From Tokyo you can often see the iconic Mount Fuji on the horizon.
Although Mount Fuji is almost 100km from Tokyo its almost perfectly symmetrical cone shape, rising 3,700 meters (12,000 ft.), is a well know symbol of Japan.
Whether you will be one of the hundreds of thousands attending the Olympics or just planning a visit to Japan – bring your clubs. It’s guaranteed that if you don’t you will be kicking yourself in the butt…and hard.
Unlike for the Brazil Olympics, golf is extremely popular in Japan. No need to build any new facilities. There are more than enough world class options to choose from in a land where golf is lifestyle and tradition. At one time there were so many golfers in Japan that inbound golf tourism to Japan was not even a consideration. That is no longer the case and traveling golfers are more the welcome. I can tell you from my two weeks in the country that the golf product is top notch and comparable in cost to the US. I can also tell you that nowhere will you find a more welcoming culture and maybe the best food in the world.
The Kasumigaseki Country Club, the site for the Olympics (in Kawagoe City), has been around for 90 years and is one of Japan’s most exclusive clubs. It has been hosting what is now known as the World Cup since 1957.
Mount Fuji, west of Tokyo, is in a region of Japan known as the Shizuoka Prefecture. Nagoya is another major city also an hour or so away. The capital city is Shizuoka City and from Tokyo the region is conveniently connected by the ever so efficient Bullet Train. There are over 90 courses in this region and one for sure is a bucket lister!!!
The Fuji Course at Kawana Hotel is currently ranked as #68 in the world and it is everything that you would expect of a course with such a ranking would be. The anticipation begins as you are perched about 100 ft. above the first fairway gazing at the seaside green.
Designed in 1936 by C.H. Alison, it is a masterpiece on a land formation that you might think nothing much was required to be done but stick in the flags! Alison took advantage of all he had to work with, cliff top panoramic views and the Pacific Ocean. The front nine blends in views of the ocean with tree lined fairways, fairways are rolling to say the least, some humpbacked for good measure. Greens are smallish and plateaued, not to be taken for granted and of course watch out for the Mount Fuji affect! www.princehotels.co.jp/kawana
As we strolled the fairways and the gentle breeze turned into a formidable wind along the pacific shoreline, Mother Nature began to reveal the iconic symbol that we had all been waiting for – Mount Fuji.
The back nine fairways are little more generous, but then the ocean views from the 11th to 16th become more of a distraction, oh darn.
Some of my favorites…11th, 568 yard downhill par 5 with Mt Fuji staring down at you. The hole takes you Oceanside to a lighthouse (some claim in the shape of a tee) overlooking the green.
Holes 12 through 15 take you along an uphill ridge to somewhat of a crescendo being the 15th tee box. The cliff top tee box of 15 might be 150 ft. above the fairway ahead and perhaps 250 ft. or more the decent to the ocean immediately to the left.
Hole 15, the signature hole and undoubtedly one of the most intimidating, challenging and photographed in the world, is a 480 yard par 5, ocean left to eventually ,moving you to the elevated green that you can barely see. My only birdie of the day!
The 16th tee box is your last look at the Ocean (from the course anyway, do turn around). Another challenging uphill par 3, 172 yards to a green perched hilltop. Think ‘postage stamp’!
The Fuji Course and Kawana Hotel setting can’t help but give you that Pebble Beach feeling. Lo and behold, it has been labeled the Pebble Beach of Japan! But a round on the Fuji Course is only in the $300.00 range!
Kawana Hotel, also opened in 1936, is a timeless retreat with an English country estate feel. Rooms are lavish and available in both Western and Japanese styles and if you’re lucky you might have one with a balcony opening up to views of the Pacific. LOL I did! The who’s who from around the world have been here, be it Japanese Prime Ministers or Hollywood stars like Marilyn Munroe, John Wayne and even Gary Player!
Kawana offers worldwide cuisine. The Main Dining Room serves true French cuisine featuring seasonal dishes prepared with local ingredients, while the Grill caters for casual western style dishes and fresh seafood. Authentic Japanese cuisine is served at Inakaya.
A haven for golfers, the Kawana Hotel has a second course on property. The original, and still one of the most well-known, the Oshima Course was opened in 1928. Considered the public golf course, as you are not required to stay on property to play, with just under 6,000 yards, fairways that are gently rolling taking you along the blue waters of Sagami Bay. Unlike the Fuji Course, caddies are not mandatory.
Our travels through Shizuoka also allowed us to tee it up on a couple of other area courses, Susono Country Club and Fuji Country Club. Both offer-up meticulously maintain courses with elevation changes and panoramic views with a glimpse of Mount Fuji around every corner and always a treat.
Fuji Country Club is a little shorted and tighter with a greater emphasis on the short game. One of the oldest clubs in the area, the clubhouse is a beautiful wood and stone structure that opened in 1958.
Susono Country Club is a semi-private club that is more of a bombers course with generous landing areas off the tee. Over 7,000 yards in length, 18 holes were carved out in a parcel of land originally intended for 27. The 14th, a lengthy par 4 with water short left and also on the right side of the green, as well as the 185 yard par 3, 17th all carry, are most memorable.
The Shizuoka Region is particularly known for the quality of Wasabi produced and is the largest producer of Green Tea in Japan. This region is also referred to as Japan’s Riviera is so much more than a tea toddler’s paradise!
The scenic Izu Peninsula and Atami are renowned for their hot springs, while southern Shizuoka also sports wonderful beaches. And if you want to do some shopping, the Gotemba Premium Outlets (close to the Kawana Hotel) contain over 200 stores.
There’s no shortage of good food in Shizuoka, as some of Japan’s best seafood can be found there. Craft beer and distilleries have also become very popular here too! But in japan you can also add Sake breweries to your list! For those of us not so into crafty products – don’t forget Japan is where Sapporo comes from!
The Mount Fuji area (Shizuoka) or any part of Japan for that matter will be one of the most memorable trips you will ever make. Sparkling coastlines, approximately 2,400 golf courses on a relatively small island, some of the best food, sushi, sake, beef you will find anywhere, culture, history…no more of my rambling! Just do it!
For more information on visiting the Shizuoka area of Japan you might want to contact a good old transplanted Canadian boy with whom I had the pleasure of playing the Fuji Course with, Bennett Galloway. Bennett.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.golf-shizuoka.com
For an inbound operator who could assist with all destinations within Japan you could visit Japan Golf Travelers Club www.japangolftravelers.jp/ another good friend Shuhei Togano email@example.com
There are a number of Prince Hotel properties throughout Japan many with golf courses and some without, but close by…..whatever your flavor there is likely one for you! www.princehotels.co.jp