Where are my golf clubs? What to expect when airline snafus delay your travel bag

If an airline can misplace the golf clubs of the no. 1 player in the world, it can happen to anybody.

After finishing in a tie for 23rd at the U.S. Open in 2014, Rory McIlroy's clubs disappeared somewhere between Newark, N.J., and Dublin, Ireland.

He tweeted to United Airlines, pleading for answers.

United delivered his clubs two days after landing, just in time for the first round of the Irish Open at Fota Island Resort in Cork. He ended up missing the cut in his poorest performance of the season. Coincidence?

More recently, a lesser-known pro golfer, Michael Buttacavoli, was attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open, but chose to withdraw after American Airlines couldn't deliver his clubs in time:

For the rest of us, missing golf clubs don't cost us thousands of dollars in potential prize money, but the trauma certainly puts a damper on any golf getaway. Thankfully most airlines reimburse some golf-related expenses until your golf travel bag is delivered to you.

"If you are a golfer and you've experienced it, nothing is more disappointing," admitted Kent Powell, a spokesman for American Airlines. "You've got your tee times. They're expensive. You've scheduled them months in advance. Your game is off (already) even if you have to rent a set."

Sympathy from an airline? Who knew?

Your golf clubs are missing, now what?

As a guy who flies his clubs all over the world for a living like McIlroy (just for smaller paychecks), I've had pretty good luck when it comes to finding my clubs on the conveyer belt.

The airlines tout that 99 percent of their bags arrive on time. My clubs have disappeared only twice, spanning probably 100 golf trips over the past five years. Both were overseas flights with at least one connection.

One wasn't even the fault of the airlines. Last year in Scotland, a groggy American fresh off a redeye flight grabbed my golf travel bag off the carousel in Edinburgh and dragged it to Turnberry Resort before realizing it wasn't his. I still don't know how my bag made the journey cross country to Muirfield, where I was competing in media day for the Open Championship. Somebody covered the bill; it wasn't me. I was so overjoyed they arrived minutes before my tee time that I went out and won the tournament.

Most stories of lost clubs don't have a fairytale ending, however. Most of us would rather the airlines lose our suitcases packed with clothes than the clubs. When it does happen, there are policies in place to salvage your vacation.

Robert Lehr, the manager of Central Baggage Services for Southwest Airlines, said his airline will reimburse for rental clubs every day your clubs are missing, plus pay for two sleeves of balls, a glove and a new pair of golf shoes, provided the customer has the proper receipts. Lehr said Southwest used to only reimburse for shoe rentals, but updated the policy several years ago to reflect its commitment to customer services for golfers.

He indicated reimbursement checks of less than $500 can often be written at baggage services departments in the airport on the way home. Claims costing more must be sent through his department, taking up to 30 days to process.

"One of the things we take pride in is we look at each specific situation," he said. "It may come across as vague, but we provide our agents flexibility to do the right thing and make the right call for the golfers."

Powell said American Airlines will reimburse the cost of rental clubs, balls, a glove and rental shoes -- even at prestigious clubs where prices in the pro shop are higher -- as long as the purchases/costs are "reasonable." Powell indicated by e-mail that the airline would "consider" reimbursement for buying shoes if the club didn't have rentals available.

"We deny very few of them," Powell said of reimbursement requests for lost golf luggage. "... We realize we have diverse shoppers. Some of them are Kmart and some are Pebble Beach.

"If your personal bag was lost, we would do the same for golf clothing."

United and Delta airlines didn't respond to multiple requests seeking information on their policies. My colleague, Mike Bailey, indicated that United wouldn't reimburse him for any golf-related expenses unless his clubs were missing for longer than 24 hours.

The only time the airlines truly lost my clubs came prior to a Writer's Cup tournament I played in at the old Doonbeg Golf Club (now called Trump International Golf Links Ireland) several years ago. I called the airline customer-service line every morning for three straight days trying to find out when they would be delivered. At the end of the week-long trip, I was reimbursed somewhere around $300 for rental clubs, balls, shoe rental and a glove. I don't recall which airline lost the clubs, although I remember the whole process being relatively smooth, other than the anxiety of wondering where they were during the whole ordeal.

Guarding against the hassles of lost clubs

Powell offered several tips to safeguard against losing golf travel bags.

1. Make sure the final destination on the luggage tag matches your itinerary before handing the clubs off to airline personnel.

2. Remove all the old baggage stickers from previous flights. "The (luggage) system is automated. If they (the bags) are scanned, sometimes it reads both (stickers)," Powell said. "It then goes to a default room. It could get delayed with that extra five minutes (it takes to identify the proper destination)."

