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Some golf club members unhappy

Some members of Keppel Club and The Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) were unhappy with the government's decision not to renew land leases for their golf courses.

SINGAPORE - The government on Sunday announced the fate of golf clubs in Singapore, after days of speculation over which of the golf courses with leases expiring within the next 10 years will have to make way for redevelopment.

Of the nine golf clubs with leases expiring within the next 10 years, two - Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Course - will not have their leases renewed.

Three others -- Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC), National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC) and Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) -- will have their leases extended but they will be giving up part of the land they now occupy.

The remaining four will have their leases extended with no change. Of the four, however, Orchid Country Club’s lease will not be further renewed after 2030.

Meetings were held with hundreds of members of the different golf clubs on Sunday to explain the government's decision and address members' concerns.

Some members of Keppel Club and The Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) were unhappy with the news.

Mr Manoj Sharma, a Keppel Club member for about 10 years, said: "The decision most definitely will impact a Keppel member adversely, whichever way you slice it and dice it. The decision is hugely unpalatable...

"The precedence for golf courses in Singapore previously has always been that when a golf course is removed, the government has always given the previous golf course an additional plot of land to continue as an ongoing entity."

Mr Yeow, another Keppel Club member for 10 years, said: "They should not use the same yardstick to measure Keppel because Keppel is more than just a club. We are a club that cares for the community, cares for the public."

While alternatives were raised for the club to be a social club, members are still not quite convinced.

Mr Manoj Sharma said: "If the option for it is to be a social club, that means without a golf course, I don't think that will be an option that will be hugely welcomed by Keppel members. And the reason being, while we've got about 5,000 members, the bulk of them actually play golf. They joined Keppel to golf, not to join a social club."

The SICC said in a statement that the club has been in discussions with the government on the renewal of their leases since March last year.

It said it "understood that the authorities had a wider national agenda to consider".

So while its president, Mr Tay Joo Soon, expressed disappointment, he said now that there's more clarity, the club will be able to plan for its future.

But its members are still unhappy.

Dr Allan Ng, 71, speaking as a SICC member but who also holds Tanah Merah and Keppel membership, said: "They have to make a difficult decision, about the needs of the population, and it's an unpopular move. But I think a lot of the members, although they don't express their disapproval they are unhappy. Perhaps it could have been done a little bit more gently and more gradually."

Dr Ng, a retiree, added that the SICC had spent more than $200 million on renovation, mainly at the Island location and partly on the Bukit side. He said if the management had known about this, they would not have spent the money redeveloping the Bukit site.

Golfers from other clubs reacted with some relief. 

Mr Koh Boon Check, a member of National Service Resort and Country Club since 2002, said: "The club is saying it is going to review issues like whether it is going to compensate us with a fee review or whether there's an expiry extension or et cetera, and that's good. As I said, it's inevitable, but what's good is that finally we get to know, for sure, at least it puts to rest all the speculation that's going on."

A spokesperson for Tanah Merah Country Club said they are "very pleased" that the leases for both their golf courses are to be extended.

"The government will acquire the strip of land at our Garden Course for the new taxiways at the end of 2014, which will impact six of our existing holes. One hole will be lost, while five other holes will be partially affected," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that the club will work immediately on the reconfiguration of its course, saying: "As the land acquisition at Garden Course will only be at the end of this year, there will be ample time for the club to have our Garden Course properly reconfigured, while minimizing interruptions to play. We understand that the club would be fairly compensated at market rates but details of the compensation are not available as yet."


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