Tokyo Golf Club was founded in 1913 but moved twice away from sites nearer the centre of Tokyo to the current location alongside Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama. Charles Alison began his Japanese career with the consulting job at Tokyo, and went on to change the face of golf in Japan forever ( Kawana- Fuji, Hirono, Naruo ). Unfortunately the course he designed was seized for military use during world war two, and the club made the move to it's current site.
Komyo Ohtani was the man who had brought Alison to Tokyo GC in the first instance. He had studied in England and had become an advocate for Alison's designs. So it was appropriate that when the club moved again in 1940 that Ohtani was the man to lay out the new course.
In doing so he incorporated two greens on each hole into the design as was the custom at the time. One set of greens was prepared for summer conditions with appropriate grass for summer conditions, and the other set of greens had a variety of grass more tolerant of winter conditions.
This dual set of greens approach is no longer needed as grass strains have been developed which cope with year round conditions. So two greens may well become a thing of the past, but for now they offer a fairly unique golfing experience. However, I do think that the two greens can 'clutter' the look of a hole and certainly having an additonal green and bunkering in close proximity can compromise the playability of a hole
In 2009 Gil Hanse undertook a renovation of Tokyo Golf Club and during that period he renovated one set of greens throughout the course. Apparently he will come back to remodel the second set of greens at some stage.
The terrain at Tokyo GC has a nice roll to it, but without any significant elevation change. In my mind this means that some of the impressive bunkering can lose it's impact as it is not as 'visual' as it might be. Similarly I found the mow lines, particularly on the inside of doglegs, hard to see, and as a consequence a little frustrating to play as a first timer.
All the holes are framed by pine trees which appear individually manicured and are a feature in themselves. Likewise the course is beautifully presented with all playing surfaces immaculate.
The rough is long enough to make hitting greens difficult, but balls are rarely lost. The bunkering is at times outstanding, and generally a feature of the course. I would go so far as to suggest that the bunkering defines the course- both fairway cross bunkering and greenside traps are well positioned and dominate play. Although they are well positioned the flattish terrain lessens the intimidation factor somewhat!
The course is not overly long, but any decent score at Tokyo Golf Club will be well earned- it is a very good test of golf- a championship test at that, and has hosted The Japan Open a number of times
Favourite holes include:
Hole 11- a short par 4 with the alternate greens completely separate and playing as two different holes. It works well, and the right hand green we played was a ripper. The tee shot had to be the correct length to allow a straightforward short iron approach through a break in the tree line to a well protected table top green.
hole 13- a par 5 with significant cross bunkering on the rise, and then another layer of bunkering to trap the unwary beyond- and with a green running across the line of sight and more bunkers greenside to carry to reach the green. It's an epic hole and a well earned par.
hole 14- this short par 4 is probably the 'signature' hole at Tokyo GC. The tee shot needs to be accurate, but it is the approach shot that makes the hole because you must carry an impressive cluster of bunkers dominating the view to the green.
Tokyo is a private members club, so access is only possible at the invitation of a member.
Golf at Tokyo Golf Club is a wonderful full day experience which extends to the hospitality, and Onsen after golf.
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golf trip to Japan to suit your group. For suggested itineraries see Great Golf Destinations: Japan
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