When you think of golf, Japan may not be the first country to come to mind. However, through the years, Japan has been striving to be one of the best golf destinations internationally. There are around 2,350 golf courses in Japan, making it the top three with the greatest number of golf courses in the world. You can experience multiple golf courses in one visit with varying difficulty levels, budgets, and facilities to make the most out of your trip.
As you’d expect from Japan, courses are always in pristine condition surrounded by rich nature and fresh air because they are generally in the countryside. Reservations can be made online or over the phone. Although usually in Japanese, there is a steady increase of English-speaking staff among golf courses to make it even more internationally accessible. If English-speaking staff is not available, foreign visitors can book through their hotel or their travel agent. The best time for golf in Japan is between October and November when the weather is temperate and dry.
Most courses offer equipment rental like clubs, shoes, carts, and some even provide caddies (usually Japanese). Although premium courses still require memberships, there is still plentiful that is open to the public and to choose from with fees as low as 4,000 yen and only 10,000 yen for an 18-hole round which is already a first-rate golf course. Rounds on usual weekdays are always cheaper compared to weekends and holidays.
Rules and Etiquette
Golf etiquette in Japan is fairly similar to that in other countries. Everyone is expected to wear proper clothing while on the course and in the clubhouse. It usually takes a whole day to play an entire round with a lunch break of an hour or so.
It is also recommended to check in in advance. A yellow flag is placed about 210 metres from the tees. The rule is to wait for the group ahead of you to pass the flag before teeing off. There are also additional yellow tee markers called OB tees located further down the fairway, indicating the player’s next shot if the ball is out of bounds or went into the water. Black and yellow striped stakes are also a common sight to mark a section of the course that is out of bounds. Its difference from a regular out-of-bounds marker is that you only get a one-stroke penalty.
When travelling, if you don’t have your own transportation, it is common to take the train to courses since Japan’s transportation is very reliable. However, people don’t usually bring their clubs with them onto the train. A popular trick is to ship yours to the golf course at least 2 days ahead of time. This convenient service is provided by Yamato Transport. It is a straightforward process (They pick it up for you!) easily arranged on their English-supported website.