Over the next 26 days, I am going to showcase one golf club a day in GB & I. It is my ode to some great golf in the UK and Ireland Full write up’s can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot or on golfgurugroup website under the Travelling Lady Golfer tab too, so there is no missing out on that extra little bit of information I can’t fit here on social media
Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I, and feel free to share them to help others.
Exminster Hill, Exeter, EX6 8GA
Ok, it has to be said I had to use a little creative license with this one, as I cannot find a golf club in GB&I starting with the letter X, so I have worked on the phonetic sound, with the E being silent in (English) speech.
I’ve also pushed the boundaries a little here as this facility isn’t strictly a golf course, more a practice facility with 9 holes attached. But with great views over towards Devon and only 5 minuets from Exeter you can really enjoy your golf here. With a 16 bay floodlit facility, it’s an opportunity to sneak away for a few hours, even whilst holidaying with the family in this beautiful part of England
The clubhouse at Exminster is large enough for private functions and must be great when you’ve got the family in tow to have somewhere to take stock before heading back out to the range or golf course.
I myself started at a similar facility before moving on to a more challenging 18 hole golf course; if Exminster is like my starter course, it was fantastic to get me going in golf.
A 9 hole very friendly club, the course is quite tight with small greens. There are 4 par 3’s which are tough! The course is quite undulating in places which make shots challenging, but is forgiven for the beautiful views of the Exe Estuary from the second and third holes. More country side views over adjacent farmland are also on offer for the enjoyment when playing Exminster Golf course. There is an excellent driving range with indoor and outdoor mats plus a small but well stocked pro shop. The large clubhouse serves a variety of good food. Known in the area as a starter course for new golfers to gain confidence on before moving to bigger clubs in the area.
Exminster is a village close to the southern edge of the City of Exeter, in South Devon. An ancient village with religious roots in the Saxon minster dating back to King Alfred the Great of the 8th Century. Exminster has ties back in history to William Courtenay who was the Archbishop of Canterbury 1381 to 1396
Over the next 26 days, I am going to showcase one golf club a day in GB & I. It is my ode to some great golf. Full write up’s can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot or on golfgurugroup website under the Travelling Lady Golfer tab too. So there is no missing out on that extra little bit of information I can’t get here on social media
Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I on offer.
Golf links Rd, Yelverton PL20 6BN
In the beautiful Devonshire moorland countryside is this 18 hole William Herbert Fowler golf course design. Cleverly utilising the naturally occurring tin mines of old as unsuspecting hollows and mounds to catch out even the best of golfers. With vista views over Dartmoor and Cornwall playing Yelverton in Summer 2019 was a delight.
Best known as a cricketer, playing no less than 26 first class cricket matches in 1880. In 1879 he was bitten by the golf bug when playing Westward Ho! By 1904 he was a prominent golf course designer with such greats under his belt such as Walton Heath and The Berkshire (Red and Blue).
In good company such as Harry Colt, James Braid and Alistair MacKenzie he also got involved in Burnham and Berrow, Cruden Bay (Champs), Royal North Devon and a whole lot more.
In 1904 he turned his hand to Yelverton, looking through his history of golf course conquers, Yelverton sits well with his growing portfolio of an untamed heathland area, ripe for development – but not too much!
Yelverton Golf Club is situated on Roborough Common, land once owned by Sir Francis Drake, on the edge of Dartmoor. With unique features such as the man made Devonport Leat built in 1793 to bring water into Plymouth. Now playing as a water hazard on the course. Couple this with the former tin mines scars dating back to Elizabethan times, makes for some interesting golf shots that for sure!
Wandering around the course are the Dartmoor ponies, which to this day bring controversial thoughts from a pristine golf course verses the British love of the Dartmoor pony who’s inevitable hoof prints churn up the course.
Parts of the golf courses are protected with wires sectioning off areas to keep the ponies and sheep off. Other than that the wildlife wander around as they wish.
On the day I played, despite it being mid summer, the Great British weather didn’t disappoint and we ended up playing in the cold and wet. Not that it dampened our spirits or the joy of the golf course, being able to play such a relatively unknown little beauty was a joy.
Even on a grey day the colours of Dartmoor shine through as you leave the clubhouse and approach the first tee ready to do battle. I love the way heathland courses play, their short grass being not too hard to enable the club to sweep under and give some bounce to the ball as you take your shot.
I was blown away by the design of each hole stretched out ahead of me. Different in design and undulation, some had trees, others sheep or horses, all had bushes and dips and hillocks. All retained the interest. The fairway grass was great to play, but the rough as pretty difficult to manage. I honestly can’t remember going in a bunker but I do recall going into the Leat, a wide yet open gully which wasn’t too bad to play from as it didn’t have any water in that day, thank goodness!
The greens played well too, even the practice green in front of the club house was inviting.
After our game we sat in the clubhouse chatting to the members and staff, enjoying a sandwich as I pondered the only if’s, the great shots and the diary so I can figure out when I can go back again?
Over the next 26 days, I am going to showcase one venue/location a day for GB&I Golf Courses. It is my ode to some great golf starting backwards today with the letter Z. The full write up can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot too, so there is no missing out on that extra little bit of information.
Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I can offer.
Whilst Shetland is singular in speech, Shetland is actually an archipelago of nearly 100 islands in the North Sea, with a population in excess of 22 thousand. Only 16 of these islands are inhabited and our focus for this golf course is Shetland main Island, just outside Lerwick, being the main town.
Whilst I have a daughter and her family living in Shetland, and having driven past the golf course multiple times, I am sad to say, I have not played the course, yet. So have sought help from their friendly management committee.
Unique in its location Shetland Golf club surpassed only by the wonderful honesty box system. (Currently being replaced by an on-line booking system during covid times). I love it when an honesty box is in play, it tells me so much about the club, and its members.
With just one green keeper on the books their volunteer system is second to non. With around 20 to 30 members giving up a few hours each week to repair the ditches, trim the grass and the never ending task of cutting fairways.
The weather does come into play. During summer you can pretty much play 24 hours with a longest day comp starting at 8pm. On the opposite spectrum, winter golf is only playable for 5 to 6 hours a day.
Be mindful to take plenty of golf balls, not for the terrain so much as the crows who take delight in taunting the golfers by stealing their golf balls whilst in play! I wouldn’t mind being the one to find that treasure trove of golf balls stashed somewhere near the golf club – but never in the hole!!
Shetland itself is a beautiful totally unspoilt location, with the golf course within a natural fold of the rugged landscape funnelling towards the North Sea. You can sometimes spot killer whales (Orca) hunting the prolific seals off the coast.
With a 300 strong membership Sheltand Golf Club also enjoys a thriving junior section (6 to 17 years) of 30. The Junior section is run by volunteer coaches who are keen to see a good mix of female and male children taking up golf.
Whilst Shetland might not be everyones cup of tea, for the nature lovers amongst us, it is a true gem. Just don’t forget to pack your golf clubs and enjoy a round of golf at Shetland GC. Thats what Im going to be doing next time I’m visiting my daughter
Membership from £150 with guest rates at £30 a round
Shetland Golf Club, Dale Gott, Shetland, ZE2 9SB
And just in case you’re not too sure where Shetland is, look North Scotland then look higher up! In fact Shetland is so far North it isn’t always shown on the map of GB&I! An overnight ferry from Aberdeen or a short one hour flight from Inverness. Other airports in the UK serve Shetland, but may not be direct flights.
Look out for more letters in the Z to A of GB&I Golf Course reviews
Cat fishing is grooming on line and as I have experienced, golf is not immune to this sordid world of chancers.
I have always been a friendly person. One who engages and listens to people. I’ve been told I’m one of the best networkers in the industry. So maybe my friendly disposition and my heavy involvement in social media make me the perfect target for any would be cat fishers?
Based on my experience, I can split the perpetrators into three categories:
This is a man who is most likely seeking attention but doesn’t quite have the sophistication to know how to do it, so out of the blue, with no history of communication, he send a picture of his genitals – a dick pic!
It isn’t pleasant, although does cause hilarity in the household as I show hubby. This person is basic and crude in his attempt to prompt a response. He did get a response, I blocked him!
In comes a connection request from the nicest groomed man dressed in theatre blues, dark haired, smiling perfect white teeth. He wants to connect with me!
He’s a surgeon, better than that he’s a military surgeon in a war torn savaged country ready to help the wounded and fix them up as his service to the country. He has children, lives in the US and is a hero. On his soft side, he is missing his children and trying to lead a normal life in the turmoil of his high pressure job. He needs you to connect with him, he needs normal people in his life, he needs you.
This is the story HE spins you. The story is one barely on the cusp of believable – that image, it is just too perfect!
I played dim and asked, ‘are you a scammer? You can’t be too careful?’
His indigent response was scathing in its reply, of course I am genuine – how could you say such a thing!
His ‘hurt’ was shallow in its delivery, instead trying to twist it back on me for accusing him.
I wasn’t having it.
‘I think you’re a scammer!’
He closed his account so quick, I didn’t get chance to block or report him!
End of story, or so I thought. A week or so later, I got a connection request from the same dark haired smiling surgeon, his perfect teeth, scrubbed up and ready to go into surgery – the only thing was, it was a different name this time!
I didn’t connect
This one is the one who I believe is most dangerous, he spins a story with snippets of truth, he dangles the carrot and swiftly whips it away again. The story I was given was so colluded, with twists and turns to knot up even the sharpest of brains. He had rich parents, multiple houses, his first wife had died, his new partner was his rock, but only ever referred to by initials, but she was ill now, he wants to go on the senior tour, he has a personal driving range, he was in the special forces in a senior position but sustained a head injury, but not too much detail given.
His family are from Catalonia, he and his family all have places in Mallorca. He has done everything and been everywhere, and isn’t shy to tell you so either.
They dart around all over the place, often referring to his background, his illness, his wealth, he puts you on a pedestal, says things about you that make you feel great, albeit not always correct, but if you try to correct him, he brushes it off claiming you’re a good person, he just knows you are.
