Four numbers about golf course maintenance in Japan
From July 3 to July 10, I visited 11 golf facilities in Japan. I asked some basic questions to the greenkeeper at each course. The answers to the questions help me to understand what the greenkeeper is working with, and how many resources are available to get the job done. Japan is the world’s second largest golf industry. The USA is the largest, by far. At its peak, there were about 2,400 golf facilities in Japan. I think that number is somewhere around 2,100 when I write this in 2023.
That number, I understand, is for “facilities.” Japan has a lot of multi-course facilities—that’s one of the numbers I ask about at each course—and the total number of 18 hole equivalent courses in Japan is 2,538. That’s based on data from the R&A’s 2019 Golf Around the World report.
To put that into context, Japan has 45,684 golf holes. That’s more than England and Scotland combined, where you’ll find 40,041 holes. Japan has about the same number of golf holes as England, Scotland, and New Zealand combined—summing all the golf in those countries comes to 45,855 holes.
Number of holes
I visited a disproportionate number of multi-course facilities. Of these 11 facilities, the mean number of holes was 30.3 and the median was 36.
Number of staff
The total number of staff (full and part time) to maintain all these holes is not as high as it would be in the USA. How does this number compare to where you are? For the 11 courses I visited, the mean number of staff per 18 holes was 9.5 and the median was 10. The lowest was 6 people per 18 holes and the highest was 21.5.
Annual N rate for bentgrass greens
All the courses I visited had at least one course with bentgrass greens. The mean annual N rate for these courses is 10.8 g/m2 and the median is 11 g. This is typical. I used to think it was too low, but that rate (matched to the climate and the number of rounds) seems normal to me now. I wrote about normal annual N rates and my thinking about that in this post.
Number of rounds
The median number of annual rounds for these courses was 26,667 and the mean was 27,963. This is relatively low for Japan. There are two reasons this number is a little low. First, I was visiting courses primarily in mountainous or snowy regions—most of the courses were closed for two or three months in winter due to persistent snow cover. Second, these courses are mostly far from major metropolitan areas, and thus don’t have the rounds that you’ll see on courses that are within a couple hours of big cities.
I’m visiting courses for the next week in some high population areas. I’ll see if I can update these numbers. There’s not so much land for golf in these areas, but there are a lot more people, so I expect the rounds to go up, and the average number of holes per facility to go down.