Golf club members fear land loss, top-up fees

Speculation rife over the Government's upcoming decision on lease renewals

This week promises to be a tense period for golf club members awaiting the Government's Feb16 decision on club leases.

Already some members have approached their club management for news while speculation on possible outcomes is rife.

The decision will come a year after the Government announced plans to utilise land better, which may result in some golf courses being taken back for redevelopment.

The Ministry of Law said last week that clubs with 10 years or less remaining on their leases will know on Feb 16 if the leases will be renewed and for how long.

Briefings have been scheduled on Sunday for members of four clubs - Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Keppel Club, Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC) and the National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC) in Changi. Representatives of government agencies will meet members.

Other clubs with less than a decade left on their leases include Seletar Country Club, Sentosa Golf Club, Changi Golf Club and Orchid Country Club.

Businessman Charles Tan, a member of SICC and Keppel Club, said a major concern for him is the possible top-up fee if the clubs' leases are extended.

If a club does not have enough reserves to pay for the new land lease, members may be asked to fork out additional money, more commonly known as a top-up. This could be in the range of a few thousand dollars, depending on the club's membership size.

"Location is also a deciding factor for me, so if Keppel is offered a far-off site in Tuas or Changi, for instance, I might let the membership lapse because of the inconvenience," he said.

But he is keen to renew his Keppel membership for sentimental reasons, having been with the club for nearly two decades.

An SICC spokesman said members have been asking if Sunday's meeting will involve a dialogue or whether the outcome has been finalised. Some are concerned that the club may lose one or more of its four 18-hole courses.

The briefing for SICC and Keppel members will be held at Suntec Singapore.

Golf membership broker Fion Phua told The Sunday Times that she has had queries from Keppel Club members asking about possible top-up fees if it gets its lease renewed.

Some SICC members, on the other hand, wanted to know the impact on the values of their membership if the club were to lose one or two courses, she added.

TMCC members will also meet the authorities separately at the club's Garden Banquet Room on Sunday. Sign-up rates for the meeting were twice the average turnout for its annual general meetings by Friday afternoon, said TMCC general manager Kok Min Yee.

He said that among the agencies expected to be represented at the meeting are the Singapore Land Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

Ms Phua said talk has been rife that TMCC may lose part of its Garden Course, which is beside the Changi Airport runway.

The NSRCC in Changi declined to respond to media queries. The club had, however, informed its members last November that part of its Changi golf courses will be affected by the airport's expansion works.

rjscully@sph.com.sg