His message are like a dripping tap. His stories elaborate in length yet lacking in substance, he’s done everything and brags incessantly about his and his family’s achievements.
His insistence to send something, his continued story of his contacts all over the world; the one who lives in his house in the Netherlands. The ambassador for Nike who sends him free and cheap things. His property in Mallorca, his family from Catalonia, all statements without detail. And all so incredibly wearing to read.
His partner encourages him to do this as it makes him feel better! He has a 500 page book about his life on the back burner, but it isn’t available to read and he doesn’t want to take it any further. It’s just been written just in case?
His attempts to be philanthropic, he wants to send me things to give away to get rid of the excess stock in his warehouse.
He wants to send me something for me, for my family.
So I tested him with his alleged Nike connections.
Can he get me a name in Nike who I can talk to about replacing hubby not so waterproof trousers.
He can do better, he has a pair in hubby’s size. He will send replacements.
He has a pair, but they aren’t new, they don’t have labels and they have been worn once by him, do we want these – no thank you.
He found a pair in hubby’s size.
OK, I will forward gift them to new starters at the club.
Thats not what it is for, it for new people getting into golf?? I will just send the trousers, as I’m not wasting postage money on sending something you’re going to give away???
From a man who owns multiple houses and travels all over the world.
Holes in his story were becoming cavernous and I cannot express how exhausting this was getting, maybe hindered by being in lockdown, dark evenings and a usually active life, tipped upside down by external events.
I stepped away, hubby contacted him about the waterproof trousers, nothing was forthcoming.
I blocked his account when he sent a nasty message, nothing too personal and nothing hurtful, just a little spiteful and unnecessary.
Truth is, I still to this day, do not know if he was cat fishing me or not. But I do know how I was feeling, how run down I was getting, how exhausting his stories were.
So to play devils advocate. He may have been genuine! I do not know. He wasn’t being particularly manipulative, he didn’t ask for any money or to meet.
Maybe, if you’re trying to get someones attention, maybe you like someone and want to work with them, please think about your approach to them, and how they might perceive it
I hope this article serves as a reminder that cat fishing is out there, the golf industry is not infallible to this.
If any of the above resonates with you, please remember, you are not alone, find someone who you can confide in, someone that doesn’t know the perpetuator. Or, maybe, you are trying to engage with someone, and if so, could it be read incorrectly?
The long and the short of it, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!
This was not an easy article for me to write.
I am sharing this to help others spot the pros and cons of live in social media.
I have met and made friends with so many people online. We have a laugh, we help each other out with posts, we back each other up and we ‘chat’ on messaging systems.
Like many things in life; it is often the few that spoil it for the many. I will continue to be friendly, helpful and outgoing. That is me, and if anyone is thinking; great, easy prey – I’m happy to write a follow up article with more details.
This article has not been written to name and shame, it has been written to help others who may have been in a similar situation, to empathise with them. To say – you’re not alone. You’ve got this!
Sarah is a business women in the golf industry in excess fo 10 years. As the founder of the first UK Golf business to focus on women’s golf travel, the knowledge and wealth she brings to the table have enabled her to successfully transition into media, social media and marketing for global golf brands and locations.
North Foreland, located just 13 miles along the coast from Royal St George’s and one of the most highly-regarded seaside golf courses in the country, is giving attendees of The Open Championship the opportunity to combine watching with playing by giving them early access to book tee times, as well as launching special fourball packages available to book online.
The 36-hole venue is gearing up for the arrival of golf fans from across the world by reserving tee times for visitors between Monday, July 12, and Monday, July 19, 2021.
Situated on the picturesque Kent coast
In the holiday town of Dickensian Broadstairs, North Foreland is considered one of the best member clubs in the area and is opening up its tee sheet early for visitors eager to play at one of Royal St George’s surrounding venues.
Golfers can play the dramatic downland course, which runs along the clifftops and offers sea views from every tee, from just £125 throughout the week or as a fourball package from £450 which includes breakfast or lunch, complimentary range balls and a souvenir welcome pack for each player.
Chris Dowrick, North Foreland’s General Manager, said: “With The Open returning to Royal St George’s for the first time in 10 years, this is a great opportunity to showcase our extraordinary venue to golfers that haven’t played here before.
“It’s going to be a fantastic celebration of golf. I know that watching the world’s best compete for the Claret Jug and the excitement of the event will get attendees raring for a round themselves. This is why we’re giving them early access to our tee sheet and launching our special fourball package so that they can make the most of their trip and play one of the best surrounding courses.
“We’re really looking forward to the tournament, which looks like it will go ahead with a degree of normality with the roll-out of the Covid vaccines by then, but especially excited to welcome avid golfers to North Foreland.”
North Foreland boasts two exceptional year-round golf courses
The Main Course and the Northcliffe Course –complemented by top-class clubhouse facilities to match, with the delightful Lighthouse Brasserie and Bar offering panoramic views of the sea and coastline.
Renowned for its fast-running fairways and greens, along with coastal views that are among the best in England. This 6,436-yard, par-71 Main Course is a fantastic test for all golfers because of the open front nine holes being contrasted nicely with the tighter back nine and a mixture of strategically-placed bunkers and broad fairways.
