The city of Chiba is located less than an hour’s drive east of downtown Tokyo and Takanodai Country Club lies just to the north of this busy seaport, handling a large proportion of the cargo that enters and leaves Japan annually.
The course once lay on the outskirts of the city but, as Chiba expanded outwards, residential development now surrounds the perimeter though housing remains largely out of sight, thanks to the screening provided by the mature trees that now line the fairways.
Formed in 1954, the club engaged the nation’s top architect, Seiichi Inoue, to lay out an 18-hole course for the members and he employed the dual green system which is still in use today, with golfers playing to korai or bent greens, depending on the season.
Notable holes include the right doglegged par four 5th (rated stroke index 1), the shortest of the four par three holes at the 171-yard 15th and the longest par five on the card at the 606-yard 14th, which is ranked as the most difficult hole on the back nine. After recent lengthening, Takanodai now measures more than 7,100 yards from the back markers.
The Japan Open has been held here on four occasions, the last time in 2011 when Bae Sang-moon became the third South Korean golfer to win the event following a playoff win against Kenichi Kuboya.
Takanodai was designed by Seiichi Inoue (Japan’s top architect) in 1954. It is 7,132 yards, par 72. The Japan Open has been held at TCC four times, most recently in 2011. The winning score was only two under par.
We were on the first tee at 8:56 a.m. walking with caddie. The terrain here is basically flat with the occasional up or down slope. The club is in a quiet suburban area with the boundary of the course enclosed by tall mature trees that also border each hole. Some holes are tight with trees close to the fairway. There are some individual trees strategically placed — for example, in the middle of a fairway or acting as goal posts. Out-of-bounds occasionally comes into play.
There are no water hazards and only 54 bunkers (some deep and nasty). Other bunkers pinch in front of a few greens, most of which are elevated with imaginative shapes. The sizes vary from small to large to huge. Their contours are modest, with gradual slopes being the major challenge. The course has a dual green system – Kori (like old Bermuda) grass during the hot summer season and Bent grass during the cooler months.
It was a pleasure to play here as the compactness of the design made for an easy walk. After playing I thought the design was really good considering the flatness of the terrain. In all, it was a great way to start the trip and recover from some jet lag.