My Paradise: A golfing adventure in and around Iwakuni

Century Golf Club, Photos by William S. Byers
Century Golf Club, Photos by William S. Byers

My Paradise: A golfing adventure in and around Iwakuni

by William S. Byers
Stripes Guam

P.G. Wodehouse, a widely read humorist of the 20th century wrote, “To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.” Personally, I have found that playing golf calls upon your ability to accept what has happened, focus on the next shot and find a way to persevere when you are haven't hit your best shot. This translates to life and is a great way to build character. I have found that golf not only builds character, but is a great way to get exercise and to get out of your quarters while spending time with friends. During the recent pandemic many sports were not allowed, however due to the nature of the sport and the fact that it is played outdoors, many were able to resume playing golf once the CDC posted the “Back2Golf” social distancing guidelines. While stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, once we were given the approval to play, I was awarded the opportunity to enjoy many courses in and around the Iwakuni and Hiroshima areas. I also have appreciated the unique way that golf is enjoyed in this wonderful country.

Many service members who enjoy the sport have played golf in the United States where we make a tee time, pay our money and show our receipt to the starter to tee off. At the turn we grab a hot dog, or something else quick to eat, and immediately head to the tenth tee to begin our journey on the back nine. This ritual, and the way the game is largely enjoyed in America, is a lot like life for many of us who are constantly on the go.  

Enjoy the game
In Japan, the game is meant to be enjoyed at an overall slower pace and includes sitting for a meal at the turn. Many golfers will also sit in an Onsen, a hot bath a lot like a hot tub, after their round.

Once you arrive at the course you are greeted by friendly staff who take your clubs from your car and will have them transported to your golf cart. Remember to offer a good morning greeting, bow and remove your shoes from the bag to prevent having to lug two pair during the round. After parking your car all players must check in at a front desk where each will receive a small card case that is stamped with an assigned number and contains the scorecard for the day. The number is used to charge anything that is purchased while in the golf club for the day and is shown to restaurant server at lunch. All meals are included in the price of the round. After checking in and receiving your card, you walk out to the golf carts where club staff will offer you a start time that coincides with your tee time reservation and you are shown to your cart.

Once you embark on your round it is important to note that most courses are very serious about pace of play and have out of bounds rules with designated drop areas to prevent slow play. Also, all Japanese courses are cart path only and require you to stay on the designated cart paths. Believe me, you will get plenty of exercise as most of the courses are undulating through the hills of the Iwakuni/Hiroshima area. Yanai Country Club, Iwakuni Century Golf Club, Miwa Golf Club and Waki Golf Club all have gas engine carts that require you to return to physically drive it forward. Hiroshima Nishi Country Club and Unimat Yamaguchi Golf Club have remote controlled electric carts. You are provided a remote control which allows you to remotely drive the cart forward to the green. It is expected that you take your clubs with you, your irons, wedges and putter and use the remote driving capability to increase your pace of play. It is also pretty cool.

Yanai Country Club

Unimat Yamaguchi Golf Club

Hiroshima Nishi

Century Golf Club

Time for lunch
When you finish your front nine holes, you are provided a back nine tee time and are expected to sit for lunch, which is included in the price. All of the courses offer a splendid array of Japanese dishes that you can choose for lunch. It is a great way to try dishes that you otherwise would not have an opportunity to try. The lunch period is usually 45 minutes to an hour depending on the day which is plenty of time to eat and even get in a few putts prior to teeing off on the back nine. When you finish your round some courses require you to inspect your clubs and sign that you are pleased and have them all. The attendants then transport your clubs to the front of the club where you can pick them up on the way out. You present your numbered card to the front desk where you can use your credit or debit card to pay for the day. The price of golf in Japan can be more expensive than the usual round in the U.S. but keep in mind that you are also paying for one or two meals and use of the practice facility. It is important to inquire about the price prior to playing as the cost is usually more than one hundred U.S. dollars.

Unimat Yamaguchi Lunch at the turn

Have a wonderful time exploring Japan and other areas in the pacific region during your assignment. Golf can be a way to enhance that experience, build character, get some exercise and spend time with friends all while observing proper social distancing guidelines. Hit 'em straight!!

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