Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Teeing Off With Japanese Technology

If you are into sport you would know that Japan has a healthy reputation as a golfing nation. I guess it all began post-war when America imported the sport into Japan along with baseball. Since then it has boomed despite the fact that it remains very expensive to be a member of a golf club and most are situated toward the outskirts of the big cities. In our early days in Japan, our real estate agent told us that he loved his golf and was actually a member of four golf clubs. While he obviously is a keen golfer, this could have been more of a financial investment on his part, as memberships can be bought and sold like property and can appreciate in value. Nonetheless, the average person can still become part of the golf craze and there are plenty of golf shops around to entice you. Also dotted throughout the suburbs are large netted areas where you can buy a bucket of golf balls and happily knock the casing of them (day or night) from multi-level platforms. However, the latest phenomenon is indoor electronic golf, which I was recently introduced to by one of my colleagues. Here, standing in front of a large digital screen, you can play golf electronically on many of the major courses of the world … St Andrews, Pebble Beach, take your pick! Being indoors, the conditions are always perfect. You are supplied with a nice cold drink, given the latest clubs to use and even provided with a golf glove, all at a very affordable price. It’s a combination of driving range and video game, where you can slam your ball into the large screen and have it converted by digital technology into a computer animation that matches the distance and direction of your shot. To add further realism to the experience, the tee-off platform automatically adjusts its angle depending on the lie of the ball and you are supplied with information such as wind direction, the slope of the green, recommended club selection etc. However, there is one big advantage to this form of the game…you never lose a ball! Although the computer can penalise you harshly for wayward shots, sending you back to the tee to try again, adding a penalty stroke to your score … just like the real game! The big disadvantage (or some might consider it an advantage) is that there is no walking and the only exercise gained is achieved by swinging the club. Any calories lost, as a result of the numerous thrashing of golf clubs are probably negated by the drinks you consume. To be honest it takes some getting used to, as it is a little while before you can correctly judge distances. Yet the computer is very accurate and the game is a genuine test of your golfing skill. Certainly my score was nothing to brag about…so it was a typical round of golf for me! However, just like the real game it is a very social activity that is certainly to be recommended. It’s a great way to spend a few hours and more recently has made golf even more accessible to the wider Japanese public.

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