From on-board lessons to in-port excursions to itineraries solely designed to appease the most well-traveled players, we reviewed dozens of cruise-ship companies looking for those that stood out in their efforts on behalf of avid golfers. Golf and water typically don't mix, especially when you're floating on it for the majority of your vacation. But these companies more than succeeded in meeting the wants and needs of golfers in a way that made it easy to concede that not all great golf trips need to occur entirely on dry land.
So how did we choose the best of the best? Accreditation was given for a number of things, including cruise lines that offered on-board golf simulators and/or putting greens and hitting nets and swing lessons from qualified teaching professionals. We also researched the way golf clubs were handled by staff, and bonus points were given to cruises that allowed you to keep your clubs in your stateroom.
Obviously, how they designed their itineraries played the biggest role. Stops in port can often be too short for an 18-hole round of golf and transportation to and from the course. But these companies build in enough time at each stop to ensure golfers don't have to sprint from the gangway to the course the minute the anchor is dropped.
Cruise lines that offered a number of itineraries also were given special attention. It's one thing to simply offer a cruise around the British Isles or the Caribbean, but it's another to explore the coastal golf offerings of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia or even the eastern shores of Canada. In many cases the competition for our Editors' Choices for the best golf cruises was so strong, we had to decide the tiebreaker based on the quality of the ship's accommodations and dining. Believe it or not, golfers like to sleep and eat well almost as much as they like to play. Almost.
Barges: European Waterways
Golf-cruise agent: Perry Golf
Large ships: Norwegian Cruise Line
Medium ships: Crystal Cruises
Small ships: Silversea Cruises
Yachts: Sea Dream Yacht Club