Category: Golf Destination

Golf in Japan is an unrivaled experience!

Evelyn Gruber
Evelyn Gruber Aug 12, 2023

Japan, even though it is the country with the second most golf courses in the world is an underrated golf destination! Its 3,140 well-manicured courses with distinct topography, scenery, and layout scattered across thousands of islands with a coastline of nearly 18,500 miles, presenting an abundance and variety of playing experiences. To put this incredible number into perspective, Japan counts more courses than the rest of Asia together and more than the UK & Ireland combined!

Japan Golf, however, doesn't only stand out with quantity, but with quality as well. No other country in Asia boasts more TOP 100 and TOP 10 courses than Japan. To be more precise, 28 of Japan´s courses are ranked in Asia´s TOP 100 list. In both Thailand and Vietnam, Asia´s leading tourist destinations, only five courses have made their way onto this acclaimed list.

Hirono Golf Club, Japan´s #1 course, is widely recognized as the “Pine Valley of Japan” and provides a truly incredible test of your golfing skills. The way designer Alison made use of ravines, ponds, trees and rolling, sandy terrain is remarkable. The historic course, including its notorious bunkering was brought back to life after an extensive restoration by Martin Ebert just a few years ago.

Not a lot was known internationally about Kasumigaseki Country Club´s two outstanding tracks before the Olympics in 2021 although both courses beat other prestigious ones in Japan, including Yokohama Country Club. You may have heard that, bowing to pressure, all-male Kasumigaseki CC finally admitted its first female members in 2018.

While you need a golden ticket to play these two golf gems, you can tee it up on the spectacular Fuji Golf Course at Kawana if you stay onsite at the classic art deco Kawana hotel. Alison gained cult status in Japan as a designer, and this distinguished course with a long history and traditions certainly added to his fame as well. The Fuji course is celebrated for its challenges and beauty. Half a dozen holes play right along the dramatic coastline and treat you with some of the most terrific Ocean views!

One of my personal favorites is TSU Country Club – a more mountainous course in an idyllic setting in Mie Prefecture where hospitality has been taken to another level thanks to its owners Shiori and Nobuhiro Kojima. This course is a must play when visiting central Japan.

But no matter where you play golf in Japan, a unique golf experience awaits: the immaculately manicured course that may be easily mistaken for a garden, the delicious lunch at the turn, the communal post-round hot bath called “onsen” …all of which will impress and impact you on each golf day. Soaking in the “onsen” to soothe your sore muscles after your round is a wonderful après golf experience you can get used to quickly.

International stars tee-it up in Japan!
While Japan has been a fixture on the LPGA Tour’s schedule for decades, the PGA Tour hosted its very first official tournament only four years ago. In October 2019, in the span of three weeks, Japan welcomed the biggest names in men’s and women’s golf at the Zozo Championship (PGA) and the TOTO Japan Classic (LPGA). At Narashino Country Club, just north of Tokyo, Tiger Woods’ historic win attracted thousands of fans! Crowds lined entire fairways to catch a glimpse of the former world Number 1.

The TOTO Japan Classic has rotated to a variety of different venues in Japan throughout the years and the tournament has produced some of the biggest champions in the history of the game. Last year the event celebrated its 50th birthday and made a triumphant return to Seta Golf Course for the 14th time. Located just 30 min east of Kyoto, the course plays at just over 6,600 yards. The tournament with a whopping $2 million purse is a sprint over 72-holes as there is no cut. Non-Japanese players love their visit to the island nation for a plethora of reasons on and off the golf course. The opulence of culinary experiences, the unique culture and the politeness of the people add to the attractiveness of any tournament in Japan for them.

Japan has had many golf heroes over the years!
The very first Japanese Major winner was a woman, Hisako Higuchi, who claimed the title at the LPGA Championship in 1977. Since then, many Japanese female golfers have been highly successful on the professional circuits. Ai Miyazatowas even ranked #1 in the world in 2010. Today, there is a new wave of young Japanese women players who snap up major titles and climb some tour rankings. Many of them will be in the global limelight in the very near future.

Masashi Ozaka, aka “Jumbo,” ran in the top 10 of the OWGR for 200 consecutive weeks, had an amazing impact on the development of the game in Japan in the beginning of the 90ies can be considered Japan´s first golf hero. Hideki Matsuyama has been in the media spotlight for many years even though he has never embraced it and has tried his best to avoid the attention. By winning the Masters in 2021 Matsuyama fulfilled a long-held ambition for the Japanese and became a national hero. His Masters title has inspired millions of people in his home-country to pick up the game. Besides, more and more global attention has been drawn to Japan as an incredible golf nation and destination since Hideki´s glorious victory at Augusta.

Golf Memberships were traded like stocks!
Japan has always been one of the worlds´ most golf obsessed nations. The game’s status as the sport for the Western business elite has given it a special resonance. In the 1980´s a thriving Japanese economy, combined with a law relaxing land-use restrictions, triggered a massive golf course construction and golf boom. In the early 90’s golf-club memberships were even traded as negotiable financial tools, just like stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Hundreds of golf memberships were tallied on a big board each day and the nation's leading economic newspaper calculated their collective value via the Nikkei Golf Index. Golf was considered a game for the corporate elite armed with platinum credit cards and huge expense accounts. The average membership in private clubs cost over $250,000 and ranged up to $2.7 million – if a spot was even available.

