Golf courses in Japan have multiplied at a surprisingly fast rate over the years taking up much of the little land available, squeezed in wherever possible. Golf in Japan is enormously popular and, on top of the many courses around the country, there are a huge array of driving ranges too. Driving ranges often take the place of a course because access to courses can be difficult given distance, cost, or both. Driving ranges can be identified from a mile away, cloaked by huge green nets that protect the surrounding environment. The nets come in especially handy as many driving ranges are built in the middle of cities like Tokyo where there are more than 80 driving ranges, and Kyoto where there are roughly 25.
Some of the best golfing in Japan is at the Kawana Resort in Ito. Often called the Pebble Beach of Japan, Kawana Hotel features two of the best golf courses in Japan, incorporated on a cliff side bordering the Pacific Ocean and showcasing the legendary Mount Fuji in the backdrop. The two courses—Oshima and Fuji—were designed in 1928 and 1932 by Otani Komyo and Charles H. Allison respectively.
Champion golf in Japan can also be found in Miyazaki at the Phoenix Country Club. The course is incorporated into the Phoenix Seagaia Resort Complex, and features 27 demanding holes tucked into a dense ebony pine forest on the coast of the Hitotsuba Pacific. There is also another course, a Tom Watson classic, inside the complex for more choice. The Phoenix is known for hosting many a Japan golf tour and tournament, including the annual Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Takachiho and Sumiyoshi. This tournament yields the highest paying prize for golf in Japan.
The annual Japan Golf Tour was first founded in 1973. Since 2006, it antes up the third biggest cash prize after the PGA and European Tours. Though players from around the world participate, the majority of leading golfers are Japanese. The UBS Japan Golf Tour Championship Shishido Hills is a major tournament happening concurrently with the Japan Golf Tour each year. Inaugurated in 2000, the tournament has had no consecutive winners.
There are more than 2,300 golf courses in Japan with eighteen or more holes. Green fees range, with daily rates at the top two courses costing roughly a few hundred American dollars. Hokkaido is a popular spot for golf in Japan, for its excellent courses fashioned seamlessly into the stunning natural landscape. Many of the more prestigious (and expensive) courses are found near Tokyo. The top practice facility, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Center, is located in the heart of the city and offers English lessons by first-rate instructors.