by Paul Jones
Japan has almost 2,500 golf courses, more than 10,000 driving ranges and a golfing population that is the second largest in the world behind the U.S. Japan Links will give readers a first-hand look at golf in Japan as well as the latest trends and news here and abroad.
The most common question I am asked is: “How and where can I play golf in Japan?”
It is important to note that in Japan, playing and practicing the game of golf are usually regarded as separate activities.
In this month’s column we will focus on practice. We will look at what you need to get started, the costs associated with practice, where to go, and classes and schools for those interested in learning or improving their golf game.
Equipment: The first thing you will need is your own clubs. Most facilities have clubs for hire, but generally they are not that good. Golf clubs in Japan can start from as low as ¥2,000 from any second-hand club shop. The most popular of these is the Golf Partner stores, which can be found throughout Japan.
Golf Shoes are optional at driving ranges here in Japan. The best footwear is your favorite pair of sports shoes or something similar and the dress code is casual.
Hitting the range
Once you have the necessary equipment, it’s off to the driving range. The facilities are often open from early morning to late in the evening (generally 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.). When you arrive at a facility, you usually need to register at the check-in area. Some facilities have a charge on the bay or daseki as well as a charge for the balls. The payment of this is generally through a vending machine found near the entrance to the hitting areas.
All bays are numbered. At peak times such as weekends, the check-in staff may allocate you a bay. You can usually just choose a bay or wait for one to become available if it is busy.
When you reach the hitting bay, you will need to insert your “range ball card” into the machine if it is automated. Some places have large vending-type machines found along the back of the hitting areas. Once you get your golf balls, it’s up to you to find the form you are looking for.
Golf range instruction
Instruction is available at all facilities in Japan. The prices start from ¥2,000 per hour for group instruction, from ¥6,000 per hour for private instruction and from ¥28,000 for full-day instruction.
Important considerations when receiving instruction is to note the times available, the location at the facility, the use of video and analysis software and finally a program specific to your needs.
Golf instructors are predominantly Japanese, however there are several foreign professionals who operate in the Kanto area. Foreign professionals here are Paul Jones (Troon Golf Academy, Oak Village) Jeff Vanderhoot ( S.ing Himonya, Naka Meguro), and Todd Baker ( Jack Nicklaus Golf Center, Omori).
Driving range costs
Equipment: Can be hired from ¥300 per club or purchased at any golf shop.
Hitting Bay Fee: This fee is not applicable in all facilities but it is generally between ¥200 and ¥500.
Golf Balls: Prices vary weekday to weekend. The best is uchi hodai, or unlimited balls between certain times of the day. The prices can start as low as ¥1,500 for a morning or afternoon period. The most common however is the purchase of the ball cards. The basic cards start from ¥2,000 to ¥10,000.
Places to practice
Jack Nicklaus Golf Center
Fuji Golf Park
Tel. (043) 228-0033
Tokyu Kenzan Sports Garden
Tel. (045) 901-5211