The Lost Courses of Hokkaido

Words by: James Wilson
Photography by:Will Watt

In 1903 a group of British expatriates established the first golf club in Japan. 2 decades later golf in Japan experienced a boom. Courses were built at great expense in idyllic rural areas across the country to accommodate an increasing demand from the wealthy occupants of Kyoto, Osaka and Sapporo.

Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, famed for its vast wilderness and mountainous terrain, was the obvious location to lay down the winding fairways. Expertly manicured greens gave way to lakes and streams that reflected the snow-capped hilltops beyond.

Around the enchanting courses, clubhouses and resorts were constructed. Traditional Japanese architecture was combined with the latest trends from the western world. High ceilings, carefully framed views and grand fireplaces created havens in the midst of a rugged landscape.

But the Great Depression in 1929 jolted the Japanese economy. Anti-western sentiment permeated the culture, limiting the game’s growth. The Japanese attacks on the USA and British allies came in 1941 and as the War intensified, most of the courses were requisitioned for military use or returned to agricultural production.

With such limited documentation of these now abandoned golfing sanctums, Will Watt of Contours uses the power of Ai to take us on a tour of their mystical fairways and enchanted halls. A view through the lens of a once flourishing golf community in early 1920s Japan.

This artwork was created by founder of Contours, Will Watt. Through a combination of visually stunning content, thought-provoking interviews and immersive storytelling, Contours is a way to appreciate the extraordinary artistry that lies beneath the surface of the golfing landscape. At its core, Contours seeks to redefine the way we percieve golf by showcasing the artistic, experiential and architectural aspects of the game that often go unnoticed."