Navigating a round of golf in Japan can be a tricky business. Alongside idiosyncracies like the Shin Peoria handicap system, there are special golf customs and etiquette to think about, and of course, you can't set foot on a green without considering your hole-in-one insurance.
Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned veteran of Japan's range of 2,000 plus golf courses, playing like a local is essential to getting the most out of a game in Japan. And what better way to show off your assimilation than with a few choice Japanese golf phrases. We've rounded up some of our favorites below.
Arriving at the clubhouse
When you arrive at a clubhouse in Japan you are typically asked to sign in at the reception counter. Normally there are two registers: one for members, one for visitors.
Rakki-ki = Locker key
After signing in, you get a card holder with a rakka-ki- (locker key). At most clubs it will have a barcode on it, and you are assigned a number for the day. This is used like a charge card in the restaurant, snack bar and pro shop while you are at the club. With this system you wont need to use cash during the day. After the round is finished, present it to reception and settle your bill for the day.
It's common to bring a second set of clothes to change into after. So, when you arrive, make sure you get your bag from the handlers. If not it may end up with your golf bag strapped onto your golf cart.
Toire no surippa = Toilet slippers
Genkan no surippa = Hall slippers
Ofuro = Bath area
When you go in the locker room, this is where it sometimes gets confusing. Make sure you use the toire no surippa (toilet slippers) in the toilet and the genkan no surippa (hall slippers) in the entrance area. Don't forget to take off your genkan no surippa when you go into the ofuro (bath) area.
Beware that there is nothing more shameful in Japan than wearing toilet slippers outside of the toilet.
The most confusing thing is when you return from golf and go to your locker. Don't get naked there! Take your necessary clothes to the ofuro area, grab a basket and change there.
Talking with your caddie
Kurabu o kakunin... = [Your] club count is....
Before the start of play, the caddie will count the number of clubs in your bag and check with you to be sure her count is accurate. She will say kurabu o kakunin...
This procedure will be repeated after play to ensure you still have all the clubs you began with, and often you are asked to sign a paper to confirm this.
Talking about what's in the bag
To ensure you get the right club, here are the Japanese terms for a regular set of clubs.
3 W: su-poon
4 W: ba-fi-
5 W: go-ban wood
7 W: nana-ban wood
3 iron: sanban aian
4 iron: yonban aian
5 iron: goban aian
6 iron: rokuban aian
7 iron: nanaban aian
8 iron: hachiban aian
9 iron: kyu-ban aian
Playing golf in Japanese
Naisu sho = Nice shot!
Don't be surprised if you hear Naisu sho when your ball goes sailing into the woods. I am still a bit confused if this is sarcasm or an attempt to make you feel better or is it just a robotic response said after every shot. If in doubt just shout Naisu sho!
Ikepocha = Water hazard
When the ball lands in the water. Ike = pond, pocha = the unfortunate sound of your ball. In this instance, you would say, POCHAAA!
Zenshin yonda (also 'Play Four')
You might hear Zenshin Yonda when you hit a ball out of bounds from a tee shot, and play one from halfway down the course (marked with yellow tee markers) as if it were your fourth shot. (sometimes third on par-3 holes).
The Japanese version of "Fore!" to be shouted when you hit a ball that goes in the direction of other people. Remember to shout Fah! instead of "Fore!" (unless you were aiming at other foreigners).
When you hit a shot that lands close to the hole's flag, you call it a Betapin.
When your ball is the length of the flag away from the hole, say Wanpin.
Kyoichi is used to announce the best shot of the day (usually used to describe a tee shot). Kyo = today, Ichi = number one, so altogether the phrase means literally "today number one."
Chippingu (the name for a Mahjong #7 tile) = Duck hook
If you look at a 7 tile in Mahjong, it looks like a hook, so in Japanese you say Chippingu for a duck hook.
Yakuza golf = Putt from the rough
Basically, you are not allowed to use a putter off the green. Matt Damon's derogatory use of "Putt from the rough," in the movie Good Will Hunting meant the character of sports columnist George Plimpton was gay. I am assuming the Japanese associate Yakuza with macho. If you putt from the rough you are not a real man? Hey Scotland! What do you think of those apples?
Onna (meaning woman) = Chicken putt
Of course, this is a term used only when you are playing with the best of friends!
Tempura = Sky scraper or Angel raper
Lost in translation, one Japanese caddie called it an "Angel f**k". Tempura and French fries rapidly float to the top of the deep oil fryer when they are cooked. To impress your Japanese players, you should say yoku ageteru ne! which literally means: "It rose up nicely". That is a good sign of tasty tempura.
Zekkohcho = In the zone
If you are zekkohcho it means you are playing your best golf ever.
Doubleru paa = A snowman
I have heard doubleru paa used a few too many times on my behalf.
Te no go ban wo tsukaeyo
If you are having trouble getting out of a bunker or repetitively fanning on a shot your opponent may say ten no go ban tsukaeyo as a joke or in utter frustration. It can be translated as "Use your hand as a five iron", a.k.a. pick it up and throw it.
Jikan ga kakaru
It's taking too much time is jikan ga kakaru in Japanese. There is nothing more frustrating when you are playing with someone who takes a hundred practice swings before each shot and takes forever to putt. So you can hurry things up with this phrase!
Types of golfers in Japanese
Snob. In Japanese hana means nose and takadaka means high.
Egotistical - A person who is always praising himself.
These guys are the worse to play with. They keep talking when you hit and demand silence when they hit and then they have the audacity to nitpick on every rule in the book. Urasai means noisy and ojisan means grandfather or old man.
A stickler for the rules, a perfectionist.
How to curse or cheer during a golf game in Japanese
Is the common swear word in Japan. Basically like the F-word but it really means sh*t.
Frustrating - In English, you would probably say "Man! I can't take this anymore. Nothing is going right for me today."
"Yo baby! Did that shot ever feel good. Ye haa!!! All right!", "What a shot!"
Kyo wa dame
I suck today. Literal, "today is nope".
You usually say this if you hit a bad shot on your first drive. It basically means, it is only the first. Sorry, no mulligans in Japan.
Uchi ni kairitai
You would probably say this after a series of OB shots or triple bogeys or multiple shanks. It means "I just want to go home. I want to quit. That's it! I give up".
Club wo kaetai
I want to change my clubs for some better ones. Of course, if you buy new clubs you will immediately cut 30 strokes off your game. Not!
Throw away my clubs. Many clubs have ended up in trees and ponds as a convenient replacement for a dumpster.