As part of our commitment to round-the-clock course rating, I asked our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa, to compile a list of his favorite Japanese courses. He promptly sent the following ranking, which I will post to the sidebar when repairs are completed on the Bomar Brain:
1. Naruo Golf Club, Kawanishi-shi, Hyogo (Charles Alison). “Most overseas panelists give Naruo the number one rank in Japan, so it’s not just my favorite. It’s our Pine Valley.”
2. Tokyo Golf Club, Sayama-shi, Saitama (Komei Otani) “Ninety years ago, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and Emperor Showa played a friendly international match at Tokyo Golf Club’s then-nine-hole course. Today, each hole has two greens, the other green serving as a hazard to the one in use.”*
*“Summer and winter in Japan present extremes of temperature and humidity, so many courses need to keep two different grasses to provide a good roll on the greens. It used to be bent and korai, a native rice grass, but now it’s two different types of bent.”
3. Hirono Country Club, Miki-shi, Hyogo (Charles Alison). “This is Jumbo Ozaki’s favorite, but it’s my third. One reason, it was designed in 1930 with korai grass, but it later switched to bent without changing the size or design of the greens. It became a different course after that. That is my viewpoint.”
4. Karuizawa Golf Club, Karuizawa-shi, Nagano (Kodera Yuji). “Another course designed by a Japanese man more than seventy years ago. Karuizawa, by the way, is one of the most exclusive clubs in Japan. Karuizawa-shi will host the 2014 Eisenhower Trophy, but that will be on two of the Prince Hotel’s Karuizawa 72 daily-fee courses, one of them by R.T. Jones, the father.”
5. New St. Andrews Golf Club, Otawara-shi, Tochigi (Jack Nicklaus, Desmond Muirhead). “I have been very fortunate as a golf writer. I first covered the Masters in 1975, right after I finished college. My first US Open was at Baltusrol. Both tournaments were won by Nicklaus. That same year, Jack opened New St. Andrews, his first course in Japan. We had never seen that kind of design in Japan. It gave us a smell of Scotland. In fact, some two holes play to one big green, just like at the Old Course. I fell in love with it, and I’ve played it as often as any course in Japan.”
“New St. Andrews is about a hundred miles north of Tokyo,” Duke concludes, “so you have to pay more than a hundred US dollars for tolls and gas, and then you need to stay at a lodge. Cost me a lot, and it’s cold in winter. But I still enjoy it. Thanks, Barbara, for your husband’s good job.”
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the world’s top pros are bumping heads in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club–Dove Mountain, in Marana, Ariz. Just two years old, the Ritz-Dove Mountain is a Nicklaus design without the slightest smell of Scotland.
2 responses to “Naruo Leads Duke Ishikawa’s Top 5”
Just read Ancestral Links. Pure magic. The wife and I plan to go to Belmullet late this Summer. Can’t wait to play #17. There is a hole on my home course, Jefferson Landing on The New River, that cries out for “three in the pocket”. I’lll let you know how it turns out.
I have heard about the Hirono club from my uncle, who is now working in Japan. He mailed me pictures of him playing there. It was a great place to enjoy golf. If that’s number three on Duke’s list, then i wonder how beautiful it would be to play in Naruo. I wish I could play the very best courses in the world. I’d play them all day long.