101 Golf Secrets

Golf Secrets 94 - 96: Travel

Golf Digest




Like a certain game we know, frequent-flier miles can be rewarding - and maddening. Redeeming miles for travel has never been a tap-in, and it's only getting harder as airlines cut back on the number of free seats. So should you not even bother with frequent-flier miles? Only if you like throwing away money. You can use miles as currency for all kinds of golf-related things, from airfares to hotel rooms to rental cars and green fees. You just need a strategy.

Focus on collecting miles on one airline because good things happen when you hit "elite" status, usually at 25,000 miles in a year. Frequent-flier miles are easier to redeem if you're an elite member, and you're more likely to get upgrades.

Consider an airline's "alliance"--collections of carriers that allow members to use frequent-flier points on any airline in the group. For example, the Oneworld alliance includes the golfer-friendly American Airlines, Aer Lingus, British Airways and Qantas. Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer, suggests traveling midweek, if possible. Your chances of successfully redeeming your frequent-flier miles rise by 20 to 30 percent.

And though airlines encourage you to book your awards tickets online, their websites do not show all the inventory available. Call the toll-free number and speak to a rep.





Other than commercial pilots and astronauts, I have flown more miles than anyone in the world. Time change is unhealthy, and only through a disciplined routine of diet and exercise have I been able to play consistent golf on an inconsistent schedule.

Here's how: On the morning you depart, work out at the gym to tire yourself so you can sleep on the plane. It's important to try to book night flights for this reason. No liquor, no bread and no meat while you're in the air. Only fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water even if you're not thirsty. Altitude is dehydrating. And remember, the re-circulated air of a cabin is a thriving spot for germs.

Before you board, chew a clove of garlic to protect yourself against germs (then swallow a spoonful of honey to mask the smell; otherwise your seat companion won't enjoy your chat). Stretch and arch your back before you nod off. As soon as you land, take a hot shower, then a cold shower. This gets the blood flowing. Then exercise outside--I try to play 18 holes immediately. You've been trapped in unnatural light, and your internal clock needs a dose of the real stuff to reset itself.

On a Sunday in 1963, Palmer, Nicklaus, Bruce Devlin and I finished an event in France and had to fly from Paris to New York to L. A. to Hawaii to Sydney to Melbourne for the Australian Open. Along the way we were fogged in. Arnie and Jack bagged the tournament and turned around. Bruce and I arrived two hours before the start. I'd never seen the course, and I won the tournament. That was the greatest victory of my career.





Stephen Szurlej, senior staff photographer for Golf Digest, has logged nearly as many flight hours as Gary Player. His advice:

When you get to your gate, look out the window. If no plane is visible, ask the attendant when the plane is expected. Most important, is it in the air? If it's not, you likely won't have a good day. When you book, check with your airline or travel agent for other scheduled flights to your destination. Keep those flight numbers and departure times, along with the airline and travel-agent phone numbers, with your itinerary.

When the dreaded cancellation announcement is made, you'll be ready. If you can get to an airline gate agent first, book the next available flight. If your airline does not have another flight that day, request passage on another airline. The airlines will not volunteer this option, but you are entitled to it. If a dreary mass of high-anxiety fliers has beaten you to the line, get in the line anyway but whip out your cell phone and call your airline. If you're a frequent flier, use the phone number dedicated to your rank. You'll get better service. If the airline puts you on hold, call your travel agent, who has the same computer capabilities, and will often be less stressed than airport personnel. When you reach the gate, tell the attendant what changes have been made for you, including confirmation number. Ask if there is a better option.

Finally, keep your cool. I've had far more success being patient with stressed-out gate agents than have others who become belligerent.


 Images from top: Joey Terrill, Ismael Roldan