Influenced by the work that Hugh Alison carried out in Japan during the 1930s, architect Osamu Ueda designed the 18-hole layout at Ono Golf Club in 1961 and it’s often regarded as the sister course to the fabled Hirono Golf Club.
Situated around an hour’s drive from Kobe, the fairways of Ono’s lovely woodland course are set out on rather hilly terrain, especially those on the back nine. Several ponds come into play with holes 7 to 9 wrapped around a lake and there’s further aquatic challenge at the closing two holes.
A number of subtle little attributes are employed at Ono – like the placement of lone specimen trees to define driving options (most notably at the 7th and 11th) and back to front sloped greens which make great demands on putting skills (such as at the 2nd and 16th) – and these features add considerable interest to proceedings.
The par threes are all testing holes, with the 245-yard 5th, which plays over a Japanese Pine garden, being the only one that doesn’t require a water carry from tee to green. The pick of the one-shot holes though is the 200-yard 17th (“Emerald Lake”), where the sand-protected green on the other side of a lovely little pond is a tiny target from the tee.
The course at Ono Golf club is a tree-lined parkland course set on a hill, surrounded by beautiful landscape. Each hole is completely separated by mature trees and sometimes by lakes. Almost all greens are elevated and protected by deep bunkers which require players to hit precise approach shots. The course makes full use of the indigenous local planting, making players feel as though they are in a Japanese garden. The front 9 is less undulating and utilizes large Lake Camo (in Japanese “duck”) to border on Hole 7, 8 and 9. The back 9 has more ups and downs, with fairways flanked by tall pine trees. All par 3s are good, all par 4s are strong, and all par 5s are set on dynamic terrain. The greens are nicely contoured, fast and firm.
The designer, Osamu Ueda helped to build Hirono GC in 1932 as an assistant of C.H. Alison when he was a college boy. In 1934 Ueda was asked to go to Berlin Olympic as a swimming referee, and had a great opportunity to visit a lot of great courses in Europe, mainly in Great Britain to learn about links and heathland courses for several months. The experiences have surely helped him to establish his own course designing style, a mixture of British design philosophies and local Japanese ones. He eventually designed 56 good courses throughout Japan and one of the best is Ono Golf Club.
The par 5 540-yard 9th is a great hole with a slight dogleg to the left. Off the tee, players will notice an OB lake on the right and a pine forest on the left. There is a lake from the 110-yard mark in front of the green to its front edge. The green complex together with water in front and the pine trees at rear loos beautiful. The par 5 570-yard 11th is an "S" shaped beautiful hole that bends slightly to the right before gently curving to the left. Players should note that on the second shot, the OB zone on the left is in play.
The careful course management, where and how long to hit each shot, is needed to have a good score. The green is two-tiered with a strong slope. The par 3 185-yard par 3 is a little downhill, picturesque hole over a valley. Players will feel as though they are at a Japanese garden from the tee box. To read more about Ono Golf Club, click here to visit my website.