The Weird Japanese Hole-In-One Tradition

“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.)

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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

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