4 golf courses within driving distance of Tokyo

4 golf courses within driving distance of Tokyo

Driving ranges on top of supermarkets are officially lame. Japan's pristine fairways are closer than you think
Tokyo golf
Tokyo golf
Tokyo golf
Tokyo golf
On a clear day, the Kawana Hotel course has gorgeous views of Mount Fuji.

For those accustomed to manicured greens, wide-open fairways and challenging bunkers, Tokyo golf courses can often feel claustrophobic. Fortunately, a number of courses offering terrific experiences at reasonable prices are located close to the city.

None of the courses in the following list require memberships. Rental clubs are available at each. While dress codes are not strictly enforced, sharp dress and adherence to etiquette is always encouraged on Japanese courses. Solo golfers are a rarity, though not unheard of.

A word of warning: while some clubs are introducing afternoon or 'twilight rounds,' plenty of courses still see their last player off the first tee by 11am, as rounds will always include lunch and be taken at a leisurely pace over five hours.

1. Windsor Park Golf and Country Club

Basic info: Only one hour up the Joban Expressway from Tokyo, this magnificent course maintained to high international standards provides challenges for everyone from scratch players to relative novices.

Scenery: Rolling hills, lots of greenery, classic clubhouse

Claim to fame: PGA professional Tom Watson is a frequent visitor.

Difficulty: 3/5

Price: ¥6,800 weekdays, ¥13,000 weekends

Windsor Park Golf and Country Club: 3473 Shiogo, Shirosato-machi, Higashi-Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki 311-4401, tel. 0296 88 2221, www.wpgcc.com/

2. Gotemba Golf Club

Basic info: At 6,320 yards, this par-72 course is deceptively tricky. Wind and creative course layout ensure that it remains a challenge, particularly on holes 11 through 14. Offering accommodations and restaurants, as well as its own brewery, onsen and rental bicycles, the Gotemba Kogen resort is a short golf cart ride away.

Scenery: Stunning views of Mount Fuji and the Pacific Ocean

Claim to fame: Gotemba is one of Japan's most famous resort areas.

Difficulty: 3/5

Price: ¥9,800 weekdays, ¥16,900 weekends

Gotemba Golf Club: 1924-2 Koyama, Gotemba-shi, Shizuoka 412-0033, tel. 0550 87 1555, www.gotembagolf.com

3. Aqualine Golf Club

Basic info: Due to its water hazards and dangerous bunkers, holes 17 and 18 of this par-72 course are frequently compared with the famous Blue Monster 18th at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami. The opening of the Tokyo Bay Aqualine Tunnel, linking Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, has drastically reduced the driving time for Tokyo-based golfers going to the Aqualine Golf Club. It's just 35 minutes from Kawasaki's Ukishima junction.

Scenery: Hilly terrain

Claim to fame: Designed by well-known course architect Shunsuke Kato

Difficulty: 3/5

Price: ¥10,570 weekdays, ¥24,310 weekends

Aqualine Golf Club: 4345-3 Mariyatsu, Kisarazu-shi, Chiba 292-0201, tel. 0438 53 3800, www.accordiagolf.com/guide/3570001

4. Kawana Resort Hotel

Basic info: One of the most venerable old hotels in Japan, the Kawana Resort Hotel has two courses. All holes on the Oshima course have nicknames -- including 'Goodbye,' in honor of all the balls lost on number 13.

Scenery: Elevated greens and sunken fairways bordering cliffs that plunge 100 feet into the Pacific. Views of Mount Fuji.Claim to fame: British website Top 100 Golf Courses of the World ranks the Fuji course 77th overall.

Difficulty: 5/5

Price: Oshima course: ¥20,000 weekdays, ¥27,500 weekends.
 Fuji course (for hotel guests only): ¥50,000 weekdays, including cost of room, ¥57,500 weekends, including cost of room.

Kawana Resort Hotel: 1459 Kawana, Ito City, Shizuoka 414-0044, tel. 0557 45 1111, www.princehotels.co.jp/kawana-e