In my first blog, I armed you with the knowledge that you don’t necessarily need to sell a kidney to finance a round of golf. Now, let’s see if I can help you make your way onto the first tee.
A newbies guide to…. Where to buy golf gear? Not surprisingly, golf shops are in abundance in Japan and if you live in Tokyo, the Ueno/Okachimachi area is an excellent place to pick up 2nd hand clubs.
There are lots of golf stores there and if you shop around, you can find some real bargains. Stories of people picking up next to new sets for a song are quite common and you could easily tool yourself up with a great set of clubs for as little as ¥30,000. So, get hunting!
Where to practice? If ever you get lost walking the streets of one of Japans metropolises, sooner or later you’re bound to come across a driving range; just look for a huge green net on the skyline! They’re everywhere; on top of car parks, on top of apartment buildings, next to shopping malls….search, and you shall find. As you’d expect, centrally located ones can be expensive and almost all ranges are very busy on weekends. Tip: If you’re an early riser, getting an hours practice in before work is a good way to go as weekday mornings tend to be the cheapest and quietest times for a lot of ranges.
Where to play? There are over 2,600 golf courses in Japan ranging from cheap mundane riverside courses right through to super expensive (and exclusive!) championship standard courses. Generally speaking, the closer a golf course is to a central urban area, the more expensive and crowded it will be. If you live in Tokyo, courses that take less than an hour to get to are often double the price of courses 90 minutes away so it’s worth traveling a bit further to play. Check out the Golf section(http://wiki.gaijinpot.com/wiki/Golf) of the Wiki for a list of courses with English speaking staff.
How to get there? Basically, it comes down to 2 choices; Car or Train.
By car: Now I know what most of you are thinking – “I don’t have a car!”. No problem, neither do most of the people I play golf with. If there are 3 or 4 of you playing then it sometimes works out cheaper to hire a car for the day rather than all going by train. And with news that expressway tolls on weekends will be capped at ¥1,000 from March 28th, going by car is about to become even cheaper. Although, another thing you need to consider is the amount of time it takes to go by car. In the morning, going by car is usually quicker but coming back late afternoon, you can often get caught in traffic jams so sometimes the train is the better and less stressful option.
By train: Most golf courses run free coach services from their nearest station so check this ahead of time. Note: you usually have to reserve coach seats in advance. And if you have a heavy golf bag or simply don’t want the hassle of lugging it on the train then no problem. About 3 days before you’re due to play, take your golf bag to your local convenience store and they’ll arrange for it to be sent directly to the course via one of the major delivery companies. The cost of this service is about ¥1,500 return. And you’ll need to buy a golf bag cover (¥500) the first time but can keep it for future use. Right, I think you’re ready. What are you waiting for? See you on the first tee! www.gaijingolfers.com