Travel Tips from the Pros

By Scott Kramer

Tour life certainly looks glamorous: exciting destinations, the best courses, great restaurants. But even first-class travel can be grueling. PGA Tour pros spend at least 60 nights a year in hotel rooms and often have to deal with flight delays, hurried meals, long days in transit, lost luggage (including clubs), and crack-of-dawn tee times. Since getting over jet lag is as important as getting over double bogeys, we can learn a lot from how these road warriors do it.

Start by taking care of your body. Whether flying or driving, “drink a lot of water and electrolytes” along the way, says Zach Johnson. “Staying hydrated is a premium. Also walk around periodically, especially on long flights.” If you’re driving a long distance, stop along the way to stretch.

Once at your hotel, get in a light workout. Brendan Steele tries for “some sort of cardio session and a stretch, at the very least.” His “lifesaver” is a foam roller, a lightweight tube that helps stretch muscles. “I use it after a long flight and after long days on the course.”

European Tour star Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, who earlier this year jetted from Augusta to Valencia to play in the Spanish Open the next day, has international travel down to a science. “Sleep on the plane as much as possible,” he says, “and after a red-eye flight stay awake that day and you’ll feel fine the next morning.” Other pros concur, claiming that even if you’re exhausted on day one, you’ll catch up on sleep that night. They also stress the importance of comfortable pillows and quiet rooms, and suggest downloading a white-noise app for the smartphone to drown out hotel sounds.

Whenever possible, give yourself plenty of time to synchronize both your body and mind to the local clock after a long international flight. Ian Poulter wakes up three hours
before morning tee times—even early ones—so he has time to digest breakfast, ride an exercise bike or use stretching bands, then go through his pre-round range routine.

Many pros say a hearty, protein-rich breakfast is important, as is bringing nutrition bars to the course. Especially when heading overseas, pack some favorite snacks from home so you don’t have to find a grocery store in your first few days on the road.

Traveling near or far, success boils down to balancing nutrition, workouts, range time, and sleep. “Your biggest priority is proper rest,” says Johnson. Second-year Tour player Harris English has been asking the veterans how to manage the travel. “I’ve had to learn how to control my energy and not wear myself out,” English says. “It’s tough to play a pro-am, practice round, and tournament, then fly and do it again. You need some downtime to get your energy going.”

Pack ’n Play
On the road, taking care of your body is one thing, managing golf equipment quite another. One of the biggest challenges Tour pros face is choosing which tools to bring along, especially when a single trip includes multiple courses and capricious weather. Fernández-Castaño usually adds a 2-iron, 5-wood, and back-up driver to his standard 14 clubs for “the flexibility to set up my bag for any course conditions.” Many pros protect their clubs by placing a broomstick-like device—slightly longer than their driver—inside their travel bags. Or they wrap clubheads with extra towels that also come in handy in wet weather. And don’t forget extra balls and shoes. While sponsors supply pros with equipment on the road, that’s a luxury most of us don’t enjoy.