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Golfing In and Around Tokyo

Golfing In and Around TokyoGolfing In and Around Tokyo

As a golfer and frequent traveler, one of my favorite ways to explore a new city is to play a round of golf or two on some of that city's top courses. Tokyo is a fascinating city, and Japan can be considered golf-crazy, with a portion of the population being regular players. Many classic courses were designed and built in and around Tokyo in the early part of the 20th century, and the sport has only continued to gain popularity through the years.

Golf in Japan

Like many activities in Tokyo, golf is not a rushed experience. It's a social activity and normally includes lunch. Golfers should allow three hours for the first nine holes, an hour for lunch (normally included in the play fees), and another three hours for the back nine. For golfers in a hurry, there are some amazing driving ranges and simulators that cater to a faster experience.

While many courses can be booked directly, the language can present a barrier. There are many golf tours to Japan that take care of everything, and this may be a better option for travelers who want to leave the planning to professionals. Golf Shizuoka is a Japanese tour company offering some great packages for English-speaking players.

Kawana Hotel, Fuji Course

This course is my favorite, and it's about two hours south of Tokyo on what's called the Izu Peninsula. It's on the coast, along Sagami Bay, and you can see Japan's iconic Mount Fuji in the background as you play. The easy trip here by train allows visitors to see some beautiful parts of rural Japan, and the course is part of a beautiful oceanfront resort. The Kawana Hotel area is very much like Pebble Beach, with two beautiful seaside courses, Fuji and Oshima. The hotel is a beautiful example of pre-war Japanese art deco style and has hosted a range of celebrity guests.

Green fees at the Fuji course range from $254-$315, depending on the season and whether play is on weekends or weekdays. Club and shoe rental is available. The Fuji course is par-72 at 6,691 yards. Kawana Hotel rates are from about $350 per night, double occupancy, with higher priced suites and Japanese-style rooms also available. The course is not open to the public -- the only way to play there is as the guest of a member or as a hotel guest.

Golfing In and Around TokyoGolfing In and Around Tokyo

Gotemba Golf Club

A beautiful course about an hour from Tokyo in Shizuoka, Gotemba is a par-72 of 6,320 yards. The course is also set with an amazing backdrop of Mount Fuji. Like many courses in Japan, the landscape is more rolling, with less flat fairways than American and Europeans players may be used to. Japan sure loves its trees, and many of the courses make a lot of use of them as hazards, sometimes to the extreme. Green fees at Gotemba are $167 on weekends and $106 on weekdays. Club and shoe rental is available. Fast train service connects golfers from Tokyo in under two hours.

Kasumigaseki Country Club

Although not open to the public, this is one of Japan's great courses, and I hope to play it one day. It was designed by one of the sport's great course designers, Charles Alison, who designed classic courses in America like Cypress Point and Augusta National. The course is home to the golf events in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Kasumigaseki Country Club is a classic two-course facility that has hosted many tournaments since its opening in 1929. It helped put Japan on the map as a golf destination in 1957, when Japanese golfers beat Gary Player and Sam Snead to win the world championship event that year (the Canada Cup, now the World Cup).

Shirokane Club

For golfers who don't have time to head out to the course, Tokyo has a bunch of golf simulator lounges, where groups of people gather to use sophisticated golf simulators. I've visited the Shirokane Club, and they cater to English speakers. Although they speak English at the club, I recommend having the experience set up by the hotel concierge or another Japanese speaker.

Many simulator lounges offer a private room, like a karaoke experience, where a group can play together, with the computer keeping score. It's a a popular place for businessmen to have meetings. The full-size computer screen and overall simulation is quite realistic, and you use a real ball and clubs, so it does have a real feel. Rates range from $75 an hour to $205 an hour, depending on the day and time, and include club rental. For single golf travelers, the golf lounges have become a popular place to meet new friends.

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