It may have taken eight months to discover, but the driving range a few blocks away from coin laundry is my favorite place in town.
About two weeks ago while waiting for my laundry to dry, I took a stroll around the small surrounding neighborhood. After coming across a large pond, I began to hear multiple splashes in the distance. Feeling a bit adventurous, I walked closer to get a better look. To my surprise, the splashes were not from jumping fish, but rather from golf balls being driven 300 yards into the sunset.
Without hesitation, I entered the small driving range facility. There were no signs for indicating its presence. Besides the sound of an occasional ball splashing in the distance, nothing advertised it was a driving range.
Immediately, I was greeted by a smile from the owner behind the desk. The owner is very happy 60 something year-old, who lives with his family in a small house attached to the side of the front desk. Like most locals in town, he seemed surprised by the sight of a foreigner. So, in Japanese I gave him the spiel; I explained that I’m an English teacher from the U.S., twenty-three years old, arrived in August, etc. He seemed impressed that I am a teacher, and quickly introduced himself after I was through. We hit it off great.
Next, He brought me outside to the tees. There were about 25 green matts with different sized rubber plugs acting as tees protruding up from beneath. A few feet beyond the matts lay a pond echoing with the bellows of frogs. The sun setting behind the mountains in the background made for a scenic setting, as it was reflected in beautiful purples and pinks on the water’s surface.
The owner soon showed me where to insert tokens to send fifty golf balls tumbling down a chute into my basket. After filling up, he handed me a 5 iron. I was now ready to make a fool of myself and tarnish America’s golf reputation in Japan.
After hacking away through 30 balls, the owner came out and showed me some helpful adjustments to make. What a helpful guy!
I soon finished the basket, and returned inside to pay the 500 yen fee for the balls, and whatever the club’s rental fee is for the club. As I reached for my wallet, the owner began repeating, “on house, on house, on house”, and refused to take any money. I was so surprised and appreciative of his hospitality. Before I knew it, he was writing his name down on piece of paper for me to remember. I spoke in Japanese for a bit, and was soon on my way to change my laundry.
Fast forward two weeks…
I returned again yesterday for my third visit. Now, the last time I went, the owner and I exchanged numbers. He even invited me on his boat to go fishing in June. How did he know that going out on fishing boat in Awajis’ waters is on my bucket list?
During this visit, he had his friend work with me through 100 swings. Through demonstration and the occasional translator we were able to work on the same page. My swing dramatically improved as the nice old man showed me where to position my feet, how to better grip the club, and how to twist my right right after impact while staying through the ball. I was even able to hit a few balls straight with a 3 iron.
When I went to pay at the front desk, the owner only charged me 500 yen for everything. On top of that, he gave me fresh sashimi and fish he caught that day. It was already seasoned, and just waiting to be sautéed. With dinner in hand, I repeatedly thanked the owner for his generosity before departing.
In the dirt parking lot, I saw my golf teacher. It turns out this old man rides a mean Kawasaki Ninja bike. From inside his racing helmet he yelled out to me, “It’s monster!”, referring to the fine piece of engineering beneath him.
Between the generous fisherman owner, the golf teaching kawasaki riding grandpa, and the beautiful mountain sunsets, the driving range in my town undoubtably is my favorite spot to visit.