3. Put a business card with your contact information inside the golf bag itself, not just outside on the case. "DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) has 17 miles of baggage belts. They go through rollers and curves and swinging doors," Powell said. "It is easy to have the name tag ripped off. Slip a business card inside, so we can pull up your itinerary and have it get to you on the next delivery."

I have my own tricks to be proactive against lost luggage. I've begun putting an extra golf glove and a couple sleeves of balls and a golf outfit (including a hat) in my carry-on. I also wear street golf shoes to the airport, so I've got a pair ready if something goes wrong.

Lehr said golfers should also consider putting their "electronics" (i.e. range finders and GPS devices) in their carry-on, a tip I'm considering. Odds are, eventually, my clubs -- and yours -- will disappear again for a day or two. I want to be ready when they do.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Default User Avatar
Commented on


Default User Avatar
Commented on

Our Main Services are Dfw Limo Service, Airport Limousine Service, Wedding Limousine, Bachelor & Bachelorette Party, Night Out, Corporate Limousine, Special Events, Sight Seeing, Prom Nights Limousine entire Dfw metroplex area.
Contact us now for book a Limousine @ +1 972 594 9291 any time 24 hours a day. <a href="http://dfwlimoservice.org/">Dfw Limo Service</a>

Default User Avatar
Commented on

3 years ago BA failed to deliver 12 sets of golf clubs on a trip to tampa from the uk they arrived on the 3 rd day they did reimburse us for rental of clubs,balls, shoes, and gloves, the only downside the rental clubs were rubbish and totally ruined a couple of days gol

Default User Avatar
Commented on

AirFrance really screwed me last year... Flew to Germany for PGA Q-School and my clubs arrived 3 days later, halfway through the 1st competition day. What made it worse, is that every time I spoke to them (twice a day at least), they said my bag would arrive at 8pm, and then at 8pm, they would then say the bag would arrive at 8am... this repeated for 3 days... I ended up wearing the same clothes for 3 days and missing out on the tournament. Hotel: €700  Flight: €250 Taxi: €300 Wearing Stinky Clothes: PricelessAirFrance offered me €100

Commented on

Graham DeLaet should mail in his entry to the 2016 John Deere Classic so he can take the John Deere Charter flight to the 2016 Open and know his bag is on the flight.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

Dfw Airport Taxi and Limo Service has been providing 24/7 taxi service & limo service in Dfw airport area. Whether you are looking for a airport taxi to take somewhere in the Dfw or you need a ride from home to the airport shuttle. Our taxi service will get you where you want to go on time and safely. Our reliable drivers will be there in time for you.<a href="http://dfwairporttaxis.net/">Dfw Airport Taxi</a>

Related Links
For golfers living in warm climates, autumn is a chance to play golf more comfortably, without sweating through your shorts after the first three holes. Here are a few of the very best fall golf spots.
2 Min Read
Golf Channel travel expert Matt Ginella named the top five Donald Ross designs you can play in the U.S., spanning from the Village of Pinehurst to Colorado Springs.
1 Min Read
A golf trip to Ireland must include exploring the pubs, cities, towns and villages that surround the links. Here are Jason Scott Deegan's 10 favorite golf towns on the Emerald Isle.
6 Min Read
Ship Sticks launched its golf-club luggage service in 2011 and has experienced triple-digit growth every year since its inception. Jason Scott Deegan recently gave Ship Sticks a test run and came away a fan.
2 Min Read
More from the author
4 Min Read
December 3, 2021
It's never been easier to design custom hats, golf balls, clubs, headcovers and more.
4 Min Read
November 30, 2021
The Jamaica Invitational Pro-Am "Annie's Revenge", one of the Caribbean's best pro-ams, introduces the fun and the sun of Rose Hall near Montego Bay.
4 Min Read
November 23, 2021
We scoured the web of golf and found holiday savings up to 50% off.
4 Min Read
November 22, 2021
Anyone can play Tom Fazio's Wynn Golf Club, which sits in the heart of the Las Vegas strip.
7 Min Read
November 11, 2021
More than 115 golf resorts can be booked using your Bonvoy rewards. We break down where you can go and our favorite properties to use your points.
5 Min Read
November 3, 2021
Black Mesa's comeback strengthens Albuquerque and Sante Fe's position as a World Top 100 Golf Destination.
November 18, 2021
GolfPass Sr. Managing Editor shows you how the Super Speed Golf training system and the 2021 PRGR launch monitor can help you add speed and yards to your game.
16 Images
November 30, 2021
Thanks to our users, GolfPass has exceeded 300,000 reviews in a single year for the first time.
6 Min Read
November 20, 2021
Help the golfer in your life shoot lower scores, look and feel better than ever this holiday season with these eight golf gifts.
2 Min Read
November 15, 2021
Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and world-class instructors help you get up-and-down more often.
Load More
Now Reading
Where are my golf clubs? What to expect when airline snafus delay your travel bag