Kawana – FUJI course, Japan

Kawana, Fuji course (1936)

Located a couple of hours from Tokyo is the self-acclaimed “pebble beach” of Japan and ranked among the best courses in the world. You get access to the Fuji course by staying at the hotel. The hotel is nothing special, but could be really good if they refurbished. The views over the ocean are magnificent and we were lucky with the weather on the day where I played golf.

The resort has 2 courses, but I only played Fuji. The other course is supposedly also good and requires accurate tee shot as its narrow and tricky.

Clubhouse entrance
Clubhouse entrance

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View of the golf course they have placed inside the clubhouse. Here you get a good feeling of how close the course is to the sea.

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There is no driving range, so they have created this indoor facility.

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Entrance to changing rooms for the Fuji course, where you get little key holder for your locker. I had my golf clubs shipped from Naruo golf club and was a little hesitant at first, but everything went as planned. My golf clubs were ready and golf shoes nicely placed in my locker.

Hole 1, Par 4, 373m
Hole 1, Par 4, 373m

1st hole a downhill slight dogleg right with a fantastic view to the ocean. I hit a good drive down the middle which left a wedge to the green. Hit a good shot close to the pin, but didn’t convert.

Hole 2, Par 4, 363m
Hole 2, Par 4, 363m

2nd hole tee shot where I hit my drive left and was blocked off by trees. Hit my second shot into the fairway and got a bogey.

Hole 3, Par 5, 384m
Hole 3, Par 5, 384m

A look from the green on the par 5 3rd hole which is a dogleg right from the tee and uphill. I pulled my drive to the right and had to play safe into the fairway. Made bogey.

Hole 4, Par 5, 427m
Hole 4, Par 5, 427m

Tee shot on par 5 4th hole which is blind and downhill. Relatively narrow shot and not much to land on as the fairway also sloops right.

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Downhill approach to the green on 4th hole. I hit my drive in the right hand rough. Hit my second shot left of the green.

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View of green on 4th. My shot ended up way left and had to chip back on the green. Came up short and another bogey. Disappointing 2 bogeys on par 5’s that are difficult, but certainly playable.

Hole 5, Par 3, 165m
Hole 5, Par 3, 165m

Par 3 5th hole with nice views to the right. Downhill and guarded by bunker to the right. A relatively straightforward hole and seems a little stuck between other holes that are nicer.

Hole 7, Par 4, 301m
Hole 7, Par 4, 301m

7th is a great little par 4 with split fairways. If you are a long hitter you could go for the green.

Protection for the caddies when teeing off. – nice feature.
Protection for the caddies when teeing off. – nice feature.

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7th green with stunning views. I hit my drive in the right hand rough, but got on the green in 2 shots. 2 putts for par.

Hole 8, Par 3, 132m
Hole 8, Par 3, 132m

Views from par 3 8th green. Well bunkered and I found one of them. Bogey.

Hole 10, par 3, 130m
Hole 10, par 3, 130m

Par 3 10th slightly uphill. I hit a 9 iron in the fringe and got my par.

Hole 11, Par 5, 519m
Hole 11, Par 5, 519m

Par 5 11th which is one of the nicest holes on the course. I hit a solid drive down the middle, but still had a bit too far to reach in 2 shots. Lay up and a par.

View of Fuji mountain from the course
View of Fuji mountain from the course
11th green with the lighthouse in the background
11th green with the lighthouse in the background
Hole 12, Par 4, 351m
Hole 12, Par 4, 351m

Par 4 12th hole a dogleg left. I hit the rough on the left and the green side bunker. Didn’t get up on and down, bogey.

Approach shot to the par 4 13th.
Approach shot to the par 4 13th.
Approach shot the dogleg right 14th
Approach shot the dogleg right 14th
Hole 15, Par 5, 429m
Hole 15, Par 5, 429m

Par 5 15th is another really stunning hole with elevated tees and beautiful views of the ocean. I hit one of my best drives of the day over the right-hand fairway bunker and left myself a long iron uphill. Went short left of the green and got a par.

