No tee-time necessary. Five-somes welcome. One club. One ball. Tucked-in polos and khakis? Ehhh…? Thirty-six holes of complete awesomeness await you! Welcome to パークゴルフ(park golf)!
パークゴルフ is a Japanese sport that equally mixes traditional and mini-golf with a splash of croquet (think yard-game atmosphere) for good measure. The game is seemingly specific to Japan’s Kyushu Island and brings together people of all ages for an afternoon of ”おし’s”、”おさきに’s”、すごいな’s”、and ”だめ強い’s”.
I had the pleasure of playing 36 of the finest holes 熊本県 has to offer, and after just one hole, was instantly sucked into all the nuances this exciting game has to offer.
The four of us – Masa, his wife Takako’s parents Shojiro-san and Nobuko-san, and myself – tee’d off on the さんさん front nine on what was a beautiful, mildly chilly Saturday afternoon. After our first tee shot on the 62m long par 4, we marched down the fairway together to hit our approach to the tiny, slightly uphill, left-to-right green. The pin placement was dead-center, so you could be greedy if you so desired, however if you punched the ball too hard, it would unforgivingly roll off the back of the green into the much-dreaded back-side bunker. A real thinker.
After I hit my wolfish approach into said bunker, I took in a panoramic view of the beautiful mountain setting and thought “Wow, this is unquestionably incredible! Here I am, surrounded by friendly people and beautiful mountains, just trying to hit a silly ball into a sillier hole. Astonishing!”
The ensuing 35 holes left me with great impressions as the four of us politely trotted around the course. Each of us shared our fair share of honours, the occasional “hockey stick” (7!), lengthy birdie putts, and even a hole-in-one graced the scorecard.
What I realized from this experience is that no matter what type of golf you happen to be playing, there is one element that is perfectly necessary for it: camaraderie. This camaraderie is a transcendental aspect of one of the greatest games to ever be played. Without this, forget the game of golf.
Park golf in photos: