Being a golfer in Tokyo was a nightmare until 10 years ago when the economic bubble blew up and the Japanese society started to get back sanity. But, now, as the supply and demand principle also reined by the Japanese golf world, things have changed dramatically. In some ways, living outside Tokyo, being a golfer is not as bad as being a golfer in NY.
First of all, it is not a closed world anymore.
Only a few super high grade courses, such as those that host a pro tournament, picked up by T+L accept members only. As the economic bubble break-down hit the golf industry, companies cut their budget of treating clients to golf courses. Now, most courses (probably more than 90%) in Tokyo vicinity can be played as a one-day visitor even though the courses call themselves private, only a few are truly private.
Second of all, it is not so expensive anymore.
As a visitor to a course, you have to pay more than the member price, but still the visitor green fee has dramatically went down in 10 years after Japan’s slow economy. Typically, it costs 14000-yen including a hot-bath and free carts on weekends. If you go on weekdays, deals are much greater, such as half price off weekend prices, plus free full lunch (Sushi, Tempura or Yakiniku). In NY, just the green fee sometimes costs 60 USD.
However, there are still some weak points.
Tokyo metropolitan area has hundreds of golf courses within one and half hours driving. But traffic is so heavy; some course which easily can be reached in one hour could take three hours during evening peak hours. Plus, the transportation cost is huge as gas prices and toll expressway are so costly.
Here is my recommendation:
Golf courses are not located in central Tokyo or Narita airport. So, maybe you want to try courses nearby Narita city. I think there are about 10 courses within 10 miles from Narita. If you share the taxi, it is easily accessible, and they have clubs and shoes rentals.
Here are some nearby courses at reasonable cost.
Weekday’s price is usually half of weekend prices.
Shibayama Golf Course (20 min. from Narita airport by taxi, about 2,500yen)
15,800 yen for weekend winter four some. Tel. 0479-77-4123
Photo modified from: http://www.pacificgolf.co.jp/kyo/index.asp
I think, in general, golf course staffs do not speak English, but courses nearby Narita may speak,as I guess Some crews may play golf there between their flights.
1. 99% of Japanese golf courses have hot spas and it is included in the golf round fee.
2. Play o n weekdays.
3. Weekends are VERY busy and hard to book unless you book well in advanced or drive more than one and half hours,
4. Plus even if you can book, it usually takes 3 hours for 9 holes and 1hour lunch time and 3 hours for another 9 holes.
5. Unlike the US, very few courses let you play through 18 holes.
6. Lunch is kind of mandatory and it is sitting in restaurants and not cheap like hot dogs stands in the US.
7. They sell draft beer in the restaurants, but in most cases beer is hard to get, unlike in the US.
8. Some courses have a shuttle bus from a nearby JR station (only one or two in the morning).
Visit Japan National Tourist Organization’s (JNTO) North America’s site to find more about golf in Japan: http://www.japantravelinfo.com/outdoor/
I've found your tips at the bottom of the page very helpful. I'm going to Japan on a business trip, but I know I'm also going to have a lot of spare time. My thought is that maybe I can find a golf course in the area that I'll be staying. From your tips it looks like by paying the fee I can also get a spa trip. I'll have to see what my boss thinks about this. http://www.willoughbygolfclub.com/club/scripts/library/view_document.asp?GRP=15014&NS=M&APP=80&DN=CORPMEMP