Japan is opening up its doors to golfing tourists, and it’s a wonderfully unique place to go and play golf.
I only knew a few things about Hokkaido before flying in as a guest of Hokkaido Golf Tourism Association and with AYM Golf Tours to see what the region could offer Australian golfers.
The island of Hokkaido (see map below) is the northern-most prefecture in Japan, Sapporo beer comes from its largest city of Sapporo (surprise, surprise) and it’s a very popular destination for Australians to go skiing.
Not a lot. And certainly nothing about playing any golf in the region. In fact playing golf anywhere in Japan is a bit of a mystery outside of the country.
In the 1970’s and 80’s golf was booming as strong as the economy in Japan with well thousands of golf courses being built and clubs overflowing with members.
But like golf the world over, things aren’t as rosy as they were back then. As fewer Japanese golfers play the game, some of the country’s best golf club’s are opening their doors to the world. In short, it’s a perfect time to go and play golf in one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever visited.
Here are 6 things I learned on a golf trip to Hokkaido
1. Hokkaido is possibly the most comfortable, convenient region to place golf in Japan.
Boasting over 150 golf courses with many within one-hour drive of the New Chitose airport, Hokkaido’s summer temperatures are much more comfortable than in southern Japan where conditions can get unbearable in summer
2. The Wallabies are playing in Sapporo next year during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Wallabies will play Fiji in the second match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup at one amazing stadium – the Sapporo Dome. The tour of the dome was one of the highlights of the trip to Hokkaido. As it’s an indoor stadium that plays host to baseball, soccer and rugby among others things. They grow the grass rugby/soccer pitch outside, open the doors and push it in when required. It’s incredible.
3. Sapporo is not just home to the famous Sapporo beer but home to one heck of a beer festival.
The Sapporo Odori Beer Garden runs for nearly a kilometre stretch of Odori Park that splits the centre of the city. For a month during the summer, nearly 13,000 people can sit in huge beer tents serving local and international beer. It’s a wonderful atmosphere every evening and one you should go and see for yourself.
4. One caddy, four golfers and a golf cart.
If you’d told me that playing a round of golf in a group of four, with one cart and one caddie could work, or at least work within six-hours I would’ve told you there was no chance. Except that’s what often happens on the golf course in Hokkaido and it’s a magnificent thing.
The caddies are incredible. They can give advice, search for your golf ball, rake a bunker and hand you your clubs. And do all of this for four people for 18 holes. One of the more memorable days on the golf course I’ve had.
5. Hokkaido thankfully does golf like you’re used to.
Unlike golf in southern parts of Japan where it’s a truly all-day experience, Hokkaido golf doesn’t do the whole thing where you play nine holes, stop, eat, refresh and go out and play the back nine an hour or so later. You can expect the more familiar “play-through” routine of golf Australians, and much of the world are more familiar with.
But you’re still going to get a wonderfully, different Japanese golf experience. Many of Hokkaido’s golf courses have their own in-house restaurant and the traditional onsen (hot spring) to make for a beautifully relaxing end to your round.
6. The food in Hokkaido is incredible
The unique distinction between a golf trip to Japan and anywhere else in the world is the food and culture that goes along with it. And my word, the food in Hokkaido is magnificent.
In addition to the amazing Japanese you expect in this country, Hokkaido adds local caught, fresh seafood, some of the best lamb we’ve tasted and a love of the BBQ.
If you’re thinking that a golf trip to Japan may be for you… check out AYM Tour’s golf experience trip to Hokkaido. We can highly recommend what you’ll find when you get there.