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​Top 50 Golf Courses of Japan 2018

01 March, 2018

Top 50 Golf Courses of Japan 2018

It’s almost eighteen months since we published our last Japanese article, the Top 30 Golf Courses of Japan 2017, so that particular biennial chart was not due to be updated for another six months. However, having just produced our first ranking list for the Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia, which contained twenty-eight courses from the Land of the Rising Sun, we decided it’s now time to refresh the national standings for Japan.

The big news is that the chart has been expanded from a Top 30 to a Top 50 and for that we must thank our International Consultant Masa Nishijima, who looks after a large network of contributors assisting him with the maintenance of the national listings. Masa has been advising us for many years now and we’re grateful for his extensive knowledge across a golf rich country with around 2,500 courses in play.

Hirono Golf Club is still our number 1 and it holds off the challenge of the Fuji course at Kawana, which remains in the runner-up position. That’s how things have been at the top of the table for nearly a decade now, with these two courses hogging all the limelight, and who’s to say it won’t be the shape of things to come for the foreseeable future?

Each of these 1930s designs from Harry Colt’s associate, C.H. Alison, occupy positions in the top half of our World Top 100 so they’re obviously a class apart from the others. Both layouts have changed quite a bit since they were first built, largely due to tree growth narrowing the playing corridors, but the deep sand traps (known to this day as “Alison bunkers”) remain as fearsome as ever in the modern era.

Climbing three places to number 3, the West course at Yokohama Country Club continues its meteoric rise in our charts – it’s also just entered our World Top 100 – thanks to an extensive renovation carried out recently by the design partnership of Coore and Crenshaw when they virtually rebuilt the course, eliminating the old two-green system for single greens with sub-air cooling.

Fergal O’Leary, our US Consultant, played here last year and had this to say: “It absolutely knocked the socks off me... the greens are truly remarkable, with Coore personally crafting the contours, the bunkering is arguably their best ever, and the undulating land is perfectly suited for swooping wide fairways and large aprons surrounding the greens… it is a seriously impressive and thrilling golf course worthy of global acclaim.”

Another course advancing three places is the 18-hole layout at Nikko Country Club (now ranked number 11), situated an hour’s drive north of Tochigi. Originally designed by Seiichi Inoue, former assistant of Kinya Fujita who worked with Hugh Alison during his short time in Japan at the start of the 1930s, the course was modified by Taizo Kawata at the start of the new millennium. It’s an understated track with no water hazards, less than forty bunkers, and tree-lined fairways set as two returning loops, with those on the back nine playing clockwise to the counter-clockwise holes on the outward half.

The other fifteen courses to make an upward move in the chart all rise just one place, except for two courses, both of which soar eight spots to their new position in the listings. The first of these is Hokkaido Classic (now #18), an early 1990s Jack Nicklaus Signature course near Sapporo – which is just one of around thirty tracks designed by the Golden Bear in Japan – and the second course lies 2,000 kilometers further south at Phoenix Country Club (now #20) in Miyazaki, where the club has hosted the prestigious Dunlop Phoenix Tournament since 1973.


To view further details of our newly extended Japan Top 50 chart click the link.

We’re always happy to receive feedback after re-ranking our national standings so please make use of the “Respond to this article” link at the top or the bottom of this page if you have any strong views on our Top 50 for Japan.

By all means tell us what we’ve got right or what might be improved. Top 100 Golf Courses has never claimed to produce “definitive” listings but we do think we publish the “most informed” rankings so every contribution that you submit counts.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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