Green view on 15th.
Green view on 15th.
Hole 16, Par 3, 157m
Hole 16, Par 3, 157m

Par 3 16th a difficult par 3 where you can’t see the green from the. I hit a good 7 iron pin high and made par.

Hole 17, Par 4, 354m
Hole 17, Par 4, 354m

Par 4 17th uphill with bunkers in front of the green. Another good drive and a par.

Hole 18, Par 4, 312m
Hole 18, Par 4, 312m

Par 4 18th which requires a good straight drive to narrow fairway. Unfortunately I went right in the rough and into bunker on my second shot, which resulted in a bogey.

My back nine was good and I am satisfied with a 79. Didn’t make any birdies, but only had a few realistic chances. The course was in good shape overall and I can imagine the greens can get fast if they want to. The caddie was good and especially helpful on blind shots.

The place is secluded and there is not much to do other than play golf. It was well visited when I was there and the golf course was busy. The course has spectacular views and I understand the resemblance to Pebble Beach – however I wouldn’t quite put the course up there with Pebble Beach as Fuji only has a few really great holes and too many indifferent holes that didn’t stand out but could be anywhere.

It was a good experience and I am pleased to have visited, but probably not a place I would travel to again for golf. However, we stayed in Atami for a day in an outstanding Japanese style hotel which was an unforgettable experience and I will certainly  be back to get more Japanese experiences.

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Naruo Golf Club, Japan

NARUO (1920), Japan

I visited Naruo in May 2016 during my first trip to Japan. The course is about an hour from Kyoto and I decided renting a car was most convenient for me, knowing that signage was going to be difficult, so I would have to rely on my GPS. That went well until 1 ½ mile from the course where there was roadworks and I was briefly lost. No option but to ask one of the workers on site for direction and obviously the language was a barrier. Luckily the GPS also had the Japanese name of Naruo so he knew it and pointed by hand the directions around the roadworks.

I was lucky with the weather as it had been rained substantially the day before and we didn’t get any rain and even got a little sunshine during the last couple of holes.

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Clubhouse
Arriving at the clubhouse, it doesn’t appear of much. But I immediately got a sense of tradition, personality and privacy. I had read beforehand about Japanese etiquette and arrived exactly on time and of course in suit jacket. My host and the club head secretary was waiting for me.

I signed in a got my locker key. Its one of those clubs, where everything is logged to your locker room number and the bill is settled when leaving.

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Locker room
I quickly changed to golf attire and agreed with my host to meet at the driving range. I signed for driving range token, which seemed very formal and correct. During the warmup I met my other playing partners and we immediately started sharing golf knowledge and interest. They were all very golf enthusiastic and we had lots of things to share, which was great and interesting.

Before tee off you have a coffee or tea, which is a small house next to the 1st & 10th tee. Nice way to relax a little before the game and get ready. My host asked me if I wanted to play from back tees as the course is relatively short. As I would find out during my round, it was a good choice to stick with the normal men tees.

Naruo #1
Hole #1 – Par 4 364 yards
1st hole is beautiful opening par 4. Narrow fairway and I pulled a little to the right which resulted in a blocked shot the green. I had to hit a low draw under the trees to reach the front of the green and managed to get up and down from there for an opening par. Great start I thought…

2nd hole was a well protected par 3 guarded by bunkers, which is where I ended up on the tee shot. Managed to get on the green, but had my first 3 putt. One thing about Naruo is the unique greens “korai” grass greens which you can find more information about on their website http://www.naruogc.or.jp/en/course/

They are quite special and took me some time to get used to. I had 3×3 putts on my round, which is unusual for me. They are not particularly fast (around 9 on stimp), but tricky to read and grass seems quite long & stiff. I definitely adds to the challenge.

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Hole #3 – Par 4 387 yards
Managed to make par on the 3rd hole after a very good drive. It is a nice par 4 where you start to get an idea of some undulation in the course.

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Hole #5 – Par 4 379 yards
I missed my drive way right and had to lay up 80 yards short of green with a significant height difference which is difficult to see on the picture. Didn’t get up well and walked off with a double bogey.

