Golf has often been compared to a good walk spoiled. Now cruise lines are ensuring that cruises are "tarnished" as well—all in the name of fun.
The sport has long been an addictive hobby for many passionate duffers worldwide. However, its legions, over the past decade, have turned more fervent, undoubtedly due to increased media coverage and its darling, Tiger Woods.
Many vacationers who love golf often spend their vacation time traveling to golf resorts or areas where golf courses are plentiful—Florida, Arizona and California to name a few. Well, it wasn't long before the cruise lines picked up on this and began understanding that they were losing potential customers. They started to investigate: How can you play golf on a cruise ship? It's one big water hazard!
Actually, before 1990, cruisers could actually hit balls into the ocean, but the fun was halted when the International Maritime Organization prohibited the practice. Cruise lines had to find new ways to satiate their golfing guests' needs.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, three-fourths of its 24 member lines offer golf programs, whether in the form of shipboard simulators or golfing excursions in ports of call. Many lines even employ an onboard golf pro who can fix your slice or take the yips out of your putting.
Golf simulators are a great addition to a cruise ship, as passengers can play 18 holes without so much as taking a step. Most simulators allow the participant to hit a real golf ball into a large screen, which projects a realistic-looking golf course. Electronic sensors gauge approximately how far and where your ball ends up. A full round takes just under two hours to play—half as long as it does to play a real round and without having to wait to hit—which leaves more time to devote to other onboard experiences that are less taxing, like napping under the sun.
One company, Full Swing Golf out of San Diego, provides the technology for many cruise lines including Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com), Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com) and Princess Cruises (www.princess.com). On a Full Swing system, golfers can choose from an assortment of legendary courses to virtually play, such as Cog Hill, St. Andrews, Oakmont Country Club, even the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links—all with the push of a button.
Golf simulators are just one way the cruise lines are catering to their golfing clientele. However, many golfers tend to bore from just hitting into a canvas screen in a dark room—they want the real thing.
The lines have hit the jackpot here. With cruise lines reaching some of the most spectacular ports across the globe, why not offer fabulous golf courses to play as well? They are all right there for the playing. Most cruise lines offer golf as a choice for a shore excursion. This activity tends to be more expensive than others (greens fees can add up to more than $200 for some courses, while factoring in golf club rentals and transfers can push the bill to around $500 per person). Still, no matter where you are, golf is an expensive sport to play, so price doesn't go far toward deterring golfers from getting their fixes.
The great part about cruising is that most ships call on a new port each day. So, on a seven-day cruise—save for sea days—it's plausible to play upwards of five to six rounds of golf, all in different destinations. Try doing that on a land-based vacation!