The Northcliffe Course provides the opportunity for players to hone their short game on 18 par-three holes that vary in distance from 50 to 140 yards and the club is also home to excellent practice facilities and tennis courts.
For more information or to book, call 01843 862140 or visit: www.northforeland.co.uk/the_open_visitor_green_fees
Came the question from a new contact on social media.
If so, would you like to come on the BBC and give your thoughts?
I read that message a few times before turning to hubby and saying, ‘the BBC have just got in touch with me! They want me to go on to talk about the US Women’s Open!’
After some investigation, the guy checked out as legitimate from the BBC, so I said yes.
That was it, as short and as simple as that. He found me on social media and connected the dots – now I had some work to do as I was due on in a few hours…
which he said was really good and positive for golf …. and he found it funny in places too.
Anyone that knows me, whilst I am professional in my business, having fun and a sense of humour is also a huge part of me and my make up too! So how could I combine all of this and still give people enough information to make good decisions about their golf travel and golf products?
Over the last year, due to lack of travel, I have worked on my social media accounts, growing the three major platforms; Twitter, Facebook. But Instagram has given me greatest success. By combining all three major platforms, I can reach all demographics across the world.
I decided I was not about growing my audience for my own personal gratification and gain. I am about what I do best – helping people. Engaging with them and helping them in their personal golf endeavours. My blog, which has been going for longer and has seen steady growth over the years too, is now in excess of 26K
My latest foray into social media is You Tube, and already less than a year in I have exceeded my first goal for subscribers.
Doing live television shows, (it actually turned out to be three live shows over two days on various BBC sports programs) was something I hadn’t done before. In truth it is not something I had given an awful lot of thought to either; until it happened, out of the blue by that single social media contact.
and my time to be on air was getting closer. I was a bit nervous and I think it showed it a little bit too. I had the notes on the desk in front of me, and I kept looking down at them! But all in all it went very well and I felt a massive weight lifted as I successfully completed my first live television appearance for the BBC. On watching this back, I was able to see my downcast eyes and moved my notes higher for the next one!
However, talking on live television wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t a normal zoom call where you see the person you’re talking to. Nor was I able to do a screen share – I was talking to the BBC logo – thats all I saw! This also made it extra difficult as I couldn’t see which clip they were showing or which golfer they were talking about either. I got through it for BBC Sports Day and was invited back for a second time to appear live on BBC World.
and here I was again looking at the BBC logo, on BBC World this time. All went relatively smoothly, I didn’t fall flat on my face. Nor did I worry about any answers I’d given! Now I could relax and enjoy the rest of the golf, as an easy sport to watch. With a glass of wine to wind down with!
Next day the television was back on and I’m glued to it once more. Then ping, I got the email from another BBC producer.
‘Can you come on again please, Sarah?’
With a reduced field after the cut has been made, day three of the tournament was in some respects a bit easier to talk about. This time I had a different presenter too. I must say both presenters made me feel welcome. They gave me the space and time to talk and were really welcoming of my opinions, views and answers.
I think it also shows me growing in confidence when answering questions and sharing the knowledge, why wouldn’t I ? After copious note taking, a good understanding of golf and the LPGA players also helped with my responses.
If you’re not quite there with social media or if you’re only focussing on one platform? Maybe this old dog can teach you some new tricks and help you understand the importance of a good social media presence? I can help you rethink your strategy. Help get you in front of a new, willing and keen audience, who soak up golf and all it can bring like a sponge.
I’m living proof of it not only happening, but importantly, working. After years of chipping away at this industry to be more respectful and acceptance for females in golf, here I am a ‘BBC pundit’ with a bright future.
If you want to check out the shows, they are now available on You Tube, this also includes behind the scenes as I prepare for the live television shows
Golf Guru Group
Being at the Masters is a dream come true to any golf fan. After all it is the holy grounds of golf and for some even more so than St. Andrews. For some strange reason Augusta National manages to keep the myth of the tournament and the course alive and it simply never gets boring. Of no other place you would hear a golf star like Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler say that they still get goosebumps every single time they get to drive down the road heading towards the clubhouse. Or can you imagine any other place where Tiger Woods would start to choke up on when talking about a victory? With all their rules and little quirks Augusta National is simply a perfect place. There is no other way to put it. So back in February I finally got the question that every (golf) girl has ever dreamed of: do you want to go to the masters this year?
Guess what? I said ‚ Yes‘! I actually had a hard time not welling up while my mind started racing. What would be the first thing I want to do when I arrive? It was so bad that I couldn’t sleep for three days straight and this stupid grin on my face stayed on all the way till March 12th. That was the day I went to go to Berlin to get my journalist visa for the US. It was also the day when the United States government decided to close borders for every European Country due to Corona. But being my usual self I stayed positive and continued my journey. At this point I was hoping there might be exceptions for work trips or that maybe in a month time, when the Masters was supposed to be played in April, borders would be opened again. A month is a long time to go right? Well, we all know how that worked out.
