By Dakota Diaz
The word is out in the Asian golfing community: Kansai, Japan has become one of the hottest Asian golf destinations in 2021. With a wide variety of elite courses and new international daily airline routes to all over Japan, international golfers will be flocking to Japan. And why not? Japan is widely viewed as a fascinating, friendly and safe golf destination, with arguably the most renowned food culture in the world, 4 (arguably 5) beautiful seasons and beautiful landscapes available for golf all year round (a unique feature for Asian countries) There has never been a more compelling time to visit.
What is ‘Omotenashi’ Golf?
Omotenashi is the Japanese word for hospitality. Japanese take great pride in the way they care for guests. This is reflected on Japanese courses where there are more staff on average than American or European courses. The results speak for themselves. The courses are meticulously cared for resulting in awe inspiring conditions. Palatial clubhouses with legions of friendly and welcoming staff is all part of experience. And this is no different in Kansai where when you arrive at a club, you will be greeted by staff bowing at the entrance, your golf bags will be whisked away like a 5 star hotel and you will be invited to check in at the reception. Everyone is given a locker number and a key, which can be used for purchases while at the course and settled up at check out.
There is no need to worry about food or drinks as there are usually two tea houses on the course to cover all your needs. However, you will be most likely stopping for lunch after 9 – a rather steadfast Japanese tradition. This may seem strange for a lot of international golfers, but you will surely enjoy it! There is generally a delicious variety of Japanese and western food, which might just be the perfect remedy for bad opening 9.
The best part about rounds in Japan is the hot baths that await golfers’-tired muscles. Some courses even boast – onsen (natural spring water baths). Japan’s natural hot springs are renowned for their therapeutic and medicinal benefits. At trip to any onsen is a relaxing experience–an onsen after golf is heavenly. If your worried about etiquette and what to do, check this easy to understand video or just ask the staff! After the onsen, and if you’re not driving, a beer at the club lounge is always a great way to finish your day. Afterwards, you can settle up with your locker key and be on your way.
Things to note:
There is a certain prestige to golf rounds in Japan and with it comes a level of formality – think Augusta. Although dress codes vary, most courses expect, collared shirts and proper golfing attire. Also, it is always best to have a sports coat when arriving and departing. Although, if it is a hot day, a jacket slung over your arm is fine.
It is good practice to arrive in your smart day clothes, change into golf wear and after the bath, back into your day clothes. More info on good etiquette at courses here.
7 of the best!
The Kansai area is not only made up of some of the best courses in Japan, from the World Top 50 Hirono Golf Club in Hyogo to the beautiful seaside courses of Mie, it is home to several “must see” prefectures in Japan. Take a look at some highlights you can discover during your time in Kansai:
As Japan’s original commercial capital, Osaka prefecture, which wholly incorporates the city that bares its name, has a center of Japanese culture for over 1,000 years. Today, the Osaka metropolitan region is the world’s 8th richest metropolitan area, on par with cities like Los Angeles and Paris. The city is roughly divided by an uptown district and a downtown district. Uptown, or the Umeda district, is characterized by its many skyscrapers and Osaka station; while downtown’s Namba district is known for its extensive entertainment and shopping. With 34 courses there is plenty of options of golf with 15 of them within 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Osaka.
Shiga prefecture is an area rich in natural beauty, and because of its location on an ancient trading route, it also hosts several historically important shrines and castles. Shiga prefecture is probably most famous for Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. A full sixth of the prefecture is covered by the Biwako Quasi-National Park, which includes several beautiful lakes and mountains. Which ads unbelievable drama to the 42 pristine courses on offer.
Hyogo prefecture shares its boundaries with the Sea of Japan in the north and the Seto Inland sea in the south. It is characterized by its amazing natural beauty that flourishes alongside ultra-modern cities. Kobe is the economic centre of the prefecture and is one of the leading trading ports in Japan. Hyogo offers you plenty of places to visit and many sporting activities to enjoy, but you might not have any time to enjoy them because you are about to enter golf-course heaven!
As the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, it is nearly impossible to overstate the significance of Kyoto in Japanese history. Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan boasting seventeen World Cultural Heritage Sites in the city alone. From the intricacies of tea ceremony to the breathtaking beauty of Arashiyama, Kyoto has captured the hearts and imaginations of travelers for centuries.
Beautiful manicured fairways, rolling greens and challenging sand traps sit high within the sweeping mountains above the breathtakingly rugged coastal views of the golf courses in the Mie prefecture. Mie is situated Pacific side of Kansai, easily accessible within a few hours of Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya. However, there is much more awaiting you after a round of golf than just the 19th hole.
Just a couple of hours south of Osaka, there is a place where ancient pathways lead to hidden shrines shrouded in mist, where monks worship waterfalls and mystical forests float. The mountains here sacred dwellings for the gods, known for their restorative powers. Along the saw-tooth coast healing onsens (hot spring baths) merge with the clear waters of the ocean and of course 22 golf courses.
Much of the Japan we know today was formed in Nara prefecture. Many of the ancient customs that laid the foundations for modern Japanese culture are still practiced in this serene region. It is a place that can get crowded with tourists but also offers plenty of opportunity for total isolation–just let your spirit guide you. Its sites are concentrated around its capital city, also called Nara. Home to some of Japan’s most important historical landmarks, including the jaw-dropping Todai-ji temple and its 15-meter tall bronze Buddha–and of course 32 epic courses.