Conversion to single greens in Japan


Sean Dudley

American architect Rick Jacobson is continuing to expand his international practice, converting a prestigious Japanese club to single greens.

The 27-hole Ibaraki Kokusai Golf Club, like many Japanese courses, was designed with two greens on each hole – one planted with warm season turfgrass such as bermuda or zoysia and the other with a cool-season turf, such as bent or bluegrass, to cope with the extremes of the Japanese climate.

By the time the project is complete Jacobson said he will have installed new greens on all 27 holes (turfing them with A-4 bentgrass), renovated teeing areas, redesigned bunkers, and reconstructed cart paths. He also has been contracted to improve and update the practice facility.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to enhance the golf experience by upgrading the quality of the playing surfaces and improving various strategic design elements while remaining true to the spirit of the original course design,” Jacobson said.

Ibaraki Kokusai’s first 18 holes (the East and West nines) were designed in 1960 by Japanese golf course architect Giichi Sato, a highly successful Japanese player in the 1930s and 40s. The third (North) nine was designed by architect Osamu Ueda.

The conversion to a one-green system comes following recent developments in cool season turfgrass that now can withstand Japan’s intense summer heat while continuing to provide a superior putting surface in the cooler seasons. In addition, many Japanese courses are currently converting to the one-green system to reduce turfgrass maintenance costs, Jacobson said. “The current golf market in Japan is similar to that in the US as courses are now operating with conservative budgets while being challenged to attract and retain golfers during difficult economic conditions.”

Workers broke ground in May on the East ninefor the first phase of the renovation, Jacobson said. All nine of its two-green complexes were converted to one green per hole, with each now averaging 650 square metres. Immediate green surrounds were turfed with korai grass and all other graded areas in the rough or around the bunkers were turfed with zoysia grass.

In addition, the par five eighth hole on the East Course was converted to a par four and the par four eighth was lengthened and converted to a par five.

The second phase of construction will be the renovation of the West nine in 2011, while the North nine will be completed in 2012.