Japan is a fascinating country with unique customs and history. Samurai, Geisha girls, Sumo wrestling, karate, cherry blossoms, Hiroshima- all invoke lasting and unique images of Japan.
A golf trip to Japan had been on my wish list for a long time, and should be on yours!
Japan has a distinctive culture, picturesque countryside, interesting cuisine, and the people are incredibly welcoming, with warm natures. They are polite, thoughtful, clean & timely. The cities are modern, but history abounds. They are at the forefront of technology advances, but seemingly bound by ancient rituals...
Imagine a golf trip wherein one was able to experience this culture while playing some of the best golf courses in the country, and all offering an experience unique to Japan!
And any trip to Japan must included a journey on the bullet train ( Shinkasen )...
Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and it's largest city. In fact the greater Tokyo area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. It combines modern technology with old world culture. Visitors will want to see The Imperial Palace, Senso-ji Temple, and the wonderful museums. And THE place to shop is the Ginza district!
The former capital is the home of the famed Golden Pavilion, The Silver Pavilion, Gion ( The Geisha district ), Shijo shopping precinct, and is known for it's exquisite Kyoto cuisine ( kyo-ryori )
The History of Golf in Japan
Much as Australia's golfing landscape was heavily influenced by the 1926 visit of Englishman Dr Alister McKenzie, golf in Japan was transformed by fellow Englishman Charles ( Hugh ) Alison who spent 3 months working there in 1930. Alison had worked with McKenzie, and became a partner with Harry Colt who is credited with designing or assisting with Sunningdale, Wentworth, Muirfield, Hoylake & Pine Valley amongst others...
When Tokyo GC sought help from Colt's firm his partner Alison was the man assigned to the job. He went on to design, or influence a number of the top courses in Japan, all still highly regarded and which still dominate the top 5 courses in Japan, and rate in the top 100 courses in the world.
Some of the top courses are:
Hirono GC, designed by Charles Alison, is located near Kobe, and opened in 1932. A very private club, it was instantly regarded as the best course in Japan. It still is!
Kawana Hotel- Fuji Course, is a resort course located in striking ocean clifftop land near Shizuoka south of Tokyo. It opened in 1936, and generally rates in the top 70 courses in the world.
Kasumigaseki CC- East Course opened in 1929 and was originally designed by Kinya Fujita, Shiro Akaboshi, and Seiichi Inoue, although Charles Alison did have input in 1932. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, this private club is best known for it's two green policy- a policy unique to Japan where each hole has a winter and a summer green to assist with wear on the greens through the seasons...
Tokyo GC is a private club which relocated in 1940 to the outskirts of Tokyo near Kasumigasecki. Although originally an Alison course prior to the move, the new course was designed by Komyo Ohtani based on Alison's design philosphies, and always rates as one of the top 5 courses in Japan.
Naruo GC is a private club built in the Rokko hils near Osaka ( & Kobe ). It was designed by Joe & Harry Crane with recommendations from Charles Alison, and rates as a top 100 world course.
Yokohama CC is a private club located on the outskirts of Tokyo. Originally designed by Takeo Aiyama in 1960, Yokohama has two courses ( East & West ), and has hosted the Japan Open. In 2015 the West course undertook a major renovation by renowned architects Coore Crenshaw.
The Golf Experience in Japan
Japan is a highly ritualised and organised society, and golf is no exception. Here are some of the main things to consider when organising your golf in Japan:
1. A round of golf may take up most of the day!
2. Protocol requires the wearing of a jacket on arrival at a private club.
3. You must arrive for check in at least 30 minutes prior to your tee time.
4. When you check in you will be given a locker key, and a club card for all purchases. The card is settled on departure via cash or credit card.
5. If you have a host for the day, it will be normal protocol to start the day with a coffee pre round
6. Long pants are required as per dress rules for private clubs- so no shorts despite the warm, humid climate!
7. Your caddy will greet you as you come out to play having already loaded the cart and checked your golf bag. You will need to sign to confirm the number of clubs, but she is unlikely to speak English, and the writing is in Japanese. Just sign the sheet!
8. Protocol at the private clubs is to stop for lunch after 9 holes and includes beer before and coffeee after the meal. Some clubs will designate a back nine tee time, and others will wait on your discretion.
9. After golf you are expected to participate in a post round communal hot bath. You must go through the ritual in correct order. From your locker room with the slippers provided you must have a hot shower, before entering the communal bath wearing only your birthday suit. Use only the small towels provided, and make sure you use the slippers on the way back to your locker...
10. Normally a post round drink is in order to reestablish your equilibrium!
11. There is no tipping in Japan at all- just say thank you graciously and often- Arigato!
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golf trip to Japan to the requirements of your group.