Koga is an unheralded but charming seaside golf club built through an undulating pine plantation close to the city of Fukuoka. In a similar mould to Newcastle in Australia and East London in South Africa, Koga boasts a stack of solid holes that are exposed to tricky trade winds and mostly feature small built up greens guarded by steep banks and rugged bunkering.
The undulation is less pronounced here than at Newcastle or East London, but is constant and well used by Japanese designer Osamu Ueda who ensured short walks between holes and managed to squeeze eighteen alternate greens onto the compact and heavily forested site without making the course feel too confined.
Of the better holes the straightaway par four 3rd is a particular favorite, the deep bunkers short of the plateau green and left of the lay-back zone tighten a hole where every yard gained from the tee eases the challenge of the approach. The 2nd is also a fine hole across a small ridge and bending into pines, while the approach across a shallow valley on the 8th is another highlight. The back nine continues the theme of gently rising greens and deep surrounding sand trouble, Woodhall Spa would be proud to own the left trap on 16 which is at least ten feet deep and pressed hard against the shallow part of the green. Other good holes include the mini-Calamity 11th and the par five 12th, which tumbles across the best contours on the course and is especially enjoyable if you can draw a drive around the corner and catch a ride down one of the slopes. The 18th is a cracking short par four where the rewards of successfully hitting your driver are enormous as the pitch in from any sort of distance is diabolical.
Koga does get a touch back and forth in places and its facilities are not lavish, but this tight and terrific little course is a class act and clearly one of Asia’s best from this era.