Plan your ultimate golf getaway in Japan
Japan is a dream destination for golfers—it has the second largest number of golf courses in the world. More than 2,000 golf courses dot the Japanese archipelago, each taking advantage of the region’s distinct topography.
You can play golf against a variety of beautiful backdrops. Mountains make up more than two-thirds of Japan, and many golf courses utilize the natural hilly terrains. You’ll also find unique seaside and forest courses.
You don’t necessary have to be a golf club member—many clubs welcome visitors and inexperienced golfers. After an exhilarating round of golf, you can treat yourself to delicious local fare or soak in a hot spring.
If you plan to bring your golf bag to Japan, you can check it in as checked baggage free of charge as long as it doesn’t exceed the airline’s size restrictions. Similarly, for domestic flights in Japan, if your golf bag is of the standard size, you won’t have to pay excess baggage fees (as a rule of thumb, it should weigh below 20 kg and the sum of its length, width, and height should be less than 200 cm).
Size restrictions may vary on routes with smaller aircrafts, so check with the airline beforehand. Note that you will have to pay additional baggage fees if you’re using an LCC. When you check in your golf bag, be sure to pack it well and wrap your equipment with a towel to prevent damage.
In Japan, you can also send your golf bag straight to the golf course via courier service. Depending on the distance, the delivery fee may cost a few thousand yen, but it gives you the option of traveling light and going sightseeing along the way. You have to take some precautions when using a courier service, for example, ensuring that it arrives the day before you play and noting down the date and time you’re scheduled to get on the course. It’s best to check with your golf course beforehand.
Japan is surrounded by the ocean and has plenty of spots where you can play with views of vast, open views of the sea.
The Ise-Shima area in Mie Prefecture is packed with attractions such as the iconic Ise Shrine, pearl farms, and delicious seafood like oysters and abalone. The area hosted the G7 Summit in 2016. Located within the Ise-Shima National Park, NEMU GOLF CLUB overlooks the intricate ria coastline along Ago Bay. It takes advantage of the unique terrain and is particularly famous for challenging holes that sit past swaths of water. To access the club, take a train from Tokyo to Ugata Station (4 hours). It’s a 15-minute cab ride away from the station.
The winters are mild in Miyazaki Prefecture where you’ll find the Phoenix Seagaia Resort. This golf resort is great from both new and advanced golfers. It houses the Phoenix Country Club, which attracts professionals from around the world, the Tom Watson Golf Course—a great option for beginners—and the Phoenix Golf Academy, one of the best driving ranges for practice in Japan. The beautiful but challenging Phoenix Country Club has 27 holes spread out along a black pine forest facing the Hyuga Sea. At the beginner-friendly Tom Watson Course, you can play golf under the stars. If you want to take lessons, head to the Phoenix Golf Academy. It’s equipped with a 350-yard driving range and short game area where you can hit from Western lawn grass. To access the resort, fly to Miyazaki from Haneda Airport (1.5 hours). From Miyazaki Airport, it’s a 25-minute drive.
You can also choose to travel further south to the tropical waters of Okinawa for your seaside golf getaway. Located at the gateway to Yanbaru National Park in the north part of Okinawa’s main island, Kanucha Golf Course boasts a total area of about 264 hectares, making it one of the largest golf resorts in Japan. The 18-hole course consists of the undulating Village Course, which is punctuated with thick subtropical greenery, and the Seaside Course, which lets you hit shots right towards the emerald Pacific Ocean. Beginners and children are welcome. Fly from Haneda Airport to Naha (about 2.5 hours) then take a shuttle bus to the resort (about 1 hour 40 min).
Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest peak and a symbol of the country. At the foot of this iconic volcano, there are plenty of golf courses offering beautiful views and a refreshing microclimate.
Fuji Golf Course is an 18-hole course with a long history. It opened in 1935 and has been visited by top executives from Japan’s political and business world. It sits on the expansive hills at the base of Mt. Fuji by Lake Yamanaka, the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. The area is cool in the summer and you can play under the shadow of Mt. Fuji.
The Country Club Green Valley is surrounded by the majestic mountains of Yamanashi. The 36-hole course has a layout that takes advantage of the hilly terrain. It consists of two courses: The championship course Shirakaba, which lets you enjoy planning and strategizing, and Suzuran—a reasonably-priced course for beginners that lets you enjoy the lush green surroundings. Look out for views of Mt. Fuji throughout your game.
The Kawana Hotel Golf Course’s Fuji Course (18 holes) stretches along the coastline of the Izu Peninsula. At this picturesque location, you can soak in views of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Fuji. This spot is a paradise for golfers—it was designed by C. H. Allison and selected as one of the World’s 100 Best Golf Courses by an American golf magazine. It also has the reputation for being the most beautiful and challenging golf course in East Asia, and even hosts a professional tournament each year. For a casual round of golf, play at the Oshima Course (18 holes). It’s been around since 1928.
The northern island of Hokkaido covers vast swaths of land and is home to over 200 golf courses. The best time to visit for golf is in the summer, when the weather is cool and refreshing. Note that most courses are closed throughout the snowy Hokkaido winters.
With a total of 72 holes on four courses, Tomakomai Golf Resort 72 is one of the largest golf courses in the area. The prestigious South Course is set along rows of white birch trees and has hosted many tours. The West Course is a self-carrying course that comes with a GPS-equipped cart, while the East Course has many long distance holes and is geared for athletes. It has vast, open spaces that encourage dynamic shots. Beginners can try the Iris Course—the distances between the holes are relatively short. To access the course, fly from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport (1.5 hours). From there, it’s a 20-minute drive.
The North Country Golf Club* is an 18-hole course designed by Isao Aoki, one of Japan’s most renowned golfers. This world-class golf course incorporates Scottish traditions with the latest American techniques. Set in Hokkaido’s plains, the course is mostly flat with a difference in elevation of just 5 meters—this is unusual for courses in Japan’s mainland. Eight ponds dot the course and the last three holes are surrounded by several of them, so water strategy plays a key role. There’s also a driving range where you can practice. At the facility’s restaurant, you can enjoy fresh local ingredients like Japanese beef, vegetables, and seafood. The course is a 15-minute drive from New Chitose Airport.
If you can’t take time out of your itinerary to hit a full-scale golf course, practice some swings at a driving range. They’re located all around Tokyo, in places like office buildings, riverbeds, and even residential areas.
Many of them are open-air and set up with nets. They tend to be open until early in the morning or late at night, and rental clubs are also available, so you can get some exercise in your free time while traveling. Driving ranges that are completely indoors may be equipped with advanced golf simulators that measure the exact distance and trajectory of your shot. Some use video and data from existing golf courses to simulate the experience of playing there.
In Japan, golf is more than a sport—it offers a way to socialize in natural surroundings. The golf course has gained popularity as a place where people can deepen bonds with clients, coworkers, or friends. That’s why facilities and services play just as an important role as design and grass maintenance. Most golf courses have restaurants, party spaces and bathhouses in their clubhouses to enhance the after-golf experience.
Golf courses tend to make full use of local specialities. For example, after finishing a half round in the morning, you can enjoy a hearty meal made with regional ingredients. After playing, enjoy a soak in a mineral-rich hot spring or fragrant cypress-wood bathtub—it’s the perfect way to relax after a day of exercise.