A Rich Paradise, Where Seas and Mountains Meet!
If you are planning your first trip to Japan with golf on your mind, there is one thing that you need to know. There is so much great golf and so much history, culture, attractions and distractions around the golf, that before you finish planning your first trip you will likely be planning your next.
I had my first planned out for me, but as I write this I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about going back in the couple of months since I have been back home!
From a tourism perspective, Japan is divided into 47 Prefectures (regions). Other than spending a few days in Tokyo, and everyone should do that, Mie Prefecture is about an hour flight from Tokyo in the south/central part of Japan. It was our first stop and it just so happens to have 60 plus courses. Tsu City is the capital city of the region.
Note: Although many of the clubs mentioned are private in Japan, many private clubs are opening their doors to international traveling golfers.
Our first round was at the luxurious and private Nagashima Country Club. The moment you step on the first tee you realize that although you are on one of many islands and surrounded by water, the terrain is anything but flat. The northern part of the region has a spectacular setting with the Yoro Mountains to the north and the Suzukarange to the west, with the sparkling ocean bordering the east.
As with most country clubs in Japan, the clubhouse is lavish, with all the amenities anyone could ask for including Japanese baths. The 27-hole complex is the design of Hideo Sugimoto who takes full advantage of terrain and elevation changes. All the courses we visited were meticulously maintained and these particular rolling fairways led to large undulating greens protected by white sand bunkers and strategic ponding.
The Nagashima Resort puts you right next to the ocean. With three hotels in the resort you have options in styles and price points. The Hotel Hanamizuki is the 5-star facility and Japanese style service with hot spring and spa facilities available. Rooms are in both western and Japanese tatami floor with futon bed styles. The Hotel Nagashima and the Hotel Olive each offer similar amenities, but with a slightly lesser star rating and services as the price point changes.
CLICK HERE for Things to Do around the Nagashima Resort.
Next up for us was the Tsu Country Club where pride of ownership exudes from the moment you walk through the doors. Another private club which welcomes some outside play. To that extent they have recently opened the Katada Lodge – a series of villas adjacent the 18th green.
This Jumbo Ozaski design takes full advantage of the terrain with dramatic elevation changes, large undulating greens and even larger bunkers here and there to keep you on your toes through your round.
When you think of food in Japan it is most common to think of seafood and generally sushi comes to mind. Certainly does with me, but the unique specialty in this area is Matsusaka beef – highly sought after, produced in small quantities and, unlike Kobe, it is not permitted to be exported.
If Ninjas are your thing, this area (Iga City) was the birthplace of the Ninjas and the Ninja Museum gives you an insight into their culture, weapons, visit the museum , dress up like one and even enjoy a Ninja show.
A most impressive, clubhouse awaits you at the Fuji OGM Excellent Club Ise-otori Course, the 9th hole features a floating island green. The lake which also surrounds the clubhouse has a boat ready to take you back to the clubhouse for the turn.
Intimidated by water? You are going to have a long day, but a visually stimulating day as five holes are laid out around this massive lake and that is not the only water on the course.
Once you have navigated the lake on the 18th it is back to the lavish clubhouse where you will be made to feel like a “king for a day.”
We were on the move to Toba, located between the Ise and Shima areas. A beautifully region sculpted by nature with views of Ise Bay and surrounding islands. A couple of must does here at which you will see the hard work of Japan’s women of the sea!
We stayed overnight at Toba Seaside Hotel. A unique experience it was not only because our entire group of 60 plus were instructed to dress in our provided Yukata robes for dinner, but on this particular evening we had a typhoon blow through. We were assured that our hotel was an extremely safe place under the circumstances. Of course we believed in what we were told, also that typhoons were not like hurricanes that could last for days. Typhoons just move on through. For a good part of the afternoon we overlooked Toba Bay, drinking white wine as the winds picked up and the swaying of the trees increased. By the time the storm moved out we were onto desert and red wine.
To see other things to do around Toba CLICK HERE.
Next morning we teed it up at Nemu Golf Club and even with a typhoon having blown through, the course had drained, some twigs and leaves left evidence of the storm but it turned out to be a beautiful day!
It was the perfect course to host our pre-convention tournament. This gem was recently designed by a team which included Champions Tour player Steve Pate and four time winner on the LPGA Tour, Japan’s own Hiromi Kobayashi. A total rerouting and reshaping of the course provides many more spectacular ocean views.
This is another seaside course that is anything but flat and a fun layout to play. Parkland in style with many elevation changes, rolling fairways, many lined with Japanese style fir trees while leading past white sand bunkers and strategically place ponds to large fair greens.
With this round in the books we were off to the 1st IAGTO Japan Golf Tourism Convention which was hosted by the prestigious Shima Kanko Hotel which in 2016 hosted the G7 Summit.
The entire Shima peninsula has an irregular saw toothed coastline which is perfect for oyster cultivation and lobster fishing. With the hundreds of inlets and coves protected with pine and subtropical vegetation it is often referred to as a smugglers paradise. Wonder if that is why it was perfect for the G7?
The luxurious Shima Kanko Hotel has on many occasions played host to The Imperial Royal Family of Japan. A timeless property harmonized with nature at its doorstep. The hotel boasts elegant décor on the inside while providing one of the best sunsets overlooking Ago Bay on the outside.
CLICK HERE to see the ‘must do’s’ in Ise City
I don’t think that I can say that one Prefecture is better than another to start you journey into Japan. The Japanese people are heartwarming, provide exceptional hospitality and the entire country has an abundance of delectable cuisine. Certainly Mie has an abundance of golf, will provide the unique taste of history, culture, and flavors that will temp you to make that next trip to Japan!
For more information on golf in Japan and the Mie Prefecture:
Mie Golf Tourism Association: www.MIEGolfTourism.jp
Japan Golf Travelers Club: www.JapanGolfTravelers.jp
Japan Golf Tourism Association: www.jpgta.jp