Matt Ginella and I discussed on Morning Drive the approach to a Scotland golf trip, and while we didn't agree on who to trust with the details (tour operator vs Google), I'm pretty confident he would endorse the idea of shipping your clubs.
While it's an added expense (up to $500 if the journey is an exotic one), my recent experience confirmed that shipping is a must for Americans traveling to the UK. Yes, it's a tough pill to swallow when you are already spending a lot or worse, if you have status with an airline and get baggage fees waived. But shipping via one of the big services will save you stress, physical effort and in some cases, ensure you get to play your first planned round (or all your rounds with your unbroken set).
Consider my recent experience: fly to London's Heathrow airport on my preferred airline (where I have premium status and therefore a "priority" tag on the bag), then have a four-hour layover.
Surely the clubs would make the connecting flight to Edinburgh, right?
Of course not.
While my suitcase made the journey, the clubs somehow needed another hour in Heathrow before making their way onto the next flight. Because of that, I missed out on a late nine at the incredible Musselburgh on this night:
The clubs did eventually arrive in fine shape, though my trusty Sun Mountain travel bag was missing one of its two wheels. However, I was lucky because U.S. Amateur champion Gunn Yang was in line at the same service desk only to learn his clubs never made it out of London.
With the recent run of UK events, we know from players making the trip that no matter how famous you are or how obvious it is that you are a professional golfer, the airlines just aren't great with golf clubs these days. Especially flying internationally.
For the return journey, Luggage Forward picked up my clubs late at my last lodging locale late on a Thursday. After I had made a leisurely trip to the airport without lugging the clubs, I returned home and by the following Monday afternoon the clubs were here. In between I got email updates on their location. Everything was in perfect order. when they arrived.
I've yet to hear of any negative stories about Luggage Forward or the other name brand shipper, ShipSticks. I believe Luggage Forward uses of all three shipping services (DHL, FedEx, UPS), which comes in handy for pricing and getting things picked up conveniently. ShipSticks formerly did, but I believe now relies primarily on UPS. (Here's a good ShipSticks review from Jason Scott Deegan at GolfAdvisor.com.)
Either way, just ship 'em. You may miss a day or two of last minute practice and you won't be able to play immediately after you arrive home. But these are small prices to pay compared to missing out on a great links course or having to enlist rentals because the Heathrow baggage handlers decided to hurl your clubs around the tarmac...for hours.