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Golf enthusiasts can play through on special tours

Published Oct. 16, 2005

There's a new way to go golfing _ by cruise ship. Passengers play courses in different locations as the ship sails from one port to another. Most ships with golf-oriented cruises also offer instruction by pros, golf videos and books, putting and driving practice on deck, and orientation sessions for each of the courses. On shore, passengers receive assured tee-off times.

Typical courses include Sandy Lane Golf Club in Barbados, Empress Josephine in Martinique, Mahogany Run in St. Thomas, Mullet Bay Resort in St. Maarten, Hotel La Toc in St. Lucia and Cedar Valley Golf Club in Antigua.

Here is a round-up of ships that have golf programs, with information on what they offer, and where they go.

Royal Caribbean

Cruise Line

The Royal Caribbean is the official cruise line of the Professional Golfers' Association of America. The Golf Ahoy! program offers golf in 11 ports.

It also offers pre- or post-cruise stays in: Miami, at the Doral Hotel On-the-Ocean or the Doral Hotel and Country Club, with its famous "Blue Monster" course; and San Juan, at the Condado Beach Hotel and Casino, or the El San Juan Hotel and Casino, with a golf option at the nearby Rio Mar Country Club.

The Golf Ahoy! program is offered on the entire Royal Caribbean fleet on seven-, eight- and 10-day cruises throughout the Caribbean. The ships: Sovereign of the Seas, Song of Norway, Song of America, Sun Viking, and Nordice Prince.

Departure: from Miami or San Juan.

Ports: Labadee, St. Thomas, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, Nassau.

For information: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, 903 S America Way, Miami, Fla. 33132; (800) 327-6700.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line has a number of Sports Afloat trips featuring basketball, baseball, football, hockey or golf. The golf cruises are rotated throughout the fleet on the Starward, Sunward, Southward, Skyward and Norway.

There are on-board clinics for both intermediate and advanced golfers, swing analysis and workshops, plus putting instruction and tournaments. There are also two Golf Pro-Am Cruises, which feature four or five well-known professionals teaching. The Golf Pro-Am Cruises are on the Seaward and the Norway in March and October. Last year, passengers got to play with Billy Casper, Bruce Crampton and Louise Suggs.

Pre- and post-cruise packages are offered in Miami and San Juan.

Departures: Miami or San Juan.

Ports of call: Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Nassau, Freeport, Grand Cayman, Martinique, Jamaica, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

For information: Norwegian Cruise Line, 1 Biscayne Tower, Miami, Fla. 33131; (800) 327-7936.

Royal Viking Line

The Royal Viking golf program features a special golfers' welcoming party, clinics for the swing and the short game, and on all cruises a golf pro is available for clinics and private lessons.

Departure: Savannah and Fort Lauderdale.

Ports of call: Jamaica, San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Johns, St. Kitts and Willemstad.

For information: Royal Viking Line, 95 Merrick Way, Coral Gables, Fla. 33134; (800) 447-4550.

Cunard Line

Cunard Line has a program called Seasports, which includes golf. In collaboration with the International Racquet Sports Association and the Association of Quality Clubs, the programs combine an exercise and fitness regimen aboard ship with shore excursions including snorkeling, scuba, water-skiing, wind surfing, sailing, biking, horseback riding and tennis, as well as golf.

Cunard passengers can also choose a "Sail and Stay Vacation," combining the Countess cruise with a week ashore at Paradise Village and Beach Club on Barbados or Hotel La Toc on St. Lucia.

Departure: Each Saturday round trip from San Juan.

Ports of call: Twice a month the cruise goes to Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados, Martinique and St. Thomas. On alternating weeks the cruise is to Tortola, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Thomas.

For information: Cunard Lines, 555 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; (800) 221-4770.

You can bring your own clubs (recommended), or rent clubs at each course. Recommended on-course dress: shirt with collar and sleeves, no swimsuits, cutoffs or tank tops permitted for men or women.

Golf on the Intracoastal


Clipper Cruise Line uses a 200-foot ship on the Intracoastal in Florida and Georgia. Passengers disembark every day or so to play some notable golf clubs.

The Clipper Golf Cruises sail to and from Fort Lauderdale, to Savannah. After the cruise, there is an optional golf holiday at either Hilton Head Island in South Carolina or Sawgrass in Florida.

In a typical cruise guests board the ship at Pompano Beach and cruise up the Intracoastal, passing waterfront homes, yachts, shrimp boats and fishermen. The scenery constantly changes as the ship zigzags through salt marshes and canals, past villages and cities, under drawbridges. Much of the cruise skirts still-preserved wilderness areas, with herons and other birds wading. Dolphins sometimes accompany the ship, and once we saw a manatee.

Golfers first get into the swing of things at PGA National at West Palm Beach, site of the PGA Championship and other professional tournaments, and the next day in Cocoa, the golfers are bused to Walt Disney World Golf Resort and have a choice of playing on the Palm Course or the Magnolia Course.

Sometimes they play at the Grand Cypress Resort course in Orlando. At either course, your bag is ready on the cart when you arrive at tee-off time.

In the next port, St. Augustine, golfers play the Ponte Vedra Ocean Course, about 30 minutes away, and non-golfers can take a tram tour of St. Augustine, with its restored buildings, old houses and museums.

The Clipper docks at the city yacht pier, at the same inlet where Ponce de Leon landed in his search for the Fountain of Youth and where Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed his mission for King Phillip I of Spain in 1565.

At St. Simons Island, Ga., golfers play any two out of three nine-hole courses at Sea Palms _ Sea Palms West, Sea Tall Pines and Great Oaks. (On some cruises they play at St. Simons Island Club, owned by The Cloister.)

For non-golfers, there is a bus tour of St. Simons with its historic lighthouse and museum, a fort, and beautiful homes on nearby Sea Island. Slave cabins still stand, as well as massive live oaks and foot-thick grapevines growing on land that once was cotton plantations.

At Savannah, the ship docks at the waterfront, where streets are paved with ballast stones and bricks made with Savanna river mud.

A bus tour of the city features some of the more than 1,000 homes being restored or renovated in one of the largest historical restoration projects in the nation.

The next day, passengers disembark and, if they choose, are bused to Hilton Head for a three-day, post-cruise extension. At Hilton Head they stay at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and play at Palmetto and Harbour Town Links at Sea Pines Plantation, where the Heritage Golf Classic is held, or they may play at the Arthur Hills course.

This golf cruise may be on either of two ships _ the Nantucket Clipper or the Newport Clipper. Each is about 200 feet long with 51 cabins. With only an 8-foot draft, the vessels can dock at the town piers, easy for passengers to come and go to visit seaport museums and shops and wander about historic places.

There is no gambling, no swimming pool, no beauty shop or gift shop aboard. A man need never wear a tie.

For further information: Clipper Cruise Line, 7711 Bonhomme Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63105; (800) 325-0010.

Shirley Linde of Tierra Verde and Peter Hauri of Rochester, Minn., are co-authors of No More Sleepless Nights, to be published in March.