The Straits Times says

Club acquisition par for the course

The recently announced acquisition of Raffles Country Club (RCC), following the gazetting of Jurong Country Club for acquisition in 2015, might make some Singapore golfers believe that they are an endangered species. Given the closure of Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Club, when their leases expire in the next 10 years, there will be 13 golf clubs in Singapore by 2030, down from 17 now. This figure itself represents a decline from 22 clubs in 2001. Notwithstanding its reputation as a game for the rich and the powerful, golf is a relaxing and gracious sport that has a legitimate place in the recreational life of the nation. In turn, Singapore's best golf courses place it firmly on the golfing map of the world.

However, the 36,000 golfers with a handicap here would recognise that they constitute a minuscule part of the population, and that their game is a land-intensive activity in a tiny island city-state. Land acquisition has become an accepted way of life in the developmental history of contemporary Singapore, stretching from villages and private homes to graveyards. Without land acquisition, it simply would not have been possible for Singapore to have embarked on transformative public housing and the expanding transport networks which citizens take for granted today. The RCC's 143ha site in Tuas will be required for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail and the new Cross Island Line's western depot.

When completed, the new link to Malaysia will become a necessary extension of Singapore's economic space, as it will of Malaysia's. Much as speedy and reliable transport within Singapore is an essential part of its economic infrastructure, regional connectivity is creating tangible growth prospects amid the threats of economic disruption and deglobalisation that constitute a special danger to the open economy of a small country. Rather than see the high-speed rail link as an external development and ask why such a high price should be paid for it in terms of the scale of land acquisition, it would be viewed fruitfully as a link in an expanding chain of connectivity that should link Asean countries more closely to one another.

As far as environmental issues are concerned, golf courses do contribute to a green Singapore, but their primary function is not ecological. Indeed, nature activists protested successfully against a proposed golf course at Lower Peirce Reservoir in 1992. It is heartening that the need to balance the exigencies of economic development with the demands of nature has become a tenet of Singapore's land-use philosophy. Green coverage will expand, with the amount of land dedicated to parks and nature reserves slated to increase from 5,700ha in 2010 to 7,250ha in 2030. Parks will increase along with housing estates in a visible move to keep the sustaining idea of a Green City alive and healthy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline 'Club acquisition par for the course'. Print Edition | Subscribe