November 4th, 1999 @ a golf course in Chiba.
Waitress: What would you like?
Me: I'll have toast and coffee please
Golfing partner 1: A mug of beer please
Golfing partner 2: Me too
Golfing partner 3: Lemon Sour please
It was 7.30am on a Thursday morning and I was experiencing my first taste of
golf, Japan style. 'I'm going to enjoy living here,' I thought to myself.
I resisted the urge to change my breakfast order that morning, but over the
course of the day, sank just about as many beers as I did putts and shot a
score I'm too embarrassed to admit to here.
Still, I had a fantastic day and was introduced to a world of golf markedly different from what I was used to but nevertheless, a world I was certainly keen to experience again; slap up lunches halfway through the round; female caddies old enough to be your grandmother and some weird competition system called shin peria that allows even the worst of golfers the chance of walking away with a prize: It's golf Tiger, but not as we know it.
When I was growing up, I remember reading with amazement all the stories of exorbitant green fees, million dollar golf memberships and Japanese golfers going crazy for diamond-encrusted putters. And for a teenage Scot paying the princely sum of 85 pence (120 yen) for a round of golf, these stories were hard to believe.
Certainly, during Japan's bubble economy, golf was indeed a ridiculously expensive pastime to have. Some weekend warriors would think nothing of spending ¥100,000 on a days golf and in my time here, I've met a few misguided souls who spent ¥10m+ on memberships that sadly for them, are worth only a fraction today.
But things have changed a lot since then and golf is much more affordable and open than it used to be. These days you can get in 18 holes of golf for as little as ¥4,000 with lunch included if you play on a weekday. Sure, there are still golf courses around that'll happily relieve you of ¥30-40,000 but with a little research, it's easy to find good courses to play that won't break the bank.
So if you're interested in teeing it up, don't be put off by horror tales of $500 rounds. Leave your anxieties in the locker room and step out onto the lush green fairways.
If you're interested in teeing it up or for more information on golf in Japan, please visit: gaijingolfers.com
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010