Japan

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Japan is a country of surprises, formality, exemplary manners, reliable cars, sumo wrestling and sushi. The Japanese people are also proud of their four seasons, which can be quite extreme in terms of weather conditions. This is why many Japanese courses have dual greens, one for summer and one for winter.

Japan consists of four main islands, Hokkaido in the north, Honshu, the main island, Shikoku and southernmost Kyushu. Additionally, there are many smaller islands, notably Okinawa.

There are more golf courses in Japan than the rest of Asia put together. With nearly 2,500 courses (and many more driving ranges), the Japanese are serious golf lovers and they have built some of the world’s finest courses. The entire tapestry and the full legacy of Japanese golf courses is hard to unravel, but thanks to our contributors from the Land of the Rising Sun, we are able to showcase a selection of the finest courses in the country.

From the book World Atlas of Golf: the greatest courses and how they are played, edited by Mark Rowlinson: “Japan’s love of the game began when the British expatriate Arthur Groom built the Kobe Golf Club in 1903. Set in the cool mountains above Kobe, the course helped create a love affair with the game that few golfing regions can rival. In fact, only the United States boasts more ground for golf than this small island nation. A century later, Japan’s greatest golf courses are not only the best group of courses in Asia but also among the world’s best.

A similar effect to Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s short visit to Australia in 1926 was felt in Japan after British architect Charles Alison arrived in 1930 and went on to have a profound impact on Japanese golf course architecture. His first course – Tokyo GC [NLE] – opened in 1932 and was widely hailed as the country’s first outstanding one. From there, Alison tacked south to the seaside estate of Baron Kishichiro Okura, named Kawana. The rocky coastline perched high above the sea offered Alison one of the most diverse and spectacular sites he was ever offered. Given the lack of natural soil on site, Alison worked hard to route a golf course at Kawana that today features dramatic elevation changes and some truly world-class holes.

Further travels through Japan led Charles Alison to his pièce de résistance Hirono, outside Kobe. Hirono today has been softened from its rugged beginnings. But it remains without a doubt the best course in Asia and is also Alison’s lasting legacy. Other notable courses, including Kasumigaseki Country Club and Nauro Golf Club, benefited from Alison’s visit. The esteem in which Charles Alison is held in Japan is reflected in the Japanese term for a deep bunker, which is simply an ‘Alison’.”

We updated Japan's rankings in March 2020. Full details are here: Top 80 Golf Courses of Japan 2020

Top 100 Golf Courses - Japan

Hirono

1st Japan Ranking

Hirono Golf Club has played host to all the major Japanese championships and, although it measures a mere 6,925 yards from the back tees, it’s a supreme test of golf.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Kawana (Fuji)

2nd Japan Ranking

There are two courses on the Izu Peninsula at the Kawana Resort and the Fuji course is universally considered to be the best.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Naruo

3rd Japan Ranking

Naruo shares all the traditional aspects of Japan’s older golf clubs. The continuity in tradition here is maintained by the 700 members whose average age is 71.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Tokyo

4th Japan Ranking

You’ll need an invite to play here at Tokyo Golf Club but if you are lucky enough to receive one, take it immediately. This is a world-class golf course that is mature way beyond its years.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Yokohama (West)

5th Japan Ranking

Yokohama Country Club was founded in 1960 and over the following six years architect Takeo Aiyama designed and built both the East and West 18-hole layouts.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Ono

6th Japan Ranking

Influenced by Charles Alison, Osamu Ueda designed the course at Ono Golf Club in 1961 and it’s often regarded as the sister course to the fabled Hirono Golf Club. Host to the Japan Open in 1969, Ono is a testy track.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Kasumigaseki (East)

7th Japan Ranking

The East course at Kasumigaseki Country Club employs the traditional Japanese dual green system, one for the winter and one for the summer, which takes a bit of getting used if you’re not familiar with this feature.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Abiko

8th Japan Ranking

Yoshiro Hayashi won the Japan Open Golf Championship here at Abiko Golf Club way back in 1950, but the club hosted the Japan Women's Open Golf Championship as recently as 2009.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Oarai

9th Japan Ranking

Oarai is known by knowledgeable golfers as the location of Oarai Golf Club, one of the best golf courses in Japan.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

Koga

10th Japan Ranking

Koga Golf Club hosted the 62nd Japan Open, won by Australian Craig Parry with a score of two over par for the competition.

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Average Reviewers Score:
TaylorMade

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