Golf in Shizuoka

 In Golfing, Uncategorized

Japan as a golfing destination?  Why?

A visit to Japan to play golf is much more than that.  The culture, the people, the food to name a few elements to make a golfing trip to Japan a LIFE EXPERIENCE.

Golf is an institution in Japan, which will be a surprise to many.  Over 2000 golf courses makes Japan one of the leading countries for the amount of golf courses.  That’s pretty incredible.

A wonderful place

Following Dream Golf Holidays second visit to the country to help build the golf industry there this blog informs the reader of the excellent opportunity to play golf in a wonderful country with wonderful people and come back with so many memories, irrespective of how good the swing was. This blog concentrates on the Shizuoka Prefecture.

Shizuoka prefecture

Mount Fuji, is the stand out selling point.  Magnificent, jaw dropping, awe inspiring.  It is rather difficult to concentrate on your golf with Mount Fuji bearing down on you but it is the best excuse I have ever had!

What else has Shizuoka got for the golf tourist?

  1. Well maintained golf courses

Every golf course I have played in Japan has been very well maintained with a layout that is enjoyable, playable and interesting, Shizuoka is no different. The grass turns yellowish in the Autumn/Winter which gives the courses a quite different look. On a lot of the courses as you can see from the photo below there are two greens per hole! The greens are rotated so there isn’t too much wear and tear.

Rembrandt Golf Course with Mt Fuji cloaked in mist
  • Difference in playing golf

9 holes, eat lunch, 9 holes, Onsen.  What a civilised, unrushed, relaxed way to play golf.  Completely different to the rush of the UK market.  Perfect for holiday golf. In a couple of areas of Japan golf is played as we do back in the UK, play your golf, a beer and home, this is in the area of Hakaido and Okinawa. The rest of the country do the 9 hole, lunch, 9 holes. There is no circumventing of this, as a golf tourist just go with the flow and enjoy the experience.

  • Caddies- it’s a profession- take exams

The caddies are very professional and take their role extremely seriously, it’s not just a wander around a golf course for the caddie. Having spoken to Rosemarie at Fuji Kokusai GC the caddies are well looked after by the club, paid well and must take and pass exams to be able to practice as a caddy.  This all adds to the experience as caddies are seldom used in the UK!

Rosemarie the excellent caddy

Food and Onsen at clubs

The food at golf clubs is always of a high standard and thoroughly enjoyable. Lots of choice, Mizo soup, Japanese Curry, Sashimi and lots of it, so make sure you can still swing for the second nine!!

Golf club lunch – Mizo soup with noodles – Sashimi and rice – Fresh Wasabi – Soy sauce and pickles

Being my second visit to Japan I was aux feux with the protocol for the Onsens.  A wonderful experience.  Onsens are obviously a big part of the Japanese culture and is seen as an everyday activity.  For a tourist (a golf tourist) this is so far removed from the norm and a big part of the experience.

So what is the protocol?

On your return to the clubhouse you then go to the bathing area, the Onsen.

There is an area or numerous areas to bathe in what is ‘pure water’ and you mustn’t contaminate it.

Make sure you cleanse yourself!

Therefore you cleanse yourself first by showering. In a nutshell you sit on a ‘bucket’ fully de-robed, in front of a shower head and different lotions and you have a really good cleanse!

Once completed you can then enter the bathing areas. You take a small towel with you but this towel as stated, must not touch the water, so you sit in the bath with the towel on your head!

The relaxing bit!

Yes a bit strange to begin with though after a week you got pretty used to it and it was always a great way to wind down after a round of golf or if in a hotel after a meal. Great for a golfers back!

In the gents changing area there is everything you need, razors are provided, cleansing lotions, oils, eu de toilet, hairdryers.  Everything imaginable to provide you with a great cleansing and grooming experience.

Just enjoy it!

This is all a far cry from how we play golf! We don’t have time to do all this in the UK, we dash to the golf club, straight to the first tee, hope we have a swing, play 18 holes, quick bite to eat and a drink and home! Completely different. Not saying one is right or wrong, but there is certainly a different emphasis on time and enjoyment in Japan.

As you can imagine there are no photos of the Onsens (in use)!!

However below is a view of a new Onsen in a Hotel that has just been built. Not a bad view as you are bathing I must say. The Hotel is called Hotel Clad, really nice, one I would certainly recommend.

View from Hotel Clad Onsen

  • Culture- so friendly – so helpful

From cherry blossom to temples, to shrines to friendliness, Japan and Shizuoka has it all.  I have travelled the world a bit and have never met such courteous, well mannered, caring for others, caring for your environment people ANYWHERE.  The Japanese are a cut above any nation I have come across (we have a lot to learn).  Although I am sure the citizens of Shizuoka do not see this as it is what they do, it is the norm. This is most definitely a big part of your holiday experience.  It is wondrous.

