Tips for Overseas Golf Travelers

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I’ve taken quite a few golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, and England during the past twenty years—including my recent one to England’s “Golf Coast,” in Lancashire (see above)—and I’ve figured out a few things. Here are some of them:

1. The cure for jet lag is golf. You take the overnight nonstop from Newark, arrive bleary-eyed in Glasgow at 8:00 in the morning, drag your clubs past the bomb-sniffing dogs in customs, stumble into a men’s room designated “loo of the year,” change a tall stack of American dollars into a short stack of British pounds, drive fifty-five miles through Robert Burns country while trying to remember to admire the sheep-dotted hillsides, reach Turnberry in a daze—and tee it up on the Ailsa course, where Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought their legendary Duel in the Sun, at the British Open in 1977. You haven’t slept since what seems like the day before yesterday, but your tee shot somehow finds the fairway, and a little mental arithmetic reveals that your colleagues back home are arriving, just now, at their desks. Suddenly, you feel happier than you’ve felt since the birth of your first child, or since the time you and your brother nearly won your flight in the member guest. (Not to worry: The cure for excessive cheerfulness is also golf.)

2. Alternatively, take a flight that arrives at night. I did this once on a non-golf reporting trip to London. I left New York mid-morning, arrived at Heathrow in the dark, took a taxi to my hotel, and immediately went to bed, at roughly 11:00 p.m., local time. I forced my brain to ignore the fact that even two-year-olds were still awake at home, and I slept all night and woke up refreshed, at a normal hour. If you travel all day instead of all night, you sacrifice a full day of potential golf, but you do less violence to your body clock—a possibly worthwhile trade-off for traveling golfers who aren’t as young as they used to be.

3. No matter when you travel, don’t go to sleep (after you’ve arrived) until it’s dark—not even a wee nap. My wife is incapable of doing this. In her view, a nice hotel room in Paris is the ideal place to spend several days recovering from the ordeal of traveling to France. Be strong! Go straight from the airport to a golf course and play thirty-six holes instead!

4. Beware of weekends. The toughest day of the week on which to get visitor tee times is usually Saturday; the second toughest is Sunday. If you plan a week-long trip that involves leaving for the British Isles on a Friday night and returning two Sundays later—something my friends and I have done several times—you’ll miss just five days of work but your golf itinerary will include the maximum number of nuisance days. And the problem will be compounded if your week also includes a “bank holiday” Monday—the equivalent of a three-day-weekend Monday at home. The solution is to miss a little more work. And you can check the bank-holiday schedule online, through the magic of Google. (On my recent trip, I left on Sunday night, arriving early Monday morning, and returned home the following Tuesday.)

5. Look into poor man’s business class. On my flight home, I paid United $99 for an “Economy Plus” seat, in an exit row. It had so much leg room that I could fully extend my legs without touching the seat in front of mine, and when I went to pee the guy sitting between me and the aisle didn’t have to get up and barely had to move his legs. I took a window seat so that I could lean against it to sleep and, as I had hoped, the middle seat stayed empty, because no one had been willing to pay extra to sit in it. I had so much room that I was able to comfortably type up all my notes from the trip—like getting a free day! And I could plug in my laptop, in an outlet under the seat, when the battery got low!