【Beppu】Beppu Golf Club – Golf links on the mountain in a hot spring resort in Kyushu with a history of 90 years
Beppu-Onsen, one of Japan’s leading hot spring areas, boasting the largest amount of hot water and wide variety of spring qualities in Japan. When you get off at Beppu Station, which is the gateway to the Beppu-Onsen, you could fine a statue that stands out in front of the station.
Unlike the dignified statue of a great man that you usually see, it looks like a comedian who dances cheerfully with a cloak, and the pedestal is engraved with a funny name “Uncle Shiny”. That person is the hugely popular Aburaya Kumahachi, which every local person knows.
He is also said to be the father of Oita, a hot spring prefecture, who used his private fortune to appeal to Beppu and Yufuin and made it one of the largest tourist destinations in Japan.
His greatest achievements are that he practiced the essence of regional promotion and resort development, which is still said today, such as “from hardware to software,” “enrichment of content,” “unique advertising,” and “higher-grade hospitality,” for more than 100 years ago.
For example, Kamenoi Ryokan, which he founded in 1909, has grown into a first-class hotel visited by many celebrities due to its attentive service.
In 1925, he built a slogan on the summit of Mt. Fuji with the catch phrase “The best mountain in Japan is Fuji, the sea is Setouchi, and the hot spring is Beppu.”
In 1927, when he won the first place in the New Japan Best 100 Views Popularity Vote of the Osaka Nihon Newspaper using a local organization vote, he did not miss the opportunity and sprinkled an advertising paper with the words “Thank you for winning, Beppu Onsen” from the sky above Hanshin area.
Also, in 1928, when Japanese clothing was common, it was the first time in Japan to operate a regular sightseeing bus tour for visiting Jigoku(hell) Onsen with a young female bus guide wearing Western-style uniforms, and it was a great success.
In an era when there was no television or internet, he realized hometown Beppu’s development and success of own business with its outstanding foresight and advertising strategy that puts into practice unusual ideas.
The Beppu Golf Club was established in 1930 based on the idea that Aburaya Kumahachi proposed as a new form of leisure that combines hot spring resorts and sports. The Seto Inland Sea route played an important role for tourists to access Beppu at that time, and a golf course was built by Osaka Shosen shipping company, which operated the route connecting Osaka, Kobe and Beppu.
Beppu Golf Club has the second oldest history after Unzen Golf Club among the existing courses in Kyushu. It is older than Hirono and Kawana (Fuji Course) in Japan, and is the 15th oldest along with Abiko Golf Club.
The course designers are Kanji Fukui and Chozo Ito, and Fukui is Japan’s first professional golfer. On the other hand, Ito touched on course design while studying abroad and learned design under C.H Allison. He is also a major figure in the Kansai golf world who worked hard to establish the Hirono Golf Club and laid the foundation for the development of golf in Japan.
When it was first opened, it had only 9 holes under the name of “Beppu Golf Links”, but 10 years later it was expanded to 18 holes in 1940 (Tsurumi Course), and 9 holes were added in 1955 and 1993, respectively (Yufu Course). As a result, it became the first 36-hole big course in Kyushu.
After the world war ll, the U.S. military was requisitioned, and the management changed several times after the release of Osaka Shosen, but it is now operated under the umbrella of PGM.
The course is easily accessible by expressway from Oita Airport, etc., and you can reach the magnificent clubhouse built on the top of the hill by climbing a slope for about 300 meters from the course entrance near the Hayami IC exit of the Oita Expressway, about 10 minutes from Beppu City.
The day after I stayed at the hot springs in Beppu, I played the traditional Tsurumi course, which was a classic course with a handmade feel that made use of the natural terrain that has existed since the course opened.
The fairway is relatively wide and has many scenic holes, but there is always a slope along the rolling hills, which makes it more difficult to play.
The temperature suddenly rose on the morning of the day I visited, so the area around the course was covered with deep fog, and it looked like the entire clubhouse was floating above the clouds. Even at the start time, the fog did not clear and I thought it was inevitable that there would be a delay, but the previous group started on time without any hesitation.
It may be common for the area around the course to be covered with fog at the start time, but for me who is playing for the first time, I do not know the layout of the course as well as where to tee shot.I stood on the tee ground of the 1st hole (396 yards, par 4) surrounded by fog with anxiety, and when I hit a tee shot with full concentration, the fog finally cleared up a little.
Looking closely at the course, I found that it was a dynamic downhill hole, and fortunately the ball that disappeared beyond the fog was at the fairway center.
By the time I stood on the 2nd hole (514 yards, par 5), the fog had cleared up a lot, but I couldn’t see the green because I had a dogleg to the right. Moreover, the fairway is always tilted to the left, so I’m still not relieved.
After that, we can play comfortably as the spacious fairway holes continue, but the 6th hole (381 yards, par 4) has a large slope in front of the tee ground and a large pond below, and heads toward the green. It is a difficult hole that continues to climb toward the green.
And the 9th (405 yards, par 4) long middle hole is a signature hole where we can hit a dynamic shot from the tee ground on the hill toward the clubhouse with a strong presence. We’d like to hit a tee shot comfortably, but we will feel pressure as the forest continues to the front of the fairway. So, it is important to select a club as the uphill slope continues again from the second hit point beyond the forest toward the green.
The second half are densely packed with large cedars and cypresses on the left and right, giving a feeling of oppression, which makes the fairway feel narrow.
The most difficult hole is 14th (569 yards, par 5), the distance is relatively long, and the entire course has a steep left slope, making it easy to hit OBs, so careful play is required. However, when we safely climb onto the green, we will be able to see the best view of the course where you can see Beppu Bay, the Kunisaki Peninsula, and Bungo Channel.
The final 18th (353 yards, par 4) is a hole that you can comfortably hit down to the clubhouse. If we hit a shot over the impressive tree that stands in the center of the course, the approach area is wide and we can expect a good score to finish the play comfortably.
The entire course has a slope that makes the most of the natural terrain, but the fairway is relatively wide and there are few hazards such as bunkers, so you can swing the club as much as you want. Also, on days when the course conditions are good, we can drive a buggy cart on the fairway. The green is bent one green, which is wide but not so steep, but the course on the hill is greatly affected by the wind and the grass is tight.
I stayed at the five-star hotel “InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa”, which opened in 2019 on the mountaintop where we can overlook the large panoramic view of Beppu Bay and the rising white steam of hot springs from here and there. Even in the latest hotel, which is stylishly refined with the concept of contemporary and luxury, I still felt that Mr. Kumahachi’s “hospitality” is still alive today.
After playing on a traditional course that still retains the remnants of those days even after more than 90 years have passed since its opening, why not take a stunning open-air hot spring bath with panoramic view and heal your tiredness while remembering Mr. Kumahachi’s great achievements.