Japanese culture dictates politeness and is generally based around the concept of honor. This has been part of the nation’s way of living for many centuries and is relevant to this very day, with a big emphasis and weight being put with manners and etiquette. With golf being one of the most popular sports across the nation, especially among the middle-aged male, corporate-job class, attention must be paid to how etiquette and such factor into enjoying a decent round of golf in the Land of the Rising Sun – after all, it is a gentleman’s (and lady’s) sport.
The first step is to assess where you’re going to play. If you’re headed to a private club by invitation (often at the friendly behest of a business partner or associate), you better get ready to bring your best manners to the course. A measure of safety would be to always wear long pants, even on a public course. This rule doesn’t really apply all that much to women, however there are obvious guidelines on the difference between appropriate and not. If invited to play, a polite inquiry into dress code guidelines is advised, but in either case, keep your long pants (not jeans or slacks) and polo shirts ready.
Another point of etiquette is that there is generally no tipping in Japan. If you’re playing with a caddie, and if you are playing on a private course you will be playing with one, do not tip them unless the other, more experiences players, do. In some courses it is acceptable for groups of players to throw in a few thousand yen each for the caddie, but leave that decision up to others. Given that on most Japanese courses you can only play in groups of two or larger and not on your own, you shouldn’t worry so much as most likely you are in the presence of someone knowledgeable anyway. In the case that you aren’t a discreet inquiry at the clubhouse prior to teeing off could be a good idea.
On that note, it is important to treat both the course and the caddie right. If you leave a chip mark on the fairway after a good chip, fix it up with the appropriate tool. Normally the caddies will take care of this, but it is a good gesture to fix your own damage instead of assuming others will do so, which serves as a sign of integrity. Be friendly to your caddie and make sure you appreciate his assistance. While, sure, it is his job, your treatment of those working beneath you is a huge indication of character.
First image by whitefields-golf.co.uk
Second image by pilotguide.com