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What’s Unique About Golf in Japan?

Ever wonder why the game of golf, in Japan, has a different format from any other country in the world? It has been said that the Japanese are famous for taking a good idea and making it better. Golf has proven to be no exception.

Golf in Japan begin in 1901 By British businessman on Mt. Rokko above the city of Kobe near their mountain cottage affectionately named 101. The Kobe Golf Club officially opened on May 24th 1903 with all the fanfare, including the Kobe city Mayor and the Governor of Hyogo Prefecture, who was tasked with hitting the first ceremonial ball, which he proceeded to hit totally thin...topped worm burner!

With the rich history of country clubs in the United Kingdom, the expats in the area wanted to create a golf course and more importantly the country club experience they were accustomed to. The main purpose, create a country club space where they could relax with friends and business associates. Kobe borders the sea with a mountainous plateau, so not the best location to build a golf course, but build they did! Progress was slow but they kept at it and created the first six holes. At that time they would play the holes they had, loop back to the clubhouse, enjoy some hospitality, libations and the civility that club life provides. Following this they would strike out for the figurative, back nine, which was actually just the same six holes played again (for the back nine)

This is how the traditional lunch break in Japanese golf became an “industry standard!”

Why is this important you might ask? Because after they created the next 3 holes and the second nine, to complete a full 18 hole course, they had grown accustom to pausing after front holes and enjoying a break with drinks and food before setting out for the back nine.

*Note, this provided an opportunity for corporate entertaining on the course as business meetings were often held during the break after the front nine with many a fine scotch. Since early golfers in Japan were exposed to golf for the first time with this luxurious style, they felt the break at the turn was an important part of the game and a new tradition was born and adopted in Japan. This is how the traditional lunch break during a round of golf here in Japan became an “industry standard”, that holds true even to today. This is the only way the Japanese people knew how to play the game and business continued to be a big part of the golf industry fuelling its growth to over 2,450 luxurious world class golf courses in the peak at the early 90’s.

Not just a hotdog or a burger!

Corporations couldn’t buy golf memberships fast enough to fill their companies demands during the bubble economy of the late 80s. This accelerated and facilitated the creation of opulent clubhouses and plenty of projects for world renown course designers, who flocked here to cash in and practice their craft without all those pesky budget restraints! It was a free-for-all! These golf courses are today referred to as “bubbly courses”, due to their ridiculously large club houses, with very little to do with the actual game of golf. Due to the burst of the bubble and the contraction of the Japanese economy, most of these courses have changed from private to public; and owners more than a few times! What this means to you and the current dwindling Japanese golfers, is that everyone can enjoy crazy, opulent golf experiences, at very reasonable rates!

Well there you have it! If you want to come experience what is possible in the golf industry without any restraints to budget, you couldn’t ask for any better place than Japan!  

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