By Bennett Galloway
The Japanese are well known for taking a good idea and making it better and golf is no exception. Courses in Japan tend to be far above international standards and nowhere else in the world can you find such lavish facilities in such staggering numbers. Virtually every famous course designer has played a part in creating a variety of great courses while the attention to detail and strict management ensures they are immaculately groomed and maintained.
Japan has been crazy about golf since it was introduced more than century ago and it has long been an intricate part of its business culture ever since. The country's first course was set on a hilltop overlooking Kobe in 1901 by British businessmen and consisted of just four holes. Today there are more than 2,300 courses in Japan-outnumbering Scotland.
Courses one open to members only now welcome the public, often at very reasonable prices. Golfers looking to try something different will love golf in Japan. It's a slight twist from the grand old game you might be used to-replace sake for scotch whiskey and you've got a golf experience you'll never forget.
In Japan, summer and winter are long and spring and autumn are relatively short. It might sound good, but summers here are hot and humid. June and early July are fine temperature wise, but tsuyu (the rainy season) makes it hit and miss. From late August into September Japan gets hit by a series of typhoons, which doesn't usually affect the hearty Japanese golfer so don't let it bother you either. Just keep abreast of the local weather forecast when planning your trip.
October and November are usually mild and dry making it perfect for golf. April and May are also great months to hit the links. In winter, inland courses will see snowfall, but properties near the ocean are usually open year round.
You can expect to pay 10,000 yen, or about 90 U.S. dollars, for a weekday round at a top-notch facility near Tokyo. That same club on a weekend will run you about double that price, and in some cases more. If you venture about two hours from the city you can find some great deals. Club rental will cost you 3,000 yen to 5,000 yen. Shoes are usually available, but don't expect much choice in the way of sizes.
Where to go
Tokyo's surrounding areas enjoy the largest concentration of high quality courses in Japan. Accessibility means higher demand and this is reflected in green fees. On weekends it can be hard to get a tee time at any price as people plan their golf outings months in advance. Weekday rounds are your best bet and you usually will pay about half of what you would on a weekend or holiday.
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