The Best Golfing Destination in Asia

Golf course architect Paul Jansen and I have discussed favorite golfing destinations, favorite airports, and favorite grasses. He wrote wrote about the great golfing destination of Vietnam, especially Danang, where he was lead architect for Faldo Design at the spectacular Laguna Lang Co.

While I agree with Paul that Vietnam is a great destination for tourism and for golf, my choice is Hokkaido for the best golfing destination in Asia. My recommendation comes with a caveat—the golfing season in Hokkaido is short. But what a season it is!

1. Variety

There are over 150 golf courses to choose from in Hokkaido, across every price range. Many of the courses are great designs by famous designers for a very reasonable price.

Brooks CC is one of my favorite courses near the Chitose airport.
Brooks CC is one of my favorite courses near the Chitose airport.

2. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

In a country renowned for excellent food, Hokkaido stands out for having some of the best seafood, meat, fruit, and produce.

Some of the courses from an evening meal in Hokkaido.
Some of the courses from an evening meal in Hokkaido.

The golfing experience in Japan usually includes a lunch at the clubhouse. At Brooks CC in Hokkaido, I had this amazing seafood ramen. In fact, it was the only ramen I’ve ever found worthy of a video.

4. Weather

Did I mention the weather? In other parts of East, South, and Southeast Asia, the months of May through October are generally hot and humid and in many places rainy.

Hokkaido Classic GC in October.
Hokkaido Classic GC in October.

How about Hokkaido? Well, one can see snow on the distant mountains, in the spring there are cherry blossoms and other flowers, in the autumn there is beautiful color on the deciduous trees, and in mid-summer the average temperature is 20°C, which is almost 10 degrees cooler than other parts of Asia.

In a word, I’d call it salubrious. The golfing season at Hokkaido is played in the most clement weather to be found in all of Asia.

4. Creeping bentgrass, kentucky bluegrass, and fine fescue

This salubrious weather means cool-season grasses such as creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and fine fescue (Festuca rubra) thrive in Hokkaido, and its courses are generally maintained at a high level.

Checking volumetric water content of a bentgrass practice green at Hokkaido Classic GC.
Checking volumetric water content of a bentgrass practice green at Hokkaido Classic GC.

These grasses are usually considered to be the finest for high quality golfing surfaces the world over, but in many places the climate is too hot for these grasses. In Hokkaido, however, these high-quality grasses thrive. Many professional tournaments are held at the courses in Hokkaido, and in data I have collected from courses around Asia, the green speed of courses in Hokkaido has been the fastest. The excellent weather for creeping bentgrass means the greens can be kept fast during most of the playing season.

An approach shot at Hokkaido Golf Club in July.
An approach shot at Hokkaido Golf Club in July.

5. Off the fairways

There is fine dining and a vibrant nightlife in the cities of Hokkaido, while on the courses one will regularly see deer, foxes, a plethora of birds, and even, perhaps, bears. The combination of so many excellent golf courses, nature, great food, and cool weather makes Hokkaido the best golfing destination in Asia—at least from May to October. But at the other times of the year, I’m going to Thailand!

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