Welcome to your resource for disc golf in Japan! Here you will find insider information about disc golf, helpful links to websites and events related to the sport, and a blog dedicated to building community, competition, and fun through the great game of disc golf!
December 3-4, 2016: The 30th Annual Kyushu Open Disc Golf Tournament! This is the longest-running tournament in Japan, and this year is gonna be awesome! If you are in the Kyushu area and want to see disc golf played at the highest level possible in Japan, check out the action at Uminonakamichi Park!
Big News about Disc Golf in Japan! The JPDGA just posted on its homepage new rules for play in the coming year. The first part of the document specifies minimum payouts for tournaments while the second part announces that disc golf on suitably safe "closed" courses in JPDGA tournaments no longer require 159 gram and under discs. That means we can play REAL disc golf in Japan! YES!
Coming in April 2016--"Active English: Play Disc Golf!" A for-credit elective course at Kyushu University, this will be the first ever college course dedicated to disc golf in Japan!
2015 Kansai Open Course Map (yes!)
Kyushu University Disc Golf Club! Welcome to all students and staff at Kyushu University! This year (2015) is the beginning of the first official disc golf club at the collegiate level in Japan. And Kyushu University is an excellent place to start! Ito Campus of Kyushu University is the largest campus by area in all of Japan. I have already designed three 9-hole courses for us to play--so let's get ready to hit the disc golf course!
First, some basic guidelines for playing disc golf safely: 1) Wear tennis shoes or hiking shoes. We will be going up and down hills, through mud, and sometimes even into water. NO HIGH HEELS (this means you, ladies!) 2) Never throw your disc when people are in front of you. 3) The player who is furthest from the basket throws first, everyone else should wait behind them. 4) Watch where your playing partner's discs go--everybody helps to find discs in trees, bushes, etc. 5) Have fun!
Kyushu University Disc Golf Club's official name is the "Kyudai Niners" (9ers). The club is basically for relaxing and having fun in nature while playing the fastest growing new sport in the world--Disc Golf! Club members will practice together, play casual and competitive rounds of disc golf, and hopefully (once we improve) we will take the first team from a Japanese university to the US College Disc Golf Championships!
Here is the first course for us to play at Kyudai. It is located behind the main gymnasium at Ito Campus, starting up above the tennis courts...
The Japanese Light Disc Rule and why it is bad for disc golf: Japan is a truly unique place. This is one of it's greatest strengths, and also one of of it's major weaknesses. The spoken language in Japan, for example, is beautiful. It is also very different from most other natural languages in terms of grammar, word order, and everyday usage. The writing system for Japanese, on the other hand, is an absolute nightmare, with real economic consequences for the country. So what does this have to do with disc golf? Well, as many of you know, Japan is unique in the disc golf world because in JPDGA sanctioned tournaments you cannot use discs over 159.9 grams. Until a few years ago, the limit was 152 grams. Unique, huh? You bet--and in a bad way.
This single rule is limiting the performance of the best Japanese players internationally, while also restricting the fun, choices, and development of casual disc golfers in Japan. I will go into more detail on this soon, but first let's consider the reasons why this restriction exists in Japan at all. Here is the short answer: nobody really knows.
Version 1) According to popular legend, a non disc golfer in a Tokyo park was hit in the head by a stray disc and hospitalized. (Some versions of the story say that he died, but this is generally denied.) Due to the limited space available in Japanese parks and the population density in the country, it was decided (not sure by who) that Japanese disc golf would limit itself to only light discs in the interest of safety. Version 2) (conspiracy alert!) Nobody was hospitalized in Tokyo at all. What happened was that certain parties involved in the organization of disc golf in Japan during its first--and last--wave of popularity (1970-1980s) made a deal with certain interested corporations involved in disc golf manufacturing and promotion in the United States to limit access to discs by everyday Japanese players so as to corner the market for themselves. (Innova is most often mentioned in this conspiracy theory, with perhaps Hero, Inc. thrown in for good measure.)
