Many were surprised when the Transportation Security Administration relaxed rules to let passengers carry small knives aboard planes. Apparently, the U.S. was falling in line after international authorities decided separating cockpits from passenger areas with heavy, locked doors and putting “sky marshals” randomly on flights along with continued bans on some items were sufficient deterrents to skyjacking.
Almost unnoticed in discussions about the advisability of allowing even small knives aboard planes was a provision in the new rules allowing passengers to carry not more than two golf clubs with them. I noticed it, because my putter once made it onto a list of banned items.
It didn’t happen as a result of 9/11. It happened way back in 1975. About the only airliner security in place then was a brief stroll through a metal detector.
I was sent from Ogden, Utah, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend a U.S. Forest Service meeting. When my next-door neighbors heard about it, they insisted I try my best to arrange the trip so I could spend a little time with their daughter and her husband, who had just bought a new house. We liked the young couple, and I financed an extra night’s lodging at my Albuquerque hotel and got an invitation to a golf game and dinner in response.
I didn’t want to be burdened by shipping a whole set of clubs, so I settled on carrying my putter along. I thought having at least one familiar object in my rental club bag might contribute to a decent score on a strange course.
When I checked in at the Salt Lake City airport, the attendant quickly separated the putter from me. “You can’t carry that on the plane,” she announced.
“Why not? It would fit in an overhead bin easily. I also could stash it in the space between the cockpit and the passenger seats.”
“None of that matters,” she said. “You’ll have to check it through as luggage. Here’s a tube we can slide it into, and I’ll tape up the ends.”
“I really don’t believe this,” I said. “Are you sure?”
“Look, sir,” she said,” here’s the regulation. See this entry. Your putter is classified as a lethal weapon.”
“Certainly not by anyone who every saw me try to use it,” I said.
The putter and I arrived safely in Albuquerque. After my meeting ended, my host and I played several holes on a very good course before dinner. I lost the informal game by quite a few strokes. My putter proved to be no threat at all in New Mexico.