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Golf Across the World - South Korea & Japan

Mike F., Titleist Staff Team Titleist Staff

Hi Team Titleist,

Mike Farese, here. I am a Titleist associate here in Fairhaven, MA, where I have the pleasure of working with some incredible people you know so well, such as Abby L., Mike D., and Rick V. My role here at Titleist is in supporting our international markets, of which we have 11, with any and all of their marketing initiatives, whether advertising and media buying, to public relations, to email marketing and social media support. And in my role I am lucky enough to do a bit of traveling, which is the reason for my inaugural post here today.

A few weeks ago I was able to travel to two of our most important markets here at Titleist: South Korea and Japan. And in those visits, I learned and experienced a lot, from differences in how golfers watch and follow the global professional tours, down to subtle differences with regards to just how the game of golf is both played and practiced in these two markets. One thing that certainly was not that different to golf here in the US, though, was the level of commitment to the game of golf shown by both Korean and Japanese golfers. And in seeing that, the team here felt it would be cool to share some details with all our Team Titleist members back home as to just how the game of golf and the Titleist brand look like on the other side of the world. I hope you enjoy!

South Korea

Lakeside Golf Club.
Lakeside Golf Club.1/3
Lakeside Golf Club.
Lakeside Golf Club.2/3
Lakeside Golf Club.
Lakeside Golf Club.3/3

After landing late on Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting and playing one of the top public courses in Greater Seoul: Lakeside Country Club. Lakeside was actually the first official public country club ever opened in Korea and is home to 54 holes of golf, all traversing different areas in the hills of southeast Seongnam, one of Seoul’s satellite cities.

• • •

One of the coolest features of the courses at Lakeside is that each hole features two greens, with only one in play at all times. The reason for this is that with the amount of dedicated golfers in the Greater Seoul area, each of the three courses takes on over 30,000 rounds per year – which is a lot to ask of both the terrain as well as the golf course maintenance team. Therefore, one green always remains in top shape, while the other is prepared to “tag in” when maintenance or general relief is needed of its sister green.

• • •

Caddies are a prominent part of Korean golf culture, in addition to golf carts that are built for all four players plus their caddie to sit in. Caddies are responsible for all aspects of the day, including club selection, providing assistance with course management, and also helping with the reading of greens. Another cool feature of the player-caddie-cart relationship is that within the cart path there is a magnetic strip that allows the cart to be driven and controlled by the caddie, even when they are not in the cart.

• • •

(L to R) Brian Lee, Titleist Golf Ball Director;...
(L to R) Brian Lee, Titleist Golf Ball Director; Chris Kim, Titleist Golf Ball Marketing Manager; myself; Victoria Kim, Titleist Golf Ball Assistant Marketing Manager1/2
Lakeside lunch.
Lakeside lunch.2/2

At lunch, groups typically take a 15-20 minute break and it is customary to enjoy a shared meal with your playing partners such as this: steamed pork, a few varieties of kimchi, and dried fish in a spicy local sauce.

• • • 

Another really cool aspect of the Korea golf culture is gifting. Within the golf shops of all Korean golf courses, there is a section set aside for packaged gifts composed of non-golf items like fruit, fish, wine, and desserts. These are laid out for the purpose of golfers purchasing them at the end of their round to then bring back to their spouse and families, as a thank you and consideration for their time away from the house.

With the total golf population of Korea hovering around the 3M number, and with only around 500 courses in the country, the popularity of driving ranges is visibly noticeable. While driving through Seoul and its satellite cities, it’s customary to not go more than one to two miles without seeing the familiar site of driving range netting, rising 50 to 60 feet in the air, surrounded by either hills of green trees or the greys and tans of apartment buildings and offices.

• • •

Korea Practice Range.
Korea Practice Range.1/2
Korea Practice Range.
Korea Practice Range.2/2

This driving range, located just south of Seoul featured four floors and a mix of both young and old golfers getting their fix on an early Tuesday morning.

• • •

Golf shops in South Korea are also quite different in the US in the sense that space comes at a premium. One noticeable similarity was of course the familiar displays of our Titleist golf ball family.

 • • •

Japan

Narita.
Narita.1/2
Narita.
Narita.2/2

The second stop in my trip was to Tokyo, Japan. Globally, Japan is the second largest golf market in the world, and for Titleist, our second largest market with regards to overall Team Titleist membership. Landing on a Wednesday afternoon, we slowly made our way into Tokyo, but not before we stopped at Narita Golf Club, a private golf club around 50 miles east of Tokyo. With how densely populated Tokyo is, most golf courses are a similar length outside of the city – or even much further. With that being the case, playing golf in Japan is thought of as a full day activity: waking up before the sun rises, driving anywhere from one to two hours to a course, spending six to seven hours at the course, and then a final one to two hours driving back home. Quite the inverse of golf here in the US.

• • •

Lotte Driving Range.
Lotte Driving Range.1/2
Lotte Driving Range.
Lotte Driving Range.2/2

With the distance needed to travel to play at a course near them, similar to Korea, driving ranges are extremely popular in Japan. After visiting Narita Golf Club, we visited Lotte Kasai Driving range, in Edogaka-ku, just on the outskirts of Tokyo. Again, similar to in Korea, even though we visited before 5PM on a work day, plenty of golfers young and old were at “work” sharpening their games.