A bit of Japanese writing training – very cathartic
  • The structure is the same at golf clubs which makes it easy for visitors.

Every golf club is the same.  The same process of signing in, the lockers, the number to pay with throughout the day, the structure of the day.  Again, the norm in Japan.  Totally different to the UK and indeed the rest of the world I believe.

  • Drive on UK side of road

Big plus for the UK visitor especially if they wish to have a self-drive touring holiday. The courteousness of the people also transcends itself to the roads, which is an extremely pleasant experience.

  • Shinkansen

Yes, the bullet, a must do at some point in time whilst in Japan and Shizuoka.

Places I visited

Rembrandt Premium Fuji Gotemba

The drive up to the hotel was so enjoyable, you just knew you were getting to a level where hopefully a view of Mt Fuji was going to be possible.  It was dark so had to wait until the morning.

The interior of the hotel was very modern, clean and airy.  The greeting was very good as was the service throughout the stay there.

Breakfast was good, the usual cereals, an omelette station, cold meats, salmon, and curry for breakfast. Tasty and different. The evening meal I had at the Rembrandt Gotemba was absolutely fantastic. Japanese food is definitely of the highest order.

Rembrandt Gotemba Menu

The views from the restaurant are stunning, my first glimpse of Mt Fuji as the clouds started to disappear, a magical memory.

Delicious

Fuji Kokusai Golf Club

Fuji course and Otome Course

https://www.fuji-golf.jp/fujikokusai/

The inspection of these two courses wetted the appetite to get the clubs out. This was a very well organised inspection. The managers of the golf course had organised that one of their caddies, Rosemarie was present as her English was exceptional.

What an amazing view, the 18th hole sweeping down from the hills to the club house.

We caught the golf course on a wonderfully clear day with Mt Fuji in spectacular display. Sat having lunch, which was very nice with excellent customer service and looking at the views of Mt Fuji and the sweeping, downhill 18th hole was a very enjoyable experience. Although I didn’t play the course it would be one to have on a golfing itinerary.

The colours on the course in November are wonderful

Shizuoka Golf Tourism seminar

To get to know a place you have to listen to the locals, the experts. Japan is so diverse, so many facets to it that you have to gain knowledge to have a small idea about this wonderful country.

The seminar was really helpful and really informative.  It showed again that Shizuoka has everything at it’s disposal to make this area a dominant player in the Golf Market.  All speakers were helpful and the information taken away was and will be very useful.

Gotemba Golf Club

https://www.gotembagolf.com/english/index.html

On these fantastic visits to fit everything in it is usual to play just 9 holes on some courses, to get a feel of it and to be able to report back with confidence. At Gotemba Golf Club I played the back 9 of this golf course and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Personally I like tree lined courses with a variety of different holes.  I also like different undulations and the different tests a golf course can bring.  This course was a test of golf.

Par 3 downhill at Gotemba Golf Course

Again we were looked after very well by ‘Mike’ who provided us with information about the course and the area.

Would easily have this on a golfing itinerary.

Inspection of Tokinosumika illumination

The illuminations were very nice and set in an area with lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It was extremely busy so it is obviously something that is big on the local calendar.

For something to do one evening in the area, something different at the time of year I went, it is certainly something to while away a few hours.

Fuji Country Club

https://www.fujicountryclub.com/

A joy, a pure joy to play. When you turn up at a golf course sometimes you just know it is going to be good. From walking in to the clubhouse, to getting to the fist tee everything was impeccable. It was actually the 10th tee I tee’d off from and this is what greeted you, a sweeping slight dog left with Mt Fuji on your right hand side.

A good 4 had on this hole, good holes always stick in the memory!

Again played the back 9 on this course and ‘JP’ the manager played with us. His English was very good which meant we learnt a lot about the course and the club itself. 

Hard life for JP as the General Manager of the Fuji Club, eyes closed nice and relaxed.

The course provides amazing views of Mt Fuji, extremely hard to concentrate on the golf, in a good way. I don’t think it gets much better than this.

Truly magnificent

Great hospitality, lovely food at the golf course, all round a very good venue, ticked all the boxes. The view for lunch was pretty amazing too.

How good does food and wine taste with this view?

Hotel Clad Inspection

https://www.gotemba-hotelclad.jp/

Hotel Clad is that new it wasn’t open when we were there, it was opening a couple of weeks later in time for Christmas. The only words are, can’t wait until it opens, it is a lovely modern hotel, just what the area requires.

This would be a great base to explore this area of Shizuoka.  It has everything one would want, very modern, great views, perfect.  The views from the lobby, the rooms, the sauna and the Onsen are mind blowing.

