I had been to Japan once before with with my wife. We went to Tokyo and Kyoto and came back with very fond memories. We loved the people and cutlure, the amazing cities and towns, and the wonderful food (or sometimes bizarre!).
So now I had been invited on a reconnaissance trip to Hokkaido, and was really interested to see how the north island differed from central Japan!
Hokkaido is located in the far north and is well know for skiing in Niseko (particularly with Aussies), delicious locally grown fruit and vegetables, and its lush parklands. In the past, not much has been said about the golf in Hokkaido, so it was hard to get an idea of what to expect..
Unfortunately, the trip did not start well for me- a category 8 cyclone meant we couldn't land at Hong Kong and ended up being diverted to ... where we made an unscheduled overnight stop. I ended up arriving in Sapporo 24 hours late and missed inspecting the first two courses, but managed to make it in time to see Nidom Classic.
I didn’t have high expectations, but as we drove in surrounded by lush green birch and pine forests in rolling hills, I admit I was excited to see the course.
There was no play today due to time constraints, but I was able to walk the course and get some photos. From what I saw I thought the course looked really interesting. My best description would be a parkland course that made you fell like you were in a forest in the middle of nowhere. It reminded a little of Canada with the lush grasses, mild weather, wildlife such as deer roaming the course... there are grizzly bears in Hokkaido but i didn’t see any :(
That night I stayed in the industrial port town of Tomakomai. It is a bland town with nothing much to do, so i don’t recommend staying there unless you want to play non stop golf! It does benefit however from being close to the airport and most of the courses in Hokkaido.
The next morning I awoke to a horrible noise coming from my phone telling me there was a missile flying over my head and to go to the nearest bomb shelter- not possible on the 15th floor!
This didn’t seem to affect the Japanese as they went back to business. But you could say my wife was not so pleased about these events!!
We proceeded that day to see a nice lake surrounded by dormant volcanoes and then ventured onward to see North Country Club. Again, I did not get to play the course but this was another I wished I had. It was a lovely manicured golf course with land only showing very minor movement. The key aspects to the course were condition, solidly designed holes, with interesting use of bunkering and water hazards- all without being too penal for the average golfer.
North Country Club very much reminded me of the parkland courses I have seen in Canada!
Nightimes were a real highlight on the trip for me, and more reason why I love Japan. We arrived in Sapporo late afternoon to check into our hotel and then straight to dinner in town. Sapporo is a lovely city and walking the streets reminding me of walking around central Tokyo - buzzing with the neon signs and adverts as well as their tidy streets and a 7/11 on every corner. We went to a 'all you can eat & drink' Shubo Shubo restuarant (Japanense Hotpot) and were in and out in 90 minutes. We feasted on plenty of delicious foods including yummy sashimi and lots of Sapporo Classic (only in Hokkaido) and Sake.
The next day we proceeded to visit Clark Country Club and Sapporo Regent Country Club. I thought they were lovely parkland courses with a Japanese twist, but in my opinion not quite the same standard in terms of design as the others. They were, however, in great condition and still would be a joy to play.
That night we had a lovely dinner in the hills of Sapporo followed by a view from a lookout to Sapporo at night. A great spot to take your significant other to and soak up the view of the lovely lit up city....
On my last day here I finally had time to play golf. And lucky me!- it was at one of Hokkaido’s best courses: Hokkaido Brooks Golf Club.
I really enjoyed this parkland style course. It was in great condition and set in nice rolling terrain, framed by lush birch trees and demonstrated quality design. I particularly like how the course moved through the property and used the hills and hazards to different affect on each hole. Highlights for me were the downhill par 3 16th hole over water, and the par 4 18th hole which plays through a gorgeous valley. I thought the front nine was very strong- highlights were hoels 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9.
In summary Hokkaido Brooks is a very good golf course- and one worth travelling to play!
So, next time you are considering getting away, consider heading up to Hokkaido for a golf and sightseeing holiday. It is not only a wonderful Japanese cultural experience, but also provides some quality golf courses in beautiful, tranquil settings.
The Travelling Golfer