• • •

Titleist Golf Clubs Fitting Studio.
Titleist Golf Clubs Fitting Studio. 1/3
Titleist Golf Clubs Fitting Studio.
Titleist Golf Clubs Fitting Studio. 2/3
Fujisawa Range.
Fujisawa Range. 3/3

Later in the week, we also had the opportunity to visit Titleist Golf Clubs Fitting Studio at Fujisawa Jumbo Golf driving range in Fujisawa, around an hour from Tokyo, which featured a steady flow of Titleist brand fans throughout the morning. Featuring three floors and targets throughout the driving range, this is one of the most popular facilities outside of downtown Tokyo.

• • •

While visiting a few more golf shops later in the day, including a nine story golf-only store in downtown Tokyo, we got a glimpse of something that was pretty darn cool: our first Titleist billboard in Japan.

• • •

Rounding out our trip was my final round of golf in Asia, at Oak Hills Country Club in Narita, where Seve Ballesteros holds the course record with an 11-under 61.

• • •

Featuring roiling hills that you might see here in northern Georgia, Oak Hills was an absolute treat to play.

• • •

One interesting difference was that after our putts fell after the 9th hole. Rather than a 15 minute break like the one we enjoyed in Korea (or grabbing a quick hot dog at the turn here in the US), we headed into the clubhouse, washed up, and sat down for a full lunch – over 1:15 long and featuring full menu options like you see above: Once we finished eating, we made our tee time for our second nine (which is customary in Japan) and then headed back out to the course. All in all, as we wrapped up our round, our day at Oak Hills ended up being just over seven hours at the course!

• • •

In the end, this experience was certainly a memorable one. It was incredible to be able to witness in person some of the subtle differences within the game of golf between these two markets and back home in the US, but it was also reassuring and a bit heartwarming to know that when it comes to dedicated golfers, and especially Titleist brand fans and Team Titleist members, we are much more alike than we are different. Each one of us is constantly searching for ways to improve our games, whether at a municipal or private golf course, or a driving range with four hitting bays or four floors of hitting bays… we’re all on that search together, one big, global family of golfers. Until next time, thanks for reading, Team Titleist!

19 Replies

  1. Barry B

    Mike,
    Awesome post. It's great to get some insight into golf with different cultures.
  2. Tyler H

    Thanks for sharing Mike. It is interesting to read about golf customs from other countries.
  3. Speedy

    Very interesting post and thanks for sharing.. Not sure about the 7 hour round though..
  4. Tim Tiger

    Awesome write up. Looking forward to similar articles from all over the world.

    TT
  5. No'l

    Hi Mike,

    What a treat to be able to view and imagine closer what a golf day is like in South Korea and Japan. It was truly humbling for me on how the people in their country devotes their time and how they spend their time for golf.

    I loved reading your story and enjoyed it very much. Thank you so much for sharing us your experiences- they're all first class in my books.

    Best regards,

    Noel
  6. Abby L., Team Titleist Staff

    Hi Mike - Absolutely loved reading (and hearing) and about your trip! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    -Abby
  7. Jim D

    Very cool! Thank you for sharing your experience.
  8. Brian D

    What a great story. Bet you would not have thought you would end up on the other side of the planet.....?

    Thanks so much for sharing all the details of your visit. Boy do those sups desire a lot of credit with the courses taking that amount of rounds.

    The pic of what I think is a pro shop is a great display of all the Titleist equipment...some pretty sweet japaneese only gear
  9. Scott D

    Excellent post. That was extremely interesting. Thanks for sharing!
  10. Chuck Z

    Thanks for sharing. How did you find the kimchi? Their customs do differ big time from ours, having interacted with the Chinese, Korean and Japanese at our International professional conferences over the years. I found them to be extremely interesting. Great write-up.
  11. Joe D

    What a great read Mike.
    Thanks for all the insight on the differences between the cultures and there approach to golf.
    One think for sure is Titleist is trusted and loved around the world.
    Must of been a fantastic trip.
  12. Darron K

    So sick! Mahalo for sharing this!
  13. Mike F., Titleist Staff

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone! Glad you guys enjoyed the recap and I look forward to my next post, hopefully this fall.
  14. Mike F., Titleist Staff

    Chuck Z

    Thanks for sharing. How did you find the kimchi? Their customs do differ big time from ours, having interacted with the Chinese, Korean and Japanese at our International professional conferences over the years. I found them to be extremely interesting. Great write-up.

    Thanks, Chuck - glad you liked it. As for the kimchi, I couldn't get enough. Once I got back home I made sure I found a good spot near me to get my fix!
  15. Cathi, Titleist Club Concierge

    Great story - thank you for sharing it! Fascinating to read about how different cultures have embraced golf.
    In the US, we are trying to get players to speed up so that we can do more things and over there it is a real commitment to play a round of golf for a whole day.
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