The tourist town of Oarai lies to the north east of Tokyo and it’s well known for the aquatic attractions of its beach, marina and aquarium. Oarai is also known by knowledgeable golfers as the location of Oarai Golf Club, one of the best golf courses in Japan.
Created in 1953 by the respected designer Seiichi Inoue, Oarai is one of only a few seaside courses in all of Japan, laid out on the shores of the Pacific with many of its wide fairways doglegged and lined by age-old black pine trees.
Despite the shelter afforded by many trees around the course, strong winds off the ocean can badly affect good scoring at Oarai, as many professionals discovered when playing the Japan Open here in 1998 – not that the sea breezes prevented Hidemichi Tanaka from winning the competition for the first time.
Oarai Golf Club is a seaside forest course facing the Pacific Ocean. The course is characterized by long fairways lined by age-old tall pine trees, some very difficult dog-leg holes and undulating big greens. Relentless wind from the ocean influences the game. All holes except the 16th par 3 are set parallel to the seashore. Years of sea winds blowing through each hole created artistic designs on the pine branches. As a result, the big pines hang over fairways severely on many holes and act as “hazards in the air”, limiting the fairways. Consequently, you are forced under considerable visual pressure. Fairway bunkers are very few in spite of the Seiichi Inoue design. This is due to the fact that pines seemingly form more severe hazards than fairway bunkers. Also he did not have to make them because in fact the course was developed on the seashore and sea sands were chopped out everywhere through the greens. You need to not only hit very accurate tee shots to either half of the narrow fairways but also have full command of low balls, fades and draws in order to make a good score.
The par 4 450-yard 5th is a tough hole that bends slightly to the right. You will be very happy with a par on this hole. Big pines hang over the right side of the fairway. If you slice your tee shot (for right-hand hitters), even a little, you will find the ball in the trees and end up losing a stroke. Unless you drive to the left half of the fairway, you can’t aim at the green on the second shot. If you hit the green in regulation and the ball is far away from the pin, there is a high risk of a 3-putt because of the strong slope from back to the front.
Seiichi Inoue is the most famous Japanese golf course architect who designed 40 courses in Japan and 2 courses overseas. The Oarai GC is his best work. Seiichi was greatly inspired by Charles Alison, a designer of the world-famous Hirono and Kawana. (Fuji Course). Seiichi stayed at Kawana Hotel for his medical treatment at 22 years old, and Charles coincidentally just completed the Fuji Course. They didn’t meet but the greatness of Fuji Course made him aspire to be a course designer. While influenced by Charles Alison, Seiichi perused his own original course designs to complement the natural features of Japan.