We worry about our precious clubs as much as anyone (all the more so after seeing Lee Janzen’s clubs destroyed at the hands of Delta Airlines), so we’re always seeking any extra comfort that they will be protected during travel and arrive safe and sound. With that in mind, we decided to take the Club Glove Stiff Arm for a spin.
The Stiff Arm is designed to minimize vertical impact damage to your clubs (i.e. the type that would occur if you dropped the bag clubhead-first into the ground from some height), as opposed to protecting it from a horizontal blow (such as a truck driving over it). So place your bets on how you think the airlines will take it to your clubs. Interestingly, the Stiff Arm is sold without a warranty, offered “AS-IS” (does that give you flashbacks to the purchase of your house?), with the company noting that the Stiff Arm is “disposable”. Given that any damage to the Stiff Arm will weaken its protective properties, you should check the Stiff Arm after each use. Any damage? Out it goes…
The Club Glove Stiff Arm arrives in two pieces – a 3-piece telescoping arm and a curved plastic disc approximately 5.5″ in diameter that easily screws onto the top of the arm. The lightweight aluminum arm extends up to 54″ in length, so it can be used for any length clubs, and is adjustable through spring-loaded adjustment pins on the arm itself (much like an adjustable crutch), down to 1 ¼” increments (see image at right). Fully collapsed the arm is only 28″ in length. The total weight of the arm and plastic head is 1.3 pounds as tested, so it adds just a bit toward the maximum 50 pound limit before the airlines start tacking on additional baggage fees.
It was easy to extend and adjust the 3-pieces of the arm to the appropriate length. All pieces moved smoothly, and the rounded pins that are used to adjust the length are simple to use (see image below). There is also a small ridge in each of the arms to indicate where the pins are, so you don’t spin and spin the arms trying in vain to find the adjustment pin. We haven’t had any issues with depressing the pins, or the pins extending through the adjustment holes when we adjust the length of the arms. At the base of the arm is a soft rubber foot cap, 1 3/8″ in diameter, likely designed so the arm won’t have a sharp base to cut through a travel bag when there is a hard impact.
Using the Stiff Arm is as easy as first adjusting the length so it is ½ “- 1 ½” longer than your longest club (so the impact is absorbed by the Stiff Arm), and then sliding it into your golf bag. When you’re done using the Stiff Arm, just slip it back out of the bag, then depress the adjustable pins and collapse the arms – it’s a cinch to store in a hotel closet or in a folded golf travel bag. The plastic protective disc on the arm can also be easily unscrewed should you need to do so.
The Club Glove Stiff Arm worked fine in our testing, and our clubs arrived unharmed, but whether that was due to the device itself, or just special tender loving care from the baggage crew, we don’t know. As you may know, United break guitars, so there’s the distinct possibility that your golf clubs may also be at risk. While the Club Glove Stiff Arm doesn’t provide a warranty for either the Stiff Arm or your clubs, if the Stiff Arm protects your clubs even once from abuse by the airlines, you’ve more than covered the relatively low cost ($27). We wouldn’t go so far as to say that it “eliminates nearly all risk of club breakage” as Club Glove states, but it does enable you to travel with a bit more peace of mind.
If this level of protection isn’t enough for you, another option is a hard travel case, such as the Samsonite Hardside or SKB Deluxe (which will cover club damage up to $1,500!). Keep in mind that in most cases, airlines are not liable for damage to golf equipment that is not contained in a hard-sided case (read more about airline rules for traveling with golf clubs). Given that the Club Glove Stiff Arm is only designed to absorb vertical blows, a hard case may be your best bet if you’re looking for maximum protection and are willing to make trade offs with respect to weight and portability.