23 September 2008

A Grand Opening in Niseko, Japan

Who says luxurious golf in Japan is a thing of the past? Hilton Hotels and Resorts has stepped up to raise the bar on luxury and service by providing a golf experience seldom found in today's Japan. Give a wee nod to the doorman as you strut from the entrance of the new Hilton Niseko Village straight into your golf cart, and a mere 30 seconds later you are on the first tee of the Niseko Villages' 18-hole par 73 golf course. Draw in a deep breath of the fresh clear mountain air followed by a few waggles over the ball, and you're ready to unleash that first uninhibited tee shot of the day, straight down the middle of the pristinely mown fairway! Aaah...If only it was that easy to split the middle!

The lush green bent grass of this course provides a pleasing contrast to the silvery birch trees that line each hole on this 6,845-yard course. A particular highlight of the Village course (directly adjacent to the hotel) is the 10th par-6 stretching a formidable 721 splendid yards! This is true Hokkaido resort golf at its finest with 1,309 meter high Mt Annupuri (a ski slope in winter) bordering the north side of the course and the perfectly volcano-shaped Mt. Yotei, often referred to as a "mini Fuji", on view to the south. On a few holes you'll even be treated to views of the rolling green potato fields this part of Hokkaido is famous for, whose products will, inevitably, find their way onto your plate at some point in your stay here. Each hole on this course is a true treat to play, harmoniously following the naturally rolling landscape with each hole providing its own fair and well-balanced challenge.

Visitors and guests also have another separate 18-hole golf course to choose from that has also newly come under Hilton management. The Arnold Palmer designed par 72 /18-hole Niseko Golf Course that, although established back in 1986, is also seeing upgrades and a breath of fresh air thanks to its new owners. Just 15 minutes away from the lobby via the hotels golf shuttle, this course provides a more challenging and very scenic round with the undisputed highlight being the signature 5th. A par 3, this hole demands an accurate tee shot carrying a pond into an undulating green that (if the pond wasn't enough) is also guarded by multiple bunkers both in front on the left and back! Drawing your shot in from the right is the way to attack this hole while favoring the safe side and hopefully escaping both the bunkers and possibly getting wet! Take a deep breath and aim for the summit of Mt. Yotei that provides the back drop to this amazing golf hole and let one go. With a full 6,805 yards there is enough course to challenge long-hitting accomplished golfers while not scaring away the resort golfers by offering various tees to suit everyone's ability. Arnold had quite a challenge with the changes in elevation of this mountainous location, but still managed to keep this course relatively fair with just a few surprises that you'll need to come see for yourself. A little local knowledge will get you a long way here, so if possible, try to get paired up with a native to get the inside scoop on this courses' subtleties.

Apart from the superb resort golf, what really sets this resort apart from the rest is the proximity of the natural wilds of Hokkaido to the luxurious 5-star Hilton experience; one literally bordering the other. Where else in the world can you come back all muddied up from a mountain bike ride, pass your bike to the door man and head straight into the world-class "Wakka" spa or natural volcanic hot spring? How about spending a day on a crystal clear fresh-water river in pursuit of the areas many brown and rainbow trout with your fly rod, or just to relax with fine wine, friends and world-class fare back in the 'Melt' restaurant? Perhaps you would prefer the "Ezo" (the ancient Ainu name for Hokkaido), a stunning pub designed by Yukio Hashimoto Design Studio with iconic area offerings ranging from local Japanese sake and sochu, Chinese and Korean liqueurs, to a full selection of such Alpine favorites as Schnapps and European Glühwein! I could go on, but I think you get the picture...this is really 1st class all the way!

According to the recently appointed hotel General Manager Daniel Welk, all the food and beverage outlets in the resort will be taking full advantage of the excellent area produce on offer to provide the highest level of freshness while enhancing the overall culinary experience for the guests. Everything from cheeses to herbs are sourced from as little as 10 minutes away from the hotels front door! Seafood is a little further away, but still considered local and you'll find no shortage of Hokkaido staple favorites like King Crab and tender scallops on the various restaurants' menus.

The Hotel

The traditional center of indigenous Ainu life was the house or "Chise". Typically one long room housing multiple families with a central hearth, it reflected their orientation around spirituality and domestic activities. The Hilton Niseko Village honors this same architectural philosophy with the entire village contained within the same walls. The central hearth located in the lobby features one of Japan's largest fireplaces, with a 2.7-meter-high, enclosed gas flame hearth designed by Yukio Hashimoto. It is suspended from the 3-storey-high ceiling and provides a warm glow throughout the lobby as well as being a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy the good food and libations of the very chic "Flame" bar located around it.

