Unhappy in Your Relationship with the TSA? Fix It

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) October 19, 2012 — How many love notes from the TSA do you need in your golf bag before you realize there’s something wrong with this relationship?

It took plenty of spilled balls and tees in the bottom of my travel cover, some experiments in packing and plenty of advice from my golf travel-writing brethren before I got my TSA pen pals down to the occasional “thinking of you” note.

First, understand the chemistry that drives this relationship: The same explosive compound that took down the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 is the main ingredient in golf course fertilizers.

While you may leave the course with fond memories of birdies and pars, your gear leaves with traces of some of the very substances the TSA swabs for. To security, it’s the equivalent of elk musk during mating season.

Here are some easy steps to minimize unwanted pawing through your gear:

Don’t be cheap. When the outside-services guy at the course asks to wipe down your clubs, if it’s your last round of a road trip, give him more than the usual couple of bucks. Ask him to be especially thorough and wipe down the base of your golf bag, too.

Before you pack your golf shoes, wipe or scrub them free of caked mud and grass. Take your clubs out of your bag, turn it upside down and shake it out for mud and glass clippings. You’ll be surprised what else you find down there.

If you’ve been errant off the tee box, check your golf balls to make sure they’re free of mud and ooze. Even grass stains on golf balls contain traces of alarm-triggering nitrates.

This is a big one. Don’t pack your GPS or other electronic devices in your golf bag. Remember, electronics aren’t covered by the baggage contract anyway. Plus, on a baggage-room X-ray screen, a Sky Caddy SGX  looks a lot like a cell phone. Instead, pack it with your other carry-on electronics. At security, when you pop your laptop out of its cover, the GPS rangefinder can stay in your carry-on or get tossed in the bin along with your iPhone.

Don’t be tempted to pack non-golf gear in your golf bag. Of course there’s room, but at what price? If it doesn’t look like golf equipment, it’s a red flag on an X-ray. That includes cans of shaving cream, hair gel, body wash, that six-pack of Bud Light — or anything else that isn’t round and dimpled.

One more thing on mud. We all carry a golf towel sporting a course logo or a favorite brand. Before you leave home, wash it. Or better yet, leave it. On the road, use the towels provided with your golf cart. If none are provided, ask an outside-services guy to hunt some down — way better than packing a muddy, damp and smelly towel anyway.

— Dan Vukelich

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