Recently I enjoyed a golfing doubleheader. I played St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the same day. And….if it weren’t for a scheduling conflict, I could have played Banff Springs, Pinehurst #2, Valderama, or one of 35 other world famous courses as well. How could I do this? It was simply a matter of making tee times on the TruGolf simulator on board the Celebrity Infinity as my wife and I cruised from Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to San Diego. Although golf simulators have been around for a number of years, they are becoming quite popular on cruise ships thanks to Elite Golf Cruises of Sunrise, Florida. They presently operate Onboard Golf Academies on 21 Carnival ships, all nine ships in the Celebrity fleet, four of the newest Holland America vessels, three Princess and two Silver Seas ships…with more to come. My golfing experience on the Infinity was thoroughly enjoyable.
The most difficult time I had was deciding which courses to play. I decided on St. Andrews because of its historic background and tradition, and the fact it was still on my “Courses To Be Played” list. I chose Pebble Beach because I had played there a number of times and wanted to compare actual play with a round on the simulator.
Playing St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the simulator was like being at the courses themselves. Although each shot was played into a giant 11 x 9 foot screen, tee boxes, fairways, trees, water, and bunkers were shown just as you would see them on the actual course. Watching my shots head toward the narrow St. Andrews fairways, trying to avoid the notorious pot bunkers, shooting at double greens, and seeing the famed “Road Hole”, was realistic enough for me to promise myself a pilgrimage to St. Andrews. As a 12 handicapper, I decided to play St. Andrews from the 6032-yard white tees. I shot an 83 with a great deal of assistance from on board golf pro, Ryan Northrup, who acted as my caddy and gave me plenty of tips. Oh yes….he also set the putting program on the Microsoft computer system so that all putts under six foot were gimmees. I should be so lucky to have my golfing buddies give me such a break. When I played Pebble I played from the blues with no gimmees. A different game….I shot a rousing 95 with a 3.75 average on the Par 3’s, 5.4 on the Par 4’s and a 6.5 average score on the Par 5’s. That’s an aspect of the simulator that is quite educational. Following each round, in addition to giving averages for Par 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s, you’ll receive a readout of your average driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation and average putts per hole. Putting proved to be the most difficult aspect when playing the simulator as depth perception and the breaks on the greens take a bit to master.
Just as you would on your home course, when you play a simulator on a cruise ship, spend a few minutes practicing prior to your round. Adjusting to the motion of the ship, learning proper club selection, and getting a feel for putting will help you have fun and will definitely improve your score. You can play golf on the simulator as an individual, in a twosome, or in a foursome. As an individual player expect to play an 18 hole round in about one hour at a cost of $50.00 an hour. If you have a group and want to develop a great deal of camaraderie, hold a Par 3 Shootout with you and your fellow golfers shooting at some of the world’s toughest and most scenic par 3’s. Cruise ships are a natural for simulators as golfers who cruise can now spend sea days playing some of the world’s top golf courses without having to fly half way around the world or be worried about weather, bugs, or lost balls. Next time you consider a cruise, cruise on a ship that offers Elite Golf Cruises’ Golf Academy. You can take golf lessons, arrange for golf games at fabulous courses during days in port, and…. play St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the same day. For more information about golf on cruises ships, and golf cruises, consult your local travel agent or visit Elite Golf Cruises website at www.elitegolfcruises.com.