Fast forward to November. No Patrons are allowed on ground, only limited media were permitted and I was sitting in my apartment in Hamburg trying to fathom the fact that this is how the year turned out to be. For a short time I was thinking about actually flying to the US despite the fact I wasn’t going to be able to access the course. Simply because it was such a special Masters and I had an apartment five minutes away for the course already booked and paid for. But I decided to pass up the opportunity.
Having been an accredited journalist at this years Masters did come with a couple of nice perks though. One of them being granted access to the first ever online Patron Shop. Thats how they called the all too expensive but equally awesome online store that they had created for Patrons who were lucky enough to have tickets for the event and give them the chance to at least buy some merchandise stuff. Trust me, I did. And I got my bank account to prove it, too. From hats to cups and windbreakers to an ugly Christmas-sweater, I bought it all. At least that gave me the feeling I was part of something special. Plus, Christmas is arriving and poor me didn’t get to go to the Masters. Like in golf – you’re only as good as your excuses!
Heading into the week I told all my friends and family that I was going to watch every second of this years masters. Can you imagine how many apologetic texts I got? It’s funny how when a person admits to being sad or not feeling well, how it throws other people off. It is almost like people forget how to function when someone doesn’t answer‚ I’m doing good’ when they are asked how they feel. So I quickly stopped and went to just sending pictures of me on my couch with a cup in my hand and made a joke about a really sucky week.
Another question I received over and over again is how do you cover the Masters from your couch? Not a lot of people will understand that but I personally find it easier to cover a tournament when you are not actually there. Why? Well, simply because you don’t miss as much. Think about it this way – when you are at a tournament you want to go out and see the course but you also want to see your personal favourites and you definitely don’t want to miss any on-course action. So you have to decide wether you follow a certain group or if you just stay at a strategically good place on the course to watch. Either way I can guarantee you that you will miss a lot of things going on at the tournament. As working press you always have the media centre as a go to point. But that adds to the problem. Which post round interview do you not want to miss? Which player might be hot right now and you need to be following on the course? Is there a local player that you want to follow around because that is what people want to know about? What if someone makes a hole-in-one but you don’t know because you have been following another group? The easy answer to all those questions just stay at the media centre and watch the live feed on TV. You won’t miss anything. But you will also not get any feeling of the atmosphere or for the course, so you could have stayed home!
As I mentioned before, here I was on my couch telling me it’s not that bad and listening to Tiger Woods live press conference reliving his win in 2019. This is where I snapped out of it and got back to simply being a crazy golf fan. Not because of Tiger, but because the minute I saw footage of Magnolia Lane and heard the first notes of the Masters tune I forgot about all the worries. I was happy that I had the opportunity to access the press conferences remotely and I just wanted to see how this years Masters was going to play out. Like every year I texted back and forth with all my golf friends about the newest developments on the leaderboard, I got stoked about great shots and mad about others. And even though we are in a lockdown right now, I got someone to watch the coverage with me for three out of the four days. Usually we would have been a big group of people but even just having this small circle of people around me gave me the comfort I needed to have a great Masters tournament. One I will definitely remember for the rest of my life and one that will always be my first Masters that I almost got to go to.
Oh, and before we end this on a happy note – I am still waiting for my package to arrive with my merchandise from the Patrons store. Well, maybe I will be ready for next years Masters in April.
Ann is a professional journalist who has provided us with this insightful piece about the life of the ‘remote’ journalist
Golf Guru Group – I too have often wondered why so many journalists stay in the media tent the whole time during a major tournament, why aren’t they out on the course, why aren’t they talking to the crowds and soaking up the atmosphere – now we know why and having experienced this myself, watching golf from multiple screens dotted around the media tent, showing live footage of different players at different stages of their game, its a good place to be to give you the complete story
Zipping up Zanzibar
Getting used to the heat was a good reason to play only nine holes, but standing on tee one with sweat, sorry gentle perspiration!! dripping down soon gave way to lush tropics as we ventured further into the golf course. The day before we arrived, there had been rain, rain is such a polite way to say it bucketed it down, leaving in its wake washed out roads, tracks and the golf course to have standing water in play, especially on hole one where a gently stream had turned into a torrent of water ready to capture the unsuspecting golfers golf ball to go trundling downstream never to be seen again. Applying sensible golf, we simply tee’d up the golf ball to save any mud splashes and damaging the course and further. The blades of grass were each thick and crept along the ground to matted together to form a green covering, easy enough to play from whilst on the fairway, but the rough was a challenge of its own, in fact if the ball went into the deep rough, even if you saw its exact entry point, finding it was another story. Tropical golf does throw up alternative challenges of their own; greens are often baked and difficult to hit without it running for miles, so having that rain made them much more receptive. Relatively flat greens, with the odd one being tiered or sloping welcomed us. The golf course had picture postcard qualities, of par 3’s, 4’s and 5’s with water in play, bougainvillea dotted its splash of colour amongst the varying shades of green. A clear blue sky with puff balls of cloud breaking made the postcard complete.
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I am freelance golf lifestyle journalist who has many years in the golf industry – how can I help you?
