Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 16 : May/June 2007  > Columns  >  Play!  >  Golf in Japan



By Bennett Galloway

Golf in Japan


Game On!

With the golf season is well underway, it’s time to get yourself ready to challenge one of the 2,340 courses in Japan.

Whether you’ve remained active or been on the couch since ski season, warming up your body for golf is important.

The first thing to consider is not just warming up before your first round, but starting an exercise routine a few weeks in advance.

Running or walking three to four times a week for 20 to 30 minutes a day or taking up some other type of light aerobic conditioning is a great way to prevent injuries while improving your stamina, allowing you to focus on your game and not just the location of the beer cart! Before taking that first ambitious swing of the morning, remember that a cold body is less flexible and muscle tissues are more likely to tear, so you should begin warming your body's temperature even before stretching.

The couch potato might head straight for the onsen (hot spring) – which actually isn’t a bad idea – but some light calisthenics like jumping jacks or jogging in place will suffice. Once your blood starts circulating you can begin your stretching routine focusing on your shoulders, torso (mainly lower back), groin and legs

Now, to really isolate and stretch those swing specific muscles begin with some mini-swings with an iron by keeping it waist level at first, then slowly increasing the radius to a full swing. Next, grab another iron and swing both of them to really amplify the affect and stretch things out.

Note: be sure your body has readjusted to the feel of swinging one club before taking your first shot or your timing will be affected.

Perfect Posture

Ease your body back into shape by starting off on the right foot with proper posture. Challenge yourself to achieve perfect posture during your set-up on every shot this year and you’ll drastically improve your chances of hitting the ball well.

Good posture, a proper stance and a bio-mechanically correct swing will keep you in the game longer by reducing the chances of a lower back injury while improving your overall consistency.

Rounded posture and a drooping head are often the root causes of many hit shots. Ideally your spine should be as straight as possible. In fact, you should be able to lay an iron flat on your back and have your head touching the grip while the toe of the club head touches your tailbone.

This position will put less stress on your lower back and help stop unnecessary up and down “bobbing” as your spine straightens mid-swing, or remains rounded (bent), causing lateral sliding as you rotate through the swing.

Both of these phenomena usually result in the club head not returning to its original position, which almost guarantees poor impact. An easy image to help you achieve good posture is that of a tennis player getting ready to return a serve. You should feel ready to push off to the left or right laterally while your weight should slightly favor your instep on both feet. You will notice that this image automatically gets your knees bent and your spine nice and straight and provides a natural forward tilt. “The proof is in the pudding,” as my grandmother used to say.

So make sure you start the season off right by giving yourself the best possible chance to perform well and you will see lasting, positive results all year.

Bennett Galloway is a teaching professional and member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He is currently the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao Golf Club, in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji.

Degrees of Se"par"ation

Name: Robin Ord-Smith
Occupation: Director of Trade Promotion, British Embassy Tokyo What’s in your bag?
Driver: Mizuno MP3;
Irons: Mizuno MP60;
Putter: Odyssey Tri-Ball;
Ball: Callaway HX Tour
Favorite course in the world: Kings Course, Gleneagles, Scotland
Favorite course in Japan: Hirono – Sunningdale, Hyogo

How often do you tee it up?
Not often enough. Only twice this year so far.

Who’s playing with you in your dream foursome? Ernie Els. Wonderful swing, a real gentleman and great to talk to. Luke Donald. Silky smooth swing, the next Brit to win a major. And Arnold Palmer.

Signature Hole

Windsor Park Golf and Country Club
PAR 5 / 542 YARDS
Web: www.wpgcc.com

This challenging closing hole finishes right in front of the clubhouse. Sensibly, it’s played as a “three-shotter” since a large lake guards two thirds of the approach to the green.

However, there is a temptation to “go for it” if the drive clears the hill and runs down the slope towards the green. You’ll need about a 300-yard drive to do so though. A mid-iron or high fairway metal towards the left side of the fairway is the smart play leaving a wedge or short iron over the water to the green. —Jim Fletcher, General Manager, WPGCC

Golf Quote

“Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at.” —Jimmy DeMaret

Tale of the Tee, The Numbers Game

172 The number of golf courses in Hokkaido; the most courses of any prefecture in Japan. Followed by Hyogo (156), Chiba (154), Tochigi (139) and Ibaraki (126).

41,000 In yen, the greens fee (including caddie) for 18 holes at Shizuoka’s Taiheyo Club Gotemba Golf Course – the most expensive greens fee in Japan.

299.46 In yards, the average driving distance of Mamo Osanai, the 2006 men’s Japan Golf Tour’s 2006 driving leader.

3,000 – 4,000 The price it costs in yen to play at a number of courses in rural areas throughout Japan, many run by municipalities. Around Tokyo you could find many courses in the ¥5,000-¥7,000 range on a weekday without caddie.

For more course data and details visit www.golf-in.japan.com.