The Weird Japanese Hole-In-One Tradition

By Michael Van Duisen on Monday, September 9, 2013
golf
“The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” —Gary Player

In A Nutshell

In Japan, avid golfers buy insurance to protect themselves on the course; however, it’s not for what you might think. They purchase it because if they get a hole-in-one, they have to buy gifts and drinks for their friends. The policy covers them for a party worth up to $3,000, for the low price of $65 a year.

The Whole Bushel

Japan is a land rich in tradition. You’ve got your Shinto shrines, sumo, samurai, and much more. The people also take golf very seriously, especially that rarest of happenings: the hole-in-one. In most countries, the golfer who hits the lucky stroke is rewarded, usually with drinks from his friends. In Japan, they take a different view: The golfer who gets a hole-in-one is obliged to throw a lavish party for his golfing buddies and his other friends, which can run as high as $10,000.

At its peak in the economic boom of the 1980s, Japanese hole-in-one parties consisted of a number of gifts, food, and drinks, given away by the “lucky” golfer. (They have toned it down a bit since then.) Because these can be so costly, insurance companies saw a market which had yet to be entered. They began offering policies on the off chance the golfers hit a hole-in-one. Starting at $65 a year, they cover a party up to $3,000. The insurance is extremely popular, as nearly 4 million Japanese amateur golfers own policies. (That’s nearly 40 percent of all the golfers in Japan.)

First established by Kyoei Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Co. in 1982, the policies are now offered by at least 30 different firms. It’s also an extremely profitable business, as a hole-in-one is quite rare, and the market is valued at $220 million per year. (The insurance companies in Japan estimate that a hole-in-one occurs once in every 10,700 rounds of golf.) Seemingly open to deception, the insurance companies have a number of strict rules for when a hole-in-one can be claimed, such as the number of golfers in the party and the course size.

Show Me The Proof

A hole-in-one in Japan can cost you $10,000
Golfing in Japan
Hole-in-one insurance popular among tradition-rich Japanese golfers