The Kobe Golf Club, the first golf course in Japan, was established in 1901. It was the golfers’ paradise. Coincidentally, this first golf course has an unexpected connection with Australia. Mr. Playfair, an original member of the club, was also the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, a place widely acknowledged as the best golf course in Australia. Being the birthplace of golf, Hyogo currently accommodates the second most number of golf courses in Japan, leading to intense price competition within the prefecture. Thus, the green fees are relatively affordable compared to Tokyo and the surrounding areas. The love for golf has been deeply rooted in Hyogo since the foundation of the first Japan golf course and continues to provide the ultimate golfing experience for both international and domestic golfers. The best Hyogo golfing experience is April-June and September-December.
Hyogo is located in the Kansai region, next to Kyoto and Osaka. It is often described as a ‘miniature Japan’ because of its famous cherry blossoms, various marine sports, hot springs, and ski resorts. Not only is 20% of the land is designated natural parks, but it also has the greatest number of castles in Japan since it was once the home of the Imperial Court. The 1868 opening of Kobe Port has transformed the prefecture into a cosmopolitan region. Currently, numerous foreign-affiliated companies and local research, manufacturing, IT, and medical businesses are the driving force behind the prefecture’s economy. Hyogo’s agriculture, forestry, and fisheries are thriving as well, with sake now considered one of the top local specialties. It has earned Hyogo the reputation of a place blessed by the God of Sake.
The only 24/7 operating airport, Kansai International Airport, serves as the gateway for Australians arriving with Jetstar/ Qantas Airlines. Otherwise, it is a comfortable 4.5 hours train journey on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Narita/ Haneda to Shin-Kobe Station/ Himeji Station.
1-3 Rokkosan-cho Ichigatani, Nada-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Kobe Golf Club is located in the birthplace of golf in Japan, Kobe. First established on Mount Rokko in 1903 overlooking Osaka and Kobe, it is currently the oldest golf club standing. It has rapidly evolved from a nine-hole to an 18-hole course in the year following its establishment. The unique landscape displays the majesty of British golf courses, transporting players back to the 19th Century. To maintain the pristine condition of the greens, the club has prohibited the use of golf carts and restricted each player to hold up to only ten golf clubs. Kobe Golf Club promotes its rich history and traditions through its ‘Special Play Days’. On these days, non-members can access the course as well. Upholding the title of the oldest golf course, non-members have to apply via a postcard with a reply card attached. This golf club operates from April to December.
In April 2020, the club newly restored the sand greens, which were a distinctive feature of the 19th Century golf courses. This course consists of par-3 and par-4 courses, starting with short openers, moving to holes in the valleys, and then to the greens. Make sure to check out the par-4 18th, looking towards the beautiful clubhouse. There is also the Himalayas par-3 for those looking for a bit of variety. It is recommended that players carry around 7 clubs to enjoy the golfing experience on the hilly terrain. Each hole has a unique nickname, such as ‘Styx’ and ‘Does & Doruis’. Check out their website for the origin of the names!
7-3 Shijimi-cho Hirono, Miki-shi, Hyogo
The club was designed with the preservation of the surrounding nature in mind, which led to the exceptional routings and unique holes. As a result, Hirono Gold Club is ranked as the most prestigious course in Japan, as well as making into the top 100 golf courses in the world because of its detail and natural design. Although the land was originally the property of a feudal warlord, the owners at that time asked a British designer by the name of Charles Alison to turn it into a golf course. The golf museum at the club showcases the history and evolution of golf in Japan over the years. Hirono is a private course, so only members will be able to access these masterpieces. While the golf course has become easier because of the removal of the central bunker and the messy sand scrapes, there are still many outstanding routings and holes.
With several lakes and ponds scattered around the course, along with primed trees and undulating woodland, the scenery at Hirono is not to be underestimated. With its strategic bunkering, elevated greens, and ravines, the course will come as a challenge even for the experienced players. Hirono encourages approach play, particularly holes 10, 11, 14, 16, and 18. What makes some of these shots more difficult is that dense trees act as an obstacle for these holes. Hirono’s par 3s are unsurpassed in Japan, as can be seen in the numerous bunkers in front of the uphill green of the 5th hole, ‘Fiord’. The 7th hole, ‘Devil’s Divot’ is another outstanding par-3, a diagonal shot across a deep sandy ditch. The scattering bunkers throughout the rugged field within the greens do not make the work easy but will be very rewarding once accomplished.
