Japan Golf Association downplays questions over 2020 venue


The Japan Golf Association said Tuesday it has no issues to address despite criticism over the 2020 Tokyo Games golf venue not extending full memberships to women and questions surrounding its selection process.

Kasumigaseki Country Club, located in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, also prohibits women from playing on Sundays. On Jan. 13, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike cast the first stone in the debate over the membership issue.

“There’re 212 female members and there’ve been no complaints about the way they are treated or the rights they have. The door is wide open for female players,” the JGC said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee on Friday requested that Tokyo Games organizers address the issue and find a solution that will allow women and men equal use of the facility, calling the situation contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Games.

“We’re discussing the matter with the International Golf Association, the 2020 organizers and the country club,” the JGA said.

The Japan Golf Council, a self-described golf reform organization, last week requested that the 2020 organizers change the venue to Wakasu Golf Links in Tokyo, which is just 6 km away from the athletes village, compared with the 44 km to Kasumigaseki.

The JGC, which sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach last month, also took swipes at the lack of transparency under which the course was picked and the costs to be incurred by holding the event so far away.

“Wakasu Golf Links was originally noted down in the candidature file by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s own will … but was eliminated with their consent as it needed large-scale renovations that Tokyo didn’t have sufficient plans for.”

The JGA said it is planning to build a large shelter and many rest stops for the gallery to protect them from the heat, and is looking for the best way to transport players amid cost concerns.

It also said that using a private course, rather than a public one, is in the best interests of the top players as well as the Games’ legacy.

“The future maintenance and operation have to be considered if we were to remodel a public course — designed for the enjoyment of average golfers — into a course suitable for competition by the world’s best players.”

“That in fact was the original plan in Rio before negotiations broke down and they built a new public one. But maintenance and operations issues have already arisen.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the criticism of Kasumigaseki Country Club is understandable following its full memberships issue.

“It’s natural that there are opinions questioning the place hosting the Olympics,” Abe told the Diet during the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting.

“(Olympics golf has) men’s and women’s events in the first place. And what if (the women’s competition) gets scheduled on a Sunday?”