Controversy continues to impede the construction of the golf course for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games, but for the 2020 event in Japan, the picture has cleared. Golf.com has learned that Tom Fazio has been selected to renovate Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East course, host layout for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Following a meeting at the club in early September 2014, officials from the USGA, R&A and International Golf Federation (IGF), under whose aegis Olympic golf is conducted, together with Kasumigeski and Japan Golf Association representatives, agreed that Kasumigaseki’s East course, not a composite course, would host the event. It was at that meeting that the club expressed its desire to retain Tom Fazio to remodel the East course for the event.
“We haven’t signed the deal yet,” Fazio told Golf.com, “but we’re expecting to get this done within a few days.”
Fazio wouldn’t comment on specific changes, stating only that he would undertake an evaluation of the entire 36-hole property before proceeding on both short-term and long-term alterations. Club officials, however, are confident that Fazio, who serves as Augusta National's consulting architect, will take the project in the right direction.
“We will be making improvements, not big, big changes,” said Kiichi Kimura, president of Kasumigaseki. “[Fazio] has a great reputation, as we know from his role at Augusta National. He emphasized that he would respect what we have here. He will balance the natural feeling here with the improvements needed to challenge the best players.”
Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2015, and the biggest change will be eliminating the current two-green system and converting it to one green, something many of Japan’s top clubs have undertaken in recent years. Many Japanese courses feature two separate greens for each hole -- one with a summer grass, one with a winter grass -- but advances in turf technology have since made that practice obsolete.
A sticking point concerning the scope of the renovations had been who would pay for them, but the IGF recently agreed to share in the costs and contribute funds in conjunction with the club’s efforts. Further refinements to the East will include clearing trees, creating new back tees to add length and revising bunker placements to conform with modern driving distances.
Originally opened for play in 1929, Kasumigaseki East remains largely the work of one of the Golden Age’s leading architects, Charles Hugh Alison, who also created Hirono Golf Club and Kawana’s Fuji course, Japan’s highest ranked layouts.
“We want to keep the Alison characteristics intact,” said Mr. Kimura. “That is why we chose Tom Fazio.”
Kasumigaseki East is Japan’s most renowned tournament course. Both the club’s East and West courses are frequent sites for important events, such as the Japan Open and the Asian Amateur, which offers a Masters invitation to its winner.
It was the East course, however, that catapulted Japanese golf into world prominence when it played host to the 1957 Canada Cup (now the World Cup), the two-man team championships that pits country versus country. A young Gary Player competed for South Africa and Sam Snead matched the course record of 67 for the United States, but it was Japan that broke through for a stunning upset victory. The team of Torakichi “Pete” Nakamura and Koichi Ono took the title, with Nakamura capturing the low individual honors. The men became national heroes overnight, spurring a golf boom in Japan that has never really let up.