Created for expats living in Japan

How to play golf in Japan

Do you long to play golf in Japan? Are you wondering what it’s like? How is it different from playing in your home country?

Japanese golf courses are sophisticated and well organized. A day at the golf course in Japan is very structured but enjoyable. Though there are no strange customs, to make your round and day go smoothly, it would be ideal to learn a bit about playing golf in Japan.

You can make reservations to attend the golf course via internet. In Japan having an official HCP card (Golf Handicap Card) is not necessary. That means, there is no handicap limit to play either.

Here’s how a day playing golf in Japan looks.

On Arrival - Check In

When traveling by car, please approach to the entrance directly upon reaching the golf course. There will be a few caddies waiting for you to drop off your golf bag. They will then bring it to a cart and set it inside for you. After dropping off your golf bag, you can then move your car to the parking area.

If you are traveling by train / bus, you have the option to send your golf bag to the course in advance by using a delivery company. When sending your golf bags ahead, make sure they arrive at least one day prior to your round date.

Upon entering the club house, go to the reservation area to check in. At the reservation area they will tell you your tee time and provide you with a locker key. The locker key has a number on it which will be used as your account number. Such uses for the locker key include having lunch and purchasing goods at a shop.

To use your locker key when making purchases simply show your locker key with number clearly visible and the purchase fee will be charged to the account connected to the key number. During check out, before leaving the golf course, you will pay the total amount charged to your account.

Arrive at the Starting Hole 10 Minutes Prior to Your Tee Time

There you will find your cart with your golf bag set inside. If your group has a caddie, she/he will be waiting for you with the cart. Normally the caddies are very knowledgeable about many aspects of the course. The caddies will drive the golf cart, hand you golf clubs, and find your balls for you if needed. When asking the caddies for their advice, they can provide you with distance related information as well as putting lines.

What are these sticks for ?

These sticks can be found near the the teeing grounds of Hole 1 and 10. These sticks are used for deciding the playing order of members in a group (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th). Each stick is numbered with lines from 1 to 4. As an example, if one were to pick up a stick with 2 lines on it, it would mean that they play second.

Golf Carts Stay on the Path

Using a golf cart is required at the majority of golf courses in Japan. The golf cart will be either electric (which you can freely control) or a remote controlled cart. Driving the golf cart on the fairway is prohibited on most golf courses. The only area in which you can drive is the designated cart path. At first it may be uncomfortable and troublesome to go to your ball and then walk all the way back to the cart to get the right club every time. Because of this, it is necessary to carry a few clubs with you when you walk to your ball.

If you are accustomed to walking with a golf trolley in your country, this system may be quite troublesome at first. There is a small golf bag called "Self Stand Club Case" which you can use to carry a few irons and a putter while you are walking on the fairway.

Have Lunch After First 9 Holes

At most Japanese golf courses, lunch time is pre-arranged. After the first 9 holes you will go back to the club house. Once back, they will tell you your tee off starting time for the 10th hole. The lunch break normally lasts about 50 minutes.

What to Do After Your Round

After playing the 18th hole you will then return to the club house. The caddies will help you with your golf bag by removing it from the cart and cleaning the clubs for you. Once they finish you will be asked to count your clubs, making sure they are all there. When you finish counting they will ask you to sign a piece of paper confirming that all golf clubs are there.

The next thing you will be asked is if you would like to bring your golf bag with you (for those driving) or have it sent home separately. If you would like to bring it back yourself, they will give you a small number plate that will be used later to exchange for your golf bag.

Before leaving, if you would like, you can take a bath/shower and relax at the restaurant with some drinks and snacks.

Check Out

When you are ready leave, visit the reception area to check out. There you will pay the total amount owed for the day. There are some golf courses that have a machine to handle these payments. Those who traveled by car will bring their car to the entrance and give the attendant the number plate in exchange for their golf bag.

How to Find Golf Courses in Japan

Here are useful English links to help in finding golf courses in Japan. You can also search for games to join.

Where to play golf in and around Tokyo

Golf in Japan

That is generally the flow of a day on a golf course in Japan. Sounds simple and easy, doesn't it?
Now you know what it's like to play golf in Japan. Enjoy your round!