Why would you possibly need hole-in-one insurance in Japan?

Hole-in-one insurance infographic

Did you know that the biggest threat on Japanese golf courses is luck? Indeed, a unique tradition makes thousands of Japanese golfers pay for expensive hole-in-one celebration parties every year. Thankfully, proper insurances can hedge that risk!

What is hole-in-one insurance?

Before going any further, I’ll explain what a hole-in-one is for people who are unfamiliar with golf. A hole-in-one, also known as “ace”, occurs when a player can put the ball in the cup in only one shot. They are most often made on three par holes because they are the shortest distance holes on standard courses.

Golfers are dreaming of these exceptional swings everywhere in the world. Except in Japan, where golf players avoid this kind of feat to keep away from an expensive tradition.

The hole-in-one in Japanese culture

Indeed, a Japanese custom requires that golf players who make an ace are morally obliged to pay for a party in their honor. All golfers’ friends and other players on the course can then celebrate this feat without spending a single yen.

Between meals, drinks, activities and souvenir gifts, the lucky player pays an average of USD 1,750 in organization costs. But the bill can go up to USD 10,000 in some extreme situations. In some cases, this custom can become a financial chasm for players who weren’t ready to shell out so much money in a day.

That’s why about 30 Japanese insurers have added to their catalog hole-in-one insurance. It hedges golfers against these flukes. This type of coverage was created to defray the organizational costs of hole-in-one celebrations.

The advantages of a hole-in-one insurance

Hole-in-one insurance is affordable because the risk to do an ace is relatively low. 40% of Japanese golfers subscribed to this type of insurance. They only pay about USD 65 a year to be hedged for up to USD 3,500 per hole-in-one.

Besides, aces can become real bargains thanks to hole-in-one insurances. Indeed, the insurance company pays the feat, but it is up to the golfer to decide how to spend the money. Whether he’ll party with his friends or whether he keeps everything for himself. If the second option seems very attractive, most Japanese golfers disapprove it. Thus, it’s likely that the majority of the 10,000 holes-in-one that take place each year in Japan ends being celebrated.

Golfers around the world are more and more insured against this “risk”

This is not just a Japanese trend, as insurance protecting golfers against aces is becoming common around the world. Many insurance companies specialize in this niche in North America and Europe. They even offer gifts, such as golf clubs or TVs, to all players on the course when such a feat happen.

For some years now, this type of insurance is not limited to golf. Several professional leagues from other sports are hedged with hole-in-one insurances. Prizes for miraculous sports actions can be holidays, new cars, or even sky-high cash prizes.

Hole-in-one is a fluke that can happen to everyone

We talked about holes-in-one and insurance that hedge them. Now, you might be wondering whether as an amateur golf player it may be worthwhile to subscribe to this insurance. The answer is “yes” because anyone can do a hole-in-one, even a novice player.

As with all risks that can be hedged by insurance, holes-in-one are quite rare but can be made by any lucky golf player. Indeed, even if a pro tour golfer can realize this performance more often, most holes-in-one are flukes.

An average golf player has 12,500 to 1 chance to reach the hole in one swing. That’s the same probability than finding a pearl in an oyster. This number falls to 2,500 to 1 chance for professional players.

A practice coming from the Japanese economic miracle

Legend has it that this custom was born when the first player to make a hole-in-one in Japan organized a party to celebrate his prodigious swing. But the hole-in-one celebrations spread in the 1980s when Japan was experiencing an economic boom making the wealth of many hard workers in the country. At this time, money was spent lavishly by Japanese golfers.

Unfortunately, a real estate and financial bubble erupted in the early 1990s. This crash put an end to decades of hyper-growth. From there, the Japanese paid more attention to their expenses. But, that did not stop them from keeping this expensive tradition on the golf courses.

Indeed, the Japanese have many superstitions. One of them says that luck is balanced over a lifetime. It means that you have to expect to live a misfortune in the future if a happy event occurs. To avoid a future disaster, golfers who make an ace offer gifts and enjoyable time to those around them. These parties are made to share the chance they had and thus rebalance their fortune. This belief explains why Japanese players continue to pay for hole-in-one celebrations today.

Hole-in-one insurance is a staple of the Japanese golfer gear. If you are a golf player and you plan to practice your swing in Japan, do not hesitate to take such insurance. It is affordable, and it can help you respect the Japanese tradition, or hit the jackpot every time you do an ace.

AUTHOR: Michaël from Nipponrama

Instagram : @NipponRama
Twitter : @NipponRama

I am a French blogger who moved to Japan in 2016. From Monday to Friday, I work as a digital marketing manager and consultant for several companies in Tokyo. During my free time, I share my travel recommendations and various tips to help people settle in Japan on Nipponrama, a multilingual blog about the Land of the Rising Sun.

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