There’s a saying that golf in Japan is as unique as the country itself. Consisting of more than 6800 islands, and being a country of tremendous topographic diversity, it is considered one of the most amazing places in the world. And judging by its breathtaking landscapes, the love and respect of tradition on one side, and advanced technology on the other, there’s no doubt that it offers an extraordinary experience for anyone who decides to visit. Same goes for Japanese golf. As the world’s second largest golf market, Japan is home to a more than 2000 golf courses and some of the most promising professional long drive players.
All the golf courses take advantage of the hilly terrain and the country’s unique features, so playing at any of them is one-of-a-kind experience.
But first things first. Long drive has gone a long way since its first appearance in 1949 in Richmond, Virginia. However, the first ever long drive tournament in Japan took place in 1999 and was organized by Golf Digest, the largest golf platform in the country. The success of the tournament and interest in sports have served as a springboard for the establishment of LDJ, the primary professional organization in Japan that had been qualifying players for the World Long Drive Championship until its disappearance in 2020. This proved to be a great opportunity for Golf Digest and LDJ to combine strengths and create magic – a truly extraordinary tournament that would produce the best players and qualify them for the ULD Championship. One of the perks of the agreement with Ultimate Long Drive is that amateur players can also take their chance and give their best to qualify for Youth, Junior, Open, Senior, Super Senior, and 70+ divisions, making it a perfect excuse for the Japanese professional long drive scene to make the effort and start honing the skills of amateurs. Because, let’s face it, like in most countries in the world, the competition population has been steadily declining in Japan. Another challenge the world of long drive is facing is gender bias since there are far more male than female players today. Broadening horizons and widening target groups is what keeps everything, including the sport of long drive afloat and running. So developing strong players and an effective social media marketing strategy have been the most significant goals in national long drive.
Although multiple golf structures and groups organize their own long drive events throughout the year, the most renowned competition is definitely Japan Long Drive Championship (JLDC), sponsored by LDJ. Some of the country’s best known pro long drive players participated in the Championship, such as Naoto Misumi and Tatsuhiro Toyoda. Misumi won the gold three times, in 2017, 2020 and 2021, while Toyoda came in second in 2020 and 2021. As for the Women’s division, the ultimate champion in hitting the longest ball is Madoka Hasegawa, who won in 2021.
2022 is here and we’ll see what it brings, but hopefully things will get back to normal and long drive will keep growing and flourishing. The last two years have had a huge impact on sports, golf included, with shows and competitions being postponed or cancelled indefinitely. The pandemic-hit world has changed a lot of things for everyone, but with countries starting to control it, setting up precautionary measures and allowing domestic and international travel, it’s never been a better time to visit Japan and take your swing to the next level on one of their extraordinary courses. Because during these tough times, a little bit of extraordinary can make a huge difference for the soul.