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Golf: Tee to Shining Tee

Shaun Tolson

“You gave that one a good whack,” says instructor Pier Falcomer as we watch my drive sail into the distance. From the vantage point of the tee box, the white sands of Princess Margaret Beach stretch out in a crescent below the steep, palm-covered hills of Bequia, the northernmost island in the Grenadines. My shot—a controlled draw that Falcomer taught me during our first session together—drifts toward the beach through gentle trade winds before landing with a splash in the water.

My second and third attempts meet a similar fate. In fact, every shot I hit finds the water because I am standing not on the tee of a Caribbean golf course, but atop the 12th deck of The World, a residential cruise ship that at the moment is anchored in Admiralty Bay. Once a popular activity aboard cruise ships, hitting golf balls into the ocean became illegal in 1988, when international regulations banned the dumping of plastic into the ocean. The World, however, uses biodegradable golf balls that, ship officials claim, dissolve into fish food within four days of landing in the water.
 
For its golfing guests, the 644-foot-long, 12-deck vessel also features two net-enclosed tee boxes with real range balls, two chipping and putting greens located at the stern of the 12th deck, and a golf simulator that allows you to play any one of 53 well-known courses or work on your swing with Falcomer, The World’s golf pro, on a video driving range. Yet for all the opportunities it offers to play on board, the ship’s golfing program truly excels on land.

The World, which includes 165 privately owned apartments (several are available for rent at rates from $1,300 to $4,800 per night), first set sail from Norway in March 2002. Since then, the ship has logged approximately 250,000 miles, or the equivalent of circumnavigating the earth almost a dozen times at the equator. At nearly every port, Falcomer arranges golf outings at local courses, making a point to balance challenging layouts with ones that are more forgiving. “You don’t want to take residents just to courses where they’re going to shoot, at best, 20 over par,” says the 30-year-old Swaziland native.
 
The World’s residents and guests have teed off at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, the Royal Tenerife Country Club in the Canary Islands, the Tangier Royal Golf Club in Morocco, and several other courses. In the coming months, the ship will traverse the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, and Falcomer has reserved tentative tee times at clubs including the Miklagard Golf Club outside of Oslo, Norway; the Grove in Hertfordshire, England, which recently hosted the World Golf Championships; and Sicily’s Picciolo Golf Club, which meanders through vineyards and offers views of Mt. Etna.

After my onboard lessons with Falcomer, we head for solid ground at the Sandy Lane resort on Barbados. “You’ll have to forgive me if I’m laughing the whole round,” the pro says as we approach the first hole of the resort’s Country Club layout. “This is just one of the best courses that I’ve ever played.”
 
Following 17 holes on the Caribbean-view course, I concur with Falcomer’s assessment of Sandy Lane. On the final hole—a 195-yard par 3—I miscalculate my tee shot and, after a conservative pitch, lie two on the fringe. But when I sink a 25-foot putt for par, I feel as good about my game as I did when I was on top of The World.

The World, 305.269.5151, www.aboardtheworld.com

Photo by Daimler AG
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