Apart from having incredible snowfall and very cold winters the natural terrain and summer climate make Hokkaido the perfect location for playing golf. The transition from winter to spring is surprisingly quick and Niseko offers some excellent golfing as early as May. Peak season is in July and August, with courses staying open until November allowing golfers to experience the mesmerizing autumn colours that occur in October.
Hokkaido boasts 174 of Japan’s 2,450 courses and the immediate Niseko area benefits from having 3 fantastic resort grade courses within a 20 minute drive of your MnK accommodation. Those wishing to travel a little further can explore neighbouring Rusutsu (45 minute drive) offering another 4 courses.
Since the economic heyday of the 1980’s when it was expected that every salaryman in the country play golf with his boss on the weekend, golf in Japan has been in steady decline. Unfortunately along with the slowdown in the economy numerous courses across the country have faced difficult times with many closing. However, the best courses have managed to weather the storm by lowering prices and offering outstanding service to their patrons as standard to stay afloat. Golf in Niseko is on the up and despite the short season and increase in popularity, prices remain low compared to courses that stay open year round in other parts of Japan.
As with many hospitality venues in Japan the foreign visitor is often shocked at just how many staff are on hand to look after their guests. Golf courses are no different. Driving up to any clubhouse will see your car surrounded and golf clubs extracted before you have even put the car into neutral. Another army of staff at the front desk will get you signed in and prevent any delays in getting you to the first tee even if you are running a little late. Well placed pro shops also allow you to stock up on gloves, balls, tees and snacks as you sign in. Once registered, you will be led to your golf cart (included in the standard green fee). These are meticulously prepared, with all the relevant course information, scorecards, pencils, towels, umbrellas and waterproof covers for your clubs. Jumping behind the wheel you will head towards the first tee creating a wake of frenzied bowing and words of encouragement to play well from the attentive staff.
If you have a mid-morning tee time and anticipate getting a little peckish after 9 holes, there is the option to take a break mid-round to have lunch. This should be arranged with the front desk at the time of your check in. The food in Hokkaido is fantastic across the board and although the well priced menu at the golf club is a valid lunch option, with so many great places to have lunch in Niseko, Kutchan, Hirafu and Makkari, you may prefer an earlier tee time allowing you to explore these local restaurants. In terms of ‘apres golf’ or your evening dining options, Kutchan Town (15 minute drive from your MnK accommodation) offers a wide selection of restaurants and bars. Hirafu is quieter in May and June but comes alive in summer with many of the popular winter restaurants and bars opening for a more relaxed period of business from July through to September. Our favourites include Ebisutei, Otsuki Sama, Kamimura, Iki and Lupicia.
Your Hokkaido golfing experience would not be complete without at least one post round soak in an onsen. Included in your green fee and attached to the locker room much like a standard shower room, the onsen is another great reason to golf in Niseko. Away from the golf course, more traditional style Onsen can also be found in Moiwa and Annupuri. Not only does the hot water relax and invigorate tired legs and sore backs, the social tradition of bathing in an onsen creates the perfect atmosphere for banterful reflection on your hooked drives, shanked wedges and missed putts....
Situated in the shadows of the glorious Mount Yotei, Mount Annupuri and Mount Konbu, it comes as no surprise that the scenery from the majority of the holes in any given Niseko golf course will be spectacular. From the relatively flat courses at Niseko Village and Hanazono where there are great views up towards Annupuri and Mt. Yotei, to the wild undulations at Niseko Golf Course where the 17th par 3 plays down 45 yards from the back tee. On all courses You will often find yourself teeing off towards the volcano or an expansive valley where the fairway drops away, opening up beautiful vistas of rolling farmland and lush green mountains.