Kansai Region – Mie, Hyogo and Shiga
Despite the cool autumnal feel about December, the warm welcome is ever present from the people of Japan as I landed into Kansai Osaka airport.
The quick and ever efficient train journey with my final destination being Shiga Prefecture.
This is my third time to Japan, and I’m delighted to be seeing more on offer from this beautiful unassuming country located in the Pacific Ocean to the East of South Korea sitting just 587 miles away. Landing in the morning gives me time to play 9 holes, and that exactly what I did at Ryuo (pronounced R-euro). Playing with the humble card marker of the club, now I say card marker, but I get the impression he’s a bit more than that and pretty much helps the club tick along with ease and is certainly part of the furniture. He was a delight as we played the front nine of this 6600 yard (5076 off the front tees) parkland course.
Ryuo golf course is part of the Prince Chain of hotels and golf courses, and is the sister to the better known Seta Golf Club. With easy access to the main highway it is a great stop off point or to be incorporated as part of trip around Japan. Beguiling its relative early establishment of 1982, the course has water and trees aplenty, the condition of the course was brilliant, especially as the season was late Autumn/early winter and the fact that the course had been played all summer long. I particularly liked the two greens. It makes sense when weather is a contributing factor as it is with most golf courses to have two greens, one in play and one ‘resting’ As a visitor it isn’t always obvious which one to play especially when the yardage is needed, so a simply yet effective solution at Ryuo golf course is to have two sets of yardage markers on the course too, one on the left for the left green and one on the right for the right green. Japan never ceases to amaze me with its simple ideas that just make ones life better, whether on the golf course or off. Greens weren’t as pitted as I expected and have experienced previously, in fact they were pretty good, and rolled well too. Being part of the Prince group, it is also easy to get on here to play.
A 40 minute transfer takes me to the hotel for a few days, the Biwako Otsu Prince Hotel.
Situated on the Biwa Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Japan, and the view from this imposing tower was extraordinary across the water to mountains as you scan the landscape laid out in front of you.
Thinking an early night was in order I was easily talked out of that silly idea and tantalised out for the night to the Matsukiya Omi beef restaurant. Now we’ve all heard about the beef from japan, the lavish attention adorned on the precious commodity in the form of a cow. The piece of beef on offer on tonights menu was valued at $2,000, so savour it I did.
Using this number one Wagu beef, the matsukiya style of dining is similar to that of a fondue, the beef is finely sliced and added to vegetables to be cooked as you like in a wide pot over an open flame, adding soy sauce, sugar beet and water as needed to savour, (not flavour !) this delicious meat.
After a day of meetings and discussions, the following day I was back on the golf course. This time playing the better known course of the area and also a Prince Resort, Seta. A 36 hole complex I had the opportunity to play the West course. Despite its better known cousins the West course still offered a good test for the golfer. A relatively flat field the 12 lakes came into play at every opportunity with 9 and 18 both having a lake in the way of the shot to the green. Playing late autumn is a nice time the day, in fact the weather was cold but perfect playing conditions especially with the mirror blue ponds perfectly reflecting the changing colour trees. Weirdly the fairways are green surrounded by yellow rough. Due to the grass used in the rough it goes dormant during the winter months but remains in play and also remains thick and challenging too! Couple these contrasting colours with the blue sky and the mountainous backdrop, and you’ve got a picture postcard to bash a little white ball around. I hope to return one day and play the North and East courses for a true comparison.
Before leaving Shiga prefecture, another first for me in Japan was just around the corner in the shape of a tram, not just any tram but the longest cable railway in the country called the Sakamoto cable railway which first opened in 1927. Taking 11 mins to complete this wonder journey through the hillside under the hillside, surrounded by tall imposing trees to the top where Mount Hiei awaits to show the vista views and offer the UNESCO Enryakuji Temple, a ‘training ‘ temple for other Buddhists and the place of many influential visitors enjoying the elevated views overlooking beautiful Lake Biwa.
Moving away from Shiga and into Hyogo (he-yo-go) prefecture via the incredibly interesting Takenaka tool museum and home to some of the worlds best and most intricate wood screens I have ever seen. The museum takes you through the historical tasks the carpenters performed in an attempt to preserve the history of this unique wooden metropolis in Japan.
Basing ourselves at the ANA Park Hotel for a few nights meant we were within easy reach of Kobe, a dinner cruise on the Lake on board Concerto, a large commercial boat cruising the lake offering a luxury experience with live music and great food and with the sake flowing, it was a great night to experience.
Whilst not entirely unfamiliar with auctions a live fish auction is another experience altogether. Managed by the cooperative the fish is sold fresh off the boat without a catalogue as per other auctions. From slippery octopus making a bid for freedom, escaping the plastic bucket prison to fish of all sorts of sizes and colours was one thing, but trying to identify who bought the fish and for how much was beyond my novice auction experiences.
What better thing to do after a live fish auction that to visit one the of best sushi restaurants in the region. Freshly prepared in front of your eyes, you can but marvel at the dexterity of these chef craftsmen at work producing the coloured sushi whose taste blows anything else out of the water.
