No Experience Like It. Culture, History, Cuisine and more…..

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…And of course, Golf In Japan

Having played in more than my fair share of the world, in my humble opinion there is nothing that compares to the Japanese golf experience.

If you want to complete your Grand Slam of golf, Japan must be on your Bucket List.

A small county roughly the size of California with approximately half the population of the USA they managed to squeeze in some 2,400 golf courses and once you are outside of Tokyo the greenery is in abundance and everything moves rather seamlessly.

There are many great or “world class” courses spread throughout the 47 Prefectures (what we refer to as States or Provinces in North America) that differentiate the respective tourism regions.

Great news for the rest of the world’s golfers!  Times are changing with respect to golfers visiting Japan.  There was a time when golf courses were super saturated, very expensive and almost impossible to get on!  That is no longer the case. Golf still caters to the higher end demographic, but then that is the case anywhere.  In general, costs associated with golf, playing and product is pretty much in line with US costs.

To exemplify Japan’s desire to bring golf tourism to the country was in its recent hosting of IAGTO’s 9th Asia Golf Tourism Convention that took place in the Japanese prefecture of Miyazaki on the southernmost main island of Kyushu over six days in March, during which cherry blossoms began to bloom in the warm spring sunshine.  The event attracted over 103 golf tour operators from 25 countries all selling golf vacations either within or to golf destinations across Asia.

Your Golf Experience

Showing up at golf courses, and playing, is not exactly like we are accustomed in America.  First off, when you go to a golf course you may be required to wear a sport coat and bring your golf attire.  You sign in and you are provided with a wallet for the day and key to your locker.  Your wallet has a number associated with it, you charge all your expenses for the day and settle when you check out.  Here you change into your golf attire and locker rooms are equipped with all the pampering one might desire, like being at the spa.  After all a relaxed golfer is a better golfer.

It is also customary to play the first nine and take a 45-minute lunch break before resuming the back.  Like many things in Japan, what at first seems alien to us has a logic to it that is both practical and enjoyable. Walking off the 9th green you are given a tee time for the 10th and can then enjoy some great food, sushi for me, and maybe a pint before heading back out.  And no worries as no one will be slipping in ahead of you!

Caddies and carts, predominantly female caddies, and these carts do not require a driver.  They move you around on a magnetic rail system, and yes, they can move on their own.  Greens, most holes on the better courses will have 2 greens, they rotate almost daily as to not get too much foot traffic, and divots.  No excuses for missing putts.

A Sampling of Golf

Japan is a rich paradise, where seas and mountains meet.   No where is that more evident than in the Shizuoka Prefecture where majestic Mt. Fuji is your background and one of the Top 100 Courses in the world, The Fuji Course at the Kawana Hotel graces the shoes of the Pacific Ocean.  Prince Hotels – Kawana  Think Pebble Beach!
There are 91 courses in the Shizuoka Prefecture.

On a clear day in Tokyo, you will likely see the iconic Mt. Fuji, and the infamous Bullet Train will get you to it in just one hour.

Mie Prefecture with it’s 69 courses in south/central Japan, hosted the G7 leaders at the swanky Shima Kanko Hotel a few years back.   We played the following collection and I can highly recommend them all!  Mie Golf Tourism

  • Nagashima Country Club with panoramic views of the Suzuka Mountains.
  • The Jumbo Ozaki designed Tsu Country Club, a once private club which has not only opened its doors to guest play.
  • The Fuji OGM Excellent Club Ise Ohtori Course features a floating island green, jaw dropping clubhouse.
  • Steve Pate and Japanese LPGA Champion Hiromi Kobayashi completely redesigned a seaside gem, Nemu Golf Club rerouted provides spectacular seaside views of Ago Bay.

Miyazaki launched itself onto the international golf tourism map by hosting AGTC and by showcasing seven of its 26 golf courses in the first three days of the event. There is a wealth of great golf courses within a 30-minute drive of Miyazaki City, which itself boasts a large and vibrant nightlife district full of iconic bars and restaurants.

IAGTO CEO Peter Walton describes Miyazaki, “With its year-round, golf-friendly climate, Miyazaki is already well known to the domestic and Korean markets, but has now positioned itself as a truly international golf destination.  With Japanese delegates representing one third of all AGTC supplier delegates this year, Japan now has a great opportunity to become a bucket-list golf destination for discerning golf travelers, and Miyazaki is one of the many regions within Japan that can benefit enormously from the country’s successful development as an accessible, desirable and memorable golf destination.”

Shunji Kouno, Governor of Miyazaki Prefecture noted that the prefecture had focused on welcoming golfers from Japan and Asia in the past and had hosted the renowned Dunlop Phoenix Tournament for 50 years, inviting leading golfers including Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama. But he added: “We hope this convention will put Miyazaki on the map as a golf destination of choice for people around the world.”  For more information on Miyazaki Prefecture Visit Miyazaki

Walton also added: “AGTC 2023 will go down as one of the best and most influential golf tourism events of the past decade, primarily because of the perseverance, commitment and investment of partners including the host destination, Miyazaki Prefecture, the
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)that has recognized sports and golf travel as one of the pillars of its national tourism strategy, the Japan Golf Tourism Association  (JGTA) that will pick up the momentum of the work begun at AGTC, and Sega Sammy, the owners of the outstanding Phoenix Seagaia Resort where the convention took place.”

Don’t think for a minute that if you are in Tokyo that golf is out of the question.  My first round was on a Prince Hotel Course, Musashigaoka Golf Club totally public and very close to the host site for the Tokyo Olympics.  It was like a scene out of planes trains and automobiles but we made it there from downtown via public transit.  Prince Hotels & Resorts

Exquisite Flavors and Rich Culinary Traditions

With a food culture that is second-to-none, Japan is a place where visitors are invited to indulge in the most incredible and unique culinary experiences every single day.  Regardless of where you are in the country there is a perfect foodie-focused itinerary.  Traveling from bustling cities to quiet mountain villages and fishing ports you will discover traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, you can take part in cooking classes, learn special preparation techniques, while also discovering more about the history of each area and the people who call it home

For me sushi is always on my mind, can never get enough.  Your thoughts may be of Saki, Green Tea, Kobe Beef or maybe Ninja’s are your thing!  Meat lovers don’t despair, you’ve heard of the Kobe and Wagyu Beef?  On this trip we were introduced to thinly sliced Matsusaka beef cooked with a blow torch on rock salt – YUM!

Beer lovers Go North!  Hokkaido is the northern most Prefecture.  Just as well known for its skiing as golf and easily recognized for its capital city of Sapporo.

If Japan has not been on your bucket list it should be!  Golf is your excuse but aside from the exceptional golf product you will be overwhelmed by the warm hospitality, culinary delights, history and culture.

 

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Claudio DeMarchi is a golfer who loves to travel to play golf. Publisher and editor of the Traveling Golfer www.travelinggolfer.net established in 2006. Claudio is also the North American representative for IAGTO the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, considered the global tourism organization for the golf industry with over 2,700 members in 100+ countries. In any given year IAGTO is responsible for conducting up 6 golf tourism conventions around the world.