About Golf in Japan: What You Need to Know
Japan's first golf club was established in 1903 by an English expatriate. This led to Japan's early golf culture being influenced by the British way of doing things. Since then, influences from other major golfing nations have been absorbed and adapted to the Japanese cultural environment. As a result, you may find that things are slightly different from what you are used to in your home country.
To ensure that you enjoy your golfing experience in Japan, we recommend you take the time to familiarize yourself with the following guidelines.
In summary, you are expected to wear traditional, conservative golfing attire in Japan while at a golf course clubhouse. We'll clarify what this means below.
In the Clubhouse
Most clubs will not allow you to enter wearing casual attire such as jeans, cargo pants, t-shirts, sandals, or flip flops. We recommend wearing chino pants or slacks instead of jeans and polo shirts or high neck shirts instead of t-shirts. Similarly, go with leather shoes, deck shoes, or nice sneakers instead of sandals or flip flops.
Men are expected to wear a blazer, except during the summer months of June to September. Casual attire, such as blousons or sweaters, is not allowed. Women are not required to wear a blazer; however, they are expected to dress modestly.
On the Course
When playing, casual attire, such as jeans and t-shirts, is not allowed. Shorts are permitted in summer; however, they must not be much higher than the knee. Footwear during play is limited to golf shoes (either soft spiked or without spikes). Sneakers or metal spiked shoes are not allowed.
Golf Play Schedule
Until fairly recently, golf in Japan was a sport mainly played by the upper class. Clubhouses served as venues for socializing with important business contacts. Many golf clubs still maintain this function and atmosphere.
Most golf games in Japan follow this format:
- AM: Two hours of golf playing the first nine holes.
- Lunch: Break for roughly an hour to eat lunch at the clubhouse. This is usually a large meal and an important part of the golfing culture in Japan. We recommend you avoid having a large or late breakfast. The scheduling of your lunch may vary according to how busy the course is on the day.
- After Lunch: Two hours of playing the remaining nine holes.
Note: This schedule may differ in Hokkaido (Japan's northernmost prefecture) and Okinawa (the southernmost prefecture) due to their climates.
Bathing Facilities & Tattoos
While most golf courses in Japan have a membership system, visitors are usually permitted to use all of the same facilities as members. However, people are not allowed entry to the bathing and shower facilities if they have visible tattoos.
Historically, the reason for this is that tattoos were mainly worn by people affiliated with organized crime groups. Thus, guests who saw someone wearing tattoos may feel intimidated and uncomfortable. The rule applies to everybody regardless of age, nationality, gender, or type of tattoos.
Some people with relatively small tattoos manage to sneak in if they conceal them with a bandage or patch before anyone can notice. However, if your tattoos are seen, you may be asked to leave.
If you have tattoos and wish to use the bathing facilities after playing golf, please make sure to cover your tattoos with supporters or patches to not be visible to other users of the bathing facilities before entering. You will not be allowed to use the communal bathing facilities, but many clubs will allow you to use the showers. However, we cannot guarantee this.
If you have tattoos, please let us know ahead of time so that we can inquire on your behalf and advise of necessary arrangements.
In Japan, the metric system is used. However, all golf courses display distances in yards only.
- 1 yard = 0.9144 meters
- 1 meter = 1.094 yards