Book your tee times along with your travel
By Brent Stoller
Want to improve your handicap while exploring the British Isles on a six-star cruise ship? Join a PGA professional aboard the Crystal Serenity for a 14-night, round-trip voyage departing London on July 25. Between stops at Ireland's House of Waterford Crystal and England's Jurassic Coast, named for its fossil-rich rock, the hosting pro accompanies you on a series of shore excursions to ensure you're getting the most out of your game. Pricing starts at $5,820 per person for an ocean-view cabin, plus the cost of the golf outings.
In North Wales, Holyhead Golf Club is your challenge, a par-71 layout from accomplished architect James Braid. Though it stretches more than 6,000 yards, narrow fairways and prickly gorse put accuracy at a premium. And when winds gust off the Irish Sea, holes play longer than their scorecard's listing.
From there, it's off to The K Club west of Dublin, site of the 2006 Ryder Cup, for two rounds over two days. This parkland track features forced carries and subtly breaking greens that test every facet of your game. In the swashbuckling spirit of the course's designer, Arnold Palmer, go for the par-5 16th hole's guarded green in two shots.
Hill Country high life
Tucked into the Texas Hill Country 10 miles west of downtown Austin, the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa excels in recreation, rejuvenation and Lone Star hospitality. It also offers some of the best golf around, with four courses to challenge your shot-making skills.
Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio, Fazio Foothills opened in 1986 and has been among the state's finest courses ever since. Meandering along cliffs and among waterfalls, its elevation changes and small, well-protected greens demand players dial in their distance control.
Tree-lined fairways give way to vibrant vistas at Fazio Canyons, a par-72 gem with a par-5 finishing hole that can make or break your round. Eco-friendly, it was the first resort course in Texas to be named an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary.
The design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw took what Mother Nature gave them in the development of Crenshaw Cliffside, creating a track that seamlessly fits the landscape. With five sets of tees, it's stern enough for seasoned players yet forgiving to high-handicappers.
Twenty-five miles west of the resort, Palmer Lakeside is known for its driver-friendly landing areas, championship greens and memorable views of Lake Travis.
Crown the champion golfer of the year
Aside from playing in the British Open at St. Andrews Links, it doesn't get much better for golfers than attending the British Open at St. Andrews. And thanks to Celebrity Cruises' 12-night sailing, departing Amsterdam on July 15, they can do just that with a $300 shore excursion to the 144th tournament. Walk step for step with the best players in the world -- down the Road Hole, across Swilcan Bridge and up to the 18th green, as the Champion Golfer of the Year hoists the Claret Jug in triumph.
For about $650, you can get the VIP experience: Attend the event with professional golfer Steve Parry, who helps you see the Old Course through the eyes of a competitor. Afterward, join Parry for an exclusive cocktail party aboard the Celebrity Silhouette. (This choice has proven popular with prospective guests -- you'll have to book your cruise quickly and get your name on the waitlist for this excursion.)
Don't forget to pack your clubs, because you'll have the opportunity to hit the links yourself in three different ports. Rates for the cruise start from $2,259 per person.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in January/February 2015. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.