15 Yamada-cho Nishishimo, Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Renowned as one of the best of Japan’s golf courses, Rokko Kokusai Golf Course boasts an east and west course with distinctive features. The layout of the east course in the hilly terrain requires precise shots and good course management. On the other hand, the design of the west course took full advantage of its surrounding nature by providing a stunning panoramic view during the play.
This place had the privilege of hosting some of the most prestigious golf tournaments. The 36-hole golf course enclosed by nature provides an exceptional golfing experience by having a breathtaking backdrop of the magnificent Rokko Mountain. Even though it’s hidden in the natural reserves, it is only a short distance away from the city centre. A trip to Rokko Kokusai Golf Course will gift the golfers with not only memorable golfing experiences but also an opportunity to look around the city.
534-1 Konishidani, Fukui, Yokawa-cho, Miki-shi, Hyogo
The hilly Hanayashiki Golf Club Hirono Course is located in Miki City. Designed by Osamu Ueda, the club first opened its doors in 1973. It hosts Studio Alice Women’s Open (LPGA Tour) every year, showcasing the beauty of the course on television. However, in the past, the club has also hosted the Japanese Women’s Open, USLPGA, JGA, and KGU tournaments. Because the course aims to preserve the surrounding nature, hills, ponds, and bunkers are scattered throughout the course which makes walking around slightly difficult. However, the club provides carts equipped with the latest navigation technology to help players get around comfortably. Despite its design, the golf course accommodates players of all levels.
The club has divided the course into two: an IN course and an OUT course. In the OUT course, there are many ponds, which players would need to be mindful of. The 3rd par-3 hole is one of the more advanced ones because the shot towards the uphill hole needs to be accurate due to the dogleg hole on the right. The 18th hole is a challenging long-distance shot across a pond, and it became well-known because of the coverage on TV. This golf course also has many facilities to maximise the experience. The Western Osaka style restaurant Alaska provides mouthwatering dishes that are very popular with tourists. There is also a large souvenir shop operated by Niki Golf nearby. Best of all, the club has a spacious public bath and relaxing saunas for players to take a rest after a day of play.
571 Kitabata, Ougo-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Here are some of the top things to do and see in Hyogo Prefecture in addition to the exceptional golf experiences.
Also known as the White Heron Castle because of its white façade, this well-preserved wooden castle is registered both as a national treasure and a World Heritage Site. Despite its long history, the structure of the historical site has lasted for hundreds of years. The adjacent garden, Koko-en, is also an excellent place for a relaxing stroll.
68 Honmachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo
Only purebred Tajima cattle raised in Hyogo are certified as Kobe beef. The melt-in-your-mouth of extraordinarily tender, beautifully marbled, and full flavoured beef comes with a subtle sweetness. Make sure to eat Kobe beef teppanyaki style to maximise the flavour of Kobe beef and enjoy the stunning cooking performance at the same time.
Kobe Beef Ishida
Kinosaki Onsen is a quaint antique Japanese Onsen town that contains 7 hot spring baths. Overnight guests will receive a free onsen pass that allows them to enjoy unlimited bathing in all the hot springs. Take a walk around the traditional stores in a yukata and wooden sandals to feel as if you are on a travel show.
Kinosaki, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo
Hyogo’s miso-dare gyoza takes the simple ordinary gyozas to the next level. Instead of the traditional vinegar soy dipping sauce, these gyozas are paired with the miso-dare sauce, a delicate combination of vinegar-soy sauce and savoury miso. Treat your taste-buds to these gyozas in the birthplace of this unique dish.
Nada district, the heartland of sake, boasts over 40 breweries. The high-quality rice, clean water, and pleasant weather conditions all contribute to the superior, authentic taste of Hyogo’s sake. Breweries are close to each other, which provides the perfect opportunity for a sake tasting tour. The Sake Brewery Museum gives the guests a chance to witness the brewing process firsthand, helping to enhance the visitors’ sake-tasting experience.
Mikage, Higashinada-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Soba-meshi, the soul food of Hyogo, is often overlooked when it comes to the prefecture’s delicacies. This ultimate Japanese street food is the perfect harmony of Chinese style noodles and fried rice. Originated from the Nagata district, it now extends to Okonomiyaki and Teppanyaki restaurants throughout Hyogo. This local cuisine proves that Hyogo has more to offer than just Kobe beef!
Nagata Tank Suji