Golf Cruises Are Growing in Popularity

The day Ernie Els captured the Claret Jug in the gloaming at the 2002 Open at Muirfield, he’d barely tipped his cap before my wife, Sue, and I were making our way back down the 18th fairway to the beach.

“Hurry,” I said. “Our hotel’s leaving in 30 minutes.”

golf cruises
(photo by Gordon Turner)

At the shoreline, we stepped into black Welly boots and splashed aboard a Zodiac, which briskly transported us through the Firth of Forth chop to the MV Clipper Adventurer anchored just offshore. Sure enough, as soon as we were safely aboard, we felt the engines stir to life and begin powering the ship toward our next port of call.

That trip was the first of several I took with PerryGolf aboard the Adventurer, the small ship the company chartered for its cruises in those days. I’d ventured all over the British Isles by car and coach, racing from one course to another on the wrong side of the road. But golf-by-sea was new to me, and as with the game itself, I was hooked from the first swing.

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Azamara Quest leaving Sydney

Fast forward to today, and the dedicated golf cruise market (not to be confused with cruises where golf is just an add-on) has exploded. Understandably, the British Isles are the top destinations for cruise operators. Within an hour of disembarking from your ship, you can be on the first tee at Royal County Down, Ballybunion, the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, and a host of other treasured links. Five of PerryGolf’s 17 trips aboard transport-partner Azamara’s posh, 700-guest, boutique-hotel-style ships in 2024 will take golfers to that corner of the world, including one that comes with tickets to the Open at Royal Troon.

But the truth is, anywhere there’s good golf in proximity to a navigable body of water, you’re likely to have the option of cruising there. Purveyors of modern-day golf cruises offer voyages by sea all around the globe now—from Valencia to Vietnam, from Durban to Dubai. And not just by sea: There are river cruises, too.

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Bro Hof Slott (Stadium) in Sweden (photo by Jacob Sjoman)

Kalos Golf charters luxurious, three-masted windjammers that travel the seven seas in search of great golf experiences. But its first golf cruise was down the Danube—a route that’s still one of its more popular. Clients board the 81-cabin AmaWaterways riverboat in Munich, sail through Austria, and finish up in Budapest. Ten days, three countries, six rounds of golf, with guided tours of several of Europe’s grand cities and medieval towns along the way.

“There are some great private clubs along the Danube,” says Kalos’s Casey Oliver, “and it’s a great touring experience, as well. Mixing golf with all the cultural experiences is our bread and butter.” Golf river cruises run on the Rhine, Rhône, Loire, Ireland’s Shannon River, and other inland waterways, as well.

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Azamara Grand Staircase

Oliver and PerryGolf’s Gordon Dalgleish both note that they see a lot of repeat customers on their cruises. Dalgleish points to two reasons why.“People who enjoy cruising are very passionate about it,” he says. “It’s a staple of their lifestyle, and they’re very loyal to that mode of travel. They like the idea that you’re going to unpack just once and the world is going to come to you, as opposed to you having to pack up and go to another hotel, go through another airport, etc.”

Dennis Tosh is a longtime cruise devotee. A retired professor and businessman from Mississippi, he and his wife have taken PerryGolf cruises to Scotland, Ireland, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, and more.

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Azamara Quest’s White Night Party (photo by Tim Faircloth)

“Golf cruises combine the best of two worlds for me,” Tosh says. “I love to play golf around the world. And my wife and I like to cruise and experience different places, different cultures. With a cruise, you’re in a different port every day or two and you only unpack one time. We love the convenience of that.” Tosh adds that his wife, a nongolfer, enjoys the cruises as much as he does. With daily excursions to museums, shopping, historic sites, and more, there’s never a dull day.

Douglas McLeod divides his time between London and the U.S. He’s a golf cruise fan, too, and along with the convenience and access to top courses, he highlights another appealing aspect of traveling by sea: the sea.

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Pevero in Italy

“I love the being-at-sea part almost as much as the golf,” he says. “There’s nothing like standing with a cocktail on the top deck at sunset—maybe 10:30 or so in the fading Scottish evening—and gazing out over the water past the porpoises riding the bow wave. The light is just magical. I’ll never forget sailing under the Skye Bridge in Scotland after dinner one night and seeing the island home of my ancestors. They’re experiences you could never have as a landlubber.”

The eight golfers who spend a week on Barge Lady Cruises’ river barge Scottish Highlander won’t set eyes on the Isle of Skye, but they will get to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the Highlands. This floating hotel-slash-clubhouse, which has the feel of a Scottish country house, travels through the locks and lochs that make up the Caledonian Canal from Banavie to Muirtown, transiting Loch Ness along the way. Passengers play rounds at Cabot Highlands’ Castle Stuart Course and Royal Dornoch, and enjoy a range of shore experiences, including falconry.

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Sea Cloud Spirit

In warmer climes, GolfAhoy specializes in packaging golf cruises through the Hawaiian Islands aboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Their seven-day expeditions include rounds at Mauna Kea, Wailea, Poipu Bay, and Hōkūala. When they’re not playing golf, travelers can avail themselves of the ship’s many shore excursion options, from kayaking and snorkeling to luaus and lava field tours.

The worldwide devotion to golf cruising has reached such a fevered pitch that PerryGolf is offering a 41-day European Medley option in 2024—three shorter cruises you can take back-to-back. For 2025, a 69-day European Medley is on the docket, with up to 27 rounds and a full slate of sightseeing opportunities in every port.

That’s what I call a bon voyage.


Where Are You Cruising To?

Several of the more popular golf cruises are already fully booked for 2024, including the ones to the British Isles and Australia/New Zealand. (You can book those now for 2025.) But many other tantalizing cruises still show 2024 availability. Here are a few that caught our eye:

MARCH – South America

Travel for nine nights aboard the Azamara Quest along the east coast of South America, visiting Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Four rounds: In Uruguay, play Cantegril C.C. and Club de Golf del Uruguay; in Brazil, Guaruja G.C. and The Olympic G.C. March 6–15.

Cruise fare: $2,667–$7,917pp; golf package $2,595pp. perrygolf.com

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Azamara Spa Suite

APRIL – Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam

Fifteen nights sailing the South China Sea aboard the Azamara Journey, beginning in Tokyo and ending in Singapore. Five rounds: Hanayashiki G.C. and Kochi Kuroshio C.C. in Japan, Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong, Ba Na Hills and Tan Son Nhat in Vietnam. April 18–May 3.

Cruise fare: $5,043–$18,112pp; golf package $2,995pp. perrygolf.com

JULY – Norway and the Arctic Circle

Two back-to-back voyages paired together—17 nights total aboard the Azamara Onward traveling up the coast of Norway then farther north past the Arctic Circle. Four rounds in Norway: Stavenger G.C., Lofoten Links, Tromsø G.C., and Trondheim G.C. July 13–30.

Cruise fare: $5,969–$17,545pp; golf package $2,395pp. perrygolf.com

AUGUST – Baltic Sea

Board in Copenhagen and enjoy 11 nights aboard the Azamara Onward en route to Stockholm, with time spent in five countries. Five rounds: Sand Valley in Poland; Jurmala G.C. in Riga, Latvia; Estonian Golf & C.C.; Hirsala G.C. in Finland; and Bro Hof Slott (Stadium) in Sweden. August 11–22.

Cruise fare: $4,735–$12.984pp; golf package $2,975pp. perrygolf.com

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Azamara Drawing Room Library

SEPTEMBER – Mediterranean Riviera

Travel the Mediterranean on the sailing ship Sea Cloud Spirit for 11 days—from St. Tropez to Corsica to Sardinia, finishing in Rome. Six rounds: Golf de Cannes Mougins, Golf de Terre Blanche (le Riou), Golf de Terre Blanche (Le Château), and Monte Carlo G.C. in France, Golf de Sperone in Corsica, and Pevero G.C. in Sardinia.

September 7–18. $10,985–$20,165pp. kalosgolf.com

OCTOBER – Rhine River

Spend eight days aboard the Amadeus Star cruising the Rhine River from Basel through Germany and onward to Amsterdam. Four rounds: Golf Club Le Kemferhof in Strasbourg, France; in Germany, play Golf Club St. Leon Rot in St. Leon Rot, Golf Club Jakobsberg in Boppard, and Golf Club Velderhof in Pulheim. October 12–19.

$4,617pp–$6,199pp. amadeus-rivercruises.com

YEAR-ROUND – Hawaii Land & Sea

VIP package beginning with three nights ashore at Turtle Bay or the Four Seasons at Ko Olina, followed by seven days at sea aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America. Five rounds: Kapalua Plantation G.C. or Kapalua (Bay), Wailea (Emerald), Mauna Lani G.C. or Mauna Kea G.C., Poipu Bay G.C., and Hōkūala (Ocean). Available 52 weeks/year.

$9,995–$11,895pp. golfahoy.com

Thank you for supporting our journalism. If you prefer to read in print, you can also find this article in the Winter 2024 issue of LINKS Magazine. Click here for more information.

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