Golf Architecture: The two green system in Japan

I have just finished up writing an article for a Swiss golf magazine on “Golf in Japan” Having gone through pictures – from my recent trip – I felt the immediate urge to write a post on the two green system .

One of the unique things about playing golf in Japan (and note there is a lot of uniqueness about the Japanese golf experience) is the two green system that many (not all) golf courses have adopted. Note that the two green system is not totally unique to Japan as a number of golf courses in South Korea have also adopted this system.

Two greens at the famed Takanodai GC

Two greens at the famed Takanodai GC

To understand the two green system you have to understand the Japanese golf business model and culture. In Japan there is a strong ethic for keeping the customer happy. Add to that golf courses are run like a business and thus its important that they maximise the amount of money they can make. In many ways the two green-system helps achieve both. Let me explain:

1.) Keeping the customer happy.

We have all played a golf course(s) where the condition of the green complex was suspect at best or where the green staff were doing renovations to that green. In this case I don’t suppose you were happy particularly if you were paying full rate for your round.

Of course where there are two greens it’s possible to open the best conditioned green. Also where renovation work is necessary (like coring or drainage and irrigation work) it’s possible to close one green and keep the other open without disrupting the golf and the club can continue to charge full rates.

2.) Making money

Most golf courses – minus a bunch in Europe – are about making money as the higest priority. In Japan this is particuarly evident. For instance in Japan dont expect a golf course to be closed for days after an ice or snow storm regardless the intensity. In fact the golf course could be open that same day. See Micah Woods excellent post on this subject: 

With reference to the two green system – and as was intimated above under point 1 – the club can open the best conditioned green all the time. In this case they will not have to factor in any cost reductions due to the condition of the greens (where a high percentage of the game is played).

To be honest I am not the biggest advocate for two greens on one hole. From a design perspective it’s hard to work out any clear strategy (at least to both greens) and this in my opinion lessons the golf experience. I have not designed any holes with two greens but the ones I saw in Japan were all rather featureless and lacking in much character. This in not ideal…..after all “a putting green has features just like a human, or at least, it should have to be worthy of the name. Of course, there are many which are no more impressive than the vacant, cow like expression of some people, but then again there are some with rugged profiles which loom head and shoulders above the common herd, and the moment we clap eyes on one of these, impulsively we murmur “Ah! There’s a green for you!” Albert W Tillinghast (The Course Beautiful)


Two greens at the Sobu CC

Sobu CC

Sobu CC

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