Smack in the Middle of My Backyard: Golf Courses on Google Earth

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One reason I moved to my current town was the proximity to green hills and mountains, and the promise of hiking adventures (and fresh air). Only about one hour from central Tokyo, I live in a town with some 80,000 people, and I like it a lot. However, when I downloaded Google Earth, I was in for a surprise.

It is one thing to see the road signs and an occasional golfer walk by (most take the special membership-only golf-course buses from the train station). Suddenly, on Google Earth, there was my house (yellow X marks the spot) surrounded by golf courses (red circles)!

The NIMBY phenomenon could not have been brought home more clearly. Not In My Backyard? This is one of the many towns where Tokyo's businessmen come to play their 18 holes. Have you had a similar experience using Google Earth? Share your pain in the comment section.


Ai Miyazato holds the trophy after winning the Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Ladies at Musashigaoka Golf Course in Saitama.

Golf seems to grab many people's attention. In Japan, most golf courses are private, and the membership fees are very high, and sometimes used as bribes or shady deals. For others it is a nice day outside on a weekend.

One legendary Saitama golf course was first opened back in 1929, designed by Kinya Fujita and renovated by Charles Alison, according to a website called 100 top golf courses of the world. However, a number of environmental scandals involving golf courses came to light in the 1980s, and the government was forced to step in:

In terms of the maintenance of golf links, on the other hand, the utilization of pesticides and chemical fertilizer is commonly made to keep the lawns good in quality, and in recent years there have been mounting concerns about the impacts of pesticides on water in the region. In the midst of this situation, there occurred an accident in which "yamame" (Onchorhynchus masou) and other fish in Hokkaido's hatch-eries were affected by pesticides improperly sprayed at an upstream golf link in November 1989.

The Global Anti-Golf Movement was launched on World No-Golf Day (April 29, 1993) (by Mr. Gen Morita), following a three-day conference on Golf Course and Resort Development in the Asia-Pacific Region in Panang, Malaysia from April 26 to 28, 1993. The three sponsoring organizations were the Japan-based Global Network for Anti-Golf Course Action (GNAGA), the Thailand-based Asian Tourism Network (ANTENNA) and the Malaysia-based Asia-Pacific People and Environmental Network (APPEN). Delegates from Hawaii, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand were also present.

I'm lucky, I still have a lot of hills and mountains around me that are in no way at all touched by human development. Yet, at the same time, Google Earth helped open my eyes to the fact that many of our local environmental issues can be close to our backyards, yet not always so obvious.

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Written by Martin Frid at

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