Notes On Traveling To Scotland
A few tips, tricks and lessons learned from my trip to The 150th Open.
Since Quadrilateralotsmenandwomen of the world sent me to The 150th Open, I should at least share a few lessons learned. But warning to readers who fly private, by motorcade or are reading on your superyacht: the travel portion of my tips will not come in handy. So just put your phone away, enjoy Mykonos, and tell Elon him he’s never looked slimmer.
Air tags. David Jones, aka UKGolfGuy, first suggested we all invest in a four-pack of Apple Air Tags when traveling with clubs (Android users, consider Tile.) Given Edinburgh and Heathrow’s mounting baggage issues (detailed here by Sean Zak), I empathize with everyone whose clubs are piled up and unable to be located.
(Ominously, the Edinburgh piles appear 4x larger than just two weeks ago when I was through there.)
Not to be that person, but if these people had Air Tags they’d at least know where their precious clubs are collecting dust. A few things to know about Apple’s small, battery-operated trackers that go for $29 a piece or four for $99.
1.) Easy set up. The process is oddly simple. Just buy key-chain friendly holders to latch the tags on to golf bags, luggage and car keys. (I also tucked one in my wallet for the trip after a near disaster in 2018.) Amazon has plenty of luggage options and you get four for $13 instead of one for $35 in “wisteria”).
2.) Do not answer “yes” at airport check-in when asked if you have a lithium battery in the bag. Technically, you do with a CR2032 lithium 3V. I said “yes,” which set off confusion, alarm bells and a supervisor search (when found, he was annoyed the desk staff did not already know the Air Tags were ok).
3.) Put them inside your luggage, not outside. They work just as well and won’t get detached or stolen.
4.) Be patient when opening up “Find My” on the iPhone and waiting for location data. I had a few stressful moments at Heathrow waiting for a ping to be documented. But the drama was worth knowing the bags made it on the plane.
Luggage Forward. If you are not an preferred traveler with free checked bags, consider skipping golf bag check-in stress altogether and using something like Luggage Forward. But do double check with the final shipping location (golf shops, hotels) to ensure sure they have storage space for your clubs. Some are struggling with a place to put clubs and are even saying no to deliveries. And regardless of which shipping option you choose, attach that Air Tag.
Unless you’re with a large group getting shuttled around in a slick van, relying on rail (a mess right now) or worse, Uber (dicey at best), you’re renting a car. The prices are absurd. But the freedom enjoyed almost makes the prices tolerable. Also, there is something more attractive to locals about people who get out of cars instead of golf tour travel vans.
Triple check on your car rental booking details. From two random conversations I learned I was not alone in getting a rental car counter surprise. We all booked a standard sedan and when checking in, were asked if we really wanted that van or SUV we’d requested. We reserved no such thing. I can’t help but wonder if there was something more going on here to justify the price-gouging and shortage of certain vehicles. So please call and ensure you are getting the right car at the appropriate price.
Google Maps. With a $10 a day unlimited data plan, I relied heavily on Google Maps to get around and it worked well (even on slower data speeds). However, a big word-of-warning about a bizarre occasional glitch: for some reason the US version of Google Maps will tell you to turn right when the map is clearly showing you to go left. Or, left when you need to go right. It’s a strange bug that I only knew about because I quickly glanced down at the route. Which reminds…
Bring a dashboard phone mount. If you’re driving on the opposite side of the road, get one of these to keep your eye on what matters. Hopefully it’ll be the best $30 you never know you wisely spent.
Try to play late. The Scots play less evening golf than you’d expect. There is little after-dinner golf on the longest and nicest days of the year (and often when the wind lays down. There is nothing quite like walking off dinner with a late nine or 18 in the glorious late light. So when booking or looking for places to play, ask about playing after 5. They may accommodate singles and twosomes more readily, especially if you are not renting a trolley or clubs requiring someone to be around when you finish.
Cancellations. Whether COVID or a British Airways-related thing, or just the overall uncertainty of UK travel in a post-Brexit world, I heard several stories of tee times opening up due to cancellations. Don’t hesitate to keep checking in at places that rejected you leading into your trip. Or, once you arrive and are in the vicinity of a course, stop in at the shop if you really want to play there (just not Muirfield unless you’re staying at Greywalls). Talk to the staff. Maybe buy a yardage book and see if they’ll take pity on you. The pros might at least make a call to another course of note. But be sane. I was at one famous course where a player/broadcaster had stopped in the day prior and asked about getting out at 8 am on a summer Saturday. Don’t be that person.
Leave Irons Behind. And the 60 degree, too. Drop your odd-numbered irons. Or the evens. The point is, lighten the bag before you go. With the ground so firm and links golf never about launching full shots to the moon and back, 14-club bags are unnecessary. I took both my modern clubs and a hickory set this year. To make it all work, out went my 4, 6, 8, PW and 60 degree wedge from the main bag. I wasn’t close to violating weight limits thanks to getting those five out. Plus, a lighter bag will be nicer to carry and will also let you have space to ship home mementos or some bubble-wrapped premium hooch.