What are the chances of Japan becoming a bucket-list golf destination?

By: March 28, 2023

Japan is the world’s second-largest golf country with nearly 2500 golf courses (+ many more driving ranges) and 10.5 million golfers. Despite this, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Because of their own fault?

It’s also worth mentioning about Japan that when I type “Japanese golf clubs” into Google, I don’t find golf clubs in the results list, but golf equipment brands such as Honma, Miura, Mizuno, Vega, etc.

On Leadingcourses.com I found only 17 Japanese golf clubs, while on Top100golfcourses.com there were 80.

AGTC-2023-Miyazaki Japan delgates

Already before the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw an intention in Japan to open the country to golf tourists/travelers. Maybe it was because of the growing concern about the decline in golf participation. In 2020, there were “only” 8.91 million golfers in Japan (Source: Statista.com).

The annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention’s return to Japan

The annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) has returned to Japan after three years. AGTC 2023 took place in the Japanese prefecture of Miyazaki on the southernmost main island of Kyushu from 14-16 March.

The 9th annual staging of the event, which is organized by IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), attracted 320 delegates, among them 130 golf tour operators from 25 countries, all selling golf vacations either within or to golf destinations across Asia.

Japanese delegates represented one-third of all AGTC supplier delegates this year.

AGTC-2023-Miyazaki Japan golf tour operators and travel agencies

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said:

“Japan now has a great opportunity to become a bucket-list golf destination for discerning golf travellers, and Miyazaki – 31 golf clubs – is one of the many regions within Japan that can benefit enormously from the country’s successful development as an accessible, desirable and memorable golf destination.”

Shunji Kouno, Governor of Miyazaki Prefecture, said

“The prefecture had focused on welcoming golfers from Japan and Asia in the past and had hosted the renowned Dunlop Phoenix Tournament for 50 years, inviting leading golfers including Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama.

My comments

Have you also noticed how many golf destinations are switching to high-value golf tourists from a quantity-based visitor strategy? Experts say these high-value tourists are going to be more interested in experiential tourism.

A quality-based strategy accomplishes three things:

  • over-tourism mitigation,
  • ensuring sustainability – thus reframes the goals of tourism and redefines how success should be measured,
  • community inclusion

I would help golf tourists how they can stay longer from the same golf holiday budget. I would show them that their spending has real value in the local economy or community e.g.

  • through job creation,
  • strengthening culture,
  • protecting heritage, and
  • the natural environment.

How would you develop international golf tourism in Japan? Add your ideas in the comments!