Another day of sightseeing takes me to Himeji Castle a World Cultural Heritage Site and an imposing white 6 floor building atop a hill. Hime means princess and ji means street. The original layout of the castle, where original walls are now streets now carry sways of visitors, is that of a series of walls spiralling around the castle, but as you get closer to the Castle this become more obvious and remains just as dominating as yesteryear.
Moats and strategic ponds were dug for protection during battle but once penetrated the building simply shines with architectural designs from the various gates and doors to the roof tiles themselves being mini pieces of art. With one large supporting column, a tree, with as wide a girth are ever, dissects each floor with its imposing strength and strategic placement.
After a few hours wandering around this unique piece of history, an easy ride by Shinkansen back to Kobe bought another experience not to missed whilst in Japan. Japan is always on time, not the trains, people or buses, simply Japan, there is enormous respect for time and time keeping without it being rigid and unfriendly . The Shinkansen is no different quietly gliding into the station to quickly whisk us back to Kobe and dinner at the Plasir Kobe restaurant. Kobe beef, the marbled beef simply cooked enhancing its flavour and intensifying the taste delivered in true Japanese style was the icing on the cake for this amazing day. This is some of the best beef I have had whilst visiting Japan.
Nine holes of golf the next day bought me to Hanayashiki (hannah-ya-she-key) playing the Yokawa golf course. What a treat it was to play a members club, the fairways meander their way around the course again providing reflective ponds in the early winter sky. A good test for all golfers the course is a lovely mix of gentle fairways swaying around the natural landscape, large receptive greens and the ever present yellow tough rough. I really enjoyed playing this course and especially so as it is home of the Studio Alice Open, on the LPGA circuit. The clubhouse is a futuristic looking ‘war of the worlds’ style over various floors giving the best views of the course and surrounding countryside as you went about your leisurely lunch in this relaxed atmosphere.
Hashi and Masu might not mean a lot to us, but to the Japanese these are essential with Hashi being the chop sticks and Masu being the wood bowl for Sake. I got to have a go at making the Masu – it has to be said that the glue of sticky rice wasn’t enough to help my poor workmanship to contain the precious liquid, so I may revert back to the ornate glass option!
A new hotel that night was the NESTA Resort in Kobe a large family orientated resort with everything the family might want from hotel rooms to time-share type apartments on offer but that night was another first and special treat for dinner. Irori restaurant, seated on low stools up to a special long table this bbq style of dining is a lovely way to socialise. In the middle of the table, small whole fish were unceremoniously staked on wooden skewers tilting towards the white hot sticks for cooking and a mesh grid to place the raw food upon to cook for yourself. Dressed in western clothing but being given wooded clogs with no toe posts was interesting to walk on as you rock back and forth to propel forward. Just collect your shoes on your way back out – easy, simple and such a lovely experience. A great atmosphere and of course great food as my friend took up the challenge of being chef for the two of us.
One final game of golf awaited before my departure and this time at Tokyu Grand Oak Golf Club, a great 18 holes where I got the chance to play with two Japanese business men and my playing partner, a fellow Brit. A friendly game and good time followed as our last chance to play in Hyogo prefecture as a stunning day evolved and the sun shone to give us 15 degrees heat. Perfect weather, but this was about the only time I could use the word perfect as my game was quite off. Gently undulating winding fairways with the, again, yellow thick rough offsetting the vibrant green fairways and greens and bright blue sky. The whole course was in good condition and I once again marvelled at the time of the year, having had a whole year of golfers go through, this and all the other golf course I played we in amazing condition. Tokyu Grand Oak is another must play for golfing visitors.
Finals night bought traditional celebrations of great food and a traditional martial arts Kendo demonstration using swords followed by a lively display from high school children playing the taiko drums. A fantastic night to end a fantastic trip.
This trip was focussed on the Hyogo and Shiga prefectures, but it would be remiss of me to not mention Mie prefecture which I visited the month before. All three prefectures, Hyogo, Shiga and Mie are in the Kansai region of Japan
Mie is the traditional place of food production for the Japanese Emperor it became known as the ‘miketsukuni’ (land of imperial repasts) this is the possibly the best way to describe Mie, a rich fertile prefecture with history of its own.
Take the Ama, female divers who still dive daily for their fish to sell at market. Fresh fish is caught daily and now served in the Ama hut cooked over the open fires you can get anything from lobster to abalone to various fish served with sticky rice and other accompaniments for a true authentic experience. The Ama ladies are a dying breed, with some still diving well into their 80’s but as it stands today they are tight knit community of caring and sharing women, just wanting to please you as they serve their catch of the day with a smile.