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Hole #6 – Par 4 403 yards
One of the longer par 4 on the course and I hit a nice drive down the middle which left me with 120yards to the pin. Didn’t hit the green but managed to get up and down for a good par after the poor double on the previous hole.

 

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Naruo is a walking course where you have caddies. They have this interesting cart system which is shown above. It has a track throughout the course and is controlled by the caddie, who ends up running to and from the cart picking up clubs for the all players in group. They are  considering going to buggies instead, but it worked out well and the caddie had a little calculator to convert yards to meters for me.

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Hole #7 – Par 5 511 yards

Hole 7 is one of only 2 par 5’s on the course. Relatively long and just out of reach for me in 2 shots with 255yards left after my drive. Lay up to 100 yards and to a green that I would soon realize being narrow and very small. Unfortunately my 3rd shot came up a couple of yards short and plugged at the top of the very steep front bunker guarding the green. Managed to get on the green, but 2 putts later a bogey 6.

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Hole #9 – Par 4 338 yards
Relatively short dogleg to the right, where I hit a solid drive to within 90 yards. Downhill second shot which I hit long and left myself a downhill tricky chip. Chip and 2 putts – 5 on the scorecard. After the first 9 holes I actually felt I played reasonably well, but didn’t score at all. Out in 46 shots and 3 double boogies which shouldn’t really be the case with my hcp – lunch was well needed.

Its normal that you go for lunch after 9 holes and we had beautiful food in the clubhouse and a good break which would prove beneficial for my game.

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Hole #10 – Par 4 463 yards
After a good lunch you start with a pretty long par 4, but extremely wide fairway. Above picture show the slope and I felt that the back 9 was considerably more undulated and with more blind shots than the front 9. Playing with the members was a huge advantage to get directions off the tee. I managed to get a good drive into the fairway and a long second shot on the green. 2 putts later and a par to kick off the back 9.

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Hole #12 – Par 4 159 yards
Nice little par 3, with a relatively small green well protected by bunkers. Hit a good shot onto the green and made par.

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Green #13 looking up on the clubhouse

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Hole #14 – Par 5 454 yards
The second and last par 5 on the course. Short, but still a tricky fairway that runs from right to left. A good drive in the fairway with 205 yards to the green. On the fairway I felt this was an opportunity to go for it and try to get a birdie. Hit a beautiful 4 wood fade onto the back of the green, was resulted in a satisfying walk to the green and focusing on not 3 putting.

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Green #14 with large run off areas
Managed to role my first putt close to the hole and walk off with my only birdie on the round.

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Hole #15 – Par 3 182 yards
Very scenic par 3 and tricky. The green is surrounded by bunkers which makes it difficult to hit the green. It hit a 5 iron into the middle of the green and it ran into the back bunker. A really good shot, but the Korai grass and greens at Naruo is not very receptive so you need to hit good shots with longer clubs to make them stay on the green. Bogey for me.

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Hole #17 – Par 4 386 yards
As you can see an uphill second shot – almost blind due to the height difference. I managed to get my par after a nice drive and second shot onto the green.

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Hole #18 – Par 4 444 yards
Long and straight finishing hole with a bunker down the right hand side. Hit a good approach shot, but again with a longer club that couldn’t hold the green. Didn’t get up and down, so a 5 on the card.

Shot 40 on the back nine, which I was pleased with even though I had 2 double bogeys and 2×3 putts. The course was in great condition and according to my co-players it is playable almost all year. The greens were very true and smooth.

We finished up in the clubhouse with a coffee, where the head secretary joined us. She had looked through their register of guests and apparently I was the first Danish person to play the course. Obviously made the whole thing even more special.

Naruo was a fantastic experience in many ways. First of all it was my first time in Japan and the culture both off and on the course is different and positively in my opinion. The whole golfing experience was great, even though it was almost a full day it didn’t feel like it because it was enjoyable. My playing partners were all nice, talkative and welcoming to a foreigner like me. I learned a lot from the experience and it is definitely one that ranks high on my list of golfing experiences. The greens really challenged my game and made impact on my score, but it only made it more interesting.

My stats:

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