Notice that neither of these just-so stories makes much sense. Even if version one were true, it is unclear how one freak accident could be just cause for such a blanket restriction on an entire nation of disc golfers. Furthermore, it is quite likely that requiring the use of lightweight discs in tournaments in windy Japan is actually more dangerous than allowing people to throw heavier, more controllable discs. The conspiracy version two makes just as little sense, since Japan is a tiny market and hardly worth such intrigue on the part of Innova; while Hero, Inc. makes more money on it's events and BBQ business than it does on disc golf, and everybody likes the owner who probably loses money every time he hosts the Japan Open. So we are left where we started: nobody really knows why the JPDGA started this rule, and why it continues to this day. The effects of the lightweight rule, however, are pernicious. Let me give you an example from my own recent experience.
I have been playing disc golf passionately for the past 11 or so years. I learned in San Francisco, on the awesome Golden Gate Park course. Since I come to Japan often, and recently live here and play in Japanese tournaments, I have had to adjust to the Japanese Light Disc Rule. While this process of adjustment has had some fringe benefits which I will go into later, generally speaking the restriction has hurt my game, especially in the areas of driving, throwing midrange shots, and throwing rollers.
Driving: Light discs have gotten better recently with the advent of blizzard plastics and the like, which are sometimes great for tailwind shots or uphill drives. Otherwise, especially when driving into a headwind, light drivers suck. Japan is windy, which means you look at your bag and realize you cannot throw the disc you need to throw. Ouch. Midrange shots: this is even more painful than drivers. Light midrange discs are basically useless, unless you need to throw a turnover shot. The best compromise is the new Champion Roc 3, which at least can handle a little wind--but if it gets really breezy all you can do is throw 159g. Firebirds or Gators and pray. Rollers: This is simple physics. Rollers are all momentum--the heavier the disc, the better and farther it will roll. Light discs suck for rollers.
Which brings me to putting--how would you like someone to tell you you have to throw a 150-class putter for "safety" reasons? It just doesn't make any sense. I almost went crazy when I first played in Japanese tournaments, where oftentimes the baskets are 20 year-old single-chain affairs that hardly catch discs to begin with. Throw a light putter into a headwind and watch it hit the chains, catch the wind, and fall right out of the basket. Or watch it just sail over the basket and off into the distance. Who knows? Putting in Japan drove me so crazy that, out of desperation, I invented an entirely new, upside-down putting style (I call it the "Gravity Putt") just to help take the wind out of the equation. Strangely enough, I have gotten really good at this style of putting, and it is now my go-to approach to inside the circle putts.
I am throwing 159 gram Vibram Ridge putters, which are awesome putters and, I am sure, they are even better at max weight. Because I am playing so much in Japan, I use these for all my inside the circle putts. In the recent World Championships in Oregon, I came in something like 34th out of 72 in the Grandmaster Division (and had a total blast playing those great courses), but I would have cashed if not for my lackluster last two rounds at Pier Park. My putting, which had been solid all week, suddenly deserted me. I had chain outs all day long. By halfway through the first round, I realized it might have something to do with my light putters and the new Mach X baskets installed at Pier Park.
Sure enough, watching the recent South Florida Open on Youtube, it was interesting to hear John E. McCray and (I think) Matt Dollar talking at the end of the round about the Mach X baskets--the gist of their conversation was that the baskets are great if you hit them hard, but if 'you use a light putter or throw soft' the chains will bounce the disc right out of the basket. Ouch. What that means is that the most popular new basket designs (including perhaps Prodigy's awesome new baskets) are built to prevent spit-outs and slice-throughs and are made for high impact. They are not made for mandatory light putters.
So the situation now is that the equipment Japanese players are forced to use is putting them at a decided disadvantage when competing in world-class events. That sucks for everybody. And that is why we need to change this antiquated, illogical, and counterproductive rule. Disc golf safety starts with the person throwing the disc--that is where the JPDGA needs to really focus its attention.
Okay, end of my rant. Next time, I will go into more detail about my Gravity Putt, which I think may help any disc golfer who is tired of throwing hyzer putts at the basket without success....
Build your disc golf targets for under $15 bucks. You can make an 18-hole course for less than the price of one major manufacturer disc golf basket. (And this design is much lighter while also being surprisingly durable!) These targets are regulation size and height, and are legal (I think) for C-tier sanctioned disc golf tournaments. They are also super easy to build, store, and transport--perfect for guerilla-style disc golf!