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Golf has long been a passion of the Japanese, and with corporate support of private clubs drying up thanks to a struggling economy, many formerly private Tokyo-area golf clubs are welcoming American visitors for weekday play--some at surprisingly affordable rates.

Just don't count on a four-hour round. The tradition is to break for lunch between nines, just as the caddies do. You'll appreciate taking your time once you're at the course because getting there from downtown Tokyo is apt to take more than an hour by train. Many courses have free shuttles from the stations nearest them, at least during peak hours. Think of your clubs as a great means of meeting other golfers who can direct you to their favorite places to play.

Only three courses are within the city limits, but Chiba, home to many of Japan's best courses, including La Vista and Kazusa Monarch Country Club, are golf centers in prefectures that abut Tokyo. Remember that unlike hotel concierges, many Japanese golf club staffers do not speak English. And most courses do not accept credit cards.

For helpful information about golf in Japan, visit japangolfcourses.com. For $39.95 plus postage, you may order from the site a printed guide to Tokyo-area courses, from which some of the following data have been adapted.

HAKONE KURAKAKE GOLF COURSE

Hakone-toge, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo, Kanagawa 250-0521. Forty minutes by train from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-460-3-7555; fax 011-81-460-3-7575.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 6,096/5825.

Par: 71/71.

Approximate Fee: 16,000/22,000 Yen, plus caddie. (No driving range.)

KAZUSA MONARCH COUNTRY CLUB

856-2, Yanashiroji Yasurozawa, Kimitsu 292-0515, Chiba. Ninety minutes by train from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-439-29-3100, 3101; fax 011-81-439-29-3399.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 7020.

Par: 72.

Approximate Fee: 13,000/32,000 Yen, including cart and/or caddie. Plush club with Jack Nicklaus course, but visitors allowed. Singles may sometimes book weekday but not weekend times.

MUSASHIGAOKA GOLF COURSE

665 Nakayama, Hanno, Saitama 357-0006. Approximately 40 minutes by train from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-429-73-3333; fax 011-81-429-73-9666.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 7,016/6,426.

Par: 72/72.

Approximate Fee: 22,000/35,000 Yen, plus caddie. Tiger Woods's 1997 visit has boosted popularity.

SENGOKU GOLF COURSE

1237 Sengokubara, Hakone-cho, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 250-0631. One hour by train from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-460-4-8511.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 6,651/6,200.

Par: 72/72.

Approximate Fee: 16,000 Yen; 22,000 Yen (Sun.); 24,000 Yen (Sat.) with cart and/or caddie. Singles not allowed to book.

SHOWA-NO MORI GOLF COURSE

1-1-7, Tsutsuji-gaoka, Akishima-shi, Tokyo 190-0012. An hour plus from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-42-543-1271; fax 011-81-42-545-0800.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 6,021/5,770.

Par: 72/72.

Approximate Fee: 12,000/15,000 Yen, plus caddie.

TAIHEIYO GOLF CLUB (GOTEMBA)

941-1 Itatuma, Gotenba-shi Shizuoka. An hour-plus by train from Tokyo Station.

Web: www.taiheiyoclub.co.jp/course/gotemba2E.html

Call: 011-81-550-89-6222; fax 011-81-550-89-6220.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 7,072/6,164.

Par: 72/72.

WAKASU GOLF LINKS

35 Wakasu, Koto-ku Tokyo 136-0083. Ten minutes from Tokyo Station.

Call: 011-81-3-3522-4455 (reservations only); fax 011-81-3-3522-3224.

Holes: 18.

Yardage: 6,881/6,378

Par: 70/70.

Approximate Fee: 14,035 Yen, including cart.

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