The golf club that is the venue for the golf tournament at the current Tokyo Olympics has reportedly begun to slowly admit female members to its membership.
Nobuko Hirayama inherited membership in Japan’s most prestigious golf club from her father in 1995, but it would be 23 years before she could play the golf course on weekends – Kasumigaseki Country Club, a 92-year-old golf club that has long been an “elite The 92-year-old golf club has long been “elite territory” and is the site of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics golf tournament.
However, only a handful of women were accepted as “full members” before the Olympics. Previously, women could not become “full members” of the Kasumigaseki Club, but could only register as “weekday members” – they were allowed to enter the club on weekdays, but not on their days off.
Under pressure from Olympic organizers and public opinion, the Kasumigaseki Country Club changed its rules in 2018 and accepted three women as full members, including Nobuko Hirayama, who inherited the membership from her father.
“I didn’t feel it was a discrimination.” Nobuko Hirayama, who is also a director of both the International Golf Union and the Japan Golf Association, told Reuters. “There’s nothing special about playing golf on a weekday; after all, I enjoy it.”
Masao Koshi, director of the club’s public relations department, said having a referral relationship with an existing member is required to obtain a new membership, declining to say how much membership fees are required to sign up.
The requirements to become a new member require two people to vouch for the club, a clean criminal record and a round of golf with the club manager as a “test”. “It’s not about how well you play, it’s about your manners and character.” Masao Koshi explained.
Nobuko Hirayama believes these traditional, strict rules of golf club exclusivity will eventually be outlawed as the generations change in Japan.
Sakuragaoka Country Club, another private property in Tokyo, recently said they are starting to accept unmarried women into their membership, after previous rules only allowed married women to join.
Nobuko Hirayama said in the future she hopes to become more involved in golf club-related efforts to develop more golf activities among women, such as offering golf lessons. “Things are changing. I think the Japanese golf industry is aware of this and they are thinking about becoming more ‘hands-on’.