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Golf Course Maintenance at Japan: week 3, rolling, multi-course facilities, and the best zoysia course in the world

During my third consecutive week at Japan, I gave a seminar about turfgrass nutrient requirements, visited five golf clubs in four different prefectures, only one of which had less than 36 holes, and saw lots of interesting course maintenance equipment and grasses. Here are the highlights.

Let's start with this Asahi self-transporting roller. Here it is in action, rolling a green.

Now that the green is finished, the operator puts it into transport mode.

And then it is off to the next green. 

This type of roller is common in Japan. The Hatsuta model (which seems to have replaced the Asahi) weighs 500 kg, which puts it on the heavy side for lightweight rollers, and similar in weight to a battery-powered Tru-Turf roller.

During my three weeks in Japan I visited sixteen golf clubs with 33 eighteen-hole equivalents. Just last week I visited five clubs, but actually went to fifteen courses, if we count them in eighteen-hole equivalents.

  1. a 36-hole club at Hyogo prefecture
  2. a 54-hole club at Shiga prefecture
  3. a 36-hole club at Shizuoka prefecture
  4. an 18-hole club at Nagano prefecture
  5. a 126-hole club at Nagano prefecture!

World-amateurThat's right, the Karuizawa 72 Golf Club has a lot of courses. Actually, the club recognizes itself as having six courses, but there is a seventh course, owned by the same company, and maintained out of the same maintenance facility, with the same superintendent, so for the purposes of golf course maintenance, it's seven courses. The club hosts a Japan LPGA event each summer and will host the World Amateur Team Championship in 2014.

classic zoysia green at Kawana

When it comes to grasses on Japanese golf courses, the majority of courses have creeping bentgrass greens, manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) tees and fairways, and Japanese lawngrass (Zoysia japonica) roughs. Some courses, most notably the Kawana Hotel's Fuji course (above), have manilagrass greens as well. 

Micah-honke-kawanaI'm a big advocate of manilagrass, particularly in China, India, and Southeast Asia, where manilagrass thrives, producing equal or in many cases even better conditions than it can in Japan, and I'm reminded when I visit Japan of just how good manilagrass is as a golf course turf.

It was a real treat for me to visit Kawana, to meet again with the recently retired (but still working half-time) greenkeeper, Honke-san, who has decades of experience working at Kawana. In Golf Magazine's latest ranking of the world's top 100 courses, Kawana is #76, making it the best course in the world with zoysia greens!

Golf Magazine's list includes three courses from Japan – Hirono, Kawana, and Tokyo – all of which have manilagrass fairways. These beautiful playing surfaces should be used more in other parts of Asia where manilagrass is a better-adapted species than bermudagrass or seashore paspalum. 

Mt. Fuji from Kawana


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