of course.
So, what all to take? Here it is, the middle of high summer, and the temps there are only around 65 degrees. I've done lots of reading and we are warned about the wind and rain. Most of the courses we will be playing are right on the sea. That means heavier clothes and rain gear.
And I have to look good, right?
So, my bed is covered right now with piles of clothes. I consider all of these clothes to be essential, so how am I going to fit them in? Well, here are some considerations when you face such a challenge: Your golf bag. First, you have to consider what you can reasonably fit in your golf bag. Because our cart bags are fairly heavy, my husband and I both purchased lighter Ogio stand bags for this trip. They have fewer pockets than I am used to, but they are easier to maneuver. And because they are smaller, there is a bit more room in your club travel bag for additional clothes. So it is my plan to put some of the light but bulky items (like fleece jackets and vests) in that bag.
But don't overdo. In the U.S., golf bags cannot weigh over 50 pounds or you will be charged between $25 and $50 by the airlines. For foreign carriers, the limit is around 70 pounds. However, we have to fly on a commuter plane to Chicago to connect with our overseas flight so we will have to stick to the 50-pound maximum.
Also, when renting a car abroad, always make sure it is large enough to carry your luggage and golf bags.
Golf shoes. A second consideration is how many pairs of golf shoes to bring. Most people have advised us to bring two pairs. This is because we will be walking almost all of these courses (using "trolleys") and your feet will get tired in the same shoes. Also, your shoes often get wet in the U.K., so you want to be able to give them time to dry.
So, plan on putting that extra pair of golf shoes in your golf travel bag as well. Another tip: Most of the high end courses in the U.K. really do not approve of "trainers," as they call sneakers. Don't plan on wearing those; probably golf shoes that look like sneakers will draw frowns as well. Be forewarned.
Evening wear. No, I don't mean tuxes and gowns. However, you do have to have proper clothing to change into for dinner each evening. Gentlemen should plan to bring at least one sport coat. Many clubs require a jacket after 6 p.m. and it just fits the look, anyway, right? And throw in a club tie.
The way I am going about this is to bring a few black, red and taupe pieces that I can intermix. My black jacket and pants are really going to get a workout, but I have lots of colorful tops and scarves that I can use to change the look.
For once, I am really cutting down on the shoes. I am bringing one pair of dressy black shoes, one pair of black flats (which I wear on the plane), one pair of brown Jos. Seibel clog-type shoes and one pair of sneakers (those go in the golf bag, too). (Oh, well, I just threw in a pair of sandals. So much for resolution.)
Golfwear. This is probably easiest, because I know that layering is the key. So I have a stack of golf shirts (no sleeveless for this trip), most with short sleeves, and three mock turtlenecks. I have a stack of vests. And I have a stack of outerwear. This stack includes one wind shirt, one light sweatshirt, one fleece shirt and one cardigan sweater. That ought to cover every base.
For pants, I have four pairs of slacks: khaki, navy blue and two black. (I would have brought more khaki but am concerned about the mud and rain. Black you can brush off and wear again.) I also have two pair of capris: black and khaki. And, ever the optimist, I have two pairs of shorts, also khaki and black. I mean how much does microfiber weigh anyway? I know this is too many pants, but I cannot decide where to cut.
The essentials. I guess underwear is an essential, but it doesn't take up much space, plus you can wash it as you go along so take the minimum. One nightie will do. (Your husband will probably be just as happy if you do without.) And you need socks, several pairs of socks. Socks do not dry quickly and we hate dirty ones, right? So fill all those shoes with socks.
Rain gear. Thought I'd forgotten, right? Every book we have read about golf in Scotland and Ireland talks about "squibs," or short little rain squalls that happen during almost every round. We already know about this. A few years ago we played golf in Wales and it hailed on us! So, we have rain suits, too. For me, this was not easy because I'm short, and I had to have the pants altered to fit me. But this is something I've wanted to do for a long time and now it is done. We carry these in our golf bags at all times. My husband rolls them up tightly and secures the rolls with rubber bands, so they really don't take up much space. I also purchased a pair of special gloves to wear in the rain and a new Dryjoys waterproof baseball cap.
Then we had a debate as to whether or not we should bring our golf umbrellas. One book advised us not to because of the wind. However, when we played in Wales a few years ago we did use our umbrellas quite a bit so in the end we decided to bring them.
The extras. Your toiletry kit. Your makeup bag. Your hair dryer. Your curling iron. Your medications. An extra pair of glasses. A copy of your passport.
Earplugs and an inflatable pillow for the plane. A few packs of laundry detergent tablets (in case you are lucky enough to be able to do laundry).
Your electrical adapter kit.
The last essential. There is one item I never travel without. It is a small bag that folds into a flat package. It can be expanded, filled with goodies (or dirty laundry) and checked on the flight home. Totes makes excellent ones that I have used for years. They cost about $12.
This is essential because, of course, I am going to shop on this trip. There is no way that I'm going to visit nine golf shops and not do my best to purchase something at every one. I mean the golf shop at St. Andrews is perhaps the largest and most famous in the world.
My husband also has his clothes all organized. For some reason, his stuff is only about 2/3 as much as I have.
Seems right to me, don't you think?
July 24, 2003
Cynthia Boal Janssens is a former newspaper writer and editor turned freelance writer. She is the former travel editor and Sunday magazine editor of The Detroit News. In addition, she has worked for newspapers in California, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Ohio University.
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