Have you heard of Mallet Golf?
It’s a competitive sport in which you use a stick and a ball to try and get the ball into the hole using the fewest number of strokes. The basic rules are the same as golf but it’s played in places like the woods, clearings in a forest, riverbanks, and not in places with maintained lawns. One of the best features of mallet golf is the utilization of natural terrain.
You don’t need a lot of strength for the game, and both men and women of all ages can play.
Mallet Golf has its origins in Fukui Prefecture. The sport is more or less thriving in Nagano Prefecture and in the Tono district near Nagano. There was plenty of demands for a mallet golf course in the Chuno district. In response to the demands, the Shionami Mallet Golf Course was opened in 2013 off route 418. It’s very near to the Shionami Mountain Farmer’s Market.
There are a total of 36 courses over the 1012m area and it is open all year round (the course maybe temporarily closed during the winter due to weather, so make sure in advance). The green fee is JPY 300 and you can rent a mallet for a reasonable JPY 100. At this price anyone can play.
The clang of the stick hitting the ball echoes through the forest. The course design fully utilizes the surrounding nature and you’ll find some courses surprisingly easy while others are tougher than they seem. Beware, you don’t have to be the most athletic to win at this game. Perhaps the thrill of this game is that anyone might win or lose.
The colorful balls are bigger than golf balls, making it easy for children to strike and with a little help from an adult they can play along with anyone. We spoke to one father playing the sport with more enthusiasm than his child, he said, “It felt like an extension to my stroll”.
“One of the reasons for building this mallet golf course was to expose more people to the Shionami region and its charms. Everyone in the region chipped in and helped fund this course so it’s really 'handmade'.” These are the words of Mr. Miyazawa who manages the Yaotsu Mallet Golf Club. This course has a full of hearts extended from the people of the Shionami district.