Carousel or oversized baggage? Handy tips to find your golf travel bag at the airport

Have a tee time waiting? Better hurry up and find that travel bag.

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Welcome to Road Rules, a GOLF.com series in which we pick the brains of expert golf travelers, ranging from professional golfers and caddies to globetrotting course raters and teachers. We’ll unlock their must-have travel items, go-to airline tips and more to inform you for your next golf excursion.

Every golfer who has ever traveled with their clubs has felt the stomach-turning mix of excitement and concern: you touch down at your destination, giddy for your trip but worried about the whereabouts of your golf bag.

Did it make it? And, assuming that it did, will it show up on the carousel, or at the oversized baggage drop?

You can’t be in two places at once, and you don’t want your precious sticks to sit unattended. In the grand scheme of things, this is what is known as a privileged problem. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

The Twitter account @TheParTrain recently broached this topic, and we figured it was worth checking out. Because you know what? It’s a great question.

The first thing to know is that there’s no hard-set rule. Different airports have different capacities and protocols. But at most major airports in the U.S., chances are your clubs will go to oversized baggage. At smaller, regional airports, the odds are greater that they’ll appear on the baggage carousel. Many of these facilities, like the airport in North Bend, Ore., which serves Bandon Dunes, don’t even have oversize bag drops.

Something similar is true in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where oversize drops are more the exception than the rule. Your clubs will likely come out on the standard carousel.

No matter where you’re traveling, if you have any baggage-drop doubts, ask an airport attendant where you should be waiting. We guarantee they’ve fielded this question before. They’ll have an answer.

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And if you can’t find an attendant? Draw upon your keen powers of observation. Go to the baggage carousel first and see what kind of bags are coming out. Are you seeing baby strollers, surfboards and other oversize items? If not, you’re probably standing in the wrong place.

And if all of this uncertainty is too much for your frayed nerves? You might turn to technological assistance. The market is filled with affordable, mini-tracking devices, including AirTag, Tile and Chipolo, that can be attached easily to your golf bag, allowing you to track them, real-time, on your phone.

Of course, your tracking device might tell you that your sticks have gone to the wrong city. That’s when a whole new adventure begins.

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.