On the road again: Epic golf road trip begins with epic packing

A Personal Golf Fan, Nexbelt, Gary Player and more: Pack right for your next golf road trip

The great part about taking your own car on a golf road trip is that you're only limited by the size of your car. There are no airline officials counting your clubs and your golf shoes. You can bring an entire humidor of cigars if you want, including a torch lighter, which is verboten on airplanes. And you bring lots of clothes, almost enough to make it 30 days without doing laundry -- if you wear everything twice.

Of course, you can't get carried away. After all, a normal-size car will only fit so much gear, and on a long road trip, you might need room for a few souvenirs, such as funky one-of-a-kind hats, logoed golf shirts or Stuckey's Peanut Brittle (they still have that, right?). Really, it's almost more challenging than flying, because you have to know your limitations, but there are some car trip essentials that you wouldn't take if you were flying.

This past week, I began my annual summer golf trip, starting in Houston. Stops along the way include New Orleans, Athens, Ga., Mt. Airy, N.C., Williamsburg, Va., New York City, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma and finally back to Texas. The course lineup is also a good one -- TPC Louisiana, University of Georgia, Beth Page, Whistling Straits, Cog Hill, Erin Hills, just to name a few. That's a lot of golf and a lot of driving, which means you're going to need plenty of golf balls and plenty of cold beverages.

I packed enough clothes for about a week to 10 days, meaning I will do laundry at least three or four times. Fortunately, there are some stops along the way that provide a washer and dryer. I also brought five pairs of shoes -- sneakers, tennis shoes, flip-flops and a couple of pairs of golf shoes, including Street Eccos for easy on and easy off the course and a pair of white shoes from New Balance.

This is New Balance's first foray into golf. The company exhibited at the PGA Merchandise Show this January, and for the past couple of months, I've been wearing the New Balance 2001 Golf Shoe. They're waterproof, comfortable and my feet stay dry. They're also very light, thanks for a REVlite midsole developed for marathoners. The only thing that surprised me was that they weren't wide like the shoes I wear for tennis. Still, though, I've been very pleased with this $160 shoe (newbalance.com).

And if you pack white shoes, you have to pack a white belt, right? Fortunately, I've got one from Nexbelt (in addition to my black belt) with a Texas flag logo on it. If you've never tried a Nexbelt, I highly recommended it. Made without loops and ratcheting system instead, you always get the right fit. Plus there's a ball marker inside the buckle. And now they're even better with a smaller release on the buckle, which makes them a little less bulky. They make them for men and women in all sorts colors and configurations (nexbelt.com).

Gotta have a cooler

I've learned over the years that soft coolers aren't the way to go. They tend to leak, get pushed over and develop mold after a few uses. So we're going with a small Igloo on this trip, where we'll keep some beverages for the road and after golf. And by beverages, yes, there could be some alcohol in there, especially if you're going to be in close quarters with the same person for the next 30 days. I can also take all the cigars I want, including the torch lighter, which you're not supposed to pack for flights. Heck, I was able to bring along a small humidor.

I've also brought along an extra two dozen golf balls, besides what's in my golf bag -- since I'll be playing around 20 rounds of golf -- a half-gallon of sunscreen, an umbrella (rain is inevitable) and array of medication, including pain relievers, No Doze and allergy tablets. On golf days, I double up on the Zyrtec. The older I get, the worse my grass fever.

Keeping my cool on the course

Here's an item on the packing list most wouldn't include -- the Personal Golf Fan (pgffan.com). A retired flight attendant in Houston who didn't like playing in our hot, humid summers thought of this one. She invented a powerful lithium ion battery fan that fits in the cup holders of golf carts.

Let me tell you, this thing blows, and for about six hours before, it needs a recharge. It may seem a little pricey at $200 retail, but you can recharge it about 2,000 times, so that's just pennies for each session of personal coolness every time you use it. Best of all it doesn't take up much room in my car.

Improve your game

The car also allows me to bring help for my golf game for the inevitable period my game starts to suffer. In this case, I've got a couple of videos and a golf book I'm checking out while on the road.

The bunker lesson alone in "Gary Player -- A Game for Life," might be worth the $99 price tag (agameforlife.com). After all, the Black Knight is regarded by many as the greatest bunker player of all time. My bunker play has improved since checking it out. What's refreshing about this series, though, is it's not a bunch of technical stuff but a more rounded practical feel approach to improving your game -- as if Player himself were giving you advice on the course. It really is different.

The same goes for Tom Watson's new DVDs, "Lessons of a Lifetime II" ($50 on Amazon.com). These are a continuation of his first series and more advanced lessons for players who want to learn from the five-time British Open champion who will be teeing it up for the last time at the British Open at Royal Liverpool this summer. Best of all, it comes with a cheat-sheet booklet correlating to all the lessons in the video, so I can take it on the course.

And, finally, I brought along a little late-night reading material from my friend, Chris Rowe, the head professional at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas. Rowe, who once worked at Colonial and now directs things at the top-rated course in the Lone Star State, shares his thoughts on just about everything golf related with personal anecdotes in his book, "He Who Looks Up Shall See a Bad Shot." Sort of a modern, young Harvey Penick kind of thing ($18 paperback on Amazon.com). It's an easy read, and I just might learn something for tomorrow's golf game.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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A Personal Golf Fan, Nexbelt, Gary Player and more: Pack right for your next golf road trip