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Golf course lease extension: Utilisation rate may be a factor

Published on Sep 22, 2013 8:19 AM
 
A golfer in action at the Tanah Merah Country Club, which is one of the golf courses speculated to be one of the clubs that may have to go in order to free up land for other users. -- ST FILE PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

How well golf courses are being used and the number of members per course hole are among possible factors that may determine whether the leases of some golf courses will be extended.

These assessment criteria were briefly mentioned in a letter from Raffles Country Club's (RCC) president Simon Yuen to its members.

The letter was sent out after the club's management met with the authorities, including representatives from the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), on Thursday.

Mr Yuen also wrote that the club's management was "given to understand that there was no plan not to renew RCC's lease when it expires in 2028".

But he noted that the new lease might be subjected to a new set of terms and conditions which would be made clear "sometime in 2020".

In January, the Government announced that some golf courses may have to go in order to free up land for other uses.

Thirteen golf clubs on 30-year tenures were subsequently informed last month by the SLA that they will learn whether their leases will be extended by early next year.

Golfers speculate that the axe might fall on clubs with less than 10 years left on their leases.

These include Tanah Merah Country Club, Seletar Country Club and Singapore Island Country Club.

Mr Oh Kian Beng, 51, captain of golf at Warren Golf and Country Club, said his club also had a similar meeting with the authorities recently, but it did not result in anything conclusive.

"I understand that the authorities touched on utilisation rates when they met with our club's president. But nothing is set in stone and everyone is still taking a wait-and-see approach," he said.

Experts told The Sunday Times that a ratio of 100 members to each course hole typically gives a good rate of utilisation at a golf club.

And if utilisation rates are going to be a key issue, then every club may have to look into having more members or increasing accessibility to the public, said Mr Bob Tan, the president of the Singapore Golf Association.

Even then, a decision on lease extension will also depend on whether there is a more urgent need to set aside particular parcels of land for alternative use, he added.

There are a total of 18 golf clubs here covering a combined area of 1,500ha, which amounts to 2 per cent of Singapore's total land area.

Mr Tan said engaging the clubs will help policymakers understand the challenges involved.

"Learning about the difficulties and issues faced by each club will help them to reach a policy decision that is both pragmatic and practical," he said.