View from Hotel Clad Lobby
View from Hotel Clad Sauna (there are both male and female saunas).
View from the Onsen Hot Spring, think this will be enjoyable!!

Kirin Distillery Tour

https://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/gotemba/

As tours of a distillery goes it was extremely enjoyable, very nice whisky, a very good presentation via the video and an interactive tour through individual phones you are provided. Great technology to make the experience enjoyable for all.

Mars Garden Wood Hotel Gotemba

https://www.mars-gw.jp/

Lovely hotel, spacious, large rooms, great shower room.  Perfect.  It comes with a price though, so it may only suit some golf tourists.

The Teppan-yaki meal we had was just stunning, truly stunning, a must to have on an itinerary to see, touch and taste this Japanese style of cooking.

Not everyone’s taste, however superbly cooked in the hands of an expert.
Kobe Beef, a lot of money per kilo, magnificent taste.
This guy really knew what he was doing!

Temple Experience

The whole ritual from beginning to end was an enjoyable experience, quite fascinating.  To be involved in something so enshrined in the culture of Japan was a humbling experience.

A bit of Japanese writing, very cathartic

Laforet Shuzenji & Country Club.

https://www.laforet.co.jp/shuzenji_g/

A very enjoyable 9 holes were played here.  Again well sculptured holes, some risk and reward and some great par 3s.  Excellent, with a hotel on site or very near, perfect.

Par 3 at Laforet, you can see the two greens very clearly on this hole.
The course had an abundance of deer on it, pretty tame as well.

Laforet Marriott Hotel Shuzenji

https://www.laforet.co.jp/shuzenji_g/

A mixture of conference guests and tourists, the hotel though had a good feel about it. Adequate rooms, excellent food, buffet style plus chosen main course, a different concept.  The breakfast choice was excellent.

Great meeting her. This is a good venue with a good location.

Walking tour of Shuzenji and hotel tour

I had been fortunate on my last visit to Japan to stay in Shuzenji.  A most beautiful town/village.  It is a stand out place.  The hotel we toured was the hotel I stayed in so I knew it well.  A lovely, traditional complex.

Some great walks in Shuzenji taking you through some very picturesque areas.

I do remember the meal I had on the evening I stayed there, it was and still is the best meal I have ever had, truly memorable. 

This is a place to put on any itinerary in the area.

Just beautiful

Izu Heights Golf Course

http://www.izuheightsgolfclub.com/

Apart from Kawana Golf Course, which is stand out for many reasons, this course for me was the best we played, the layout of the course, the maintenance of the course, the clubhouse, the people, the views. 

Watch out for the sand, though they weren’t classed as Bunkers DJ!!

Does not get any better. On a itinerary?  You bet it would be. Such a variety of holes and elevations though you don’t feel like your on a hike, the holes seem to be placed across or down the hill rather than up it.

Magnificent views.

Get this on your list to tick off. Wonderful long range views of Mt Fuji as well.

Naka Izu Green Golf Course

Well this course is not too far behind Izu Heights as a favourite of mine.  Superb location, great layout, great condition, wonderful clubhouse with amazing views, the superlatives are endless. 

Long distance view of Mt Fuji

A definite.  Lunch was excellent, the service great as ever.

10th Green looking back at clubhouse

The meeting post golf was positive with an understanding of what was required for the golf tourist.

Deep in conversation!

Kawana Hotel

https://www.princehotels.co.jp/kawana/

I previously stayed here in September 2018.  A magical, old style place, which at the time, needed a room refurb.  Well it has had it, or most rooms have.  The uplift provides a very special place, great views of the coast and gardens from the room and dining areas. No photo’s from the course here unfortunately as it poured down and we had to come off…….

Just one of me stuffing my face again, King Prawn curry, a Kawana speciality and a few of the dinner we had with Motoki Fukui who is a great host and a great ambassador for Kawana Gold club. A special jewel in the crown.

Extremely enjoyable
How nicely presented!
Calorie express!!

Kawana Golf Course

Played twice, rained both times, not fair!  Third time lucky!  Not had the privilege of seeing Mt Fuji from the course but boy it must be magical.

The whole set up at Kawana is a number of steps in front of everything else I have seen in Shizuoka.

They have the marketing set up, the merchandise, the history, and yes as we found out the day we were there, now number 56 course in the world.

Obviously not cheap but one night and one round on the Fuji course at Kawana is a must in anyone’s itinerary.

Conclusion

So overall hopefully you can see from these few words and photo’s this is a special place, one to enjoy, one to get to understand and one to tick off on the must do life list.

Go with an open mind, it is different. Learn the basics of Japanese, especially Kanpai!

Japan will tickle all your senses and provide ever lasting memories. You will return very humbled.

Go do it, want more information? Get in touch, let Dream Golf Holidays help you spread the word.

Paul Mason

Dream Golf Holidays Ltd