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There are no daylight savings in Japan- or Asia for that matter. That means, starting from Mid April until the end of August, sunrise is around 4 a.m. The idea of a 4:32 a.m. tee time might seem a bit daft to most, but for the golfer in Japan it not only makes a lot of sense, it is in fact, genious.


The usual golf outing in Japan can be a time consuming affair. A typical round for a golfer living in Tokyo-  including transportation to and from their home—goes for about 12 hours, total, and can even go longer.  How does that break down? OK well, it’s five hours of play, a one hour lunch between nines, two hours transportation each way, an hour before the round to get ready and practice, and an hour after the round to bathe and visit the 19th hole—it all adds up.  And that means waking up early anyway for that 12 hour round.    

Most golfers here are resigned to these long hours for a game on the weekend, but if you can play outside the regular times, you can bring the total time down to seven or even six hours.  That means either “early bird” or “nighter” golf under the lights.


Nighter golf we can cover in another article, but for an early bird (アーリーバード)golf experience, sometimes just referred to as early morning play (早朝セルフゴルフ), the time goes something like this: Leave Tokyo at 3:30 a.m. for a 4:52 tee time ( in this case at Prestige CG in Tochigi).  With no traffic, the commute is a breeze—just an hour in the dark morning hours.  After getting lockers, changing, and taking a few putts on the practice green, you are ready to tee it up.  Usually there are only a few other groups on the course at this time and with thru-play you can finish near 8:30—a little over three and a half hours—arguably it will be the quickest round you will get to play in Japan.

 A quick shower and back on the road to Tokyo, you should be reaching home about 10:30, The total time is a little over seven hours, with most of the day ahead of you.


Other advantages with early bird golf include a cheaper tee time, no meal to pay for and no extra charge for just being a two ball.

Outside of the obvious disadvantage of waking up 2 hours before ‘The crack of dawn’ for an early bird round, there are others: The club where we played didn’t allow the baths to be used at this time, so no ofuro then.  Except for putting, there is no time or way to practice. And there is a skeletal staff in the early morning, we were expected to load our bags on the carts by ourselves. You’ll also need to drive - public transportation, such as taking a train and club bus to the course, are not possible for these tee times.

An easier solution perhaps is to do an early bird at a course with a hotel, like Murasakizuka GC. Then you can stroll out of your hotel room and onto the tee. Families are also welcome here so you could play 18 and then have breakfast with the kids and hit the pool (also on site).


Earlybird tee times are undoubtedly not for everyone, but even with the disadvantages, this is a great golf option in Japan!

Images: By Jack Snell

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