FX Excursions

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Dedicated Golf Cruises Offer an Easy Way to Play the World’s Courses

by Dale Leatherman

Feb 29, 2024

© SEA CLOUD CRUISES

February 2024

All cruise companies offer an almost irresistible promise: Unpack once and visit multiple destinations, waking every morning in a different place. Many cruises give a nod to golf, featuring putting greens, simulators and golf outings. But only on a dedicated golf cruise can you get an itinerary where playing notable courses is the raison d’être, and you don’t have to touch your golf bag until the practice range or first tee. Tee times and transportation — even club cleaning — are taken care of.

Two of the biggest providers of golf cruises are Perry Golf and Kalos Golf Cruises.

PHOTO: © ROYAL PORTRUSH GOLF CLUB

“Golf cruises are a relatively unknown style of golf vacation, but they’re convenient, with high service levels and unique experiences — and the increasing demand is a function of satisfied and loyal clientele,” said Gordon Dalgleish, president and cofounder, Perry Golf. “Some of our 2024 cruises have wait lists, and we are booking into 2025.”

“Golf cruises are popular because they provide a ‘country club at sea’ atmosphere,” said Jim Lamont, president, Kalos Golf Cruises. “There is camaraderie on the ship, good service, and no need to unpack and repack. On typical golf trips, golfers arrive at a new hotel after a round of golf and have to figure out where to go for dinner, where to park, etc.

Our guests have all done those trips but don’t want the hassles. They want ease of travel and to focus on golf.”

Perry Golf partners exclusively with four luxury Azamara ships, each one carrying just under 700 guests. Cruises in 2024/2025 include 25-plus countries and more than 80 courses, 20 of which Golf Digest ranked in the World’s Top 100. For instance, the six rounds on the New Zealand/ Australia cruise include Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and The Kinloch Club. Summer cruises in the British Isles feature Royal Dornach and Ailsa Turnberry in Scotland and Royal County Down, Royal Portrush and Ballyunion in Ireland. Some cruises feature attendance at The Open. Other destinations include South Africa, the Mediterranean, Norway, Asia, the Baltic Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

“Our golf cruise clients are primarily couples, and the geographic demand is fairly well-distributed,” said Dalgleish. He added in most cases cruise decisions are based as much (or more) on the destination as the courses on the itinerary.

Destination decisions are influenced by non-golfing spouses who expect all the usual cruising perks, including interesting excursions in ports of call. And golfers have other interests, too.

“We sense that our golfers want more than golf,” said Lamont. “They have other travel interests, be it food and wine, history, learning about other cultures, etc. Each of our cruises offers a different twist.”

Among the trips with a twist are the Bordeaux Golf & Wine Cruise and the Normandy Golf Cruise, which traces the Allied invasion of France.

PHOTO: © EMERALD CRUISES

Kalos Golf caters to golfers seeking an exclusive small-ship (90–120 passengers) experience. The company charters luxury ships such as Sea Cloud Spirit and Sea Cloud II, which combine the exotic atmosphere of a windjammer with modern conveniences. Another impressive vessel is Emerald Azzurra, a sleek, modern yacht accommodating 100 passengers and 68 crew members. The smaller ocean-going ships allow Kalos to get into harbors not accessible by larger ships. For river cruising, Kalos uses ships in the posh AmaWaterways fleet. And the company is adept at securing tee times at private clubs such as Valderrama Golf Club in Spain. Kalos itineraries include the British Isles, the Adriatic, Australia, Spain, Normandy, New Zealand, Sicily and the Riviera, as well as the Danube and Rhine rivers.

UNIQUE SETTINGS
The presidents of both Perry Golf and Kalos Golf point to hidden gems on their cruises:

“Norway’s Lofoten Links (in Golf magazine’s Top 100) is difficult to reach by air and land but is part of our Norwegian voyage,” said Perry Golf’s Gordon Dalgleish. “Cruden Bay on the east coast of Scotland is a fine links course often overlooked on land tours, but it is on our Scottish Links & Islands voyage.”

“Our Danube River Cruise is a favorite but not the first place people think about for golf,” said Kalos’ Jim Lamont. “Small, private clubs provide a good experience in unique settings. On our Baltic Cruise, golfers are shocked by the quality of golf in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, even Estonia.”

Club pros often use a company called GolfAhoy (golfahoy.com) to book trips for groups of their members. GolfAhoy works with major cruise lines to arrange golf packages for individuals and groups in the Hawai’ian Islands, as well as river cruises on the Rhine and Danube.

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