Naruo Golf Club

Course Data
LocationHyougo, Japan
Yardage6564 yards Par 70
Course Rating72.1
Playing Date31 Oct. 2003 & 19 Oct. 2004
DesingnerH.C. Crane (Supervisor: Charles Alison)
Golf CartNo
Overall Rating
Course Layout
Difficulty Level
Greens Conditions
Fairways Conditions
Landscaping & Views
Satisfaction Level

Naruo Golf Club is one of the most historic courses in the whole of Japan that has 2400 courses in total. It features small Kourai (Japanese Lawn grass) greens. If they were changed to bent grasses, the course’s rating would be a little higher. Kourai grasses are much slower than bent on green surfaces. At Naruo, almost all holes are separated by big trees and utilize the natural, hilly rolling terrain, and each hole is unique. All four par 3s are difficult but worth challenging. Although the course in not long, it is hard to have a good score because almost all the greens are small, elevated and fully guarded by deep bunkers. The course is not only narrow flanked by trees, but has a lot of uneven lies. Also, some holes might tempt you to make aggressive shots, which could put you in the designer’s traps, and accordingly hit high scores. However, no single hole is tricky and you can play fairly against the course designer.

A view from the clubhouse

A view of 15th green

A view of 18th & 13th green

1st Par 4 386 yards

1st Par 4 386 yards (2)

1st Par 4 386 yards (1)
The whole fairway is tilted from left to right, so if a tee-shot over the pond lands on the right side of the fairway, you will hit the second shot is tough because trees will interfere with your shot to the green. You could hit a low ball under the trees but the deep bunker in front of the green will likely catch the ball.

2nd Par 3 182 yards

2nd Par 3 182 yards (2)

2nd Par 3 182 yards (1)
The fairway between the two bunkers in front of the green is extremely narrow and both sides of the elongated green are guarded by bunkers.

3rd Par 4 400 yards

3rd Par 4 400 yards (2)

3rd Par 4 400 yards (1)
A downhill, slightly dogleg to the left. You can hit longer due to the steeper downhill slope when you hit the left side of the fairway. The second shot is over a steep hollow which used to be a river until the 1940s to a green which is small and elevated with many guarding bunkers, so an accurate shot is required.

5th Par 4 394 yards

5th Par 4 394 yards (2)

5th Par 4 394 yards (1)
The tee shot is a little downhill and the second shot is uphill. There is an OB line close to the left edge of the narrow fairway, so you want to hit the right side of the fairway. However when you hit to the right, the downhill rolling fairway sloping from left to right will bring your ball near the right edge of the fairway where the big trees in front of you will make it difficult to aim for the green on the second shot. You need to be brave enough to drive to the left side of the fairway on this hole. 
7th Par 5 526 yards

7th Par 5 526 yards (2)

7th Par 5 526 yards (1)
A slight dogleg to the right with beautiful trees on the far left side of the fairway. There is an OB on the right. The long, sloping green has deep bunkers in front of it and at the back, so you need to hit the approach shot with a precise & high ball biting the green. To hit a shot to the pin from the bunker behind the green is very tough, so you should never be long of the green. The best route is to hit to the right of the fairway close to the OB line on the second shot, the only place the bunkers front and back are not in play.
8th Par 4 437 yards
From the tee, it is a slight downhill, dogleg to the left, par 4. You need to hit a long ball on the right side of the fairway; otherwise, the trees on the right side of the fairway will hamper your second shot.

8th Par 4 437 yards (3)

8th Par 4 437 yards (2)

8th Par 4 437 yards (1)

10th Par 4 476 yards

10th Par 4 476 yards (1)
A long downhill par 4 with an excellent view from the tee. The second shot is over a deep hollow which used to be a river many years ago. You had better carry over the wide bunker 50 – 60 yards from the center of the green, and then you can have an easy approach shot to the pin from flat lie even if you don’t hit the green in regulation. If you are short of the flat area, even if only slightly, the next approach shot will be difficult because the ball will roll back down to the bottom of the steep slope or will be caught in a bunker where the long bunker shot is needed. This hole was selected as one of the best 500 holes in the world by GOLF Magazine in 2000 (the latest version to date)

10th hole seen from the green

10th Par 4 476 yards (3)

10th Par 4 476 yards (2)

12th Par 3 164 yards

12th Par 3 164 yards
The green is elevated, small and surrounded by bunkers, some of them 10 feet (3 meters) deep! You need to be careful to avoid those bunkers.
15th Par 3 189 yards
The fifteenth is a beautiful signature hole over a valley. The green slopes from back to front and are protected by bunkers on all four sides of the green. You can’t hit the green in regulations unless your shot is not only the right distance but also very accurate. If you hit left to right too much, the ball will roll down the valley on the right side of the fairway, which leads to the OB.

15th green

15th Par 3 189 yards (2)

15th Par 3 189 yards (1)

16th Par 4 403 yards
It might be hard to use a driver because the right side of the fairway is extremely narrow due to hanging trees. The second shot is downhill and you should avoid hitting on the right of the green because it slopes steeply and a deep bunker awaits the ball. This hole is unique because it looks like the trees surround the green.

16th Par 4 403 yards (3)

16th Par 4 403 yards (2)

16th Par 4 403 yards (1)

17th Par 4 398 yards

17th Par 4 398 yards (2)

17th Par 4 398 yards (1)
Because it is uphill, it plays about 40 yards longer than the distance. The location of the fairway and greenside bunkers is excellent.
19th hole


Inside the clubhouse
Visitors need introductions from members to play on weekdays. On Saturdays you need to be accompanied by a member and are not allowed to play on Sundays. It seems that various competitions are set on Sundays and members want to enjoy its club life. The clubhouse is a classic and very relaxing.

The course is awarded the 36th place out of 2400 courses in 2002’s Japanese golf course rankings by the Japan Golf Classic Magazine. More impressive is that US Golf Magazine ranked it the 100th best course in the world in 2005. The other selected courses in Asia and Oceania are Royal Melbourne GC (10th), Kingston Heath GC (Australia, 20th), Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand, 27th), New South Wales GC (Australia, 34th), Hirono GC (Japan, 35th), Barnbougle Dunes (Australia, 49th), Royal Adelaide GC (Australia, 54th), Kauri Cliffs GC (New Zealand, 58th), Kawana GC – Fuji Course (Japan, 80th), Tokyo GC (94th) and The Club at Nine Bridges (Korea 95th).

The Naruo GC has a great “personality”, with lots of fully-grown old trees over years giving you a great feeling of its tradition. But the only demerit is to see the wire nets at the tees to prevent drives from landing in the number of houses. But it is not the club’s nor designer’s responsibility at all because there were no houses around the course 80 years ago when it was built.

Almost all Japanese courses adapt par 72, par 36 for the front 9 and par 36 for the back 9 but there are many poorly designed 72 because unfortunately the designer occasionally needs to be forced to make the holes 72 on a difficult terrain. Although this course is par 70, it stands out with great layout.I think that it is natural to have par 68 or par 74 if the natural followed. There are many cases of poor layouts if owners of the gold courses stick too much to Par 72.

I bought a “Naruo” pudding as a souvenir for my family and it was very delicious.