Japan is a golf-obsessed nation like no other!
At that time 15 million golfers were competing for tee-times on 1,700 private and public courses. In Japan, 90% of golf courses used to be private but due to financial pressure many of them have been opening their doors to visiting golfers lately. Banks gave loans for memberships and charged about 9 percent for a 30-year golf-club loan. As the cost was so prohibitive, most golf enthusiasts were forced to only practice at driving ranges, which operated (and still do) 24 hours a day or book a golf holiday abroad.

However, when the Tokyo Stock Market began its rapid descent in the early 90‘s and the economy began to slow down, memberships plunged, and golf courses began to struggle financially. Experts predicted that the number of courses and memberships in the country would drop drastically and sadly they were right.

Prior to Covid, the golf penetration rate in the country was down to 6.5%, a drop of nearly 50% since the golden era in the late 80íes and early 90íes - the aging Japanese golf population added to the challenging situation for golf course owners.

Like in most other countries around the world, the pandemic, however, triggered another golf boom. The Golf Digest online reservation system in Japan reported a record number of bookings in 2020, numbers were up by a rocking 12% - a silver line on the dark horizon for most golf course operators.

While the golf experience at some top-notch private Japanese clubs still comes with a price tag, green fees in general have come down as a result of the oversupply of courses and hence severe competition. Value for money is excellent, now even more so thanks to the extremely affordable Yen. Greenfees sell for approximately $ 100 a round of golf on a fabulous golf course such as the top ranked Tsu Country Club, what a treat!

Japan emerges as one of the most unique golf & lifestyle destination in the world!
Even though borders were closed off to tourists for over two years, Japan has globally emerged as the top tourist destinations. The “Land of the Rising Sun” took the top spot in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021 and was voted as the most trending travel destination for 2023. The report covers a series of benchmarks and measures key competitiveness tourism criteria for the sustainable development of the travel and tourism industry around the globe. Out of the 117 economies listed in the most recent index, Japan tops the list for the very first time, ranking high for its cultural resources and its infrastructure.

Asian golfers discovered Japan as a golfing mecca long time ago and have been flocking to the country for a wonderful golf holiday. For most Western golfers, however, Japan is still considered an exotic golf destination and one wonders why more Europeans and Americans aren´t experiencing Japan´s myriad charms – on and off the golf courses. Robust data doesn´t exist but golf industry experts in the country suggest that only 1 out of every 2,000 North American tourists plays golf while visiting Japan. (Benneth Galloway).

The Japanese government in collaboration with forward-thinking private enterprises, however, have taken some massive steps to put this impressive golf paradise on the radar of Western golfers by staging professional top-tier golf tournaments, by hosting international golf tourism events and by inspiring golf travel experts and media.

Mie Golf Tourism Organization, passionately managed by Shizuhu Suzuki, has been spearheading an international golf tourism initiative since 2015. More and more private clubs are now opening their doors to visiting golfers, a win/win scenario for everyone. Therefore, it is not surprising that Japan has recently been nominated as Asia´s Best Golf Destination at the 2023 World Golf Awards. Japan has earned my vote for its unique golf experiences and the wealth of opportunities off the golf courses that will wow and enrich you, priceless!

Japan – your next bucket list destination!
If you have not visited this fascinating country yet, put it on your radar if you love to …
• immerse yourself in unmatched culinary experiences,
• discover nature in abundance,
• explore rich culture and traditions,
• experience a fascinating mix of charm, authenticity, and modern life!
• enjoy amazing hospitality,

If you add all these unmatched experiences to the extraordinary golf experience, a “golfplus” adventure to Japan is impossible to trump! But don´t just take my word for it; hundreds of golf travel specialists and millions of visitors tout the same horn, all raving about this unrivaled country as witnessed on all Social Media Platforms.

Creating life-lasting memories together!
What are you waiting for? Elite´s golf travel expert Evelyn Gruber is hosting an Epic GolfPlus adventure to Japan. She welcomes you to join a small group of avid women golfers (and their spouses, partners, and friends) as she is keen to showcase this highly unique country to her friends – old and new!

This extraordinary 13-day Golf, Culture & Gourmet Experience is spiced with a plethora of highlights. The program has been carefully designed by women golfers who are passionate to wow visiting golfers. It´s a well-balanced mix of magnificent golf and exciting activities off the golf courses. You explore Japan´s rich cultural heritage, you dive into an unrivaled culinary scene, and you discover some fascinating traditions – all in addition to golf. Life-lasting memories are guaranteed. Visit for all details.

Message Evelyn directly at by August 20, get a code and receive a $500.00 bonus for this unique escorted Golfplus Adventure at the end of October 2023. Creating extraordinary memories together that will last for a lifetime! Nihon de o ai shimashou! See you in Japan!