No one likes queuing up to take a tee shot and many are terrified of teeing off in front of a gallery of fellow golfers each with their own opinion on your swing. Fear not, even during the busier high season in July and August tee times are sufficiently spaced out to prevent any significant hold ups in play. Conversely, even on beautifully sunny days in May or June your group may be the only golfers to play the course that day, and despite the increased chance of the odd shower, full rounds taking just three hours are not uncommon, opening up the possibility of a second round before lunch…
MnK accommodation although developed primarily for the winter ski traveller doubles up as the perfect home away from home as your base for your Niseko golf tour. From spacious, centrally located apartments in Hirafu to larger and more luxurious chalets in Country Resort and The Orchards located just outside of the main village in quieter surrounds with plenty of space to practice your chipping. MnK has an accommodation solution for you. Already heavily discounted, a summer stay in Niseko packaged with golf and a rental car sees further discounts of upto 30% on the price of your accommodation.
The harsh winter in Niseko peters out towards the end of March and the snow melts by mid May uncovering resilient Kentucky Bluegrass on the fairways and soft tipped Bentgrass on the greens. With an average rainfall of around 10cm in May and June, Niseko avoids the rainy season that afflicts Japan south of Hokkaido. Although fairly brisk in spring with average temperatures of 12 and 15 degrees in May and June respectively, bright sunny days are common and the courses are empty. Temperatures in July and August seldom hit 30 degrees and humidity is low compared to other more southerly areas of Japan and South East Asia.
Aside from the well maintained courses and fantastic hospitality at the golf courses, the Niseko area boasts two driving ranges, a dedicated golf shop, club fitting workshops and a full golf simulation centre. So even when you are not out on the course, soaking in an onsen or enjoying a delicious meal, you can still fine tune your swing, get fitted for a new putter or upgrade your golfing wardrobe.
A big draw to visit Japan in any season is the country’s rich culture. Your golf trip to Niseko could be part of an extended holiday travelling all over Hokkaido and other parts of Japan. Although there is no shortage of great Japanese food and onsen in Niseko, you may also want to experience the temples in Kyoto, and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Summer is also the time of year to enjoy Hokkaido’s local festivals. Kutchan’s famed Jyaga Matsuri or potato festival is an MnK favourite. For a list of festivals happening in and around Niseko please visit here .
10/15 mins from Hirafu - This is a challenging course based located at the Niseko Village side of Annupuri and is operated by the Hilton Hotel. The wide fairways have many difficult bunkers, rivers and ponds to negotiate. The most challenging hole being a 704 yard par 6. This is a great course for all abilities. If your pushing for a low score - beware, you may be finding yourself in the sand or fishing your ball out of the pond!
20/25 mins from Hirafu - An Arnold Palmer designed course set on the mountainside across the valley from Annupuri. The views from a number of the holes in this course are simply breathtaking. This course is challenging yet the design is well thought out allowing all golfers to enjoy this course. The feature hole on this one being the par 3 on the 5th which has a backdrop of Yotei - spectacular.
5/10 mins drive from Hirafu. This course has many wide fairways. Don't be fooled though - strategically placed trees and many undulations make this course trickier than it looks. This course again has spectacular views of Yotei and Mt Annupuri. This is a great course to score well and again can be enjoyed by all. The standout hole on this one is the 18th with a large pond to negotiate and a distant fairway. Hitting a straight drive on this hole is rewarding yet any errors made can be extremely costly.
Includes 3 nights accommodation, 2 rounds of golf (36 holes) and a 4 day rental car from the airport.
----> Akazora from ¥49,000 per person
----> Country Resort from ¥44,000 per person
----> The Orchards from ¥51,000 per person
----> Akazora from ¥84,000 per person
----> Country Resort from ¥74,500 per person
----> The Orchards from ¥87,000 per person
Includes 5 nights accommodation, 4 rounds of golf (72 holes) of golf and a 6 day rental car from the airport.
----> Akazora from ¥119,000 per person
----> Country Resort from ¥106,000 per person.
----> The Orchards from ¥124,000 per person.
Includes 7 nights accommodation, 4 rounds of golf (108 holes) and a 8 day rental car from the airport.
MnK can fully tailor your golfing package. Whether you are booking a relaxing getaway with your partner, or a trip with your golfing buddies at work, get in touch as soon as possible so we can get started on organising the first of hopefully many golf trips you will have in Niseko with MnK.
Members of the MnK Team have long enjoyed playing golf in Niseko, but don’t take our word for it. We recommend golfers of all abilities to take a trip here and experience it first hand!