Welcome to Stuff Golfers Should Know, a GOLF.com series in which we reveal all kinds of useful golf (and life!) wisdom that is sure to make you the smartest, savviest and most prepared player in your foursome.
Think a lost ball is bad? Try a lost bag. It’s never fun when you’re on a golf trip and your sticks don’t reach your destination with you. But it’s an increasingly common headache as air travel ramps back up amid an industry-wide labor shortage.
What should you do if the airline misplaces your precious clubs? What can you expect? With input from experts at TripIt, an online travel organizer, and travel expert Lee Abbamonte, here’s a five-point guide.
Yes, it’s annoying. But as in golf, getting stressed and angry won’t help your cause. In most cases, your bag isn’t really lost. It’s delayed. To ensure it gets to you, the most efficient step is to proceed (calmly) to the baggage-service counter and request delivery to your home or accommodation. Resist the urge to yell at the attendant. Fill out any relevant forms and ask how you can stay updated on the search by way of a toll-free number or a website. If you can’t find an airline representative, call the carrier. Yes. We know. The call-waiting times can be maddening. But you want to speak with someone, in person or on the phone, before you leave the airport.
File a claim
For most airlines, you qualify for compensation after your bags are lost for more than 24 hours. (If you paid a baggage fee, you are entitled to be reimbursed for that, too.) You’ll need to file a claim, providing an inventory of what’s been lost, along with an approximate dollar value. It might be tempting to tell the airline you had a set of custom clubs and a $100,000 Rolex in your bag. It might even be true. But that doesn’t change the fact that most airlines have a cap on compensation, usually around $3,500. For international travel, the cap is lower, around $1,800.
The good news is, they found your clubs. The bad news is you had to use a loaner set for your dream round. You won’t be compensated for your emotional trauma. Or your higher-than-usual score. But the airline does owe you for those rental sticks. While policies vary, carriers generally reimburse up to $50 a day for reasonable expenses. Keep receipts for all the replacement purchases you made, while keeping in mind that the airline might dispute your claim that two boxes of Pro V1s, a hat, a shirt and a case of Cuban cigars were reasonable acquisitions.
Muster (even more) patience
These are times that will try a traveler’s soul. Your clubs are lost. You’ve filed your claim. Now, the waiting game begins. How long will it take to get compensated? That’s hard to say. In the before times, these matters often got resolved within a few days or a week. But nowadays, it can seem that almost anything goes. In our experience here at GOLF.com, the process can drag on for weeks. For your own sanity, try to remain patient. But don’t hesitate to be a squeaky wheel. Keep contacting the airline by phone or email until the carrier does you right. Sometimes, when speaking to a human on the phone, you’ll get the latest news before that information is updated on your online claim.
Take precautions in the future
None of this was your fault. But there are lessons to be learned. On future trips, it’s probably worth documenting what’s in your travel bag before you check in at the airport counter. It will save you time and a headache if anything goes missing. Travel insurance can be another safety net, with the potential (depending on the policy) to protect you fully against the loss or damage of your clubs. Most airlines don’t compensate for damage, especially if you’re clubs are in a soft-covered travel bag.