Golf in Mie offers another dimension to golf in Japan. Tsu (Sue) Country Club being 18 holes of golf set amidst the most beautiful backdrops of the hills, as it meanders around the countryside bringing into play the deep bunkers and narrow entrances to the greens to large target greens and thought provoking holes. I love the thought taken when building this course, the surrounding country side is not flat by any means and you can find yourself playing fairways with nothing else around you. The on site Katada Lodge accommodation is a mix of a few simple hotel room styles to the two bedroom villa which seamlessly and gently blends into the background yet having a foreground view to die for down the 18th hole. A members club the clubhouse and restaurant are welcoming and offer the most amazing food as you take a break from your golf after nine holes of golf. If you have time the display of cooking over the hot Teppan metal plates where the food is grilled, boiled or panfried a process called Yaki, culminate in the whole experience of Teppan-yaki. Providing endless entertainment with honest earthy tasting food, is a welcome addition to your visit to Tsu. Be mindful the food is so good it is difficult to get up and play the back nine after that feast. But getting onto the back nine at Tsu is definitely worth it as the course sets off down the 10th with a slightly elevated tee taking you right then left to a well guarded green before sweeping you off away from the clubhouse to reemerge on the 18th.
Tsu Country Club was where I was based for my few days in Mie, sleeping in the villa with its own hot bath overlooking the 18th fairway, knowing that despite your nudity, you were completely secluded. The morning bought a special treat as I pulled back the paper shutters with light wood frame and wandered out of the villa down to the 18th green barefoot just enjoying the grass between my toes waiting for another exciting day ahead and knowing I would be coming back to the comfort of the villa.
Forgiving the name of the next course, OGG Excellent Club is another one to visit whilst in Mie, a large cafe style clubhouse overlooks a golf course which is simply stunning. It always struck me that the facilities don’t match the course as you play round this thoughtfully designed course crossing over wooded bridges to reach your green over a large expanse of water giving the illusion of the club house floating. Some interesting holes take in the afternoon reflections as I played on my arrival day, slightly jaded but ready for some fresh air. Always a great start to one of my trips to Mie and really set the bar high
Mikimoto Pearl island is also worth noting when visiting Mie prefecture. In 1893 Kokichi Mikimoto devised a way to ‘grow’ pearls or the cultured pearl as we now know it. You can shuck for oysters or watch the female divers demonstrate their prowess as they dive for oyster to open for food and maybe, just maybe a pearl will be inside. Whilst their unique whistle lets you understand their refined breathing technique whilst diving. Bring your wallet as the pearls are displayed in large glass shops to purchase on your way out in a no pressure sell environment, but a lovely way to take home an authentic piece of Japan
Another great golf course of note in Mie is Nemu. 18 holes of golf that takes in recently redesigned undulations and as you go about your business of playing golf. Some redesigns have been deliberate yet with consideration for its original layout, so you must take a moment to look around as you approach the half way hut which has the best views from any toilet I have ever witnessed! Overlooking the Ago Bay into the Aegean Sea it is simply breathtaking with the blue green sea and the dotted lush green islands sprouting up. You don’t need to go to the bathroom to experience these views of course, you can see them from a few holes on the golf course as the holes nip and tuck around this beautiful natural part of Japan. Despite it being on the coast, it plays more like a parkland than a links course, just with amazing views of the sea.
Moving onto Oyado The Earth, a hotel set on the peninsular totally out of the way, I wasn’t really too sure what to expect. As I arrived at the hotel, check in wasn’t as you would normally experience; leave your shoes at the lower step and you are whisked away to your room wearing nothing but your slippers. I’ve got to honest, I think I had the best room in the house, and what a room it was!! Overlooking the ocean, the peace and tranquility I felt as I entered the room was nothing compared to the ‘back garden’ in which was private Onsen and pleasant seated area with views over the garden to the sea in the not too far distance. Oyodo The Earth even has an observatory where you can star gaze or just enjoy the vast ocean views from the raised platform. Get up early enough and you may just catch the Ama ladies of the region fishing. Breakfast and dinner were in the main restaurant, a big display of everything colourful, carefully matched yet bizarrely unmatched gave its appeal as each dish was deliberately placed in front of you. And if you were still hungry after a huge dinner you’re given a bowl of rice to take to your room after dinner. Eating dinner was done wearing a yukata, provided by the hotel, a simple unlined gown with a belt making for a comfortable dinner and expanding enough to take infall that delicious food!
An afternoon cruise around Toba Bay is an interesting experience as you pass the far and wide flung fishing nets dotted along the coast line in symmetrical lines with only the boards to walk as the fishermen check their catch. Cruising around the bay to Meoto Iwa, a pair of rocks connected by a thick ornamental straw rope that represent Japan’s creation deities, Izanami and Izanagi. The meaning of these two rocks bound together with rope ‘wedded rocks’ and long regarded as husband and wife. The couples rock is regarded as a torii (an entrance gate or shrine) for worshipping the Japanese goddess of the sun. It would be something to see these natural stones at sunset as they are bound to each other weathering all the odds, as in marriage.
Golf in Japan is more than just golf, when visiting a country with such diverse cultural differences, one has to make time to do many things more than golf, that said with in excess of 2300 golf courses, you will also be spoilt for choice in this regard too!
I’m looking forward to visiting Japan, getting to know this beautiful understated country and sharing with you more golf, gastronomy and lifestyle experiences. But if you want to experience them for yourself, just drop me an email and I will point you in the right direction.
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