With 506 twin and triple rooms (all with satellite TV and high-speed Internet), this distinctive destination hotel is designed so every guest can enjoy either views of Mt. Yotei or Mt. Annupuri and boasts a true golf-in golf-out or ski-in ski-out location. World-class amenities, dining and entertainment, as well as the largest ballroom in the region capable of hosting 500-600 people in elegance and style, await you or your guests and help make this the perfect location for any Meetings, Incentives, Conventions or Exhibitions your company might be planning.

Green Season Activities (other than golf)

On Site

Tennis: play on 23 hard courts between sunrise and sunset during the summer months

Fitness Room: work out in this modern, well-equipped gym, a recommended activity any time of the year.

Hot Springs: enjoy views of Mount Yotei from both the indoor and outdoor baths as well as amazing starry night views you can't get in the city

Wakka Spa: soothe your senses in the tranquil ambience of the Wakka Spa. How better to relax your muscles after a day of play than with a therapeutic sports massage or one of the many other types of treatments available to pamper you?

Pure Action Zone: featuring numerous activities for both kids and adults. Try horseback riding, tree trekking, SNAG golf and Frisbee golf, Zip lines and the Fun Zone with large blow-up attractions from New Zealand company Action Attraktionz, just to name a few.

Mountain Biking: starting right from the hotel there is an ever-expanding set of trails and rental mountain bikes (with safety gear) available. Look for downhill courses utilizing the ski lift to begin next year

Area Activities (all within 5-25 min from the hotel)

Rafting (April - October): try white-water rafting down Shiribetsu River. Spring is the best time to try one of these tours as the seasonal huge snow melt causes the rivers to run high and fast. A must-try adrenalin sport and one of the most popular summer activities in Niseko

Hot Air Ballooning (June - September, ask the concierge for details): anyone can enjoy the experience of hot air ballooning. Rise high above the landscape and enjoy amazing area views you'll treasure for a lifetime

Ducky (June - October): ducky personal inflatable rafts are a great way to take control and enjoy the great riverside scenery while either attacking the rapids or opting for a more leisurely and passive cruise down stream - you decide

Hiking (June - September): with an abundance of trails easily accessible from Niseko you will be able to enjoy fantastic area views as well as the natural wildlife and flora, all combined with fresh Hokkaido country air

Cycling (June - October): although still far behind Whistler Canada, cycling is growing in popularity around Niseko with the labyrinth of trails expanding yearly due to the efforts of the dedicated locals and tour companies. Suitable for all ages, it is a great way to spend a day taking in the beautiful scenery.

Fly Fishing (June - October): enjoy the thrill of the hunt with the help of an expert guide. You'll be an accomplished fly fisherman in no time and the crystal-clear rivers in the area are teaming with a variety of native trout alà Brad Pitts "A River Runs Through It"!

In closing, the Hilton Niseko Village is an open canvas upon which you can create your own perfect alpine adventure. Note that even during the bubble years when opulent club houses and courses (some with hotels) were constructed, very few clubs had any form of high-level service approaching an international 5-star rating to complement their accommodations. Although this level of service doesn't come cheaply, the Hilton team will be there at every turn to provide assistance and see to it that everything goes well and you are able to find whatever you need to enjoy a successful and relaxing adventure holiday.

For further information or reservations contact:
Hilton Niseko Village Japan
Niseko, Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun 048-1592
Phone: 81-136-441111 - Fax: 81-136-443224
Email: niseko@hilton.com

Or click here for all the Hokkaido courses

Bennett Galloway, 23 September 2008

Special Feature
  • World Record Attempt Report
    Previous Columns
  • The Mystery of Miura
  • Asia's Sleeping 'Tiger' Awakes
  • A Pebbles' Throw from Tokyo
  • Golf in Niseko, Asia's Answer to Whistler
  • Game On!
  • Japan Golf Tours
  • Gearing Up for Winter Golf
  • Respecting Your Game
  • Adrift in a Sea of Golf Balls
  • The Secret to Scoring Well "Shhh.....Don't Tell Anyone"!
  • Hakone, the Gem of Kanagawa and a Resort Golfers Paradise
  • Golf in Japan: A primer to golfing in Tokyo
  • Time to thaw out that golf swing
  • Golf made easy

  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

    Contact Bennett »